I love reading and I am grateful to my mum and my dad, whose love of reading probably inspired my own. In fact I could probably thank my whole family for my love of reading. For many years during my childhood my grandparents would hire a place in Shoal Bay for a week around Christmas. My grandparents, parents, aunt and uncle would all go and everyone would bring a book, often a book they had been given at Christmas, always a popular present. I have memories of everyone sitting around reading a lot during those holidays. Book in general have influenced me but here a list of a few I can think of that have greatly influenced me.
“Looking for Alibrandi” by Melina Marchetta and “The Power of One” and “Tandia” by Bryce Courtney”
I put these books first as during my teenage years I remember reading these books over and over so they probably heavily influenced my joy of reading. Especially, Looking for Alibrandi which I am sure I read at least once per year at high school. I can’t remember much about it but I know I loved it. I also read the The Power of One and its less well known sequel, Tandia a few times. I was totally in love with the main character PK. I didn’t know you could fall in love with book characters til then.
“Christianarchy” by Dave Andrews
It’s been awhile since I read this book so I am not sure I can really articulate clearly what it is about and who knows if it would have the same effect now but the first time I read it felt like coming home. At a time when I was feeling that perhaps Christianity wasn’t for me this book made me feel it was. Christianarchy talks about a very radical Jesus. A Jesus that was inclusive, passionate about the poor and a grace that meets us where we are and is truly unconditional. It pushes us to also live like this.
“The Colour Purple” by Alice Walker
The title of the book comes from a scene in the story when the main character is talking to a woman of “questionable morals”. They are talking about sin and the woman points to the magnificant field of purple flowers they are walking past at the time and says, “I think it pisses God off when you walk by the colour purple in a field and don’t notice it.” It’s probably been over ten years since I read this book but I still think about the line when I see the colour purple. I use the colour purple as a reminder to be in the present moment and to give thanks for all of God’s blessings.
“God of small things” by Arundhati Roy
This book is truly is rare. Perhaps not in it’s themes, no it looks at the univeral themes of love across boundaries and family and death and being on the outside but almost every sentence in a feast. The way she puts things together is truly extraordinary. It would creaet a passion for language in anyone I reckon.
“Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Friere
This was one of the first books I read when I began studying adult education and it very much influenced the huge passion I have for my work. It certainly got me through some of the much drier, uninspiring texts we had to read and is still what I come to back to now for inspiration in my work. I have talked about this before but this book is written in a Latin American context and calls educators to use education to liberate people rather than oppress them.
“Passionate Marriage” by David Schnarch
I think I have probably read this book or parts of it every year since I got married and I still get something out each time. The main theme of this book is differentiation which is about holding onto yourself in close relationships. Quite contrary to popular cultures idea of romance and intimacy, this book argues that we need to validate ourselves and our own sharing in our relationships not expect that from someone else. When things go wrong in our relationships, especially our marriage, we like to blame the other person and spend most of our time trying to change them. Passionate Marriage puts the focus on us. If we want the sort of marriage we want we need to create ourselves not expect it from another person.
“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak and “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini
I read both these books after a bit of a dry spell of good novels and I loved them. They are engaging stories and beautifully written. People sometimes criticise novels as not been true. They say if you really want to learn something you should read non-fiction. But one of the reasons I love novels is they can teach us so much about the world, about universal truths, in much more interesting ways than text books. When I read the Kite Runner I realised I had such the wrong of impression of Afghanistan as been dry, ugly and always troubled whose people were all fairly extremist. This book revealed my prejudice and taught me so much about the history of Afghanistan. At the time I had two Afghani students and I was grateful to the book for helping me understand a little more of their context. Despite hearing so much about Nazi Germany the Book Thief made me feel a compassion for the situation more than anything else I had ever read.
“The good news according to Luke” by Richard Rohr
I mentioned in the last post I am reading this again for proabably the third time. Each time it re-excites me about the gospels and the story of Jesus. This book honours the truth and sacredness of the Bible beyond the literal. It encourages me that I can still come to the Bible even if I don’t come to it as most Christians do, that God is bigger than all our limited understandings.
“The Curly Pyjama Letters” by Michael Luenig
There had to be a Leunig book in there and I think this would be one of my favourites. I love the way Leunig points out the extraordinary in the ordinary. He makes me feel like life is filled with wonder in all that is mundane. Whenever I read this book or any Luenig prayer or thought I am overwhelmed with a desire to give thanks or to dance or just bask in the sunshine.