I have a terrible memory for books. I have to look at my Goodreads shelf to remind myself what I’ve read, and even then I often don’t remember the stories. But a few books have stayed with me through the years. Stories I’ve devoured, and my heart has digested until they’ve become part of my molecular structure, altering the way I think. That’s what the best books do: they change the way we see the world.

Today, I thought I’d share 10 books that have never left me. They’re not the only ones I could list, but hey—I have to limit myself somehow. Here you go:

10 Books That Have Never Left Me

10. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: a Leadership Fable (Patrick Lencioni) Weirdly enough, someone gave me this book as a gift. I never imagined I would pick up a business book, let alone love one. But the principles here aren't just for businesspeople: they're sound advice for marriage, ministry teams, or any time you have more than one person forced to work together to accomplish a single goal. What made it memorable: This book taught me that conflict is not a bad thing: it’s a necessary thing that can be an opportunity to heal and build. This rocked my world. It taught me to welcome healthy conflict and deal with it in a constructive way.

9. Life of Pi (Yann Martel) My aunt passed this book on to me, and I put off reading it for years, because... boy trapped in a lifeboat with a tiger: how good can it be? The answer is: Brilliant. Pi spends 9 months lost at sea, trapped in a lifeboat with a 450-lb Bengali tiger and survives by learning to tame the tiger. What made it memorable: The twist at the end staggered me. This book speaks to the places a mind and heart will go in order to survive reality.Bookshelf

 

8. Nine Horses (Billy Collins) Recommended to me by a librarian, this is the book that introduced me to the man who would become my favorite poet. This isn’t even my favorite of Billy Collins’s books, but it was my first. What made it memorable: I never knew poetry could be so much fun!

7. A Room with a View (E.M. Forster) A complex, amusing, symbolic story about what it means to choose between the expectations of society and what really makes you happy. What made it memorable: Forster knew about this dilemma firsthand. His book offered me the courage to think, You don’t always have to do what’s expected of you. 

6. A Parcel of Patterns (Jill Paton Walsh) A brief, fictionalized account of a true story: In 1665, the village of Eyam, England was visited by the bubonic plague, which arrived in a parcel of flea-infested tailor’s patterns. The villagers chose to quarantine themselves in order not to spread the plague to other parts of England. Over the next year, most of the villagers died, but historians estimate that their voluntary quarantine saved tens of thousands of lives. What made it memorable: It’s a beautifully-written, heartbreaking story of courage in the face of hopelessness.

5. The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls) A stunning, can’t-put-it-down memoir about a family of siblings who take care of each other throughout a childhood of staggering neglect. What made it memorable: It’s one of the most triumphant memoirs I’ve ever read.

4. The Hiding Place (Corrie Ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill) The memoir of a Dutch Christian family who hides Jews during World War II and pays the ultimate price for it. What made it memorable: When this author says that God’s love shines in the darkness, she knows what she’s talking about. She’s been in the darkest places and come out more certain than ever that God is good.

3. Mere Christianity (C. S. Lewis) A defense of the Christian faith by one of the greatest theological minds of the 20th century. It’s intellectually dense, but Lewis has a gift for making deep arguments easy to understand. What made it memorable: I read this twice through during a crisis of belief, and it literally saved my faith.

2. Blink (Malcolm Gladwell) A book about intuition, and how we come to make assumptions and decisions, and draw conclusions. Pop psychology has never been so fun! Again, this isn't my favorite of Gladwell's book, but it was my first. What made it memorable: Gladwell is a storyteller, and has a talent for making research fascinating. I’ve read all his books at least twice.

1. Roots (Alex Haley) I read this book as a college student, and I've never forgotten it. A fictionalized account of the author’s own family tree, starting with his ancestor Kunta Kinte, who was kidnapped in Africa and brought to America by slave traders. What made it memorable: The scope of it is simply astounding. It’s huge, and tragic, and warm and full of hope. A magnificent book. 

There you have it! Now it's your turn. Tell me: what 10 books would be on your list?

Comments (76)

  1. Joyce

Funny you mentioned The Hiding Place and Mere Christianity, two of my favorites. I loved the trilogy by CS Lewis that begins with Out of the Silent Planet, and The Great Divorce. More recently, Freakonomics, Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend,...

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