Sunday, 30 January 2011

What book has changed your life?

I belong to a local writers and publishers group in my community.  Along with our monthly gatherings, we also communicate with each other in an ongoing way through our e-group.  From time to time, folks post questions to stimulate discussion.  This is my response to a recent set of questions, which I happen to have posted a couple weeks ago.  I wrote to the e-group:

Inspired by Bob's quick response, I thought it is time I should post some thoughts of my own to these questions asked recently:

"So PWAP members.... how about you? What book or books have really changed your life? Why? Have you experienced a let down when other people don't agree with your choices? What do you do when that happens? Why do you think it happens?"

When I wrote this question originally, I admit I had already had a whole list of books and other literature in mind, myself. For example: Jane of Lantern Hill (LM Montgomery), Secret Garden (FH Burnett), CS Lewis's fiction series (Narnia; and especially his science fiction trilogy) and also some of his other non-fiction works, Pilgrim's Progress, Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence), Gulliver's Travels, Alice in Wonderland, a couple of anthologies of classic essays, my thick two-volume anthology of English Literature, my Canadian literature anthology, certain poems (Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum est", works by William Blake, Shakespeare, ee cummings, Robert Frost), ...

Actually, the list itself could fill a book, I realized. So I had to sit down and think, "What ONE book has most changed my life? And do others like it as much as I do, or do they dislike it? Would talking about that book get strong reactions, positive or negative or otherwise? What book would fill that spot?" And then I knew. So here (with a bit of trepidition, I admit) I present you my personal life-changing book.

Personally, I would have to say that the Bible has had the most influence in my life. I was brought up in a very Bible-centered-church-culture and by the time of my mid-childhood years I could, rather smugly, rattle off endless Bible stories and facts (and a certain amount of theological Q&As) very easily. I also had by that time memorized large passages from the book. I attended church-based children's clubs and had dozens of badges and awards to my credit.

I assumed I "believed" the book, though my belief at that point was mainly a rather naively unquestioning acceptance that what others told me was "true". You might say that I believed, in theory, and in the interpretation and application of the particular "culture" I was brought up in, but that it really hadn't gotten ahold of me personally in any significant way. But by the time I was about 10 or 11 years old, I was beginning to question, and that changed things for me. It has been changing things for me ever since. I could go on and on (and you can read more about it, if you are so inclined, in an article here:
and on one of my blogs, here:, but I want to get to the point here.

As I grew older, read widely, watched film, went on to university, and generally observed the world around me, I was constantly amazed at the influence this book has had on our western civilization (and on world events, for that matter). It's influence is found everywhere, often in surprising and distinctly varied ways, in literature, in music (ever really listen to lyrics from Led Zeppelin and other groups of that era?), in our laws and justice system, in history and philosophy and politics and on and on - in the past, yes, but also very much in the present, even in a supposedly scientific, secular, postmodern world.

Also, as I grew older, I came to realize more and more that not everybody agrees about the contents of this book - to put it mildly! I wonder if any other book has influenced the history of mankind, and our interactions with each other and with the world we live in, more than this book. I have also come to personally understand what this book means when it says of itself that it is a "living word." Like all truly great books, it really does influence people and change their ways of thinking and living, even thousands of years after it has been written. It has principles that transcend historical periods and distinct cultures and particular geographical places and features. Countless numbers of people have not read the book itself, and would even vehemently say they don't believe in any of it, but watch their actions, listen to what they say about life, and you will very often see its influence on them, though they do not recognize it.

More than that, though, for myself (and for many others), this book has become a truly "living word" because it has introduced me to vital, living relationship with the One who is the Living Word.

Now this line of discussion is about life-changing books, and as I have answered the first part of the question, I am going to end here. Regarding the rest of the questions, briefly, yes, I know there are a lot of people who disagree with my choice. Yes, there have been times in the past when I have been disappointed by folks' reactions, but not so much any more. I have come to the point where I am not so concerned about the book itself. I am far more interested in the relationship with the One whom it has pointed me toward.

.... Okay, your turns, PWAP members! What book(s) have changed your life?

.... And if you want to discuss my choice ... let's do it face to face! Starbucks or Timmy's or Fibonacci's anyone? :-)


Jeremy Myers said...

I'm not in your group, but I hope I can still answer?

I actually have an Amazon listmania list for this. I call it my "Burning Books" list, not because I want to burn these books, but because when I read them, they set my mind on fire, and have changed me ever since.

I can't decide what one book is at the top of the list, but it is probably "Reign of the Servant Kings" by Joseph Dillow or "Transforming Mission" by David Bosch.

They're both theology books, but they radically changed the way I read Scripture and think about missions and discipleship.

Norma Hill - aka penandpapermama said...

of course you can respond! I posted here as well on on my egroup because I am interested in a wide range of responses.

I will be looking for your listmania. Sounds awesome! Thanks for sharing!

tommyab said...

Bonhoeffer's Discipleship has made all Sermon on the Mount's commentaries that I know look very pale... The last section in the book about the church is written with "official/institutionnal/lutheran/state-church" vocabulary and concepts (such as sacraments), but the basic teachings of it is sooo deep!