Sounds easy, right? Well you try narrowing down decades of reading into just five books that have had the biggest impact or your life. Or just five favorites. Or just the first five that come to mind. Well, maybe that last approach wouldn't take me very long. Anyway, I suppose I'll end out with a combination of those three categories. Here goes...
1. The Holy Bible. This book has to be number one because it's been part of my life since before I could read. No it doesn't have cute illustrations like my favorite children's books. It's not what you'd call light reading. And I'm not likely to pick it up for entertainment or a laugh, but it has undoubtedly had the biggest impact of any book on my life. A large part of who I am is due to the influence of the Bible.
2. The Complete Novels of Jane Austen. Is that cheating, do you think? It's one book but it's six novels plus Lady Susan. Best combination of human nature observation, wit, and all around brilliance you could find. My favorites are Pride & Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. I've always been a fan of stories set in times past, so Jane Austen was a natural choice for my favorite author. Oh, and I volunteer to verbally skewer anyone who calls Jane Austen the mother or Chick Lit. Her novels were labors of love and brilliant contributions to literature, not forgettable stories about urban 20-somethings obsessed with sex and shoes--though now that I think of it, Mary Crawford would fit nicely into a Chick Lit novel.
3. Gone With The Wind. Yes, I've read all 1,024 pages of this American masterpiece. A snapshot of a rotten time in the history of our nation that shows myriad things that got left out of the history books. Margaret Mitchell's talent gave us the most complex and misunderstood main character of all time. The tendency is to dismiss Scarlett O'Hara as simply a spoiled southern belle, when in fact she is far more layered and fascinating. Here is a woman who is strong and intelligent in a time when those exactly qualities are frowned upon by the society in which she lives. She takes on responsibilities that would daunt more experienced individuals, spends so much time in the moment and so little on introspection that by the time she figures out who she is and what she wants, it's too late. Tragic and all too real. Of course there's a plethora of other characters as well. The novel isn't just about Scarlett. If you haven't read it before, you might want to give it a shot.
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas Adams is hilarious. And brilliant. There's really not much else to say. Fantastically entertaining book.
5. The Little House Books. Ok, if the Jane Austen one wasn't cheating, this probably is because it's not even a compliation. I loved these books as a child and I still love them now as I read them to my own children. The stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder's life in pioneer-era America will never go out of style because they are real and highlight the spirit that enabled people to go into the wilderness and carve out an existence when the odds were against them, and they could have been much more comfortable back east. We struggle against different challenges now, but we still struggle; and those of us who are lucky have our faith and the love of family to see us through, just as Laura did.
Now for the fun part. I hereby nominate the following bloggers: