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Share Your List: What Books Have Changed You?

October 4, 2009

more with less cookboookIn an age with a growing glut of information, the few and great stories and ideas that truly alter us toward “the good” are all the more important.  What books have altered you?  I have four criteria, and I’d love to hear your list:

Criteria #1: The book changed you profoundly toward the good, to a new place of seeing and/or action; Criteria #2: You’ve read the book more than once; Criteria #3: You’ve read the book in the past five years (you really do go back to it); Criteria #4: Let’s table “revelation” for a minute (i.e. the Bible) and see what other stories and ideas have deeply mattered for you.

Here’s my list:  1) The novel Mr Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos:  reflects the beauty of the ordinary, and my lack of awareness of such.  I read it every December; 2) The Beloved Community by Charles Marsh:  the beauty of the extraordinary, yet revealed in the profound ordinariness of lives from Martin Luther King to Clarence Jordan to John Perkins; 3) Journals of Father Alexander Schemmann:  the daily reflections of this seminary dean in New York return me again and again to a bigger picture of life as gift; 4) The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein:  life as journey and adventure, the gift of friends who you truly need, who change you, the call to continue even when the burden of the call feels far too heavy to bear.

My wife Donna’s wonderfully down-to-earth choice is the More With Less Cookbook:  “It changed not only the way I saw the world but how I eat.”  Now that is life-altering.  Donna’s copy is as dog-eared as the one pictured.

So hit “Leave a Comment” below and tell us: What books altered you, and still do?  List the title and a few words about it’s significance to you.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul Immanuel permalink
    October 4, 2009 9:25 pm

    Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard
    The Gospel Driven Life, by Michael Horton
    Justification, by NT Wright
    The meal that Jesus Gave, by NT Wright
    A Better way, by Michael Horton

  2. Clyde Austin III permalink
    October 5, 2009 1:55 am

    (1) Alcoholics Anonymous because it saved my life
    (2) What’s so Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey
    (3) The Hole in Our Gospel
    (4) Grace Matters -Chris Rice
    the last two because they showed me how little I know
    (5) The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen

  3. Chris Rice permalink*
    October 5, 2009 7:09 am

    Janet Batchler responded on Facebook:
    1) The Divine Conspiracy (Dallas Willard)
    2) The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien)
    3) Summerland (Michael Chabon)
    4) The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell)
    5) The Harry Potter septology (JK Rowling) “yes, really” she says

  4. david crabtree permalink
    October 5, 2009 7:28 am

    Les Mis, Hugo
    Priestblock 25487, Jean Bernard
    Slaves in the Family, Edward Ball
    Race Rules, Dyson
    Divine Comedy, Dante

  5. Allegra Jordan permalink
    October 5, 2009 9:36 am

    Well the top book is Reconciling All Things. It’s wonderful. If I have to choose others then…

    1. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
    2. After Virtue by Alisdair Macintyre
    3. Improvisation by Sam Wells
    4. James (a study with Pastor Norm Koop – verse by verse preached on Sunday mornings for 2 years)
    5. Rebuilding our world by Willard Sperry. Sermons preached during WWII at Harvard.
    and
    Gregory the Great’s PASTORAL CARE. Here’s the last line:

    I, miserable painter that I am, have painted the portrait of an ideal man; and here I have been directing others to the shore of perfection, I, who am still tossed about on the waves of sin. But in the shipwreck of this life, sustain me, I beseech you, with the plank of your prayers, so that, as my weight is sinking me down, you may uplift me with your meritorious hand.

  6. Sue Rice permalink
    October 5, 2009 9:49 am

    Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris is presently being used in our women’s study group in our local church. It has helped me to look at the language of the Bible in a different way and enlightened me.

    Raising Goats the Northern Way by Susan Black Drummond helped me to cope with close to retirement years and what to do with my time. From this book seven years ago came into our life two angora goats Azalea and Lily, who keep my husband and I busy with their care on our land and producing a luxurious yarn that can be made into garments, wrapping us in warmth in the dead of winter in Vermont!

    Lastly, the people closest to us have the biggest influence on our lives. Every once in awhile I bring out Grace Matters by Chris Rice to reflect on my own life and that of my family. I will peruse through More Than Witnesses, edited by Jim Stentzel, to read the chapters of my fellow compatriots in our life in Korea where we felt an urgent need to help those who were fighting for human rights and justice and a return to democracy.

  7. Mary Jo Clancy permalink
    October 5, 2009 9:14 pm

    What a great idea, Chris! I went into a bookstore recently and realized how I depend on recommendations from others to navigate my way through the glut of information out there. So I’m excited to see what others have to share.

    1) Hope for the Flowers — by Trina Paulus. from the back cover “a different sort of book for everyone except those who have given up completely (and even they might secretly enjoy it)”
    2) Letters from the Woods — by Michael Hurley. Without having read this book, my son and I would not have embarked on our most amazing journeys in our red canoe. PRICELESS opportunities and memories!
    3) Harvest of Hope —- by Jane Goodall. Completely changed the way I eat, and the way I shop for our food.
    4) How Big is Your God? — by Paul Coutinho. Opened my eyes to how much I was depending on someone else’s definition of God, and not my own.
    5) Queen of the Road — by Doreen Orion. My husband and I read this book together (aloud.) It strengthened the wisp of the idea we had that we wanted to explore in an RV. It is funny, philosophical and informative throughout!

  8. Bethany permalink
    October 7, 2009 9:16 pm

    Amazing Grace (also, Shame of the Nation) by Jonathon Kozol
    Gold Cord by Amy Carmichael
    Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
    Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

  9. October 12, 2009 1:03 pm

    I always struggle with challenges like this–there are so many books which have shaped me and quietly nourished me that it’s hard to pick out a few. I’m sure if I made this list again in a year it would come out differently. But the ones that come to mind in the moment are:

    Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos
    How to Become a Saint by Jack Bernard
    The Girl I Left Behind by Shusako Endo
    How Black is the Gospel by Tom Skinner
    Lying Awake by Mark Salzman
    The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
    Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy Tyson
    Home by Marilynne Robinson
    Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
    The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day

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