The Love of Books

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.


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  1. Maryann Tyrer on February 26, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    The Bible, of course, but two books that have integrated Scripture into my life are The Lectionary, and the Gather hymnal. The Lectionary cycle has drawn me deeper into the stories of our faith, and the Gather hymnal has given “voice” to the Book of Psalms.
    Some other books that have been a recurring part of my life and reflection are: “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, “In the Eye of the Storm” by Gene Robinson, and “The Prince of Tides” by Pat Conroy.
    Nice site! I’m enjoying your posts.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on February 26, 2012 at 10:14 pm

      Maryann, I really liked your inclusion of the Lectionary and the Gather Hymnal as two of your favorite books! Thank you so much for responding!

  2. Mary Stommes on March 1, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Sr. Melannie,

    A late comment, but this is a timely question, since I am now reading a book that will have a lasting place on my list of favorites: “The Book Thief,” written by Markus Zusak. It is stunning.

    Many of my other favorites are listed above. but I would also add Chaim Potok’s “My Name is Asher Lev” to the list.

    Thanks so much for asking the question–and for blogging!


    Mary Stommes

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on March 1, 2012 at 10:49 pm

      Mary, the two books you mention are also among my favorites. In “The Book Thief” I was fascinated by the unique perspective: Death is the narrator. And “My Name is Asher Lev” portrays the struggles of the artist in an unforgetble way. Thanks for listing them for us!

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