“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” -Oscar Wilde
I love to read. I have loved reading for just about as long as I’ve been able to read. My earliest companions were the Boxcar Children and the Babysitter’s Club. I was Laura’s best friend as I journeyed with her in the Little House on the Prairie books. I experienced alien worlds through Bruce Coville’s novels. I solved mysteries with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. And I trekked down the rabbit hole with Alice. I’ve always found books to be a place where I could escape to exciting adventures. As I’ve grown older my love for books has not diminished. But instead of escaping into another world, I now find that books shed more light on this world. They can surprise me, excite me, anger me, and inspire me. Here is a sample of the books I’m thankful for–books that have inspired me to change what I do or believe or think.
“You are a generation of hip, resourceful, creative DIY warriors: Bored by the traditional T-shirt, you want something with personalized pizzazz.” –Megan Nicolay, Generation T
“Distance running was revered because it was indispensable; it was the way we survived and thrived and spread across the planet. You ran to eat and to avoid being eaten; you ran to find a mate and impress her, and with her you ran off to start a new life together. You had to love running, or you wouldn’t live to love anything else. We were born to run; we were born because we run. We’re all Running People, as the Tarahumara have always known.” -Christopher McDougall, Born to Run
“One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about human beings was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very, very obvious.” -Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
I’m thankful for books that inspire my quirky habits. I had no idea that running could actually be a fun activity until I read Born to Run and was inspired to try running with my shoes off. Now when I run, I’m always barefoot or in minimalist shoes. Generation T introduced me to T-shirt reconstruction, giving me a fun way to personalize my fashion, and so many excuses to pick up more T-shirts at thrift stores. Douglas Adams introduced me to nerd culture. Long before I ever watched a Doctor Who episode, I was reading about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything (42, if you haven’t read the book), the dolphins’ final message (So long and thanks for all the fish) and the hitchhiker’s most important travel resource (a towel).
“If God is the God of all pots and pans, then He is also the God of all shovels and computers and paints and assembly lines and executive offices and classrooms. Peace and joy belong not to the woman who finds the right vocation, but to the woman who finds God in any vocation, who looks for the divine around every corner.” -Rachel Held Evans, A Year of Biblical Womanhood
“I am neither male nor female, even though both genders are derived from my nature. If I choose to appear to you as a man or a woman, it’s because I love you.” -Wim. Paul Young, The Shack
“Sexual orientation involves much more than just sexual attraction. For both gay and straight people, it also encompasses our capacity to channel our physical attractions into a lifelong covenant with another person.” -Matthew Vines, God and the Gay Christian
I’m thankful for books that have revolutionized my understanding of gender, patriarchy, and God. Growing up in an evangelical setting, I learned early on that there were certain ideas about gender, gender roles, sexuality, and God that were never to be questioned because they were “Biblical.” So it was with great delight that I read Rachel Held Evans’ book A Year of Biblical Womanhood, where she set out to prove the ridiculous demands of living “biblically” by demonstrating just how many things women of the Bible did because of culture. She helped me to explore what it really means not to be a Biblical woman, but rather a godly woman. Matthew Vines explores a similar idea in his book about understanding what the Bible actually has to say about sexual orientation and marriage. While I’m aware that God is not male, reading The Shack forced me to examine this by casting God as an African American woman. My perceptions on many subjects have changed as I grow in my faith.
“Hell is a state of mind–you never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.” -C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
“Everything pleasurable we know about life on Earth we have experienced through our senses. So, when Heaven is portrayed as beyond the reach of our senses, it doesn’t invite us; instead, it alientates and even frightens us. Our misguided attempts to make Heaven ‘sound spiritual’ (i.e., non-physical) merely succeed in making Heaven sound unappealing.” -Randy Alcorn, Heaven
I’m thankful for books that paint a picture of Heaven. In seasons of grief, the words of these books have breathed hope into my very soul. I’ve known about Heaven since I was a child, but for a long time the only thing I knew was that it was a better alternative than Hell. Lewis and Alcorn stress the real and physical reality of Heaven. It will not be an existential experience, it will be a true and wonderful place where we will dwell with God, where we will experience all the joys of Earth without the curse of sin. Now, that’s something to look forward to.
“But Puddleglum, desperately gathering all his strength, walked over to the fire. With his bare foot he stomped on the fire, grinding a large part of it into ashes on the flat hearth. ‘Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things–trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones….We’re just babies making up a game if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.” -C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair
“The time of business does not differ with me from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great a tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.” -Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
I’m thankful for books that encourage spiritual development. I love the kinds of books that teach important theological truth through story. Along with Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, The Little Pilgrim’s progress, Ted Dekker’s Circle trilogy, and A Wrinkle in Time are all books that weave spiritual truth into a story. I also include Brother Lawrence’s simple book on the Practice of Presence, as well as other books about spiritual disiplines and the Christian life.
“Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A Beauty Bomb. And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth–boxes of Crayolas. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination.” -Robert Fulghum, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
“New socks. Two socks. Whose socks? Sue’s socks. Who sews whose socks? Sue sews Sue’s socks. Who sees who sew whose new socks, sir? You see Sue sew Sue’s new socks, sir.” -Dr. Seuss, Fox in Socks
I’m thankful for books that remind me to see the common with uncommon insight. I love Robert Fulghum’s words of wisdom, and what I like most is that he talks about everyday things and experiences, but his fresh perspective allows me to see the same objects with new eyes. He inspires me to think differently about the world around me. Dr. Seuss does the same thing in Fox in Socks–common objects are strung together into tongue twisters.
What books are you thankful for?