This past weekend a friend of mine on Facebook tagged me in his status and posed the following question:
Recently over on Mike Rowe’s page I saw someone ask him to “Please list 5 books (other than the Bible) you think everyone should have to read, and a brief explanation for each.” As I read his list, I started to think of my own. But, I love books so much. Trying to pick just five, just FIVE, is like trying to choose which fingers and toes I love most. I love then ALL. But, ask me to name some off the top of my head, the books I can think of first, in this moment, then here we go. I limited my list to fiction because that’s more fun. If you’re of a mind, I’d like to know your list.
But ever since, I’ve been thinking about the question and decided it deserved my full response, and if I was going to work on it that hard, it should be shared with all of you. Below is my list. It is in no particular order as I feel that all five are equal in value (at least in my mind), and I added a few honorable mentions as did my friend when he listed his.
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
This book holds a lot of meaning for me. It was one of the first books I bought for myself at a bookstore, but it also introduced me to historical fiction. Set during the end of WWII, the story centers around a young Jewish girl and her American family. A POW camp is established near her small town. When a young Nazi soldier escapes, Patty hides him, bringing him food and friendship. You see this book is about more than just young love. It deals with abuse, racism, and identity. A beautiful, heartbreaking coming-of-age story that brings me to tears every time I read it.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Now I know this is technically seven books, but in order to understand the full effect of this story you have to read them as one. For me, this was my introduction into the world of fantasy, and this is truly an epic fantasy taking you on adventures in another world. The story centers around the world of Narnia, from its creation to its end, and has some fantastic characters that appeal to all ages (my three year old son and I have read the series twice together and he loves it!). Many critics claim the story runs parallel to Christianity and that was the author’s plan, however C.S. Lewis was adamant til his death that the books were not intentionally written that way. But the fact remains there are strong Christian influences throughout the story which for myself and my family add to its value.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
I was assigned this book to read in college, and well as everyone knows you don’t really have time to read in college. So college is known to me as my dark years. I read very little, and by very little I mean I only read what I had to, which means this book was included. If you’ve never read anything by Mitch Albom, I suggest you go to the bookstore right now and do so. The man has a gift with words, and after this assignment in college he’s one of my favorite authors. I’ve read everything he’s ever written, but this particular book stands out. The story begins with the death of Eddie, an injured war veteran who believes he’s led a dull life. The book is Eddie being reminded of just how full a life he lived. He relives the moments that defined him and he has the opportunity to be with five people who influenced his life the most. The story is touching, but also thought provoking. “Who would your five people be?” is the question that runs through my mind every time I read this particular book.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
My mom bought this book for me when I was a preteen, but it wasn’t until I was in high school, having suffered my first heartbreak that I picked it up to read. Literally I woke up, drug myself out of bed, ate a quick breakfast, went back to bed, and began reading. I became so lost in this story about four sisters that my mom was worried about me. I read it in three days, only emerging from my room to eat and shower. This book has been classified in so many different ways that I’m really not sure what about it makes it so important that everyone read it. What I do know is that I’ve read the book many times, and I learn something every time. These women lived and survived without a man during a time that women didn’t have many rights. The sisters loved and supported each other in their own endeavors. Family is the heart of this story and how you can rely on them. For me in high school, Jo’s heartbreak and eventual moving on from that is what I clung too, but now the whole story has meaning. Family love, feminism in its early forms, and love and forgiveness.
The Iliad by Homer
This was another book forced on me in college that I enjoyed way more than my classmates. It’s a classic, an epic poem about the final year of the Greek’s war with Troy. Many people believe it’s the greatest war story of all time but it’s more than that. It’s a story about love and it blends the mythology of the Greek Gods with the events of the war. What I love about this story, this epic adventure, is that many scholars believe the war of Troy actually happened. So this piece is a historical fiction, a blend of truth and facts with the make believe. Helen, Hector, Achilles and others make this story unforgettable. And to me, I love the idea that these people existed and the great poet Homer immortalized them in words. Gives me chills just thinking about it.