So, here is the plan. For the next few Wednesdays…til such time as I run completely out of ideas….Wednesday will be booklist day here on the old blog. Posts about books are always among my most popular, and are sources of great reads for me personally. If you are a bibliophile, or a wanna-be bibliophile, or even if you don’t know how to spell bibliophile :), check back each week. You never know what you might find. And I NEED your input!
This weeks premise: You just bought a ticket on Oceanic flight 815. (For those of you who did not watch the television show LOST, your flight is going down. Sorry.) Let us assume that you know you will end up on a deserted island. (THEY asked you to believe things much more far-fetched than this.) You have room to pack ten books. Turns out you are the only reader on the plane. So these are the books you will read and re-read over and over for the next few years. What will they be?
This is not a list of your “favorite” books, necessarily. Some books are great for a single read, but do not bear repetition. Which books can you give yourself to again and again? I chose to include no more than one book by any particular author, but this is not necessary. Here’s my packing list (as always, in no particular order):
On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius Truth be told, if this were the only book I had, I would have plenty to contemplate. The introduction by C.S. Lewis could occupy the first year. Then perhaps, I would be ready for Athanasius. So much that is essential to all you and I believe about God, and most particularly about His Son, are articulated here….compellingly, artistically, completely. Profound and rich.
Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton There have only been two or three books I have ever read that I immediately read again. This was one of those. So much to digest here. Truth conveyed in a compelling voice. One that gets inside and rattles around and won’t be quieted. One that will expand your mind and create new receptors of truth. So that you might see more completely. More deeply.
Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God I can’t imagine a life without poetry. My original list had several poets. It broke my heart to remove some of them. I kind of wanted to cry. (And, hypothetically, if I were to include another it would be Thirst by Mary Oliver. :)) But Rilke is the voice that has most clearly spoken my heart’s cry. In words that I could not find, but so desperately needed. I have screamed his words. I have whispered them. I have prayed them. It is this collection in which I found him first. And it is this dog-eared, tear-stained volume that I return to again and again.
A Book of Hours: Thomas Merton compiled by Kathleen Deignan and John Giuliani I have read many volumes of Merton. He is kindred spirit. A fellow yearner after God. But one so far ahead of me on the path. I tentatively put my feet into his footprints…and hope that some day I will sprawl at the feet of God with such reckless abandon as did he. I select this particular volume because it is a potent distillation of his words. Any single paragraph gives me food for a day. I have copied prayers from here to my phone so that they are with me always.
Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle I mourned her death as though we had known one another. Because in my heart there was a dream….that someday she and I would linger over tea and talk. About life. About art. About God. So approachable she seemed. So honest. So real. It was folly, I know. But read the book and see if you don’t feel the same. Such lovely nourishment herein. Deep breaths of beauty. To fan the flame of creativity within me. To help me ardently pursue the sometimes elusive beauty around me. Madeleine L’Engle is a worthy guide.
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky Thus far I have only read it twice. But I hope that, before the end of my life, I will have read it many times. Such deeply layered characters. No villain is beyond redemption. No hero is without weakness. And the stories that weave them all together, ahhhhh. So much to explore. Each time nuances emerge. So obvious one wonders how it was hidden before. As we bring to it our hurts, our longings, our loves, it gives to us something we were not ready for on the last reading.
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis Limiting myself to only one by Lewis was quite difficult. But in the end, I had only to consider how many times I had re-read each, and this was the obvious choice. Around half a dozen times thus far. And not nearly done. Some of the characters live SO close to my heart that I can not read without being drawn completely into the story. Pages blur and I am there. Answering the questions. Feeling the fear. The wonder. The…joy.
I will not lie to you. This book has caused me considerable pain. But pain of the best sort. The kind that wounds to heal. Destroys to bring life. Kills to resurrect. (If you should elect to give it a go, I encourage you to push past the first few chapters which might seem slow. Do not give up early. You can’t imagine what awaits you! Press on!!!!)
Beauty The Invisible Embrace by John O’Donohue It is my husband who has a confirmed Irish bloodline. Hello! MULLICAN!! But, when I read John O’Donohue, I feel I am reading a kindred soul. I have done three complete readings thus far, but have gone back and perused underlines and notes far more often than that. The way that he interlaces beauty, and nature, and spirit, and God together throbs deeply within me. His words are like a washing of sweet spring rain. Like the scent of lavender and roses. I read it as gift to myself. As a cleansing of the soul.
Candide by Voltaire Yes, he was ingenius. Yes, he was the poster-child of the Enlightenment. But, he was also one of the most brilliant satirists to ever live. I laugh myself silly all the way through the book. Sometimes I agree with what he is spouting, sometimes not. But always I am in awe of his artistry…his ability to tell an evocative and entertaining story in which is enmeshed all that he believes about the world. I would read it for fun. You don’t believe me? I double-dog dare you to try it.
Lilith by George MacDonald It would be fair to say that I read it the first time kicking and screaming. It had been recommended by my counselor. How’s that for vulnerability? Because I needed to learn how to die. And he knew Lilith could show me how. I knew lots of facts about my situation. But it was a story that would take me where I could not go by myself. I have read it since. And seen layers I did not see on my first visit. Like a complex and beautiful landscape through which I hurtled the first time in search of that death scene that would be life to me. I know there is more still to be found. I would bring Lilith. She has been been a true friend.
The Bible Not because it’s the Sunday School answer. Not because it’s the “right” answer. But because it’s the right answer. Comfort for those who mourn. Provocation for those who are self-satisfied. Correction for those who would do well, but are misguided. And I have been all. Stories without end. And poems. And prayers. The story of God. Of His Son. Of His people. Of the lost, the weary, the desperate, the courageous, the audacious, the confused, the rebellious, the restored, the healed, the ones who persist in hope. You. Me.
P.S. Yes, I realize most of my books have a faith connection. Coincidentally, so do I. Though I read books from many faith, or non-faith, perspectives, the ones I choose to live with, to roll around in, to let crawl all up inside me, tend to be those written by a questing heart, imperfect to be sure, but relentless in pursuing the things of God. No apologies.