My top ten most influential books, and why:
1. The Gospel of Mark. The immediacy of Jesus’s mission, the uncertainty and hubris of the disciples, the world-shattering results…well, if I am going to call myself a faithful follower of Christ, I’d better know what He was about.
2. The Stories of Hans Christian Andersen. If my parents had only known how subversive fairy tales are, I might never have been allowed them.
3. The Lord of the Rings: It was a revelation to me to see that life does not have to be pleasant and fun to be good, and that there are higher goals than selfish pleasure. I was young, still in my hippie years when I read Tolkien. It shaped my Christianity, and gave me a sense of nobility.
4. Mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis’s great classic about living a Christ-like life in the midst of a secular society.
5.Freddy’s Book, John Gardner. Surprise! This lost classic is about the Reformation years of Gustav Vasa in Sweden; its characters include the Devil
6. Essays of E.B. White: Mostly about life on a saltwater farm in Maine; big influence on my writing style. White’s frank essays on the complications of simple life gave me perspective on being an adult. “Death of a Pig” is one of the best.
7. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte: Not so much the romance – I doubt if Mr. Rochester would have been very appealing to me – but Jane’s strong sense of justice and principle, as well as her modesty and simplicity, spoke to me, and I have held her as a model through my life.
8. Diet for a Small Planet, Frances Moore Lappe: I often fail to be a good vegetarian, but this book helped form my sense of ecological justice. It was the first cookbook I ever owned
9. Beard on Bread, James Beard: An early choice for bread-baking in my life, and it certainly introduced me to breads other than spongy sweet white bread my mother made and the grain-dense “hippie” doorstops I first baked.
10. To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee: I grew up in the far northern corner of the eastern United States. The racial and class conflicts of the rest of the country bypassed us, for the most part. I was a small, imaginative, athletic child, much like Scout. From Atticus Finch, I learned how to stand up for what is right, even when it is not popular or even likely to succeed.
I could probably list another ten, but this is plenty enough, of talking about myself. Maybe some of you have the same favorites, maybe some of you might be intrigued enough to look at some which aren’t familiar.