There’s a challenge going about Facebook recently. (No, not THAT challenge!) It’s a challenge, or rather perhaps an invitation, to name ten books which have stayed with you over the years.
I’ve enjoyed reading the titles and authors friends have chosen. What I’ve found missing in the posts, however, are the reasons why my friends chose these books.
Was it the plot? The location? The characters? Was there a theme that they pondered long afterwards? Was the book so bad it made them laugh? Did it inspire them to think or to act differently?
There are many books which have stayed with me over the years, and I can assure you that it’s almost never because of the plot – because I can never remember the plot! I think that books have stayed with me mostly because of the characters, and in particular, the feelings I have for the characters.
So here is my list of ten books and their memorable characters. Do you have ten (or so) books to share? “Like” the Good Shepherd Facebook page and let us know what they are (and maybe also why they’re on your list!)
- Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
It’s probably no coincidence that the picture of Harriet on the cover of my well-worn paperback looks a lot like I did in grade school – straight blond hair and glasses. I admired Harriet’s chutzpah as she hid in the dumbwaiter to spy on a neighbor and the kindness of her nanny Ole Golly who seemed to understand the young girl more than her parents did.
- Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
This is a book about a preacher in a family of preachers. They are a quirky bunch and the Reverend John Ames tells their story, warts and all, with an air of wonder and gentleness.
- The Crucible by Arthur Miller
This play by Arthur Miller, taking place not far from where my grandparents lived, challenged my thinking about how one or two people can sway an entire community. Most memorable line for me? Giles Corey upon being pressed to death for refusing to plead guilty to witchcraft: “More weight.”
- Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
One of the people living in the fictional town of Port William, Kentucky, Jayber is a barber who reflects on life and grief, love and loss. Here’s a favorite quote: “As I have read the Gospels over the years, the belief has grown in me that Christ did not come to found an organized religion but came instead to found an unorganized one. He seems to have come to carry religion out of the temples into the fields and sheep pastures, onto the roadsides and the banks of the rivers, into the houses of sinners and publicans, into the town and the wilderness, toward the membership of all that is here. Well, you can read and see what you think.”
- Anthology of Greek Mythology
I don’t recall the editor of this collection of myths which were required reading in my eighth grade English class, but the reading and study of myth gave me some healthful anxiety in middle school. I began to question whether or not the stories I had grown up with in church could also be presented as myth.
- Book of Jonah (Bible)
If reading the collection of myths created some anxiety for me, reading the book of Jonah helped relieve it. Through Jonah, I received the gift of understanding the Bible not as a work of history or science but as a book of faith. I could not believe that Jonah was literally in the belly of a great fish for three days, but through the story I understood the truth about the feeling of darkness and separation from God, the self-righteousness of Jonah, and the immeasurable grace of God.
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
This work of autobiographical fiction tells the traumatic story of Maya Angelou’s early life and how she finds her voice. It is an inspiring read knowing how she used her voice afterwards.
- The Trial of God by Elie Wiesel
This play deals with one of life’s most difficult questions through the lens of the Holocaust: “Can God prevent evil?”
- Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Funny and true, this book about writing is lighthearted and deep at the same time.
- Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Willy Loman is a character I’ve met over and over again and I’ve seen in myself. Wow.