Thursday, September 4, 2014

Books that Have Impacted My Life

As many of you are probably aware, lately on Facebook, individuals will post 10 books that have impacted their lives, and then tag others in that status. Usually I don't follow up on those kinds of things, because life is just too crazy to jump on every chain that comes along. BUT, this is literature we're talking about. Naturally, I couldn't just rattle books off my head, because I had to think deeply about which ones have impacted me the most. So I'm writing this blog post to express my deep appreciation for the following books (in no particular order): 

1. The Song of Songs. Read it. Pray with it. Meditate on it. An incredible book all about the unconditional, sacrificial love of God! Towards the end of my senior year in high school, I completely fell in love with this book when it was used for two retreats that I served on during that time. Hands down, my favorite verse is Songs 2:10: "My lover speaks, He says to me: arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come." Many of the great saints have written incredible meditations on the Song of Songs-yet people rarely talk about it any more! Let's delve back into the Song of Songs and God's incredible, merciful love for mankind!

2. Mother Angelica's Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality, compiled by Raymond Arroyo. Everybody needs some spunky Mother-Angelica wisdom in their life. Even my Protestant Spanish teacher in high school read this book and was flooded with peace at her words. It's a book full of pithy sayings of Mother Angelica, including such gems as: "Faith is one foot on the ground, one foot in the air, and a queasy feeling in the stomach.” However, the hugest way in which this book impacted me was through her words on the Present Moment. Mother Angelica speaks about the need to live in the present moment, and how it's God's gift to us. Praying with those words, I really started to live in the present moment, and found God's tremendous joy and gift there! 

3. Pollyanna, by Eleanor Porter. When I was little, I was given a pocket-sized abridged version of this book. I fell in love with Pollyanna's joy and gratitude in life, no matter how rough things got to be. Whenever I would be having a rough day (because life as a nine-year-old can be ever so traumatic!) Pollyanna was my go-to book. I would run up to my room and immerse myself in the story, and I would become inspired to find the good and joyful things in my situation. 

4. The Lord of the Rings, by Tokien. They've got love, joy, war, tragedy, hope, and epic Catholic symbolism! Not to mention lively characters. These books and stories have been a huge part of my life for several years. 

5. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis. Another huge staple of my childhood. These books fired up my imagination with all of the characters and settings, and presented a beautiful allegory for the Christian life! I love them! 

6. The American Girl Books. I read these all the time when I was little, and I still go back and read them at times, to be nostalgic. These books helped me to see the utter awesomeness of historical fiction, and they taught me a lot about cultures in different time periods and places. 

7. The Little House on the Prairie Books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I can't even count how many times I have read these! Similar to the American Girl books, these books taught me loads about friendship, love, perseverance, and immersed me in various cultural settings (along with Laura's books, I was an avid reader of the Martha series, set in Scotland). 

8. Anne of Green Gables, by L. Montgomery. Ever since I first read this book, I have identified myself with Anne. I shared a lot of her characteristics, and I think reading about her formed me even more to be like her. I love her imagination, spunkiness, and passion. Such a great book! 

9. Love and Responsibility, by Karol Wojtyla. THIS BOOK IS EPIC! One of the best things I did this summer was read and discuss it with a household sister. It's very dense and difficult to understand in parts, and Wojtyla packs so much information and ideas into each sentence, there's no way to possible cover everything in one reading. This book strengthened and deepened my understanding of sexuality, love, chastity, and marriage, and it's just awesome. I know it can seen daunting to pick up, but find a friend and start it together, and you will soon be soaring through it! 

10. Francis of Assisi : The Man Who Found Perfect Joy by Michael De La Bedoyere and The Perfect Joy of Saint Francis by Felix Timmermans. I have to put these two books together, because I read them together towards the beginning of my 8th grade year. I had been experiencing a lack of something in my spiritual life, saw these on a bookshelf at home one day, picked them up and read through them (quite quickly, they were riveting), and knew that this is it: Perfect Joy! Thus began my quest for perfect joy, and my great devotion to the poor man of Assisi. Which has completely changed my life! 

Looking at all of these books that have impacted me--and those my friends have been posting--I think I can safely assume that books have an effect on us. It seems like a no-brainer, but I have encountered so many people who believe that books and other "entertainment" are sheer entertainment, and have no deep, lasting effects on us. But all of these books, even if I didn't intend them to change me, became a part of me--they impacted who I am today, and they still impact me. For this reason, I am a "picky reader" and a "picky movie-watcher"--because what we immerse ourselves in WILL have an effect on us, and life is short-so I want it to be something worth my while. 

I know that the semesters can get crazy for college students like me (well, for any students), but I highly encourage all of you to find a book. A book to read for fun, not required for a class-and read it! Enjoy it, immerse yourself in another world. Maybe it will teach you new things, perhaps develop your outlook on life, or even teach you new vocabulary. For myself, I will pick up The Princess Bride later this week. I've only read it once (back in middle school), so I'm excited to pick it up again! 

Happy Reading! 

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