Saturday, October 2, 2010

These are a Few of My Favorite Books.

Almost every time I join a new Internet social network site, there is a space on the profile page to list my favorite books.  I guess it is for those who happen by my page to, perhaps, glean a bit of insight into my personality by reading this little tidbit.  I have to be honest with you, that question always stumps me to the point near paralyzing.  Why?  Because I have so many favorites that I fear leaving any of them out would be a huge oversight and almost an affront to the author of the books I leave off of my list.
Truth is, I have rarely read a book I didn't like.  Sort of like Will Rogers, who is famous for saying he never met a man he didn't like, I can always find good things in a book, even a book I didn't enjoy as much as others I have read.

All that said, today I am going to make an attempt at writing about three books that I count on my list of Best Books I Ever Read.  Three books in no way encompasses all of my Favorite books, but for the sake of not making this post into a novel, I will stick to three.

Number one -  The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom.  In this autobiographical book, Corrie, a Christian in Holland during WWII, recounts her efforts to save the lives of Jews being sought for arrest by Nazi SS, by hiding them behind a false wall in the home, above her father's watchmaker's shop, in which she lived with her family.  She and her sister, Betsie were able to save many lives in this fashion before being found out and subsequently arrested, eventually ending up at Ravenstbruk prison in 1944, where she remained for the duration of the war.

Her story is about the atrocities of the Holocaust, and also about bravery and the strength of the human spirit. As well, it is about Corrie's unwavering faith in the gracious God in whom she believed.  All of which, drew me in, and in many ways changed my life and the way I look at people who are different from me.

I first read The Hiding Place when I was a young teenager and it had a profound affect on my faith.  I recall feeling frustrated for Corrie when she was arrested.  After all, she wasn't a Jew, why should she be arrested?  Why would she have stuck her neck out in such a way for a people who were so different than she?  It wasn't her fight.  Had she just remained in her own bubble, she would have been saved all the humiliation and degradation of prison, but she didn't remain in her bubble, she chose to take up the fight.  It was in her words that I understood why she did what she did.  She did what she felt Jesus would have done, what Jesus did do, which was help people who needed her help regardless of their beliefs.  She saw a need and she filled it.  Her story was the Parable of the Good Samaritan played out in real life.  I understood unshakable faith while reading this book.  I understood that human beings are human beings no matter who they are.  That lesson stuck with me over the past 30+ years and cemented my resolve to advocate for the underdog and to go where I am led, no matter the cost.

Number two -  not one book, but a set of books, The Little House books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  These books are the story of Laura and her family as they attempted to carve out a life for themselves in new territory.  Each book encapsulates a move, from one territory to another, as the family settles in, with hope in their eyes and hearts, only to be disappointed by the fickleness that is weather, pestilence and disease that inevitably dashes their hopes of a better life once again.  Through it all, Laura and her family remain optimistic and hopeful of a brighter future.

I read Little House in the Big Woods for the first time, when I was in fourth grade, if I recall correctly.  The story, being told from a child's perspective was appealing to me.  The fact that Laura was the second daughter in a family of three also drew me in, as I was also the second daughter in a family of three.  Laura often thought of herself as less winsome and attractive than her sisters, especially her older sister, Mary.  I had the same feelings, so I identified with her. At the time, I wanted to either be Laura or be her best friend, she seemed so real to me.  I learned a great deal about life, family interaction, optimism and again, strength of the human spirit reading through these book.  It was the simplicity in which the books were written that gave them such appeal.  Life was what it was, and it was sometimes harsh, sometimes it knocked you flat, but that didn't stop Laura and her family from standing back, time and again, working together to make the best of things, finding  fun and beauty in ordinary situations.  Laura also gave me a love for writing, I started writing around that time and haven't stopped since.

Number three -  Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  This is a book of pure fiction.  Well, not pure fiction, because there are some historically accurate accounts in it, but the real story, the story of Jamie and Clair is pure fiction.  Pure fiction and pure magnificence.  I won't spoil the story for you, by telling you exactly what happens, but I will say that the book is full.  Full of love, hardship, torment, conflict and redemption.  There is not one page that doesn't draw you in and keep you turning, page after page, to find out what happens next.

I was given this book as a gift, from my mom, for a birthday several years ago.  I honestly didn't think I would enjoy reading it because it has a Science Fiction element to it.  I am not a huge Sci-Fi fan, but since it was a gift and my mom kept asking me if I had read it yet, I picked it up and started reading.  I. Loved. It.  I usually do enjoy a good love story, but it is not every day that I actually learn something from reading one.  A lot of love stories are about a beautiful virgin woman who fell for a dashingly, conventionally-handsome, worldly man who swept her off his feet.  Not so with these characters.  These characters were flawed, not the most beautiful people in the room, yet they did command the room; they were of such substance that people were drawn to them.  They were often misunderstood, as well, which deepens their appeal.  I learned through reading this book, loyalty, self-sacrifice and strength of character (again, I sense a theme here) among other things.  I couldn't wait to get my hands on the next book in the series once I finished Outlander.  I have since read all but the newest installment in the series and have loved each one in its own right, but none are as good, or as deeply penetrating as the first.

Okay so, those are three of my favorites.  I am already thinking about some I could have added to my list - Gone with the Wind, The Thornbirds, Ramona the Pest, ...the list goes on.  I have a feeling I will be posting another blog on this subject.  Literature is so near and dear to my heart that I could talk about it all day, but in the interest of brevity (oops to late for that) I will stop here and begin again another day.

Turn off the computer, TV and Playstation today and pick up a book.  You won't regret it.