Monday, June 06, 2005

Answers to Questions About Books

Rach, a blogger in the UK, was recently "tagged" by someone asking her some questions about the books in her life.

She, in turn, forwarded the "meme," as it's called onto novelist and blogger Richard Lawrence Cohen. Richard thought it would be a good idea to simply ask all his readers to respond to the questions.

Go check out what those two wrote and then come back here, if you will.

1. Total number of books I've owned:
This number is incalculable. It has to number in the thousands. At least once a year, sometimes twice, I donate my old books to Goodwill Industries. (Occasionally, we'll take smaller stacks to Half Price Books to be sold.) It's hard for me to part with books, basically because I like to go back through them, comparing things I've read in older books with my newer ones.

2. Last book I bought:
1776 by David McCullough. I haven't started reading it, but it's in the satchel I carry between home and office. I've had several other things to read first, though.

3. Last book I read:
I usually try to keep between two to four books going at any given time, in addition to the Bible. Early this morning, I finished reading Blog by Hugh Hewitt, which I reviewed above. I'm also in the midst of re-reading two old favorites: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (which I first read thirty-seven years ago) and Why I Am a Christian by Ole Hallesby.

4. Five books that mean a lot to me:
Although the top two choices are a snap, picking others makes this a very tough question. I'm sure that as soon as I publish this, I'll think of another book that has meant a lot to me. But here goes...

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Lewis changed my life! Struggling against letting God turn me from atheism to faith in Christ, Lewis's writings, starting with The Screwtape Letters, convinced me that it was okay to have a brain and to believe. Mere Christianity, although certainly susceptible to logical arguments of refutation, presents a simple, logical, and down-to-earth case for Christian faith from the standpoint of one who, like me, moved from atheism to faith. Lewis, as a professor of English literature once told me, wrote like an angel.

Prayer by Ole Hallesby. I didn't really know how to pray until Hallesby's book taught me. He was a Norwegian Lutheran bishop of enormous intellect and simple faith. Real prayer, Hallesby taught, only happens when two conditions are met in us: (1) We have enough faith to believe that God hears us; (2) We're utterly helpless, without personal resources for making happen what we ask God to do.

The Chronicles of Narnia also by C.S. Lewis. I know this is seven books. But they can easily be taken as one unit, which is how I usually read them. If you think that these are just children's books, you haven't read them. Lewis has such a sure handle on life and human nature and it shows throughout these books. There are passages, especially in the culminating volume, The Last Battle, that even after many readings, bring me to tears of joy, yearning for "the new heaven and the new earth."

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. In the seventh grade, much to my chagrin, my classmates outvoted me, deciding that we should read the stories that composed The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I came to love Holmes, his intellect, and his honor. I also fell in love with England. Doyle's character, along with the Beatles, opened up a whole world for me, one that included Chaucer, Shakespeare, Churchill, and Ellis Peters, to name a few. I am an unrepentant anglophile. One of my great thrills was being able to go to England back in 2000, when our kids' high school choir did a concert tour there.

The Friendship Factor by Alan Loy McGinnis. In this and other volumes, McGinnis taught me at a critical time in my adulthood--my early thirties, as I pastored for the first time--how to befriend, serve, collaborate with, and lead people.

I'm already thinking of other books I might want to add to this list. Rats!

5. Tag five people and have them do this on their blog:
I'll just issue a general invitation to readers here. Put the links to your responses in the Comments section.


Rach said...

hi, i followed your link from Richard Lawrence Cohen's blog. I love the Chronicles of Narnia! I grew up watching the BBC series years ago, and then when i was a bit older got into reading them! Did you know they're making a movie of it? its set to come out around christmas time...i'm not sure how i feel about that, because movies are invariably never as good as the books!

Thanks for filling that out, its always fun to read about what other people like to read and listen to etc., to have a quick snippet of someone else's life. Thank you for the link too!

take care

Smithee said...

Hi, Mark. Thanks for visiting my site. It IS too hard to narrow it down to five books, isn't it? And I agree about Sherlock Holmes and Narnia.

(BTW, Rach, I saw the trailer for the Narnia movie and it looks awesome! Let's hope it lives up to what is sure to be a lot of hype for it.)

I'll have to check out some of the other books you listed, too. The other Lewis book sounds especially interesting. I'm curious, did your view of the Narnia series change after reading Mere Christianity? If memory serves, there are some weighty themes underlying the "children's" books.

I like your site, too. You bring up some thought-provoking ideas.

Mark Daniels said...

Actually, Smithee, I first read 'Mere Christianity' about seventeen years before I read the Narnia books. But I certainly found the books to be compatible with each other in world view, etc. I love the way Lewis freely draws on the fairy tales and myths of many different cultures in Narnia, along with embedding allusions not only to the teachings of the Bible, but its many stories as well.

Thank you very much for dropping by the blog and for leaving your thoughtful comments!

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Mark, Thanks for picking up the ball! I'm an anglophile too, and was there in 2002 and a generation ago. MERE CHRISTIANITY is at the top of my reading list, partly because of you. The Narnia books have been badly made into TV movies a couple of times, once by the BBC, but there's every hope that with a proper budget it'll be done well this time.