A few years ago my husband asked me what I wanted for Mother's Day. I told him I wanted a bookshelf, a big one that would hold my rather extensive collection of books. He proceeded to build me one in the upstairs hallway. The shelves reach from floor to ceiling and, from the very first day, books have been packed, stacked and stuffed into every square inch of it.
Over the years the titles on that shelf have changed. I've given away boxes and boxes to the library and Goodwill, and yet, much like the miracle of the loaves and fishes, my collection keeps growing. However, there are a few books that have been among my dearest treasures for a very long time. I'll never part with them because their stories made such an impact on me that they have, quite literally, become part of me. Some of them I've read over and over. Others just once - but once was enough.
I still recall hearing Trinity by Leon Uris playing on my parents' car stereo each morning during the hour drive from our home in Frazier Park to our school in Sun Valley. At seven years old, the gory descriptions of people trapped on the roof of a burning building, and of a young woman being torn literally limb from limb by a mob left an indelible mark on my psyche. So much so that I could never forget it, and when I was twenty I read Trinity for myself. I still consider it one of the five best books I've ever read.
Other books that had an equally profound impact on me include Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keys, Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, and Roots by Alex Haley. Not all my favorite books are tragic, by the way. The one book that I can say has had the biggest impact on my life and that is actually a very uplifting, positive story is Lilies of the Field by William E. Barrett. I've lost count how many times I've read it, and I'm on my second copy.
For those of you who have never read it, Homer Smith is a black man traveling through the American southwest in his station wagon. He makes a living by doing odd jobs for people. He carries his own tools and asks nothing of anyone. He's a solitary sort of man and content with life. One day he spots some nuns working on a fence post. He stops to lend a hand hoping for a meal and a little pay for his efforts. But for the German nuns, Homer is an answer to prayer. They need a church, and Schmidt is just the man to build it for them.
Every time I read Lilies of the Field, I am reminded of God's miracles and how he answers prayers so often through other people. It is a beautiful story and renews my faith in human kind.
What books have made an impact on you or that you refuse to part with? What stories do you cherish and have read over and over?
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