Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Most Influential Books?

I have begun to try to think up my top 35 list for this year: The most influential works of non-fiction that I have read in my life. I'm not sure when I'll get this done, but in the meantime, here (and here) is a recent attempt to name the top five essential theology books of the last 25 years. To be honest I didn't even recognize some of the books these thinkers listed, but I was happy to see Miroslav Volf's Exclusion and Embrace and my own doctoral supervisor John Webster's Word and Church among those named. Word and Church is likely going to inform my current research endeavours considerably, and though I will likely part with it at some key points Exclusion and Embrace was the book which instigated it (and still inspires it considerably) in the first place.

What about you? Could you list off five books that have been most influential in forming the way you see the world and try to live in it?


Dave M said...

Never one to snub the request for a list...

I cheated by including six, though I haven't actually finished the last one so I figured it doesn't count.

The Idiot - Dostoevsky
The Catcher in the Rye - Salinger
David Copperfield - Dickens
Sons and Lovers - Lawrence
Time within Time - Tarkovsky
Transcendental style in Cinema - Schrader (I haven't actually read this entire book but often the concepts in it are enough to inspire, even just the idea of what some of the concepts might be.)

Nathan Davies said...

Lord of the Flies - William Golding
East of Eden - Steinbeck
Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce
Mrs. Dallaway - Virginia Woolf
The Power and the Glory - Graham Greene
Anil's Ghost - Michael Ondaajte

6 I know. But I needed to mention the last 2. I consider them a tie.

Kampen said...

In no decisive order, the following are books that spend more time on my desk than on my shelf:
"The Politics of Jesus" - J.H. Yoder
"Confessions" - St.Augustine
"The Moral Imagination"- J.P.Lederach
"Theopolitical Imagination" -W.T.Cavanaugh
and some lit. for good measure
"The Unbearable Lightness of Being" -Milan Kundera

Colin Toffelmire said...

Those were interesting lists, and remind me that I still have an awful lot to read. Here are 5 more books, though who knows if they're my most influential. They've influenced me, I can say that.

1. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society - Leslie Newbiggin
2. First Theology - Kevin Vanhoozer
3. portions of Summa Theologeia - St. Thomas Aquinas
4. American Gods - Neil Gaiman
5. The Fall of Interpretation - James K.A. Smith

Colleen said...

Honestly, there are a lot of great books that have really influenced me (like New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren or Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert), but I just thought I'd also put a plug in here for something a little more simple - Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. Call me crazy, but it has been a part of my life since I was a child, and has played a part in shaping who I am - both as a parent and as a daughter. Perhaps its not only the grown-up books that need to be considered as influential. :)

Jon Coutts said...

@Dave: I love the Idiot with you. I really must read some DH Lawrence. You may be pleased to know that when I was a pastor someone came to me assuming I would join a petition to ban Catcher in the Rye from schools and I was adamantly opposed.

@Nathan: That Graham Greene is incredible, so I better read me some more Ondaajte eh?

@Kampen: I very much look forward to reading The Politics of Jesus. Thanks for the eye opener to these other titles. (I've read Confessions but the others I mean).

@Colin: I'm about to read some Newbigin myself. Surprised pleasantly to see you list it. Vanhoozer too? Hmm. Curious.

@Colleen: Top 5 Children's Books is a great idea. It would be tough to remember anything pre-Hardy Boys or Sugar Creek Gang though. I'll have to try to think if I read any non-fiction back then which really influenced me.

Dave M said...

I had forgotten about "the unbearable lightness of being" I had previously meant to read that book, I saw the film and thought it was interesting, but you could see that there was a great novel underneath it.

Dale H. said...

tough one. most influential is a huge accolade. i'd probably write the list differently another day, but from the top of my head here's what i got today:

jesus and the victory of god (wright)

the resurrection of the son of god (wright)

how should we then live (schaeffer)

worship, community and the triune god of grace (j. torrance)

I'm with colleen on children's lit. mine is: the merry adventures of robin hood (pyle)

i'm with nathan davies on mrs. dallaway (and 6-item answers to a 5-item question lists), though for the life of me, i can't say why this novel has haunted me the way it has. maybe it was just the name "septimus waren smith" that got me; i don't know.

Kampen said...

Yes, one can always read more Ondaatje! I almost put "In the Skin of a Lion" up there. I know most people rave about "The English Patient" but I liked the former much more.
Also, while the book wasn't really influential at all it is likely my top piece of literature for this year: "The Name of the Rose" by Umberto Eco - just brilliant!

Colin Toffelmire said...

Jon - like I said, that isn't a difinitive list. Vanhoozer makes it not because I necessarily agree with him, but because he is one of the first places I saw an attempt to establish a link between theological hermeneutics and a brand of linguistics (in his case, speech-act theory).

And I agree with Kampen on The Name of the Rose. I should also probably add his Interpretation and Overinterpretation to my list of influencial books.

Mostly reading everybody's lists here has made me sad about how many books I haven't yet read, and about not having time to read them now either.

Jon Coutts said...

The Ondaatje I read was fantastic. Can't for the life of me remember the name of it though.

I loved In the Name of the Rose. In Cambridge I couldn't help but wonder if their library (with a massive tower) had a labyrinth in it.

Vanhoozer sounds good. I haven't read any myself yet though.

Weird that when I get a chance to read something I can never think what. Will have to bookmark this page.

David Smith said...

On The Mortification of Sin - John Owen

Scottish Martyrs and Covenanters:
An Interesting Series of Narrative Tracts Illustrative of the Doctrines Which Led to the Reformation from Popery - Daniel DeFoe and Others

Confessions - Augustine

The Reformed Pastor - Richard Baxter

Hunted and Harried: A Story of The Scottish Covenanters - R.M. Ballantyne

I look forward to your list of 35, Jon. A worthy endeavor. It's good to have a few 'must reads' on hand when people ask what's impacted us most.

Trusting you enjoyed Oxford!

Jon Coutts said...

thanks David. I haven't read 4 of these 5. More to consider. I think I might read some John Owen this year, at least probably a bit titled "On Tolerance".