I just finished reading a book entitled For the Love of Books by Ronald B. Shwartz. The author asked hundreds of celebrated writers to name 3-6 books they love or that greatly influence their lives. The books could be of every kind, genre and period. Over 100 writers responded. I really enjoyed reading their selections.
Anna Quindlen’s list included The Lives of the Saints (Alban Butler), The Day Christ Died (Jim Bishop) and Little Women (Louisa May Alcott). Peggy Noonan chose A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith), Saints for Sinners (Alban Goodier, SJ), and a biography of St. Teresa of Avila. Robert Coles selected War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy) and Middlemarch (George Eliot) while Frank McCourt included the catechism he learned as a child and G.K. Chesterton’s Life of St. Francis.
Some books were chosen by several writers: The Bible, Great Expectations (Charles Dickens), Anna Karenina (Fyodor Dosteovsky), and Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain). Other popular authors were the Bronte sisters, Earnest Hemingway, Flannery O’Connor, E.M. Forster, Carl Jung, and Joseph Conrad.
I was prompted to select some of my favorite books. Here are a few of them:
Fiction: Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen), To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), and Too Late the Phalarope (Alan Paton).
Non-fiction: A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Annie Dillard) and Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver (Scott Stossel).
Non-fiction “spiritual”: Holy Longing (Ronald Rolheiser) and Seasons of the Heart and A Tree Full of Angels (Sr. Macrina Wiederkehr).
Poetry: any book by Emily Dickinson, Denise Levertov, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, and David Whyte.
Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite books? Would you share them with us? You can briefly tell why you chose a particular book or you can just list a few of them. Books are powerful. They transport us to places we could never see. They bestow wisdom, courage, peace. They entertain. They reveal the brightest and darkest parts of the human soul. In short, books can nourish our spiritual life.