I found this link-up on The Cardigan Way while browsing through the submissions for this month’s What I’m Into link-up over at HopefulLeigh (which I participated in over on my other blog). Anyway, I love the idea, so I thought I’d share a few books that made a deep impression on me.
The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
I still consider Lewis’ depiction of Aslan’s country the most compelling picture of heaven I have ever read. I had seen heaven as a place that, while certainly preferable to hell, would lack many of the things I loved in the world (I remember being particularly bummed when I was little at the thought that there might not be ice cream in heaven). Lewis’ picture freed me to see the things I loved on earth not as things I would lose when I went to heaven, but as foretastes of heaven’s awesomeness.
Ella Enchanted and The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine
Mostly, Gail Carson Levine just writes kick-ass female heroines. They’re real, and flawed, and courageous, and resourceful, and I can’t wait to introduce any daughters I might have to them. I have to say, though, that the film adaptation of Ella Enchanted with Anne Hathaway was an absolute travesty.
I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris (also Authentic Beauty and When God Writes Your Love Story by the Eric and Leslie Ludy)
I have mixed feelings recommending these after reading about some of the fallout, and I would certainly add some serious caveats if I recommended them to someone today, but I’m kind of a poster child for these books. I married my first boyfriend a year and a day after we started dating (we’d been friends for a few years beforehand), and I don’t regret it at all. I realize that for many of my contemporaries these books were anything but empowering, and I can see that to some degree—I certainly felt more than my fair share of guilt for having even a crush on a guy. However, as a single teenager and young adult I did glean several positive messages from these books: I learned that I could make the most of my singleness, that I was not less of a person for not being in a relationship, that I had the right to set physical boundaries in a relationship and have those boundaries respected, and that I was absolutely entitled to have high expectations of any man I might enter a relationship with—not necessarily in terms of wealth, looks, and popularity, but in terms of character.
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
I first read this mid-high school, and it drove home for me that no one is beyond redemption and that not all sex workers are in their profession by choice. I even thought for awhile after reading this book that I might be called to run a halfway house for former sex workers. Then I started university and realized that I much preferred history and Latin to sociology. Oh well. I did lead a Bible study on Hosea in my dorm room first year because of this book, so there was that.
Why Not Women by Loren Cunningham and David J. Hamilton
I read this book midway through my first year at a co-workers recommendation, and I can’t even describe my reaction without resorting to clichés. It was like water to my parched soul, or something. I had always felt instinctively that women were fully equal to men, but hadn’t known how to reconcile that belief with my belief in the Bible as the inspired word of God. Why Not Women showed me that such a reconciliation was possible.
What’s So Amazing about Grace by Philip Yancey
I distinctly remember sitting in Dairy Queen and reading chapter 13 (Grace-Healed Eyes) for the first time with tears just streaming down my face. I was vaguely familiar with Mel White’s name, knew he claimed to be both gay and Christian, and was pretty sure that was just not a thing. Hearing Yancey talk about his friendship with Mel both before and after his coming out humanized the man behind Soulforce for me. I read heartbreaking quotes from men and women Yancey interviewed, and they punched me in the gut. It was the first time I realized that something was deeply wrong with the way the church was currently interacting with the LGBT community—I mean, one interviewee told Yancey it was easier for him to find sex on the streets than a hug in church. To borrow Yancey’s own words, What’s So Amazing About Grace “strongly challenged my notion of how grace should affect my attitude towards “different people,” even when those differences are serious and perhaps unresolvable.”
Church Mother: The Writings of a Protestant Reformer Sixteenth-Century Germany by Katharina Schutz Zell (edited and translated by Elsie McKee)
I came across Schutz Zell in a third-year course on the history of the Protestant Reformation, and became fascinated with her insistence on creating a ministry for herself, regardless of whether she met with the approval of male church leaders. Katharina is on the short list of names for my hypothetical future daughter.
Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals by William J. Webb
If I had to pick one book that changed the way I read the Bible, it would be this one. Webb’s redemptice movement hermeneutic gave me a consistent framework for reconciling passages of Scripture that seem horribly unjust with my belief in a just God.
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
This book should be recommended reading for every church leader in North America. It’s an important reminder to make sure our good intentions toward the poor and underprivileged are supplemented with good judgment, sound practices, and a constant recognition of the innate dignity of every human being.
These books have been some of the most influential in my life. Feel free to leave a comment sharing some of your favourites, or participate in the link-up yourself.