Several weeks ago, I asked you what books have changed your life. I listed a few of my favorites, but like Lay’s potato chip commercial betting that you “can’t eat just one,” I can’t pick just one book – or even three or five – that are my favorites. Same goes for movies and songs! Anyway, some of your suggestions are now on my “to-do” list, but I started a Part 2, but never got it posted. Until today… Here are more of my favorite books, and what lesson stood out to me from each….
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens ~ Sacrifice
This was another book one of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Gwynn, taught in class. She wasn’t big on gimmicky costume readings and such; she let the words speak for themselves. Like so many instances in the Bible, the “hero” of this story is deeply deeply flawed. Yet, it’s because of those imperfections that he chooses to sacrifice his life for the life of the one he loves. My parents had started going to church about this time in my life, and Jesus was front and center in many of their conversations. It wasn’t too hard to make the leap that what Sidney Carton did for Lucie Manette and her family was just an inkling of what Jesus did for all of humanity.
Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P Freeman ~ Grace
I confess, I’m a good girl. Even in the throes of my worst teenage rebellion, my worst offenses were likely snarky responses, silent treatment, eye-rolling and the occasional slam of my bedroom door. I was never one to, as Darth Vader intoned, “go to the Dark Side.” For as long as I can remember, it’s been important for me to please people. To not upset the apple cart. To keep things on an even keel. To not rock the boat. You get the idea; I like things to be good. I like people to think I’m good. But keeping things good all the time, especially me, is downright exhausting. Because we’re all sinners. And because I shouldn’t have to please anyone but God. Only through His grace can I overcome my people-pleasing ways and live for Him. This book was an “ah-ha” read because even though it shouldn’t all be about works, that’s how I roll. But God wants my heart, not my “to-do” list!
Persuasion by Jane Austen – Constancy
Like many American high schoolers, I had to read Austen for British Lit. Pride & Prejudice, in fact. Which, don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love me some Lizzie Bennett and Mr. Darcy. The 1996 BBC version of P & P re-awakened my love of Jane Austen, and I started reading everything she wrote. All wonderful, and I questioned how I had somehow become more enamored of the Robert Ludlem Bourne books or Jean M. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series. I went through a serious “Janeite” (Google it, it’s a thing!) phase, ripping through all of her novels, and while Pride & Prejudice will always have a special place in my heart, it’s Persuasion that is dearest to me. Probably because I see more of myself in the introverted protagonist Anne Elliot than any of Jane Austen’s other female leads. I guess you could say that she’s more introverted than Elizabeth Bennett, Emma Woodhouse of Emma or Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey. Loyal and true to her friends and family, Anne (Anne with an “E”!) bears her burdens with grace. And always, her heart is constant to her first love. I may not always be all of those things, but I aspire to live my life with the same constancy as she does.
Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – Forgiveness
On vacation, a friend and I traded books after we had each finished what we were reading. I traded Tracy Chevalier’s Falling Angels for Kite Runner. While I love Tracy Chevalier books, Kite Runner was for me, raw, gritty, absorbing, heart-breaking and deeply satisfying. I suppose the draw of this book is that even the best people can do wrong things, and even the worst person is capable of good. There is a fine line we all walk through the hard things that come our way and the choices we make in the midst of those circumstances. Those choices affect not only our lives, but the lives of others. This book made me mindful that judging others without knowing all the particulars is a fruitless exercise. We all make poor decisions at one time or another; it’s what we choose to do afterward that defines our character. Sometimes we have to forgive others; at other times though, the harder thing is to forgive ourselves.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Hope
Sometimes, from the very first sentence, you’re in love with a book. This was one of those rare occasions that the further I read, the more I was in awe of how beautifully the words flowed across the pages. This was one of the last books I read aloud while I still had two children homeschooling and many times, I had to pause to gather my thoughts and emotions before I could continue. Why does it seem that the more difficult and disturbing the theme of the book is – in this case, Death is the narrator and life during World War II in Germany is the setting – the more compelling and haunting the book is? How to be human, and love, and have compassion during times of incomprehensible evil sucks me in every time. Sometimes by looking at we most fear shows us how to count it all joy, and teaches us how to HOPE.
Please, if you have a favorite book, share it with me. Tell me why, what you love about it, or what your learned from it. As many books as I stumble across and love, I find that it’s those books that are recommended to me by others that I love even more.