One of my favorite places in the world is a bookstore. You walk through the doors and are instantly greeted by the glorious, unparalleled smell of books. Everywhere you turn are books – shelves and shelves of books. Add coffee to the mix and you’ve just about reached perfection on this earth.
Ok, maybe that’s taking it too far, but bookstores – new or used – are definitely a favorite place of mine. When John and I were dating, I told him I could spend hours in such a place. For Christmas that year, he took me to one in his hometown where he consequently witnessed for himself the truth of that statement. It may have turned out to be more than he bargained for, but hey, at least he was given fair warning.
While identifying a favorite book is nigh impossible, I do have my favorite genres that throughout my life I’ve tended to gravitate towards.
Autobiographies and Biographies
I love reading stories about real people. I love getting a glimpse of their character and personality. It is fascinating to see how the events in their life, combined with those elements of who they were, shaped their decisions and, often times, shaped the course of history as well. There is something inspiring about realizing that real people have done extraordinary things or have done ordinary things in an extraordinary or inspiring way.
Some of my favorite stories growing up were Zlata’s Diary, the Diary of Ann Frank, Invincible Louisa (about Louisa May Alcott), and any work about Eric Liddell or other missionaries.
There is something about the look, feel, and smell of old books; something about the unique, antiquated language of the text that transports you to another time and place. When you read classical literature, you are not simply reading a story that was written many years ago, you are being taken, by means of the language itself, to the time and place in which that story was written. The language itself is part of the story.
For example, I find it impossible to read any type of British literature without hearing the British accent in my head. When I read those books aloud, I speak with a British accent. Reading British literature with an American accent just sounds strange and seems to put the book into some nebulous setting between the two countries.
Another example is Shakespeare, the bane of many a student’s existence. The really neat thing about reading him though is, once you start to really hear the language in your head, the words and entire context of the story starts making a whole lot more sense.
My favorite work of classical literature is Pride and Prejudice. Contrary to popular belief, this book is not just a love story; it is an incredibly humorous and witty commentary on the society of the day and people in general. Though it may be cliché, my husband and I (isn’t he great) either watch the movie (6-hour version) or read the book every year around Christmas time.
Other favorites, some of which cross over into other genres, include Ben Hur, the Ann of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery, and anything by C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Harold Bell Wright.
History is filled with stories – stories about people who lived in a certain time and place and experienced all the good and bad that life has to offer. I can remember as early as 4th grade going into the library to check out fiction books about history subjects we were covering in class. From these children’s historical fiction novels, I learned more about such events as the holocaust, Titanic, Native Americans, and America’s Civil War. One of the greatest things about historical fiction is that since they combine story with fact, they make it easier to remember the events of the past and embed those events with an emotional connection. Now, when I think about the holocaust, it isn’t just an event that happened in the past, it’s an event that fills me with deep horror and sadness. When I think about pioneers setting up their homestead on the American west, I’m filled with the hope of a better life and uncertainty of the hardships ahead. This is the power of historical fiction.
My favorites in this genre include Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, the Orphan Train series by Joan Lowery Nixon, and Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion series (which also crosses over into the next genre).
Similar to the historical fiction genre, Christian fiction takes the truths of the Christian faith and puts them in story format in such a way that those truths take on a tangible and relevant shape. What does it look like to live out the faith in such and such a time and place and circumstance? Personal connections are established. Hey, I can relate to those characters in that situation. Maybe I can learn something from the way they handled that situation. Maybe I can see my own situation in a different light and perspective. Maybe I can simply enjoy reading a story where people struggled, and God helped them through their trials and weaknesses to a satisfying ending.
Just a few of my favorite authors (I have many) in Christian Fiction include Francine Rivers, Angela Hunt, and Michael Phillips/Judith Pella (many of their books also classify as historical fiction).
Fantasy is especially fun in that your imagination gets to run wild and explore all the what-ifs of the world. What if people were blue? What if there were enchanted castles? What if you could disappear into another world and then reappear to more effectively live out your normal life in your normal world? Fantasy also helps you get a better grasp on reality. It puts reality under a microscope and magnifies certain aspects of it to enable a more accurate and in-depth study and observation. With fantasy, you get to see, learn about, and understand the normal elements of life in a fantastic setting. In the words of Lloyd Alexander, “Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.”
Besides C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, I also enjoy reading Robin McKinley (especially her book, Beauty), Lloyd Alexander, George McDonald, and Brian Jacques.
Join me: what are your favorite literary genres, authors, or books? What do you like about them? Let me know in the comments below.
If there is a what-I-like-about topic you would like to write about and submit as a guest posting, you can type it up and send it to me, along with your picture and short bio, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next week: In celebration of Father’s Day, What I like about … fathers and mothers
Send me an email this week (email@example.com) stating what you like about your father, and I’ll include it in next week’s post with both your name and his.
And that concludes this posting. May you all have a good, God-filled week!