Monday, March 1, 2010

Books that changed my life

Posted by lea at 4:35 PM
Inspired by Jack Marx's post on Books that popped my cork, I decided to list the top five books that have influenced me in some way since I started my love affair with books. I'll try to go chronologically.

The Ramona Series, by Beverley Cleary
Ramony Quimby is a well-intentioned but often misunderstood little girl - a little clumsy, loud and tomboyish, adventurous, imaginative, shy but strongly opinionated. Ramona, in my young mind, was me! Starting from Beezus and Ramona, when Ramona is just 4 years old, this series grew with me and I loved Ramona! I read the books almost as though they were stories about myself in a parallel universe. Her parents weren't wealthy but they made do with what they had, and even her relationship with older and more responsible sister Beezus was similar to mine with my older sister Glenda. Most of all, I think Ramona taught me it was okay to be me, because if I loved Ramona, and she was just like me, then I must be okay too.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
I LOVE everything about this book. Using the point of view of young Scout was a stroke of genius, and the way Harper Lee pulls it off is nothing short of extraordinary. She manages to capture the nuances and prejudices of a small Southern town during segregation with an unjudgmental innocence that makes the story all the more poignant. Atticus, particularly, is one of the dearest literary characters for me ever.

Persuasion, Jane Austen
While Pride and Prejudice has always been my favourite Jane Austen, Persuasion is the one that taught me the meaning of real love and second chances. It's a more mature take on love, the risks it engenders and the pride that we sometimes have to swallow to let it be.

Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis
This is C.S. Lewis's retelling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid as told through narrator Oruel, Psyche's ugly sister. On closing the last page, my heart was pounding because the story was so wonderfully told and smacked of a deeper truth than I had come across before. I'm still not certain that I've digested it all, but I think it has to do with the idea that when we come before God, our maker, we cannot stand with veils on our faces covering our real selves, whether they be defence mechanisms, insecurities, lies or half-truths. We can only expect an honest answer when we face him with our honest selves.

The Bible
I almost overlooked this one, but it is a book and it's definitely had the profoundest impact on my life. From my two years of theological studies, I discovered that this book is much, much more that it appears on the surface. Say what you will, it is truly a masterpiece. The original texts in ancient Hebrew and Greek were largely told in stories or letters and they have a poetry and symmetry to them that get lost in translation.

It's a sad thing, I think, that many miss the profound truths in the Bible because of long-held prejudices and idealogies. The Bible has some of the greatest lessons you could learn in life, but we have to learn to take the message without being bogged down with the arguments that arise from context. Yes, the Bible is largely patriarchal and often seems irrelevant because of the stories that make sense only in the context of society at the time, but dig deeper and there are truths that go beyond gender and the boundaries that limit human thinking. It is an amazing text - the most printed book in the world several times over, and the one text that people have risked their lives for and been killed over. Well worth another look.

What books have changed your life or worldview?


snowdomes said...

"Snowdomes' by Nancy McMichaels. Only joking. Love this post. I reckon one of mine would be Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I love the story of a woman who fought for her independence and ideas at a time when women weren't meant to "think".

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