1. Confessions by Saint Augustine
A few people I greatly admire mentioned this work as one of the most influential in their lives. I’d attempted to read it before but, frankly, just couldn’t get into it — until now. Although Augustine was born in 354, his autobiography is eerily modern and relevant. He writes as if he were talking to God, so the work is a beautiful, transparent prayer and you almost feel guilty for eavesdropping. The book, originally written in Latin, covers Augustine’s adolescent struggles, his slow upward climb of the echelons of society, and finally his renouncing of all the glory and fame for his faith when he converted to Christianity. It’s a classical work of literature that everyone, especially every Christian, should read at least once in life. I’m finding it strangely moving and insightful.
2. An Autobiography by Anthony Trollope
I picked up this book at the Oxford University Press bookshop this summer. There was a 3-for-2 special and I’d already selected the other two: Confessions, mentioned above, and a book by Anthony Trollope called The Duke’s Children. I was eager to discover a new writer (well, new to me … he died in 1882) and so I also selected his autobiography, which I read in the introduction was quite the bestseller in the day. Apparently Mr. Trollope did not shy away from controversy and it was quite the “tell-all” book of that generation, especially as the author instructed his son only to release it posthumously. It’s a fascinating book. In a fashion similar to Augustine’s, though not addressed to God, the author tells the story of his rough and poverty-stricken childhood and adolescence and his rise to fame. What’s been most interesting to me so far is to see how his story-telling craft developed, and how although he had a full-time job he would use mornings, evenings, and any spare time he had to work on his novels. His persistence paid off in the end and he was one of the best-known writers of his day.
3. Chosen in the Furnace: A Testimony of Survival and a Guide to all Those Who Desire to be Encouragers by Chris and Jim Robinson
This book is on the topic of depression. Maybe you don’t suffer from depression yourself, but chances are pretty good that you know and love someone who does. That’s what drew me to this book … besides the fact that Chris and Jimmy Robinson have been lifelong friends of my parents and Chris handed me an autographed copy! What I love about this book is that Chris writes about her experiences with depression in a vulnerable, heart-warming, but humorous way. The stories grab you and move you. But I also like the fact that her narratives are punctuated by little “boxes” that contain clinical information provided by her husband, Jimmy, who has much experience with pastoring and counseling. A must-read for anyone who suffers from depression and for those who simply want to help.
4. Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster
One of my all-time favorite books. I couldn’t wait to finish the first reading of this book so that I could go back and read it again. I wish that I could memorize this book so I could keep its concepts, which are biblical concepts on prayer put in such an enlightening way, constantly in the forefront of my mind. The author basically provides a taxonomy of prayer, naming and category is kind of biblical prayer and expounding on its particular characteristics. This book is probably my third favorite book in the world, next to the Bible and Rick Joyner’s The Final Quest. And all 38 Agatha Christie’s that I’ve read. 🙂
5. Paris by John Russell
This is a nostalgic, picture-filled look at Paris, as seen through the eyes of the well-known (late) art critic John Russell. I have a special interest in Paris, having been born and raised there, and so much of what he writes brings me back to my childhood. This book has been an escape for me: at every opportunity I’ll run into the living room with a cup of coffee, grab the book, and throw myself back on the couch pillows for twenty minutes of a holiday in the Paris of yesteryear.