Over the weekend, my friend Amanda asked me on Facebook to name the 10 Books That Have Stayed With Me over my lifetime so far. Like some of the other challenges making their way around the social media world, I found this one to be the most reflective and one that I could answer with some good insight.
For me, books are important. In my undergraduate years in the St. Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco, I probably read close to 110 books (not all cover to cover) in three years. It was an intense period of my early 20’s, but one I look at now with great admiration and accomplishment. If only I had the time to read some of those great books and authors nowadays. The list of books is astonishing. They really are the Great Books of Western Civilization.
The list below is in no particular order. You will notice that the Holy Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are not listed in this particular list. The reason why they are not in this list is because they continue daily to play a role in my life where these books “have stayed with me” in a different way. Although one of the books is a book from the Scriptures, the theme has always impacted me.
What is also different in this blog post than on my original Facebook post is that I am going to explain why these books have “stayed with me.”
The Ten Books are:
1. The Odyssey by Homer. This is one of the first books I read in the St. Ignatius Institute in my Greek Literature course. Even at the early age of 20, I could see the elements of Christianity and particularly Catholicism in this work, even though Homer wrote it centuries before Christ. The one key theme that stands out for me: a quest to get home with joys, sufferings, and redemption.
2. Song of Songs (Old Testament Book) – Hopefully, if the Lord blesses me with the vocation of marriage someday, I will read this to my wife on our wedding night. After listening to Dr. John Bergsma’s lecture on this in Principle of Biblical Studies I at Franciscan, it was confirmed that my wife will hear this on our wedding night. I just love it! If you have never read it, then read it. It’s the inspired Word of God!
3. Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. This is one of those life-changing books and it was for me as well. It really gives you insight into suffering since Victor Frankl was imprisoned in the Concentration Camp in Auschwitz. The underlining theme in this book is Hope. Even in the most treacherous situations, Hope can be a light in the darkness.
4. A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. I read this book in my Nature of Love course in graduate school at Franciscan. We were told on the first day of class that this book is known to make grown men cry. In my pride, I said whatever. Well later that summer, I was in tears. It’s an amazing book on love, suffering, and death. This is a great love story, but the love has its flaws.
5. Saint Thomas Aquinas by G.K. Chesterton. This was the first book I had ever read by G.K. Chesterton. Although not a theologian, this is probably the best book written on St. Thomas Aquinas. Chesterton through his magnificent vocabulary and detail to imagery and verse brings the life of Thomas out of the pages and right into your heart and mind.
6. The Spirit of Catholicism by Karl Adam. Here is yet another book I read in graduate school at Franciscan. As I read this book sitting in the John Paul II Library, I kept pumping my fist in the air because it’s all about Catholicism and the beauty of the Catholic Church. I promote this book when I give talks. If you have a friend who is thinking about joining the Catholic Church, this is one of the books they must read. It’s brought some of the greatest Catholic theologians in the United States in union with Rome.
7. Crossing the Threshold of Hope by Pope St. John Paul II. This was the first book I read by Pope St. John Paul II. It impacted me so much that I went on to earn a Bachelors in Philosophy, and eventually attain a Masters in Theology. Overall, it’s a simple read compared to the many other documents written by JP2. This book was so early on in my studies, that it’s not even annotated.
8. Fides et Ratio by Pope St. John Paul II. There is one reason why this book is on this list – Pope St. John Paul II. It’s the document that solidified my understanding of faith and reason. It’s both philosophical and theological. A great read, but not easy to understand. I am still figuring out what everything means.
9. Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle. Aristotle is considered one of the greatest philosophers of the ancient world and my list would be insufficient without a work of his on it. Although I struggled dramatically through his Posterior Analytics, I devoured this book by him. I still quote it to this day and his understanding of ethics is unmatched. There is a reason why St. Albert the Great and St. Thomas Aquinas baptized and confirmed him in the Christian faith.
10. A Father Who Keeps His Promises by Scott Hahn. This was the first book that opened my eyes to the covenants in the Old Testament. When I first read this book in 2004, I would have never imagined that Dr. Scott Hahn would be my professor and academic advisor while at Franciscan. This book is a great read for anyone seeking to understand the covenants established by God in the Old Testament and eventually the New Testament with Jesus Christ.
Well there you have it…10 books that have stayed with me. The only factor is that 10 books were not easy since the Confessions by St. Augustine, Introduction to Mary by Mark Miravalle, many more documents by Pope St. John Paul II, the writings of C.S. Lewis, Pope Benedict XVI, and many others could be on this list.
So what you are your 10 books that have stayed with you? Tell us in the comment box below.