Reading Legacies

“I am the product of so many more books than I could ever name.”
Calvin Miller

Not surprisingly, I have almost always been a reader. I took to it early and challenged by my teachers, read through collections of works at an early age (Nancy Drew, sometimes read by flashlight under covers, in second grade; Steinbeck, begun in 4th grade but not completed until 9th grade, and Shakespeare through junior high). In high school I got the bright idea to read most every book in my local public library …not the best idea ever, considering some of the volumes, but it is safe to say that I am, and have mostly always been, a voracious reader.

And so I picked up Indelible Ink edited by Scott Larsen, with great anticipation. Larsen posed a question to a great variety of Christian leaders, writers and speakers – aside from the Bible, what three books have been most meaningful to you in your Christian walk? The chapters are a rich compilation of titles with essays on how the books impacted the life of the writer. I have read many of the books recommended, and with each essay, I was brought right back to when I first read the same book and how I was impacted. It has been a rich and delightful journey!

The books vary widely. Of course, CS Lewis appears with Mere Christianity (in fact, on quite a few lists; it is one of my personal favorites as well, and for many years I returned to read it annually) but works of devotion, philosophy, and theological doctrine abound. So do the personal stories of missionaries (such as Elliot’s Through Gates of Splendor) and Christian leaders who have gone before us. Works of fiction, such as The Brothers Karamozov and Lord of the Rings, are discussed alongside classics such as Augustine’s Confessions and Pascal’s PenséesThe volume concludes with a listing of books submitted by an additional 130 Christian leaders.

In my first years at APU, I received a grant and with three hardworking students, we managed to interview many of the undergrad faculty members at the time (approximately 1996) to discern their favorite books. We created a booklet titled “Ex Libris” and this was given to all graduating students that year, to encourage their life-long learning. If you are a reader from APU, I have discovered one last carton of these booklets and am glad to share copies with anyone who is interested.

I think this comment from pastor and writer Walter Wangerin might summarize these thoughts well:

“When books work well, it isn’t just that we memorize them and then, by our will and our personal wisdom, shape our lives to follow them. Rather, when books work for us, we begin to walk beside the mind that created the book. That mind may be so much wiser than ours, but we walk beside it until soon we are walking like that one.”
Walter Wangerin , 173.

Larsen, Scott, ed. Indelible Ink: 22 Prominent Christian Leaders Discuss the Books That Shape Their Faith.Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press, 2003.
This book is available currently through Link+ and is on order for the APU collections.

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