The Ten Book Challenge

“Read and pray daily. It is for your life:there is no other way; else you shall be a trifler all your days.”

John Wesley to John Premboth on August 17, 1760

booksRecently my cousin, Sabrina Starrett-Wolfe, challenged me to join the “Ten Book Challenge” on Facebook. Sabrina posted titles of ten books that have “stayed with” her for some reason and challenged others to do the same. A few days later, my friend Anne Robertson posted her list and added the helpful instruction that the book list should NOT include the Bible.   I’m glad she did, because I was worrying about that. The Bible is certainly the most influential book I’ve read. But it is actually 66 books, and it would be impossible for me to choose one book over another. The instructions say that the books do not need to be great works of literature, and that you shouldn’t spend too much time coming up with the list.

Well, I spent WAY too long thinking about this, but since I am retired, I’m not too worried about this. I considered naming books I enjoyed reading (like Huckleberry Finn, 1984, The Ring Triology, and To Kill a Mockingbird); but I decided to focus on books that have influenced my life.   I also decided that I wanted to be able to say HOW the books on my list influenced me rather than just make a list for Facebook. So a new blog post is in order.

Here is my list for the Ten Book Challenge in no particular order, and my reason for choosing each book.

1) Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

I first read Johnny Tremain as a fifth grader, and I believe this book is probably responsible for my life-long interest in historical fiction. I checked this book out of the public library repeatedly as a child, and I recall actually “visiting” the book every time I went to the library. I’m not sure why. I suppose that I wanted to see if others were reading it; and if I found it on the shelf, I would consider whether I should check it out and read it again. At any rate, I would sort of visit the book to say, “Hello”. (I always was a bit weird.)

As an adult, I ran into this book again when I was teaching middle school reading. I was surprised to discover that the 8th grade honors students were required to read it. At the time, I was taking graduate courses to become certified to teach reading. So, I did a considerable amount of reflection on the way I learned to read. As I remembered my fondness for Johnny Tremain, I recognized that the engaging content of the book inspired me to tackle the challenging vocabulary.  My reading ability improved as I chose to read a difficult book repeatedly.

I re-read Johnny Tremain as an adult a few years ago, and I STILL found it engaging and challenging!  I even had to look up some of the vocabulary words!


2. The Works of John Wesley: Volumes 18-24: Journal and Diaries

I began subscribing to the Bicentennial Edition of Wesley’s Works in 1986; and as each of the volumes was published, I at least attempted to read it. I read ALL four volumes of sermons, and all of Wesley’s journal. In fact, I’ve read John Wesley’s journal several times, and find it to be more interesting than either his sermons or his letters. In his journal I was fascinated to see how Wesley was swept up by the movement of God’s Spirit. Reading the journal writings of the founder of Methodism stirred up my discontent with the contemporary United Methodist Church, reaffirmed my commitment to Wesleyan Christianity, and empowered me to be bolder in my efforts to follow Christ.


3. A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants by Ruben Job

I used this devotional guide for many years. I love the lectionary based format, the weekly Psalm, and the supplemental readings that offer the opportunity for deeper reflection on the daily scripture readings.


4. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl

This was a book I read in the context of my year-long Clinical Pastora Education (CPE) internship at the Georgia Mental Health Institute. It is an autobiographical book by holocaust survivor and psychologist, Victor Frankl. My CPE group included two young German Lutheran pastors, an African-American woman, and an Orthodox rabbi. As we discussed the book from our various perspectives, we dealt with anger, grief, and guilt; but most importantly we became a community of reconciliation.


5. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

I read this book as a high school student. During that time, the Vietnam War was raging, and this historical fiction novel seemed quite relevant. I wrote a book report for school, and probably for the first time in my life, I devoted a considerable amount of time and thought to my assignment. My English teacher was impressed with my essay, and later told me that my paper motivated HER to request to teach an elective on war novels during the next school year. The memory of her strong affirmation of my literary analysis was a factor that led me to choose English literature as my undergraduate major.


6. Brother to a Dragonfly by Will D Campbell

This is a memoir written by a Southern Baptist preacher, Will Campbell. Campbell was at the center of the civil rights movement in Mississippi while serving as the Director of Religious Life at The University of Mississippi, and later as a field officer for the National Council of Churches.

This book was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1978, and deservedly so. Campbell is a master storyteller. Using anecdote after anecdote, Campbell describes life in the racist South, his relationship with his brother, and his efforts to bring about change in systemic racism.

The primary impact on the book for me lies in the startling ending, when Campbell returns to his roots to be in ministry with the people he grew up with. It is a powerful account of reconciliation.


7. Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

This book refocused my thinking to see Jesus as the center of everything. I became more aware of how far preaching has strayed from this center. I am no longer preaching regularly, but when/if I preach, this book will be influential.


8. Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

This delightful book is about an urban garden and the diverse neighborhood that grew into a community. It inspired me to actually get my hands in the dirt, and to become a gardener myself.

9. Cooking Like a Hawk by Marilyn Hawk Boardman (self-published my mother)

This is a family cookbook written by my mother.   It is full of family stories connected to family recipes. It includes a glossary of family members with their birth and death dates, so it has helpful genealogical information too. She began writing it while she was visiting me in Florida so I could help her learn to use Microsoft Word. I use this book frequently, and will continue to treasure it.


10. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof, and Sheryl WuDunn

Reading this book has transformed my charitable giving. I am convinced that the support of oppressed women and girls is the key to improving entire communities. While this book describes some horrendous living situations around the world, it also offers stories of heroism and numerous concrete ways to help.


So there is my list. And now it is YOUR turn. In the comment section, I invite you to list ten books that have stayed with you. I might read some of the books you list, and you might read one I have listed.

Let’s share our reading.

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Filed under Education, Literacy, Reading, Uncategorized

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