(in no particular order)
1. Mere Christianity. I remember reading it in maybe my junior or senior year of high school and it just changing everything. It let me start thinking about my faith in a new, intellectual way, and opened up a whole world of nonfiction after a childhood of fiction only.
2. The Bible, of course. Totally frustrating, at times, but most good things involve work.
3. Anne of Green Gables. It was probably the formative literary influence of my childhood, and also proved the basis for my undergrad senior thesis.
4. Gilead. Tops my makes-me-a-better-person list.
5. To Kill a Mockingbird. I remember at least two memorable rereadings of this one: when I was 15 and had the flu, my mom read it to me for a school assignment; and when I was 22, John and I found a weird Anglicized version in our little bungalow and read it aloud at Queen Elizabeth National Park. It was good to hear a familiar accent.
6. Graceling. Not as great a book as many of the others on the list, but engrossing enough to get me from Hartford to Atlanta and from Atlanta to Tallahassee on my first-ever solo flight last spring. Sometimes, that’s pretty much all you need
7. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. For the last ten or fifteen years, these books have been a point of contact for me and so many friends, a shorthand we can use to talk about the world. I’m very grateful for them.
8. Alas, Babylon. One of my all-time favorites and one of several on this list my mom recommended to me. It reflected my childhood growing up in Florida, got me interested in homesteading and post-apocalyptic stories before those things were hip, and they’re still some of my favorite topics to read about. J surprised me on our three-month dating anniversary with a bunch of yellow rose and a fancy new copy. And we all know how that ended.
9. The Poisonwood Bible. J loathes this one, which I read first in early high school (as a Kingsolver devotee), then for assigned reading. It became most important to me, though, when we made our decision to go to western Uganda, which borders the Congo. It was a good warning about the kind of missionaries we could become if we went there with too much pride, and it was one of the best descriptions and preparations for our trip that I found.