Perhaps posts made up of only lists seem like an out for writing anything substantial. Perhaps you should just be nicer and accept my love of lists. And also my love of books. Because that’s what this is: a list of books.
It’s a short list of books, but it is an impactful* list of books.
Apparently the average American over age eighteen reads about seventeen books a year.** I average about thirty books a year, which is not any greater of a deal. It doesn’t make me an expert on books; it probably doesn’t even make me a well-read reader. But I like to say I like to read.***
Since I like to answer questions nobody actually asks me, here is my list of my Top 5 Favorite Books:
Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist
I love this book. It’s the kind of book I want to write when I want a book someday. It’s the kind of book that says everything doesn’t need to be okay right now for you to be able to see beauty in it. It’s honest and real.
“This is what I’ve come to believe about change: it’s good, in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good, and failure is good. By that I mean that it’s incredibly painful, exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that it has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God’s hand, which is where you wanted to be all along, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be. … When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”
I read this book on my flight to El Paso, right before I left for London for the summer. I think this book meant more to me because I was about to embark on a journey I was terribly afraid to embark on. It inspired me to live life more fully. It excited me about the possibilities that lay ahead. It encouraged me to love more deeply.
“And for me, I’ve realized that I used to be afraid of failing at the things that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
I read this book as a requirement for a class I took in Europe. We were exploring how pain and sin exists in the world. Exploring that question became even more real when we visited the concentration camp in Dachau. I have this book on audiobook, and I continue to love listening to it. Not because it’s happy, but because it’s honest and deep.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”
I enjoy books that challenge me to live more fully. This is no question one of those books. The first book I read by Donald Miller was Father Fiction (originally released under the title How to Train a Dragon), and I love it. I then read Blue Like Jazz, and I loved it. But this book is hands down my favorite Donald Miller book. If I recommend books, this is usually what I recommend.
“And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.”
“Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life. It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you’re going to get excited about it, and then when it comes time to do the work, you’re not going to want to do it. It’s like that with writing books, and it’s like that with life. People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.”
Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott
Or, really anything by Anne Lamott. I love her writing style. I was reading one of her books on a bus ride to Louisville one February and a pastor leaned across the aisle to ask what I was reading, and I was writing this book. He asked me something about if she was the writer than swore a lot. It seems like a funny encounter because I am sure she writes including swear words, but that’s not at all how I would identify her. She’s blunt, maybe more honest than people are comfortable with, but that’s why I enjoy the most. I also devoured a lot of her books during a breakup, so they were kind of like cookie dough or alcohol to me.
“In fact, not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”
“Out of nowhere I remembered something one of my priest friends had said once, that grace is having a commitment to – or at least acceptance of – being ineffective and foolish. That our bottled charm is the main roadblock to drinking that clear cool glass of love.”
And she also includes valuable life tips:
“The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.”
I realized when putting my list together that really none of my books are all that deep or theological, even though I am a ministry major and that’s a majority of what I am required to read. This was a book, actually, I was given the option to read for an assignment. I didn’t really like it when I read it the first time. It is broken down into sections, and the last section redeemed the whole thing. I love the last section of this book. As I form theological thoughts, I realize more and more how much this book impacted me. It opened my mind and caused me to think about things I hadn’t really considered before.
“The point of the resurrection […] is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die. God will raise it to new life. What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”
*I am surprised every time that this is an actual word. I still cringe every time I hear someone say it. But here I am using it. Also I am starting a lot of sentences with the word “but” and “and” and “because,” so clearly I don’t care about my grammar.
**I can’t site a source for that because I got sick of looking at statistics. So I can neither confirm nor deny if that is even true.
***But, let’s be real: I also like to watch too much television and movies. Sometimes I say I don’t watch much television—which is true when I am busy with school—but let’s be real: I watch more than I want to admit.