When it came time to sell our home in Louisiana and move to a condo less than half its size in Oklahoma, we had to do some dramatic downsizing! One of the most difficult items to tackle was our book collection. Both Cheryl & I love books, but they were NOT all going to fit in that 1100-square-foot condo, so we had to do some soul-searching over which ones we could dispose of and those we just had to keep. (Don’t worry; we got to keep plenty!)
Books fall into a number of categories. There are many books that a person reads once, and for one reason or another, will never read again. Many of mine are commentaries or other reference books which I do not “read through” per se, but refer to as needed. But others are what I am calling here, “Top Shelf” books: those which I have not only read through, but have read in their entirety more than once. Following are my “Top Shelf” books, and why:
Perhaps it should go without saying, but I think it is important to say it! Someone has said that if all the books of the world were organized into a library, the Bible would belong on the top shelf by itself, and I would “amen” that. For that reason it is the book I have read the most, though I do not know how many times exactly.
When my wife Cheryl was in college, she was witnessing to a guy, and talking about the Bible. He asked her if she had read the whole Bible, and how many times. Without thinking it through, she said, “Oh I don’t know, probably 20 times.” When she got home, she began figuring that would have meant that she had read it almost every year she had been alive — and she didn’t start till she was in high school!
SO … I am not going to say that I have read the Bible through 20-30 times ;-), but I have read it through far more times than any other book, and it is my habit to read from multiple books in it every day. There is no other like it! It sits alone on the highest shelf.
Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis
This classic by Lewis contains some of my favorite prose paragraphs in print, including his famous “Lord, Liar, Lunatic” illustration. Upon my last reading, I found that several of Lewis’ phrases had subconsciously entered my vocabulary, such as that Jesus “was and is God.” May more of it find its way into my life!
The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis
Another Lewis classic, it reminds me of how deceptive and insidious the enemy’s attacks on us can be. The scene in which the demon suggests to the reader in the library whose thoughts were taking a turn towards God, “Isn’t it about time you had some lunch?” is one of the most poignant: “He is now safe in our father’s house.” Though entertaining, it is also very sobering.
Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan
Every year or two I read Bunyan’s tale of Christian’s journey to the Celestial Country again. It always warms my heart to read of his burden rolling away at the cross, reminding me of the hymn I sang so heartily as a child: “At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light — and the burden of my heart rolled away.” And Bunyan’s constant use of scripture, applied to life situations, is very challenging.
Bruce Catton’s Civil War
This volume, actually three of Catton’s works in one, is one of my very favorites because it features so many entertaining and picturesque stories from the Civil War. Among the most memorable to me is the one about the Union commander who would not place his flag in a less prominent position, in order to lessen the heavy enemy fire they were receiving. “Let it wave high; it is our glory!” was his sublime response!
The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain
Twain pillories all the sights in Europe and the Holy Land in this hilarious book which chronicles his journeys thence on a steamboat just after the Civil War. I say “all” the sights; he actually shows reverence towards a select few, including the Cathedral of Milan in Italy, and some in the Holy Land. But the people he travels with, and observes on the trip, are all open game!
I may have read more books twice than these, but these are the ones I can remember! Another story would be those I have STARTED to read more than once — but that post might be too long!
So what are YOUR “top shelf” books? I’d be interested to hear which book(s) you’ve read more than once, and why!