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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?