B is for Books

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!  —
Emily Dickinson

I love books.  Some of my earliest memories are from browsing in the children’s section of the library, then later climbing on stools to reach the highest shelves to be transported to the worlds of fairies and magic and mystery. Books started my fascination with wanting to know the stories of people’s lives (you know, Julia Cameron thinks therapists are often just blocked creatives anyway… I can see that…) and help them figure out how to change them… or at least change perspective.

Today I just want to share a few life-changing books for me and a few treasured favorites from childhood to today!  I’ve been trying to do some decluttering (hey, I think I may have just found my D post!) of bookshelves lately… many of thse are the books that I can’t part with.

“Children’s” books (which are not just for children)

  • Wrinkle in Time Series (Madeleine L’Engle) – I have loved this series from childhood on up.  I am grateful that this series introduced me to the woman and author of Madeleine L’Engle.  Everything I have read of hers has become an instant favorite, whether it was originally written for children or adults.
  • Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis) — another “children’s” book series which a much deeper meaning.  I read some snippets of these as a child and loved the fantasy… I finally read them in full as an adult and love the allegory.  Yet another example of childhood books introducing me to a brilliant author… one that I can’t wait until my 4-year-old is old enough to enjoy.
  • The Summer of the Swans (Betsy Byars) — I read this book every summer for years.  Something in it spoke to me… and today I don’t know what.  I did a quick skimming of Amazon reviews and found discussions of the book’s emphasis on caring for others, understanding those who are different, dealing with typical adolescent angst.  Any of those could have attracted me to this book… interesting to me now that I returned to it over and over and now am not sure why!
  • I Love You Through and Through (Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak)– a recent find that I picked up to read to my little boy a few years ago.  It features an adorable little boy and the message that he is completely loved, even when he is mad, even when he is sad — through and through — yesterday, today, and tomorrow too!  (And this one *is* just for the little ones… though we grownups need that message too!)

Teen and Adult Finds

  • In His Steps (Charles Sheldon) – When I was a teenager, my youth minister had our church youth group (which was about 6 people total) read this book.  Church as a child was a list of rules and traditions.   This book showed me that Christianity is a relationship… affirmed that it is okay to struggle or have doubts… and most importantly showed me examples of Christianity being played out in ordinary lives and the huge transformations that can occur from that.
  • Reviving Ophelia (Mary Pipher) — Maybe dated by now… but good insight into the struggles of girls.
  • The Artist’s Way (Julia Cameron) – Read (if “read” is the correct term) as part of a composition class in college.  Julia speaks to creative types on nurturing their creativity and on ignoring their censor (so hard to do!).  The book has some great writing prompts and ideas for getting to what you need to write about.  Now if there was just a way to do morning pages with a 4-year-old who is up at the crack of dawn…
  • Space for God (Don Postema) — A bible study that I’ve returned to a few times… have yet to finish… and still love.  Postema uses art, poetry, traditions and writings of various faith, and his own musings to talk about different attributes of a Christian life.  His Gratitude section spurred my on-again, off-again tradition of listing what I am thankful for in any given day (which is Thankful Thursdays on this blog).
  • The Red Tent (Anita Diamant) — I love books which take the Bible and help me think about how the characters in it had regular lives… where they didn’t know the end of the story… where things happened that we don’t know about.  The Red Tent is fiction, but it is an insightful read into the life of Dinah… the book left me thinking about the perspective of others in the story, musing again on women’s views in the Bible (yes, I tend to be a bit of a feminist… and a Christian… which don’t always mesh so well), and sobbing over some of the book’s tragedies and insights into loss.
  • Redeeming Love (Francine Rivers) – I’m normally not a huge fan of Christian fiction (not that you can tell that from this list) and certainly not a fan of Christian romance novels.  This is a huge exception.  Redeeming Love is a retelling of the book of Hosea in modern terms.  It is a powerful example of how love (true love, God-love, unconditional love) can transform relationships.  The book explores the relationship between Michael Hosea and Angel… but the ultimate relationship explored (as in the Biblical book of Hosea) is the one between God and his people.   It is amazing.  Read it when you have time because you won’t want to put it down.  Bring Kleenex.
  • Financial Peace (Dave Ramsey) – Money and sex are the two biggest areas couples fight about.  This book addresses the money part.  (Wanting help on the sex part?  Check out this book).  Dave introduces a great program for getting out of debt, getting on track financially, and then using financial resources to bless others.  I don’t always agree with him or  follow everything he says, but I know this program is a great start.  I especially appreciate his emphasis on the importance of having a partner to work through finances with (your spouse if you are married) and the importance of both savers and spenders having their say.  As the saver in my marriage… setting out a budget helped me feel safe in spending money on fun things.  This book and concepts in it have given my husband and I a frame to base financial decisions on… even at the times we seem to be going backwards (life doesn’t always work out with increased income, annual raises and no life crises and sometime I think Dave assumes that in his book!).  Being much more on the same page financially has helped our marriage in so many other ways… I can’t say enough good things about this book.  If you are intrigued, check out Dave’s web site as well.
  • Conspiracy of Kindness (Steve Sjogren) – I read this book as a requirement for a course in graduate school.  What stayed with me is the importance of reaching out to people and meeting their needs — with no expectations attached.  The details are fuzzy since it has been well over 5 years since I read the book… but I remember how impacted I was by it at the time.  Seems like this one is overdue to be read again…
  • Scream-Free Parenting (Hal Runkel) — This is the only book I have yet to finish that I recommend to others.  It is not a difficult book to read, it is not lengthy, but it does involve self-examination (hmm…).  One reason I love it so much is it talks to the parents about changing your parenting… not changing your kids.  Even as a relatively young mom, I know that my greatest hurdle in parenting is dealing with myself.  Here’s an excerpt from the author that explains the book’s premise better than I am able at the moment: ScreamFree Parenting is not just about lowering your voice. It’s about learning to calm your emotional reactions and learning to focus on your own behavior more than your kids’ behavior . . . for their benefit. Our biggest enemy as parents is not the TV, the Internet, or even drugs. Our biggest enemy is our own emotional reactivity. When we say we “lost it” with our kids, the “it” in that sentence is our own adulthood. And then we wonder why our kids have so little respect for us, why our kids seem to have all the power in the family… Read the book.  I promise I will.  And if you don’t see a review of a fully read book on here by the end of May you can call me out on it.  This author is also in the midst of writing a book entitled Scream Free Marriage. I had the privilege of sitting through a seminar on the subject last weekend.  It is now the only book I recommend that hasn’t even been published yet.  (And if I had money and a job where I could impact others right now I’d so be going through the training to be a leader for this movement).  For more info on the ScreamFree approach, check out The Scream Free Institute.

There are of course other books which have influenced me… these just come immediately to mind.  Scanning this list leaves me amazed at some of the great books I was introduced to by others.  It also leaves me wondering — did I choose books because of my interests… or have the books I read shaped me towards those interests?  Feel free to share some of your favorites with me in comments… or do your own books post and post the link here.

Happy Reading! 🙂

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7 responses to this post.

  1. That is a very nice collection of books. I too loved books growing up. I can remember as a small child, when I was first learning to read, spending hours looking through my father’s well worn blue hard-bound Websters dictionary and just looking up words. Later when my mother bought a set of Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedias from the supermarket, one volume each week, this became a favored reading. Books hold such memories for me and I truly enjoy my home library.
    Books is a really appropriate “B” choice.
    Lee

    Reply

  2. I love your list of books! So many important parts of my life are related to books too 🙂

    Reply

  3. Is Melody Green your real name, or did you name your blog persona after Keith Green’s wife?

    I enjoyed a quick look around — when I’m not trying to make myself get to bed I’ll come back and read some more. I relate to several of the things you’ve said. That last kids’ book and the parenting book both sound like they would fit in my desired philosophy.

    Reply

  4. @Marcy… yes, it is my real name. 🙂 I married into it though… I actually first became aware of Melody Green (Keith’s wife) while I was dating my husband-to-be! Hope you come back, browse around and add your thoughts!
    @Arlee… I used to read the encyclopedias too. And my older sister swears I used to read the dictionary, though I don’t remember doing that. Glad I wasn’t the only one! 🙂

    Reply

  5. “Reedeming Love” is one of the must reads in Christian fiction and one of my favorites as well.

    I do live in the Nashville area (I now call it home since I’ve lived here for 12 years)

    Reply

  6. Posted by cgcf1979 on April 3, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    What a great book list. Many of those are my favorite books. Some of these books I’ve never heard of before and I’m gonna check them out. I am thinking of switching to wordpress. Do you like it? Thanks for stopping by my blog. I look forward to getting to know more about you through the blogging challenge. Have a Happy Easter.
    Carol

    Reply

  7. I hadn’t heard of most of those books till I read your post. With a 6 and 4 year old in the house, you can be sure i will check them all out pretty soon. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Reply

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