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Book Lover’s Day: 5 books that have helped shape my life

8.9. 2017 Posted By: Gordon Houser 382 Times read

Gordon Houser is Editor of The Mennonite.

In honor of Book Lover’s Day (August 9), here is a list of my top five books, although it’s tough to limit it to five. I may come up with a different list on a different day. But here are five in the order in which I read them.

1. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. This children’s book, which I read in fifth or sixth grade, was a joy to read (I loved its many puns) and inspired my imagination. It’s one of many books that made me want to write fiction.

2. Night by Elie Wiesel. This harrowing account of the author’s experience at Auschwitz and Buchenwald and the deaths of his parents and sister challenged my faith and forced me to deal more honestly with the evil in the world.

3. New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton. I read many of Merton’s books after college, and he became a spiritual mentor for me, though he died in 1968. It’s hard to pick one of his books, but this is probably his best.

4. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Years earlier, I saw this on a list of the 10 greatest books of all time. Later I read it and have reread it (a rarity for me). It is a literary masterpiece that delves deep into philosophical and theological questions. Alyosha, the monastic novice and youngest of the brothers, is perhaps my greatest literary hero.

5. Beloved by Toni Morrison. I’ve read most of Morrison’s books, but this is her masterpiece. It is a haunting novel that portrays the devastating effects of slavery. Morrison, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, is an outstanding stylist who depicts the experience of African-American women in particular.

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