Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

May 22, 2004

My Most Influential Books (Maybe)

Kevin Young, a very serious seminary student and blogger, names the six books that have influenced him the most (here). Interesting list. Packer's Knowing God is there. I've been very gradually sipping from that one lately, savoring a page or two here, a page or two there. Of course Young puts the Bible on his list. I don't think I'd do that. Not that's it's not the most influential book I've ever read (or ever will read), but somehow I don't like including it on lists like these, as if it were just one of several very influential books.

So I'm asking the question of myself. What books have influenced me the most? Other than the Bible. It's the kind of question that might provoke one list today, and a wholly different list tomorrow. But for what it's worth, here goes:

The first three are books that greatly influenced my "formative years." [By the way, what years are NOT formative?]

  • Our Town, by Thornton Wilder. This little play had a huge impact my understanding of life before I was a Christian. I still see great value in it. As a teenager I read it and re-read it.

  • In a similar way, Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury. Like the Wilder play, the message here is, Value life. It's gone in a moment. I think this message powerfully influenced my life and made me desire something more than simply "three score and ten" and then sayonara.

  • The Poetry of Robert Frost. America's greatest poet. For a while his world-view seemed to me like wisdom itself. Much misunderstood by English teachers throughout America, his poems asked essential questions. The sad part is, he didn't seem to know the answer.

  • The Brothers Karamazov, by Dostoevsky. A challenging book in more ways than one. A beloved English teacher in high school told our class it was the best novel ever written. I have no doubt she was right. It also challenges the Christian reader to walk out his faith in fear and trembling. Alyosha is without a doubt the greatest fictional Christian in all literature. Due for a re-read!

  • The Screwtape Letters
    . Probably needs no introduction. I read it first as a thoroughgoing skeptic, yet I took Lewis' bait, hook, line and sinker. Respecting him as a literary figure first and foremost, his writing stirred things in me even against my will. His other books were not far behind. I can remember reading his Reflections on the Psalms and thinking with a shock, Wait a sec! This man is brilliant, AND he believes the Bible is true! It was a noteworthy moment.

  • Allright, so I guess I have to put some theological type books on here. I'm tempted to include Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy, but I can't really remember why. Something about living out your faith, undoubtedly. I read it at a time when I especially needed to hear that.

  • A. W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God. An eloquent challenge to serious discipleship. Faith is something more than doctrinal assertions? Imagine that!

  • George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom. Little book, big impact. It changed the way I think about, well, the gospel of the Kingdom.

  • Gordon Fee's Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God. A compliment to Ladd's book, this one helped me to understand the Holy Spirit's part. This book and Ladd's broke off preconceptions, shattered illusions, pointed the way to a fresh understanding of their subjects.

  • Well, I'm sure--I mean, I'm REALLY sure--that I've left off some very important books. But I wanted to get a list up as a means of stirring my readers (you know who you are) to think about doing the same. I'd really like to know what your most influential books have been. Oh yeah, other than the Bible! Cuz that's a given.


    By the way, here's yet another blogger with a "most influential books" list.


    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hey Bob - David Wayne here (Jollyblogger) - I'm just commenting anonymously cuz I didn't want to have to sign up for a blogger account.
    Anyway, just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your list - quite a diverse lot. I'd love to know particularly how "Our Town" influenced you in the faith.

    10:11 PM  
    Blogger Phil W said...

    Thanks for the link to Brandywine Books. Backward link tracking helped me find your site.

    11:09 PM  
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