Yesterday at church, the man speaking mentioned that he’d read an article talking about how there’s been a shift in the last 40-50 years in what college students major in. The majority used to get liberal arts degrees, and that’s changed now to a majority of business degrees. He wondered aloud if the decline in integrity in business/politics that we’ve seen the last few decades might be related. He asked how much we learn about integrity if we see only the examples the real world presents to us and ignore those found in literature.
That really got me thinking. I’ve always loved reading, for a myriad of reasons – it takes me to different worlds, lets me experience a new point of view, it entertains me. But aside from all that, I really try to learn from my books. Today I’ve compiled a list of books that I feel have taught me a lot – from being honest and being myself, to being thoughtful and aware of others. So without further ado, here’s the list (in no particular order):
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Oh Atticus, what a guy. A shining example of true bravery – not the kind that comes from carrying a gun, but the kind that comes from knowing what is right and what you will and won’t stand for.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck – Lee’s discource on timshel, that word in the bible that means thou mayest – that we get to choose our own path, carve out our own future and deal with the consequences ourselves – is a powerful reminder to me that our choices are important, that they matter. And it’s what we do with those choices that make us who we are.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis – Lucy’s simple faith and trust stands in sharp contrast to much of the world today. So many people doubt and challenge at every turn, and while there is merit to that as well, Lucy teaches us that faith and trust do have their place in this world.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling – Don’t worry, you guys will be getting a long post about my love for Harry one of these days. For today, suffice it to say that I learned so much from these books. Harry taught me all about goodness and choices, while Dumbledore taught me about integrity and initiative. Hermione taught me that it’s okay to be the smart girl in the class, and Ron taught me that loyalty goes a long way. Seriously guys, if you haven’t read these books yet, you’re missing out (I’m looking at you, husband).
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson – my latest obsession. Too bad Robert Jordan died so Brandon Sanderson had to take time away from his own work to complete the Wheel of Time series (seriously, Brandon – I’m dying here! Write the next book!). But that’s a whine for another day. I’m willing to bet most of you reading this list haven’t read this book and that’s a real shame. Kaladin rocks as a protagonist. He confronts the “wretch” inside himself time and time again and comes out on top every time. I think all of us have that inside us – that part of us that just wants to give up and let the world do with us as it pleases. If we can learn to confront that part of ourselves, to see our own darkness and defeat it with our own light, we would all be much better off.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Jane’s strong sense of determination and commitment to her own standards meant so much to me when I read this as a teenager. I also have to give a shout-out to her friend Helen, who has one of my favorite quotes from the book: “If all the world hated you and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.”
The Help by Kathryn Stockett – Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny work in astounding harmony to create a symphony of character. What beautiful lessons about speaking up, standing out, giving, and being a friend.
Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – A man who stands up against society, starts asking the hard questions, takes a step back and really examines what his life has become – who wouldn’t learn something from that kind of character?
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – I know Scarlett can be infuriating, but you gotta admit the girl knows what she wants and she goes out and gets it. There’s a lot to admire there.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – Oh man, so many good characters here. Suffice it to say, the way their relationships play out and their interactions with each other taught me so much about friendship and support.
How about you, dear readers? What books have made an impact in your life? Who have you learned from and what did you learn? Have you read any of the books on my list?