Today, I give you my list of the best books I can think of. You're welcome. I say that these are my favorite books of all time, but I felt like it needed a qualifier "right now," because they are subject to change if I consider how many books I will read down the road. Thus, "of all time, and right now." My favorite books have to fall into a few categories: they have to be timeless, literary, and life-changing.
First, they have to timeless. They bring you into a world out of time, where all the same rules apply to me as they do to the characters (in fiction), or where the advice offered isn't tied to whatever philosophies that are currently en vogue. Even if they might encapsulate a certain time period, in a quintessential way, the universal principles stand above that time.
Second, they have to be (mostly) literary. A writer's writer, a book-lover's book, or just clear and lovely prose. All of the books listed fall into this category in my mind.
Third, they have to be life-changing or moving. I don't mean sentimental or tear-jerker. I mean... it makes you stop to ponder... oh wow how beautiful this world is. The content comes into your heart, melds with it there for a while, and then you stop, look in the mirror and think "And, now I'm a different person completely."
These are the books I'll either tell you to drop everything and read, or they're the books I'll literally just give you a copy of. So, without further ado... my seven favorite books of all time and right now:
1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
I read this while I was pregnant with our first child, Molly. I love everything about it and would happily reread the monster at some point when I make the time. He weaves philosophy into a very interesting story seamlessly, giving us lots of food for thought and time and food for contemplation. Make sure you get a good translation and good comments if you can.
2. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
My husband gave this to me several years ago as an anniversary present, and I was finally inspired to read it last November. It was worth every page. Tina Nunnally's translation was PPIEW.* It will make you think about Norway, Catholicism, motherhood, life, death, and living well.
3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
I have read this so many times I've lost count. I used to read it every time I got sick. Have you seen the illustrations by Tasha Tudor? Own it. I can't wait to read this to my kids and share the love.
4. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
I've reread this one several times, and I'll recommend it until I'm blue in the face. I read it for the first time in Middle School, if you can believe that, after my Aunt recommended it while I was staying with her for a week. It influenced my life profoundly, made me want to be a writer when I grew up, and sucked me into the world of Lamott, a world of which I have yet to leave and will happily stay a very long time.
5. The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck
This book just shimmers with beauty. it is the perfect combination accessible, American, and mysteriously clairvoyant. Steinbeck just gets the profundity of the 'normal class' America in a way that no other author seems to be able to capture. I think it was one of the few that I re-read voluntarily after being required to read it in high school. If I were to write a(nother) novel, perhaps it would look a little like this. If it makes you want to write, it scoots itself to the top of a list.
6. From Brokenness to Community by Jean Vanier
Of all the books, this one rises to the the top as one of the most 'life-changing.' A best friend (roomie at Westmont, in my wedding) recommended it to me after a high school religion teacher required that she read at her High School St. Louis. I then read it about a billion times, and started giving away copies to random unwitting friends. Vanier started the L'Arche communities, for people with disability to live in a shelter of faith together. This book explores the importance of coming to terms with our sinfulness and weakness, in order that we might more fully love each other. There are countless jewels of wisdom, and quotables on almost every page! It's short, but PACKED with wisdom.
7. Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux
This book is/was the reason I finally assented to the conversion to Catholicism that my husband and I had been discussing and sparring about for about three years! It is soo good! Her love for God and her passion for Jesus' work and ministry, and her insights about faith and spirituality will truly change your life.
runners up (aka the books that I really had a hard time NOT including):
for kids: The Betsy Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace
spirituality:The Little Oratory by Leila Lawler and David Clayton
novel: A toss up between Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) and Brideshead Revisited (Waugh)
american:Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
on writing: If You Want to Write by Brenda Euland
This does not include my favorite works of poetry, memoir, biography, among a few other genres and gems. I'm also a huge fan of the foodie genre, but we'll have to save that for another day!
to see all the books I've read see my Books I've Read board, and feel free to follow me on Pinterest!
What are YOUR favorite books and genres?
Linking up with Kelly and the gang at This Ain't the Lyceum