"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Five Books I Can't Live Without

In my senior year of college, my Latin Lit. professor posed the question to each of us regarding five books we would have to have if stranded on a desert island.
I don't remember what answer I gave that day, and I am not sure I can even answer it today, though I am going to try.

First on the list would be the Bible. I shouldn't have to explain the reason for this...if it is what it claims to be, and I believe it is, there is not a single more important document in the history of the world. (Note: I would definately have a Bible that included the so-called apocryphal books-http://patrickmadrid.blogspot.com/2009/03/5-myths-about-7-books-catholics.html
this post adequately sums up my thoughts on the matter.

Secondly, I would bring C.S. Lewis's the Great Divorce. While a fictional story on the after-life, there has been no book that I've read on Last Things which was more influential on the way I understand heaven and hell. It also addresses the issues of the will, the elect, the damned, and how they ended up in those categories. You have to love Lewis' cleverness as well. The trip through purgatory is modeled after Dante's Divine Comedy. The Protagonist meets a historic personage on the way, just as in Dante's poem, and the book ends the exact same way. "I awoke and it had all been a dream."

Thirdly, I would want a great example of literature on the island. I can think of nothing more witty, charming, romantic, and insightful than Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The tale of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy is one of the great love stories of all time. But if you will allow yourself to be drawn into the narrative, you will see the tremendous sense of humor of Austen is every bit as good as her ability to tell a love story. The novel also allows us insights into family politics of that epoch. It is certainly a reminder to never be too proud-but not just in the obvious characters. Mrs. Bennett, manages to be too proud and prejudiced, camaflouging it in self-pity and nervous angst.

I would also want a great devotional on our fictitious island. The Imitation of Christ would be a leading candidate, as would the diary of St. Maria Faustina. John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress would also have to make this list. But having grown up an Anglican, the liturgy of the Catholic Church, reformed and enshrined in the Book of Common Prayer would be pretty close to indispensable. The prayers literally form your life...not just the outcome of your theological thinking, (the prayers aren't there for proof-texting). But the more and more you pray the Offices, the more and more your life takes on the pattern of confessing sin at the behest of God and responding in praise because "the mighty God has done great things for me." Obviously that is a simplification of the Book of Common Prayer, but it is not a coincedence that when I kneel or, lay down as the case may be, to pray...the first words I utter, almost without failing, are "Lord have mercy upon me." It causes one to live in a continual state of penitence for our miserable failures. And it is only after having cleared the conscience that one can adequately confess the Faith, as found in the three creeds. Testifying to the faith is the call of the Great Commission, the offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, and the Celebration of Holy Communion all train the person to learn to live and holiness and then confess the faith before the world.

I would also have to have a political book of some kind with me. I would want it to have the drama of elections, logical arguing of contested issues, and a section that deals with economic issues. I do not know of such a book, so I would have to settle for something that includes some of these things. Being a libertarian, the Revolution: A Manifesto by Ron Paul would be enticing, but hardly something of epic proportion...it is not a top five book. The Communist Manifest is important, but I disagree with much of its contents, and it is very limited to economic issues. The Republic by Plato would be a leading contender, but there is one other book which has greatly influenced me that I would like to have. The book is called Money, Possessions, and Eternity. It is written by Randy Alcorn and deals biblically with the subjects its title mentions. For all people, but especially Christians, learning how to deal with material wealth is of extreme importance. This is wonderful handbook on how to use your money to your best, and more importanltly, the Kingdom's best interest. It is not so much political, as it is economic and religious.
I would miss having daily access to the web and daily newspapers...but alas! we cannot have it all in this exercise.

These books I suppose could change, but it is not likely soon. What would be your top five and why?

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