My wife told me about this Book Challenge so I tagged myself! Here’s the question:
What ten books have had the biggest impact on your life?
I’m excluding the Bible because it’s a runaway winner and still continues to make an impact. I’ve also excluded books that have been entertaining reads but don’t have that much of an effect. So here are the 10 Books in No Particular Order. I’m not saying they’re the best. Maybe they had an unforgettable impression because of the stage in my development when I read them.
1. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
Read it in high school. In it, Lewis paints a vivid picture of the stark contrast between a person’s physical appearance and true spiritual condition. I loved how he showed how even the most simple of actions can be beautiful and noble or wicked and grotesque depending on the motive of the heart.
While it is not a theological treatise and should not be graded for theological accuracy, this book made me see that there’s more to reality than what we see or perceive for ourselves.
2. Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels
This was Bill Hybels’ life-story book. He’s written about many things, but given a choice to write the book for his life he chose Leadership. It’s a great blend of well-stated principles, all-too-true stories, and plenty of practical advice.
Reading this book convinced me to continually seek to improve in Leadership since it would have the highest impact in whatever I was working on.
3. Arrogant Armies: Great Military Disasters and the Generals Behind Them by James Perry
When I was younger, I wanted to be a soldier and die in battle. I could think of nothing better than giving my whole life toward something I believed in. Consequently, I studied all about military history with any book I could get my hands on. While that ambition has since passed (thank God), the interest remains. Arrogant Armies was once such book I bought when I was in high school and I read it at least ten times.
Arrogant Armies documented how many “superior” armies were defeated by “primitive” ones because of their own hubris, carelessness, or sloppy leadership. It fascinated me to think that a smaller force could overcome a larger one. And it reminded me to never be sloppy or arrogant should I be the larger force.
4. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
What can I say? Beautiful book. Amazingly immersive writing. Victor Hugo took 20 pages to describe a house that would be the setting of one of the scenes. The human emotions were so vividly illustrated. I rejoiced when Marius and Cosette found each other; I raged against the injustice of the Thenardiers and admired the heroism of Enjolras; I saw myself in Javert unless I would grasp grace like Valjean.
5. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs by John (wait for it) …Foxe
This was a nightly reading for me when I was 12. The accounts of men and women who faced torture, alienation, and death with so much courage and simplicity made me evaluate myself. Was I willing to die for what I believed in?
6. How Now Shall We Live by Charles Colson
I read this book in high school. The excellent writing, the powerful stories, and the beautiful truths helped me understand my faith as more than a religious duty, but as worldview that outlined this amazing God and His plan to save a dying world. It excited me to think that every person has the opportunity to bring life to his sphere of influence.
7. Daring to Live on the Edge by Loren Cunningham
Very thin and packed with stories of men and women who trusted God to provide for them and then stepped out and obeyed. It told story after story of God miraculously providing money for people in the most impossible circumstances. As I read this as a teenager, I realized I wouldn’t have to worry about money, because God always provides for His people doing His purpose. Little did I know that I’d need that store of faith in my future vocation.
8. The Last Lion by William Manchester
A two volume biography of the life of Winston Churchill – a fascinating man and leader. I loved reading about Churchill’s visions of grandeur and heroism, his bravery and charmed rise to fame, followed by the crushing shame and alienation of failure, his courage to stand his ground against all odds, and how that courage would change history.
Manchester is a great writer and his other book A World Lit Only By Fire is another favorite of mine.
9. Good to Great by Jim Collins
Well-researched, soundly reasoned, and clearly explained. I can honestly say that many of the principles of this book have become almost second nature to me and to many of our church leaders who spent months (now years) studying it, discussing it, and applying it.
10. How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
Part of a series that Cahill was writing to trace the beginnings and effects of faith. This was the first book and the best in my opinion. It describes the life of Patrick of Ireland and how a former slave, through his simple obedience, would change a nation and shape history.
The prayer of St. Patrick, also known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate became a staple in my daily prayer life for months afterward.