I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. I’ve never strived to be well-read or all-knowing, I read simply because I need to. My mind craves stories. It craves the information and tales of lives that I will never get to live.
In my 21 years I have grown up befriending, despising, and falling in love with characters. I have been to incredible places at incredible times and lived some unbelievable lives. I have relived some great stories of non-fiction, and helped to create the beautiful stories of fiction. Books are just apart of me.
A year ago I had the privilege of meeting Josh Riebock at a group dinner before he spoke to my school. For those of you who do not know, Josh Riebock is an extremely prolific speaker and writer. As he told us stories about different conferences he had talked at, and one story stuck in my mind. A conference committee asked him for book recommendations, and they planned on selling these books at the conference bookstore while he was there. He gave his list, but unlike the other speakers there, his list consisted of secular literature.
He did not find his books in the conference bookstore.
I am studying writing at a Christian university. I have read more Christian literature than any one person should have to. I have written book review after book review on them, never knowing exactly what to say because, well… the writers had to write that way. In Christian fiction it’s what the market demands. The protagonist has to awkwardly stop the entire story to pray out loud a few times, and he has to speak out loud to God in a crowded room like that’s normal.
Though I enjoy a few of the more liberal Christian authors, I don’t choose to read a lot of the current Christian fiction because, ironically, I don’t always find God in them. Don’t get me wrong, I find God in the art of writing. The Christian culture doesn’t seem to understand that God doesn’t cease to exist in the novels with a sex scene or few curse words, because he is revealing himself as truth through the author, even at times when the author doesn’t seem to accept it. I have found myself caught in truly spiritual moments while in the pages of a novel that I found in the secular section of the bookstore, and God is in the true art of that spirituality.
God exists in truth, and truth can be messy. He works through it, and in it he loves us through the words of the people he chooses, by forming their ideas to break, build, and hold our hearts.
My favorite books are not on the Christian market. They have some foul scenes and vulgar language at times. But they express truth. They have touched my soul in ways I cannot even explain. That’s art, and that’s God. They are not always mainstream, but they are not always hipster. They are nothing more than my tiny treasures, and I can only hope that if you choose to pick up any of these books, they move you in the same spirit.
Here are a few works of literature that have impacted my life:
The parallelism in this book is incredible. In the approximately 400 pages you will find yourself traveling around Barcelona on a journey with some of the most vivid and intriguing characters, in search for one of Spain’s best kept secrets.
I dare you to be able to put this novel down.
Some people avoid this book because it is considered a “classic,” but don’t you ever wonder what makes a novel a classic? This book brought out a time in life that I, and many others, didn’t even recognize that I never really experienced. We get so caught up in growing up, that we don’t recognize every aspect that strips us of our innocence just a little more.
That’s what art does, it makes you self aware, and I became incredibly aware of the adult world I am caught in versus the sweet childhood I use to occupy. Make the nostalgic transformation with Holden, and recognize everything you missed in your own process.
We tend to think that nothing is gained from a book if we don’t end it by feeling some deep psychological growth, but sometimes books are written without any complexities or hidden agendas. Sometimes the author just had a beautiful story to tell. This is what I found by joining a circus and traveling back to the great depression through the pages of this book. My heart rode a circus train all over the country as I fell in love with the characters and felt their joy and hurt.
The book is a beautifully told story, and while it might not leave you with intellectual thoughts and theories, it’ll leave you feeling full and with zeal.
Jonathan Safran Foer is a huge fan of keeping three story lines going on at once, and he is masterful at tying them all together eventually. This story places you inside the mind of a brilliant, and misunderstood child as he tries to make sense of a tragedy that simply can never make sense. It is beautifully written, thought provoking, and you very well might come out of it a slightly changed person.
*Shout out to Austin Yoder for convincing me to read it freshman year after I wasn’t exactly a fan of the movie.
This book went mainstream a few years ago, and oddly, that caused many people to reject the utter genius of it. Once again you are vividly in the head of a person who is most likely pretty different than you are, as he too, tries to figure out tragedy in his life. In this novel you can re-experience teen angst in the most beautiful, painful, and truthful way imaginable. For any one who has ever had a hurting heart, this is an incredibly tell of how you are not alone.