On Monday, I shared my 10 books that changed my faith.
On Tuesday, I shared with you the poets who have specifically influenced my poetry.
Today, I am sharing my current favorite novels…
Be reminded that this list changes sometimes weekly, daily, or yearly.
What you may see this year could shift again….
Without further eloquence—
10 of my favorite novels
Pride and Prejudice: If you think that this book is only at the top of my list for Mr. Darcy, you are quite mistaken. Darcy is a bumbling ass, and he needs Elizabeth Bennet to temper his pride. A strong woman and strong man make this my favorite novel.
Frankenstein(not pictured): I adore Mary Shelley’s work, and this book discusses the idea of God, creation, and humanity better than any other novel. It begs the question–who is truly the monster?
Jane Eyre(not pictured): I put off reading Jane Eyre far too long. But thanks the urgings of my lovely, non-jerky college friend, I read it and loved it (of course, I’m still waiting for her to read #6 at my urging).
Fahrenheit 451: I read this book in one day, and when Bradbury passed this year, I felt like an old friend died. Of course, we never met. The scene discussing who is which book haunts me.
The Left Hand of Darkness: I read this SciFi novel in May/June. It raises interesting questions about power and sexuality. What if we didn’t possess a specific gender until we needed to mate? How would that change our views of gender politics?
The Hobbit/ Lord of the Rings: Growing up, my mother told me to read these books. I balked. Mother was right(again and again).
Madame Bovary: While I am not always so insistent on whose translation to read, you MUST read the Lydia Davis translation. Unlike other translations, hers captures Flaubert’s sentence structure, nuances of language.
Tess of the D’Ubervilles: I love how this book evokes so many emotions and doesn’t require a happy ending to do so. Of course, I’m not sure any of Hardy’s books really have a happy ending.
The Phantom of the Opera:Not the musical, the novel captures my imagination and heart. The nuances, the characters, the beastly goodness of the Phantom, beautiful in every way.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: My senior year of undergrad, I was supposed to read Cancer Ward for a research project. But laziness and the shortness of this book overcame my lofty ambitions. It is gritty and hard, but what do you expect from a Russian novelist who spent time in the Gulag?
Honorable mentions: Dracula, A Tale of Two Cities, A Visit from the Goon Squad, Villette, Persuasion, Harry Potter Years 1-7, Gilead.
Yesterday, I gave y’all my 10 Books a Week that influenced my faith. Today, I’m deviating from Sarah Bessey’s Parenting books(sorry, most books written specifically about step-parenting should be ignored–the most wretched parenting advice ever) or her lovely Canadian books to read(I suppose I could do a series on books by Virginians or North Carolinians, but not today).
Today is for poetry that has influenced me–the poet writer, the beauty seeker, the truth teller.
Ten Poets who Influence my Poetry:
Geoffry Chaucer: Perhaps, this poet/writer is a bit of a shock. What NO Shakespeare? As a poet, I find Chaucer’s banter funnier and more engaging than The Bard…but what do you expect from a Medievalist?
Irish Ballads and Folk Songs: In high school, my closest friends and I were in a huge Irish phase. Now, my family did come from Ireland before the Civil War which somehow cemented my need to connect to my Irish heritage. The myths are bare and lovely. The songs sad, a bit tongue in cheek at times. But then again, so am I.
William Butler Yeats: Oh look, another Irish poet. I adore Yeats’ complexity, his cyclic poetic nature, his Crazy Jane poems(somewhere, I have a lovely 20 something page grad seminar paper on these poems…never to see the light of day again). I see his quirky way of seeing nature, characters, and god, and this is poetry that I want to write.
Sylvia Plath: Her poetry isn’t full of fancy words, but neither is mine. I love her choice of simple, plain words to convey the image, the feeling, the moment. Her poem Mirror still haunts me.
English Romantic Poets: William Blake and Samuel Taylor Coleridge: In order to understand Yeat, I needed to read Blake. His Innocence and Experience poems probe many of the questions about faith and God that I find in myself. And in my poetry. Coleridge is merely sentimental albatross. I love his poetry, but he doesn’t play a large part in what I write.
English Victorian Poets: Gerard Manly Hopkins and Christina Rossetti: Despite the overly flowery nature of Hopkins poetry(try reading The Windhover without getting your tongue tangled), I love his representations of God, God’s nature in nature…Pied Beauty represents some of the most lovely of Hopkins’s works. Then, Christina Rossetti, her poetry has some of the best representations of faith. Of course, who doesn’t adore Goblin Market?
Emily Dickinson: She was the first American poet that I read and adored. Her abstractness appealed to me in way that other Americans from the 19th century just didn’t.
William Carlos Williams: Simple images, plain language, image is the key. Like many, I got hung up one red wagons, ice box plums, but then I looked and read closer. The image pulses with life that Williams didn’t need so many words…just the image.
T.S. Eliot: Oh look, Eliot returns again to my lists. I’m drawn to his poetry during the latter part of this life. His Ariel poems, his Four Quartets, his Hollow Men. I don’t see him so much in my poetry, but I feel his influence every time I read him. Odd as it may seem, his poetry is my go to for solace and comfort.
H.D.: Another Imagist, her poetry moves and breathes and makes my head swim with its loveliest. She is the most influential when it comes to my poetry. I adore her.
Honorable mentions: William Shakespeare, Elizabeth Bishop, Dante, Ted Hughes, e.e. cummings, John Donne, Basho
What poets do you enjoy reading? Share in the comments.
This week, my blogging friend Sarah Bessey will be sharing her bookshelves with us. And I love the idea of lists, of books, of books and lists together.
Yesterday, she gave her books of faith books that have moved her forward in her spiritual journey. Today, I shall share mine.
The Bible: I suppose it should be a given since it is MY primary faith text, but for years, I satisfied myself with what others said about this book. I no longer let scholars or those who can give me lengthy dissertations in Greek origins form my entire opinion. I read and search for myself, and this has changed my thinking.
C.S. Lewis Til We Have Faces: The myth of Psyche and the strangling love of her sister Orual. I adore Lewis’s retelling, his emphasis on the growth of love from selfish love to a purer love.
L.E. Maxwell Embraced by the Cross: The entire book focuses on the cross and its relationship to Christ, to us, to others. Written by a Canadian(extra points from Sarah Bessery who is Canadian herself), he delves with grace into Scripture. Beautiful writing, enough said.
Christine de PizanThe Treasure of the City of Ladies: I first read this book in a graduate seminar Feminist Rhetoric and Pedagogy(no, not all feminist courses deviate from faith or even the Christian faith. In fact, feminism brought me back to Jesus). Pizan wrote several conduct manuals for women, men, knights. And served on the king of France’s court. And supported her family without a husband. And did ALL of this in Medieval France. She is considered to be the world’s first professional woman writer. In this book, she guides women in how to behave. She emphasizes that women should love their husbands, their maid servants and the poor. This is the treasure of ladies. Of course, her instructions for harlots should not be missed either.
C.S. Lewis The Great Divorce: After reading Love Wins, I read this book. Lewis discusses the idea of hell and purgatory that challenges how I perceive what these two places could be. I’m not sure that I would fully embrace this whole construction, but it made me think more closely about my faith in the afterlife.
Rachel Held Evans Evolving in Monkey Town: When I read this book, I felt like she had written about my life except I grew up in Lynchburg, VA not Dayton, TN (another center for the religious right). She expresses beautifully the struggles of growing up fully engulfed in faith and asking questions about our faith. I can’t wait for her next book coming out in October.
Anne Jackson Permission to Speak Freely: I love the whole premise of this book…what would you say in church if you could speak freely? I haven’t figured what I would say out yet, but the book is beautifully written and worth reading.
Lauren Winner Girl Meets God: The first spiritual memoir that I ever read. I love Winner’s writing style, her faith. It felt like a breath of fresh air for one choking on the bitter tonic of conservative evangelicalism.
T.S. Eliot Complete Poems and Plays: Of course, a poet must have a book of poetry. I love reading Eliot because I can see how his faith strengthens throughout his poetry. I adore Ash Wednesday.
Anne Lamott Traveling Mercies (not pictured because I don’t own a copy. If anyone is feeling generous, I would love one): After reading Bird by Bird, I picked up Traveling Mercies. She approaches faith and Jesus from a completely opposite point of view and writes about her journey so candidly. I also have several more of her books on faith too…just waiting for the time to read them.
What books have changed your faith? Share in the comments!