The picture on the top of this page is one I took a few years ago of what I’ve begun to call my “Gold Star Collection.” I have a list of books that I’ve been labeling on the bookshelf with a gold star on the spine and front, so that they stand out amongst the library in my living room. They are books that have changed me or my perspective in such a way as to, at times, rock the foundation of my worldview, I may not always agree with the conclusions reached by the authors, but they have made me think about things that I otherwise took for granted as “truth.” If you are interested in some summer reading or a look at a life changing book, I would submit these for your perusal! (As of yet, this isn’t all of them…I’m just adding them as I have time.)
“Shogun” by James Clavell – This is a book about an Englishman who ship wrecks on the coasts of 17th century Japan. It talks about his struggles with understanding a culture that is so different than his own. He finds himself becoming an important piece in a game of politics for domination of Japan and on the way discovering that not everyone thinks of concepts like death, life, shame, sex or honor the same way or with the same priorities. I read this book in high school and it opened my eyes to how wildly contrasted each of our cultural perspectives can be to each other. Tai-Pan and Noble House, also by Clavell, made it to this list for similar reasons.
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” by J.K. Rowling – I loved the whole series, but this book was the first to stand out to me because of a small section in one of the chapters. Harry is talking to Dumbledore about his struggle with, what he feels to be, his fate. He thinks he has no choice but to face the evil Lord Voldemort because of a prophesy. In this scene Dumbledore becomes frustrated with Harry, because it is crucial for Harry to see that yes, he must face Voldemort, but not because of a prophecy. He must face him because Harry’s very nature to battle evil – the love inside him that seeks to protect others – is what drives him forward. It is a similar thing that I picture every prophet in the Old Testament struggling with, but it mostly paints a picture for me of Christ in Gethsemane. I’m sure Rowling had no intention of drawing such a parallel, but if Christ ever struggled with his fate (as the Garden of Gethsemane seems to imply), I could easily picture it going something like these couple of pages. (Future post in progress!)
“Blink” by Ted Dekker – This was a book about a genius agnostic who suddenly finds himself being able to see a few steps into the future, but the future is made up of innumerable possibilities that keep shifting around whenever someone around him makes a decision. Things get really interesting when he suddenly realizes that when people pray, options that weren’t there before suddenly become real. This book put a permanent image in my head of what is accomplished with prayer and how effective it can be. This book has since been renamed “Blink of an Eye” I believe.
“The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkein – This probably needs very little summary since most people have the gist of the plot, even if you haven’t seen the movies or read the books, so I’ll skip right to the “why Gold Star?” Setting aside that this series basically set the foundation and standard of everyone’s concept of how wizards look, elves act, and other fantasy creatures operate, what the story has to illustrate about the nature of our struggle with an inner evil or the importance of courage in hard times cannot be understated. (One post already made about this, a few more to come!)
“The Source” by James Michener – This was a fascinating book that I will only be able to read once because of the impact. The opening chapter is has some archeologists finding some artifacts in a spot in Israel, then the rest of the book goes through the history of each artifact and how it got there. By the end of the book you’ve gone through an amazing history of the nation and sometimes even God’s behind the scenes actions in shaping it. This book was incredible in getting me to look at how God operates slowly and throughout many generations – through gradual revelation about himself and other ways. I’ve only ever come across one other friend who read it (it’s a pretty intense book and kinda on the fringe, so don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of it), but if you can get through the whole thing you might get something great out of it.
“Roots” by Alex Haley – This is the most unique book I’ve ever read. It starts in Africa back in the days of American slavery, with the birth of a child in a tribe and goes all the way through his life, then travels down his posterity through the lives of his children’s children all the way up into modern day. It’s probably one of the greatest books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading that can show you your impact on your family and how far that impact can carry forward.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling – What put this on the list for me was the chapter where Harry is walking to his death, knowing he has to volunteer his life to destroy evil and save everyone else, and the thoughts and reflections he had on the way. Again, I know Rowling had no intention of doing this, but I made parallels between this and Christ and the kind of things that MIGHT have been going through his head as he headed to the cross.
“The Giver” by Lois Lowry – This was a book I read when I was really young…probably grade school…and was a fascinating book that made a subtle change on how I looked at things around me. A little boy growing up in a very distinct and organized society finds himself assigned a future job that no one has been trained for in the village for almost two generations. He begins to see and experience things that no one else can except for his mentor, the Giver. It helped me realize some of the things I take for granted in where I live.