Friday, June 20, 2008

Flashback Friday

Four books that I've read, re-read, and re-read again. They've helped define my beliefs and my values. Four books that exceed my definition of "awesomeness" (Yes, we did see Kung Fu Panda the other night and I plan to incorporate that word liberally in my vocabulary.)

1) Walden by Henry David Thoreau--the quintessential primer for environmentalists. I think I'd be a hermit if I didn't have a husband and kids. My copy is tattered and underlined and well-loved. To go and live deliberately in the woods--what an experiment! What love for the trees, simplicity of vision, practical sensibility.

"I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than to be crowded on a velvet cushion. I would rather ride on earth in an ox-cart with free circulation, than go to heaven in the fancy car of an excursion train and breathe a malaria all the way."

"Most men appear never to have considered what a house is, and are actually though needlessly poor all their lives because they think that they must have such a one as their neighbors have." I'll stop quoting now ...

2) A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf--how things have changed, yet how they remain the same! This witty little book lays out the eternal question: Why is it that men have always had power and influence and wealth and fame--while women have had nothing but children? When I consider what I might achieve if I were a man ... what so many women might achieve in a different social structure. I tip my hat to the feminists who came before me, and I allow myself to wonder still about Shakespeare's sister.

3) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott--well, of course. We all wanted to be Jo, the independent sister. Reading it as an adult, the March family's philosophies coupled with a grand affection between sisters and mother that I never experienced, frankly, opening those pages is like returning home. I've owned 5 copies, if that gives you some small idea of how familiar the March family is to me.

4) Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis--I have Christian faith, but not the kind inspired by revivals and emotions and sobbing and soaring cries heavenward. That sort of display turns me off, as does the faith built on "feeling." Feelings are fickle and change over time and circumstance. I'm a logic gal myself, desiring a firmer foundation to rely on regardless of my age and situation. Lewis's theology makes plain sense to me. He provides clarity where I doubt and question, he blends inspiration and Scripture and proves God and salvation, appealing to my intellect.

His conclusion to the argument against God--that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust: "...in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist--in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless--I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality--namely my idea of justice--was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning."

What books have defined your thinking over the years? What books do you pick up and open the pages of over and over?



9 comments:

  1. Wow, I've got to think about this. The first (and only) book that comes to mind is a total cliche answer, Catcher in the Rye.

    I related to its awesomeness.

    Yes, I have used the word before!

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  2. I don't think I've ever reread a book since I was a kid--there are so many books, so little time.

    But as a child, Little Women for sure, and yes, Jo was my favorite.

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  3. That's a great list. I'll have to think about my favs.

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  4. Oh- The Great Gatsby is definitely on my list!

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  5. Have you ever visited Concord Mass?
    You can walk through the Alcott house and see Walden Pond...it's a beautiful place.

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  6. Hmmm. Love CS Lewis too. The Screwtape Letters is probably my fave of his.

    I'm addicted to Salman Rushdie. "Before the majesty of being, what is there to do but hang our heads?" (more)

    I am a Tolkein fan, and Douglas Adams. Oh, and Kurt Vonnegut, Han Suyin, and, ummm, hundreds more. Ishould look at my shelves and write them all down. Tom Robbins!

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  7. I'm impressed at your choices. But I'm also embarrassed to say that if I tried to read any of those books today, I don't think I'd make it through. Too slow. Need action to stay awake. Just kidding. I'll have to think about your question...

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  8. I, too, have read Mere Christianity. Reading your post reminds me that I need to re-read it, if only I could find my copy. I loved the March family but haven't read it as an adult. I suspect I'll be doing so soon enough with K and N!

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Spill it, reader.