ten books I will never ever get rid of

my ten favourite books

Sarah Bessey is doing a fun “ten books a day for a week” series, sharing her favourite books in seven different categories. I thought I’d join in the fun, being a big reader myself, but slimming my list down to just ten.

So here it is: ten books I will never ever get rid of. They are a mixed bunch of literature, children’s, faith… and my reasons for picking each off the shelf are somewhat quirky maybe, but this is them. If you want to join in, tell me your ten in the comments or leave a link to your own blog entry.

One. Atonement, by Ian McEwan (synopsis)
I could. not. stop. reading. once I opened the cover of this book. The film was huge so you’re more likely to have seen that than read the book but please please read the book? It’s gripping and heartbreaking and beautiful and I don’t think I have ever loved a book more while I was reading it than this one.

Two. Little Women, by Louisa M. Alcott (synopsis)
A common thread in all the books I’ve plucked from our shelves for this list is that they tend to make me cry. This one too. I have a very distinct memory of reading on my parents’ bed (it being big and so good for sprawling on for hours while reading) and just sobbing with grief when the inevitable happens. It’s a beautiful and real picture of love in so many forms.

Three. Velvet Elvis, by Rob Bell (synopsis)
People tend to either love or hate Rob Bell’s style of speaking and writing. I love it. I picked up this book without really knowing who he was, but the rebel in me being strangely drawn to this book whose subtitle was “repainting the Christian faith”. Like no other book it radically changed my faith. I grew up in a Christian family so I could quote/sing bible verses before I was two, and I have so much great legacy from that. But this book threw open the doors to a whole new way of understanding who this God was I followed, and made this faith, this walk, this life so much bigger than it had been before. No longer was it about “getting in to heaven when I died”. Now I grasped what it could mean for me now and my life hasn’t been the same since.

Four. Christianity Rediscovered, by Vincent J. Donovan (synopsis)
I read this right around the same time as I read Velvet Elvis. This is one Catholic priest’s story of his move to Kenya to take the gospel to the Masaai and the massive change it required in his approach and understanding of his faith. This is a book about how culture intersects with a faith story. It appealed to the social anthropologist in me as well as challenging how culturally specific I have made my faith.

Five. Mister God This Is Anna, by Fynn (synopsis)
I have never read another book like this. It’s the innocent and moving account of the friendship between Fynn and a little girl called Anna, whose questions and thoughts about the world, about Mister God, about people, are incredibly deep and thought-provoking. It is as beautiful to read as it is interesting to read, and my copy (pinched from my parents) is pretty battered from usage.

Six. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood (synopsis)
I have friends with a profound hatred of this book. I think that’s partly because it was a GCSE text and people tend to end up hating anything they have to study in school for months and months and then write exams on. My copy is my old hardbound copy from school, complete with coloured underlining and notes that now embarrass me. And I don’t hate it. This book made me fall in love with Margaret Atwood, and I have devoured her books ever since. Her strong women characters and the incredibly complex (sometimes alternate) worlds she creates for them fascinate me. They are never comfortable books to read, I can’t really say I enjoy them, but I do love them.

Seven. Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers (synopsis)
The Christian romance fiction genre, taken as a whole, is terribly terribly bad. Horribly bad. Shockingly appalling really. BUT. This book. I read it on average every six months. And I cry my way through it every. single. time. It has its moments of hopeless corniness. But the characters are real and complex, the story is beautiful and heartbreaking, and I finish it on such a high every time, it will never leave my home.

Eight. Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson (synopsis)
I think I might have waxed lyrical about this book before on my blog, so I’ll try not to go on. This is quite possibly my favourite piece of fiction literature EVER. It’s a letter that an elderly country American priest writes to his very young son, soon before his death. It is profound in its simplicity and surprises me with every turn with how much it moves me. This is a book I copy down lines from on post it notes. It’s that good.

Nine. Ten. Um, and eleven through fifteen too. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis (synopsis)
Yeah, I couldn’t chose which one to include so I added them all. These are some of the first books I can remember my dad reading to me at bedtime each night (we went on to conquer The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings too). And then I reread them too many times to count, so that they have somehow become part of my person. I read my parents’ battered old copies until they gave me this bookset for Christmas one year. I am in love with Mr Tumnus. I want to stay with the Beavers. I get goosebumps every time I read of Aslan creating Narnia in The Magician’s Nephew. I’m also a little smitten with Prince Caspian, and Reepicheep always makes me think of my dad. The Horse and His Boy is my surprising favourite, but The Last Battle comes a very close second. I dream of one day reading these books to our children at bedtimes, and then catching them reading on ahead after lights-out…

So over to you, what are your ten books you will never ever get rid of?