October 17, 2005

an open letter to my brother-in-law

I just sent this letter to my brother-in-law, and after writing it I decided others might be interested in it as well...really, its a question I would love to see everyone answer: What are your top five favorite books? Or if you're like me...and cant narrow it down..."what are the books that have influenced you the most over the years?"
Think about it and let me know....
Dear Ryan,
I have been meaning to write you for quite some time in regards to your request for my five favorite books...
At first, I didnt really think it was necessary to send you such a list, since you've most likely read ALL of the books on my list-buuuut, then Anna told me that it didnt really matter...and besides, it will be fun to document this!
In thinking about it, I dont know if I can keep this to five...but we'll see!
Instead of making a list of just my favorite books, this will also be a list of the books that have influenced me the most, and the books that made the biggest impression on me...
Calvin and Hobbes, By Bill Watterson
OK, suuuure this is technically a comicstrip.  But I can truly give C&H credit for teaching me to read. In first grade I was actually in one of the lower reading groups in my class...and I actually struggled with it. Since I was the child, I dont really know what my parents and teachers attributed this to, but all *I* remember is that it was a chore to read...until I discovered Calvin and Hobbes...we had several books of these comic strips laying around the house, and I distinctly remember always wanting someone to read them to me...for some reason, no one ever would...so I would actually sit for long periods of time, looking at the pictures...sounding out the words...it did wonders for my reading skills-and I havent stopped since ;-)
Brambly Hedge: The Season Stories, By Jill Barklem: I LOVE(D) these stories...there are actually only four little stories...and they are pretty simple. Basically its about families of mice who live in the trunks and roots of these trees...the thing I sooo enjoyed about these books were the pictures. Barklem was also a very talented illustrator-basically there were these really intricate drawings of the inside of the trees....you could see all the little rooms and the furniture, in some of the pictures you could see the mice going about their day to day lives...ooooh maaaan, I use to sit and stare at those pictures for HOURS...making up my own stories about the mice that lived in the trees.
The Blue Sword By Robin McKinley...I use to read Robin McKinley's books over and over...adventure/fantasy books...that had NO literary value except that they were fun stories.
The Lord of the Rings By JRR Tolkien...I put this in here, only because that is when I first started reading them myself ( mama had probably read them out loud to me by the time I was 8)But...the love for them lives on....ooooh maaaan, I am reading them again at the moment-because I plan to teach my mothers class for a day on this subject...so I'm taking it really slow, savoring the words...stopping to highlight passages ( something I hate to do, because it gets you out of the groove of reading) and marking pages...but its WONDERFUL...
in fact, I havent gotten far and I already have a little collection of quotes that struck my fancy..
The Giver By Lois Lowry: I havent read this one in YEARS...and now that I think about it I should really give it another go...but the reason I put it on my list is what reading the book did to me:
First of all, the book was suggested to me by my fifth grade english teacher, who said that she had just finished reading it herself, and she thought I might really like it, since I was "advanced for my age" and was bored with the other books we were reading at the time. Now, I am sure The Giver is probably right at a fifth grade level. But, my teacher was clever and she probably knew what she was really giving me at the time...in a really difficult time in my life: confidence. I read the book...and loved it. In fact, I was going out of town with my mother that weekend-to cleburne, just the two of us for some reason...and i ended up reading it out loud to her in the car. I remember us discussing it a lot, all the themes that the book brought up...its the first time I remember really criticing a book and using a book to provoke thoughts about other subjects such as society or government or whatever. Anyway, in that respect I will always love this book. I will mark it as an important beginning in my love of literature. ( And the habit of discussing books with my mother ;-) )
Pride and Prejudice By Jane Austen. Now, it has been duely noted by many that P&P is one of the greatest romances of all times, and yet...after reading it a couple dozen times...I would have to go further and say its also an almost perfect piece of literature. Austen was truly a genius of character studies...and everytime I read this book, I laugh at something new...notice one of her many subtle observations of aristocrates of the day...but, then...even though she seemed to write it for her time period...somehow, its a timeless work...why? Well, I guess its true that human nature hasnt changed much over the years.
Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur By: Frank Houghton...Here's a book, I dont think I've read enough. Man is it convicting ( probably why I dont read it as much as I should)! And the three or so times I HAVE read it, I havent been able to put it down...Ol' Houghton really captured her life in such a readable manner...and yet, put so much of her work into it as well...its really perfect as far as Biographies go...
Theodore Roosevelt’s Letters to His Children Ed: Bishop Joseph Bucklin
Now, I am a huge fan of reading old letters, and this has to be one of the coolest complilations of letters...It really made you love Teddy...and his children. The letters range from lessons on life to just general comments about the dog or some lizards that Teddy saw while visiting soldiers at a fort somewhere.
A Tale of Two Cities By Charles Dickens
Here's another one of those books that suprised me when I read it for the first time, which was probably when I was around 15. It was the first time I really started to see how an author could express all sort of emotions, could practically manipulate the reader into flowing with the story almost seamlessly...I was in shock by the pure genius of it, and I think it was probably the first time I realized what a "classic" really was. Another thing about this book-was I remember being in class and the teacher had put us into groups to discuss something about it and then left the room...it seemed that no one else had really gotten the point of the chapter we had just read, and I remember being in shock that no one else had seen the genius...I am sad to say, I got up in front of the room and "explained it to them" for a good ten minutes before the teacher got back! hahaha.
Macbeth By William Shakespeare
I read this in my junior year in highschool...and i think it was the first time I realize how great Shakespeare really was...I mean, I had already read Romeo and Juliet and Julius Ceasar...but, probably because of the teacher that taught Macbeth...I finally realized what all the fuss was about. This play along with A Tale of Two Cities...helped me to learn to read, not just for the story or the entertainment value...but for the artistic value of the book in question. Also, It was probably then that I first gained my love of Renissance literature ( which I then studied in University exstensively)
The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yunby Paul Hattaway, The Cross and the Switchblade By David Wilkerson, Tramp for the Lord By Corrie Ten Boom and God's Smugglers By Brother Andrew I lump all of these books together, not because they are anything alike...but they did all impact my life in a huge way when I read them...scattered througout my teen years and then into my university years...these books seemed to come to me at just the right time, changing my view of life, rekindling my heart to pray...especially pray for the Lost and for the missionaries that struggle to reach them...I've read each of these books at least twice-and I feel sure they will continue to speak to me afresh in the future.


Well, I've already listed waaay more than the five books requested...so I shall stop for now. Hopefully this list either reminds you of books that have changed you, and maybe even given you some suggestions for books to read ( or reread in the future)


God Bless,


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