Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Books that made me think and changed my direction

A few weeks ago, I picked my son up from work and on the way home he talked about a book that he had read that day (a very slow day at the college bookstore!). At first he told me I'd never guess what book it was. He was certainly right about that for the book in question was...Al Gore's book An Inconvenient Truth. Huh?

Well, as he went on to explain what is in the book, I could understand his enthusiasm for one of our favorite quotes (we say to each other in the family all the time) is..."The best friend of the far left is the far right...they just don't realize it". We first noticed that back in the 70s when my husband and I became very interested in health foods and then later when we began homeschooling.

Al Gore's book has caused Christopher to become very interested in learning about environmental changes, what is fact and fiction, and doing something about it as an evangelical Christian. It reminded me of another time when he had a strong "reaction" to a book. That was the reading of The Count of Monte Cristo, which began his enthusiasm in reading classical literature in general and French literature in particular! I'm a pondering kinda' person...this got me to thinking of books which greatly affected me throughout my life. I've read hundreds and hundreds (and more hundreds) of books so I'm certainly forgetting at least a few dozen important books. Here are a few, just "off the top of my head" with a little thought put into the list:

The Nancy Drew books...these are the earliest books in my memory where I couldn't wait until the next book was published! Although I'd already been a "reader", it was these books that I first remember taking me to a different...but with each new edition. I do believe these were the books that made me love books.

Probably the biggest impact of any book I've ever read was from The Hidden Art of Homemaking (my original hardback version is called Hidden Art) by Edith Schaeffer. All of her books have influenced me a great deal but that one book was the genesis of the kind of homemaker I wanted to be and also what kind of a woman I wanted to become. I believe Alexandra Stoddard's book Living a Beautiful Life had a similar impact on me as a homemaker. Both are about bringing beauty into the ordinary...

Then there was Francis Schaeffer...need I say more? I'll write another time about others who gave great theological wisdom in the written word but it was Schaeffer that I consider the father figure of my faith. I will be forever grateful to our Lord for bringing Edith and Francis into my life as a new Christian. If you find him very hard to understand, read anything by Nancy Pearcey, especially Total Truth.

I spent a few years reading the diaries of Anne Morrow Lindberg (over and over) and I felt I knew her from her writings. Of course, her most famous book is Gifts From the Sea (which is...amazing) but it is her diaries that opened to me a world outside of my Midwestern existence. The first volume is Bring Me a Unicorn, her life from 1922 - 1928. She was a very special person who had tragedy and triumph in her life, but most of all wrote in such a way that her diaries were as poetic and beautiful to read as her other books.

The first "Classic" books I remember reading were Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Pride & Prejudice...all for one high school class. I will be forever indebted to that particular of the only things I remember bringing out of high school (honest...). They don't come any better than those three. Although my favorite Jane Austen storyline is Persuasion. They did for me what The Count of Monte Cristo did for my son, made me realize how wonderful classic literature can be.

Two books that affected my thinking while in the corporate life were polar opposites in the way they showed people being treated in companies. The first was A Passion For Excellence which looked at what were common elements in the country's best corporations. The other was a Tracy Kidder book called The Soul of a New Machine, a Pulitzer Prize winning nonfiction book about Data General competing with itself to create a new computer.

I could not get this book out of my mind even though I left the corporate world when my son was born in 1989! I was thrilled to find a hardback copy at a library sale last year. It shows how not to treat people! Although both books are dated now, they are still both good reads, especially for anyone who is in a corporation or who has a loved one entering the corporate world each day. People are basically still the same.

Another book that stayed with me long after I read it was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (which I've already talked about before). I was challenged to read this book by a guy I knew who was an agnostic. He kept telling me I'd like it. Well...I loved it. As I read further in the book each day, I felt quite sad for Ayn Rand because I believe true Christianity would offer the answers she was looking for. Truly a great book, even if our answers to life's challenges are vastly different.

I have a feeling that I will look back on books read recently and find Crunchy Cons will be a book that had a major influence in my life. It isn't that this book did anything to change me, rather, it reinforced who I have been all these years and why I have so much in common with those who have a different religious and political viewpoint.

I'll do more pondering on this subject, especially about books that affected me a great deal from a theological standpoint. That requires more thought... :)

I would love to hear what books were life changing for others!


smilnsigh said...

Re: Al Gore's book An Inconvenient Truth...

Do you stop to wonder what a man, who has such a large carbon footprint, is doing lecturing to we common folk?

Does he really need all the energy guzzeling homes and stuff, to live? Does the catch of ... I really don't know the correct term for - balancing out a carbon footprint but... Does that seem the best way to go?

I'd rather a person who LIVES what he PREACHES, do the preaching to me.

And lest you think I have no ecological feelings... I do and we drive a small and economical car and we recycle and turn off lights and etc.

Because we can think for ourselves. No need to have someone with 3 homes and all that big lifestyle jazz, tell us how to think. :-)

PS. Though I am not a compelete cheerleader for the owner of 'the ranch'... Did you know that 'the ranch' beats Al's home, for being eco friendly? :-) I doubt Al says that, in his book. But I'll find a link to it, and give it to you. We learn {over in LJ} not to say things, without giving links to our source. Will get.

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

Yes...that's why I was so surprised when my son read that book. He knows I'm no Al Gore fan!

I can't figure out how any of the people who live in huge houses and talk about "carbon footprints" can keep a straight face at times.

If anyone knows good books about the environment, I'd love to know.

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

However, one thing I've learned in my reading is to respect other people and read what they have to say...even if we are of different political persuasions. :)

Bethanie said...

The Hobbit & The Lord of The Rings. They are so great for you imagination, especially when reality isn't so fun.

The Feathered Nest said...

Little Women, all the Austen books, for some reason these came into my life in my later years even though I've always been a voracious reader. They opened up a whole new world that I wasn't even aware of.

Anne of Green Gables was most instrumental in my decision to homeschool my daughter. I wanted her to have that same sense of wonderment and creativity as Anne.

Alexandra Stoddard & Tracey McBride's books have had a huge influence on my attitude about homekeeping/decorating.