{Fireside Fridays} A Biography in Books

There is nothing in literature which does not, in some degree, percolate into life.

~ C. S. Lewis

But it’s so true. Books do directly touch, shape, and become part of our lives. Today, I thought I’d take a walk down memory lane and explore some of the book-related milestones lining that literary path. I’ve read so many books, a vast majority of which I don’t even remember anymore. These, however, are ones that impacted both my normal life and my reading journey, ones that are imprinted on my mind forever.

Little House series ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

littlehousebookcovers

My mom read these to me when I was about, oh, seven? I had the privilege of being homeschooled, and every day after lunch we’d curl up on the couch with our ancient, falling-apart copies of Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie. I think after those two, I finished the rest by myself, but I’ll never forget they had on me. Something about the combination of homey, cozy charm and wild, adventurous excitement thrilled me.

The Chronicles of Narnia ~ C. S. Lewis

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About the time that my mom and I were reading the above, my dad began Lewis’s classic fantasy with me at night. I cannot begin to describe how much I looked forward to our times together—he’d read to my younger brothers first, and then we’d hop onto my bed, I’d grab a blanket, and he’d open up our ancient, falling-apart copies (noticing a theme in the books we own?). I don’t think there was ever a night that I didn’t protest violently when he stopped. It took us about, good gracious, six years? to finish the whole series—and I’ll have you know that we read it in the correct order, starting with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

I could do a whole post, probably several, on this series. It’s so special to me because it reminds me of my dad, of those precious moments we had together. I grew so much, both spiritually but also just physically, through the reading of it. It felt like a real journey, and by the end, I was certainly changed. There’s something unique and powerful about spending so many years on a particular book/series.

The Sign of the Beaver and The Witch of Blackbird Pond ~ Elizabeth George Speare

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I learned far more from the historical fiction than I did from any list of facts or textbook. Not that those aren’t important, but I do believe that people of all ages tend to learn better through stories. I was fortunate to read lots of such stories in school—Johnny Tremain, Douglas Bond’s Crown and Covenant trilogy, Detectives in Togas, to name a few—but two that stand out are Elizabeth George Speare’s The Sign of the Beaver and The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I still remember the characters, my favorite scenes, and many of the historical details included in these rich tales. I gained a love for history from them that has aided me well in the ensuing years.

A Tale of Two Cities ~ Charles Dickens 

Tale-of-Two-Cities

This was the first “grown-up” classic that I read on my own, and I’ll admit it: The first half dragged horribly, I hated it, and it took me months to get through. Then something happened—maybe the story got better, though I’ve read it since and enjoyed the beginning, or maybe I got better at reading harder stuff—and all of a sudden, I couldn’t put it down. Dickens captured my heart, and then the ending … It was the first time I had really cried because of a book, and I knew I’d never be the same. I glimpsed a beautiful world—a world of light and truth and goodness, deep and hard to reach, but so rewarding—that I knew I wanted to visit again. And I have, through so many of the classic authors.

The Lord of the Rings ~ J. R. R. Tolkien 

There are so many different covers for these books. 0.0
There are so many different covers for these books. 0.0

 

What I do I really need to say about this one? Because it really did change my life—it sealed my doom as a fantasy fan, it taught me truths about life and hope and courage and friendship and infinitely more, it drew me closer to God, it seized my heart and mind and hasn’t let go yet. When I look back on the days when I first read it, snatching every free moment to read more, thinking about it the rest of the time, I ache because I’ll never get to discover it for the first time again. Just thank you, Tolkien.

Do Hard Things ~ Alex and Brett Harris

DoHardThings1

Okay, so I’d discovered fantasy and classics, but there was that one genre that I shied away from: non-fiction. I mean, borrrring, right? Who in their right minds would read it for fun? Then several people I respected recommended this book, and the fun, conversational tone drew me in. I found myself saying, “Yes, yes, yes!” so often, as well as, “Oh, wow” and “I so needed to hear that.” Not only did Do Hard Things introduce me to the power and beauty of non-fiction, but it taught me so much truth. You can never outgrow the lessons in this encouraging, convicting, inspiring, eye-opening book—oh, you haven’t read it yet? Well, then. *pointed stare*

“God’s Grandeur” ~ Gerald Manley Hopkins 

god'sgrandeurpoem

While this is not a book, poetry is still an important genre (is that the correct term?) of literature. And while I always liked writing poetry—all I will say of my first poem was that it concerned a rose and that no one save my parents will ever see it—I didn’t always enjoy reading it. To be honest, I still struggle sometimes to appreciate poetry. However, I have discovered many wonderful works of verse throughout the years, and the first poem that grabbed me and made me want to read more of the genre  was this masterpiece by Hopkins. I feel like there’s so much to it that I don’t understand yet. At the same time, it contains a lot that I do grasp, that I immediately connected with. Oh, just go read it. It’s beautiful.

Murder in the Cathedral ~ T. S. Eliot

murdercathedralcover

When I had to read Murder in the Cathedral for school, I groaned inwardly. This was going to be great. And it was—though not in the way I first meant. I still can’t pinpoint exactly why, but I love it so much. I think it was the first time that I figured out some of the themes and messages by myself, and I felt proud of my budding analytical abilities. The style, the story—I was caught up in the drama (though I rather interrupted the affect by stopping to underline crazily). This is the first play I truly enjoyed, and it paved the way for me to appreciate others, especially Shakespeare’s.

Now we come to recent years, and I hesitate to include anything from them, because only time can really tell which books are personal milestones, which books will stay with me and guide me for years to come. Maybe in a few years I’ll be able to look back, point to something I just read, and say, “That one, now.” But until then, I’ll keep reading and exploring and trying to find those books that Francis Bacon so aptly described as “to be digested thoroughly.”

Alright, it’s your turn! Which books have impacted you? Any childhood favorites? Are any of the ones I mentioned important to you as well? 

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10 thoughts on “{Fireside Fridays} A Biography in Books

  1. Dearest Abby,

    I just finished reading THE NIGHTINGALE. Like you, of course I know objectively what happened in France during World War II but reading it from the points of view of people living there made it so much more meaningful.

    All my love,

    Grammy

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dearest Abby,

    I still watch “Little House on the Prairie” every day from five to seven. I have seen every episode umpteen times but I still have to watch every day.

    All my love,

    Grammy

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Little House (I read all the series, not just the Laura ones- and the Martha books introduced me to Scotland, and so are a part of why I’m still in love with that country), Narnia, and LOTR all count for me too! Other than those . . . the countless times I read or listened to fairy tales would count. As would The Door Within and Ella Enchanted, two books I credit with helping to jumpstart my writing. Otherwise . . . I’m not sure. Like you said, it’s hard to tell which books I’ve read recently will be milestone books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yayyy, someone else who’s read the other Little House books! I get such a wave of nostalgia when I think about them. Ah, fairy tales—that’s a great point. And that’s really cool about which books helped you start writing. I really should read The Door Within.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my goodness! Probably half of these books and genres would be all over my biography if I did this! Narnia! Especially in the CORRECT order. *grin* And crying helplessly at Tale of Two Cities. And Elizabeth George Speare! My favorites of hers were Calico Captive and The Bronze Bow. Historical fiction is the best!!
    Is funny reading your thoughts and reactions to Do Hard Things. Sounds a lot like mine. Non-fiction?? But it’s really, really just good. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay, how cool! I’m very glad to meet someone else who agrees about the correct order. *winks and high-fives* Ohhhhh, yes, The Bronze Bow is also fantastic. Yep, you’re quite right about Do Hard Things. And since then, I’ve found lots of good non-fiction, although I think I still tend to gravitate to fiction/fantasy naturally.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ahhh, LOVED the little house books. I read them as a kid, and they were the first books I ever fell in love with and realized how much I loved reading because of them. And I read the Witch of Blackbird Pond for school last year, and it is definitely my favorite school related book! It taught me a lot about that time period, like you said, more than a textbook could. And I have yet to read the Lord of the Rings, but I grew up watching the movies, and my mom is a huge fan of them. Loved this post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I loved reading this! It’s interesting to see which books have impacted readers’ lives and how. “The Chronicles of Narnia” will never not have a special place in my heart. The stories (especially The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) give me chills and move me to this day.

    My own list is longer than is probably reasonable for a comment, but I will certainly name a few.

    “1984” by George Orwell. A round of applause to this man for creating a work of art that has made me more uneasy than any other work of art has to this day.

    A thank you to Plato’s “The Republic”, in which Socrates took me by the shoulders and shook me hard (…really hard) and got me to start thinking for myself.

    “Macbeth” and “Hamlet” are by far my favorite Shakespeare plays. They have been the inspiration for both the macabre and the grounded morality that I work into all of my stories.

    Finally, a recent read, but one that rattled me nice and good (and which has firmly sat itself down at the very very top of my ‘favorite books’ list — and I don’t make that claim lightly). Birdy by William Wharton. I’ve always preferred character driven stories to plot driven ones, and this one is a particularly powerful one that deals extraordinarily beautifully with disillusionment and the damaging effects of violence.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mmm, yes, I completely agree about Narnia.

      Thanks so much for listing some of yours! I love seeing what other people’s special books are. George Orwell is such a genius, isn’t he? Same with Socrates, actually, too. “Macbeth” is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, too. And Birdy—I’ve never read it, but that description is intriguing. I too prefer character-driven stories, so I may have to check it out. Thanks again for commenting!

      Like

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