What 5 Books Inspired You?

Inspired by Busted Halo’s survey, Barbara KB, a frequent poster at People of the Book listed the five books which most influenced her on her spiritual journey. She had an interesting list, and it made for some interesting (and helpful) commentary – several of the books mentioned by others are in my Amazon shopping cart, now.

It’s difficult to restrict oneself to only 5 books, of course. In my mind, the only way to do that is to stipulate from the start that The Bible, The Liturgy of the Hours and the Rule of St. Benedict are understood. Even then, I don’t know if the five books I list will be rightly understood as having fed me spiritually, although they did and do, since some of them are not especially “spiritual” books.

But even if a book is not spiritual, it can nurture parts of you so that you can be more open, in surprising ways, to the spiritual when it comes down the pike!

My list (please note: That last book may have to be changed to Thomas a’ Kempis’ The Imitiation of Christ!):

1) People I Have Loved, Known or Admired, by Leo Rosten

I literally found this book when I was 15, and it taught me so much about writing, language, human relationships and the value of having a sense of humor that I have always kept it near. Gave it to my sons to read when they were old enough to appreciate it, and they loved this collection of essays, too. Sadly, out of print but thank goodness for folks selling used books on Amazon.

2)To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Perfect novel, another language and wordcraft frollic and Lee’s perfect ear for dialogue tuned my own. This is the book I always return to when I’m feeling sick. It’s like catching up with an old friend.

3) In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden – another perfect novel, so lyrical. It always slows me down and gets me centered. Also first brought me to the psalms.

4)Complete Works: Letters from Carmel, Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity

I just love her. She is Therese of Lisieux without the sentiment – straightshooting, completely emboldened by love and so instructive! A true mystic but wonderfully approachable and knowable. She’s just bang-on great.

5)Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. It must be one of my favorite novels, because I can recite so much of it, and I find myself so frequently alluding to it in one way or another! :-) Or, of course The Imitation of Christ, which is also something I’m always quoting or alluding to.

On a lazy Sunday, what are the 5 books which have influenced you the most? Remember, The Bible is stipulated, you don’t all have to tell me “The Bible,” OK? :-) Although if you want to say a particular book of the Bible, that’s ok!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://happycatholic.blogspot.com Julie D.

    I’m going to think about this one … and your list reminds me that this is the third time I have seen or heard Catch-22 mentioned in the last week. I really need to reread that book.

  • hope

    Catch-22? Huh? I found it one of the most cynical, soul-deadening books ever written. What did I miss?

  • mrmurph

    Mere Christianity–C.S. Lewis
    The Universal Hunger for Liberty–Michael Novak
    Selected Stories–Andre Dubus
    The Broken Hearth–William J. Bennett
    Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic–David B. Currie

    And a cheating sixth: Reflections on the Movies–Ken Gire

  • Donna

    Not in any particular order of importance:

    1. Dubliners – James Joyce (To be very specific, the last 3 paragraphs of “The Dead,” which are among the most perfect sentences ever written in English.)
    2.The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
    3. To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee (Like you, I consider it an old friend:-)
    4. The Deptford Trilogy – Robertson Davies
    5. Letters to a Young Catholic – George Weigel

    And since mrmurph cheated, I’m gonna sneak in a sixth too: Collected Stories – William Trevor

  • JMC

    Top five books? Hmmm, that’s actually a toughie. Four of them are actually covered by “Mystical City of God,” by St. Teresa of Avila—the unabridged version. It’s four very thick hardcover volumes covering the lives of Mary and Jesus as revealed by Our Lady to St. Teresa, detailing things that are only hinted at in the NT. It includes instructions to St. Teresa herself, which are priceless gems of advice to anyone aspiring to a holier life. For the fifth, I’d have to say Trojan Horse in the City of God by Deitrich Hildebrandt—it’s the one that alerted me to the dissension in the Church that I didn’t even know existed, simply because I was raised with it and barely knew anything else. It was the heads-up that put me back on the right path.

  • mrmurph


    Go girl.

    Collected Stories–William Trevor is a great pick. It’s also on my shelf.

  • Anna

    1. Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
    2. Prayers of the Women Mystics by Rhonda Chervin
    3. Other books by Madeline L’Engle
    4. a book on Church history
    5. Exit Interview by Hendricks

  • Wanda

    Hmm, so many books, over so many years. But as best as I can remember, they’d be:

    1. The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis
    2. Reflections on the Revolution in France, by Edmund Burke
    3. The Everlasting Man, by G.K. Chesterton
    4. The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis
    5. Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

    That last one isn’t in the same league with the others, I’ll admit it. But it did influence me when I was young, and even if I later went on to more substantial things, I’ll credit it with pointing me in the right direction when I was young. Or at least, pointing me AWAY from the wrong direction.

  • Evon

    Books that have become a part of me.
    1. The Bible It is so important to me I cannot just let it be a given. Sometimes when I read it, I feel as though fragrant, warm oil is being poured on my head.
    2. The Covenant Hymnal. I use it with devotions and love to sing when I’m sure others will not be disturbed by me.
    3. Prayer by Ole Hallesby. My Lenten reading.
    4. The Reed of God by Houselander. My Advent reading. It’s effect is like holding a sleeping baby. The peace just sinks into me.
    5. Rules for Radicals by Saul David Alinsky. Now every time I read it, I find more that I disagree with. Great background for reading the Bible. I once thought of writing a frivilous paper on how the Pentatuch was really written by an Alinsky organizer.

  • timmyboy

    Oh dear. Only 5?
    1) The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton.
    2) Surprised by Joy, CS Lewis
    3) Confessions, St Augustine
    4) Faith of Our Fathers, Cardinal Gibbons
    5) Life of Christ, Fulton Sheen

  • RJGatorEsq

    I realize I am coming VERY late to this party. You, my fine brothers and sisters, have your coats on and are walking to the door.
    So, I’ll contribute just one book. My 7-year-old daughter pointed it out to my wonderful wife, and they bought it for my birthday last Thursday. I read it in one sitting. It is an outstanding book in every respect.
    So, here’s my one:
    1) Dinner With a Perfect Stranger.
    The story of a harried businessman who gets an engraved invitation that reads, “You Are Invited to Dinner with Jesus of Nazareth….”
    You can read about it at Amazon.com or dinnerwithaperfectstranger.com.

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