Monday, June 13, 2011

5 books that changed who I am

Ali's tagged me in this meme which asks me to list 5 books that have influenced who I am. I'm supposed to tag some others to do the same, but how about you just do the same if you're keen? I'd be keen to see what you come up with :)

I actually find this a really hard task, because while I love books, I don't find they influence me half as much as people and speakers. I think books tend to influence my writing voice or give me ideas, whereas conversations with friends and talks have a greater impact on my decisions.

Perhaps I'd prefer to answer this in terms of books that have been significant to me. So they may have changed me, but more than that, they were significant at a particular time.

A Brief History of Time - Stephen Hawking

I went through a phase in high school when I read a lot of nerdy science books. I was so into the universe out there my friends bought me a telescope for my 17th birthday.

Looking back, I was searching for meaning in the universe, and this book left me awed by the sub-atomic world. Reading A Brief History of Time felt like burrowing into a black hole it was so hard to understand, an inspiring black hole all the same; it left me in no doubt the universe is an incredible place. But please, don't ask me about quantum physics next time you see me!

The Bible

I can't imagine any other book coming close to the bible in terms of its influence, which is quite remarkable given I ignored it for the first 18 years of my life. I think I figured it was an irrelevant artefact, with no application to the modern world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every day God speaks to me through his word in new ways. I think the philosophical musings of the book of Ecclesiastes and Acts Chapter 17 were the starting point of my interest. But the passages which have most influenced me probably come from Ephesians and Romans, where my faith in Jesus was first established. If you haven't ever read the bible, you're missing out, big time.

The Whitsun Weddings - Philip Larkin

I didn't know it at the time, but studying The Whitsun Weddings at school is really where my love of poetry began. I loved Larkin's ironic understatement, his cynicism and disdain towards the establishment. Reading it now, I find his poetry a bit depressing. But at the time it helped me see poetry was not just about beautiful imagery but also the ordinary and the political. There are other poets I prefer to read now, but Larkin was where it all began.

Don't Waste Your Life - John Piper

I remember reading this while I was a rural trainee with the ABC. I was yet to move to Orange and sleeping on the floor my brother's apartment in Chatswood. I'm pretty sure I read this on the computer after finding a free version online while home sick from work one day. It spun me into a minor existential crisis (in a good way) and challenged me to think about how I was going to spend my life - for God or for me. And even though I've not read it since, it helped me decide to consider a life of ministry.

The Bear Nobody Wanted + Paddington Bear

This is perhaps a two-way tie. Books about bears that have taught me about human nature.
The first is a kids book is about a teddy bear with a rather inflated opinion of himself who has a series of not-always-pleasant adventures before finding a real home. It was a favourite of mine as a kid, and maybe it taught me something about being self-aware and also the journey of life. Ya know, the deep stuff.
Meanwhile, Paddington is all about a bear who has the curiosity and naivety of a child, but a strong sense of wrong and right. He seems to navigate his way around with just enough success, managing to remain loved by all, despite his many blunders and obsessions (including marmalade). He's full of sense and nonsense, innocence and wisdom. He's a good portrait of most humans.

1 comment:

Kath said...

Hey Soph,
Thanks for the open invite :) I'd love to join in. I'll post soon.