Surely you’ve experienced this too, right? You read a book, watch a movie, think it’s just about the best thing that’s ever happened and your spouse is, shall we say, unenthusiastic?
Well, we’re finally doing it. I pick five books for Kyle, he picks five books for me, and we read. I’ve actually been unofficially wanting to do this for a while, but after Sarah Bessey wrote about it, I was all, “Okay, it’s on.”
Here’s some background.
Kyle has wanted to do this forever. So we decided, from now until summer ends, we’re each going to read five books of the other’s choosing. We had a few ground rules: first, it had to be something the other has never read (this should be obvious, but much to Kyle’s surprise, I’ve read more fiction than he anticipated). Second, we set a 300 page limit, mostly so we still have time to read what we want. And third, no doubling-up of authors.
Here’s what I chose for Kyle:
1. A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle–As a kid, I discovered my love for words while reading A Wrinkle in Time. Ever since, she’s been my muse. I go back to her when I’m feeling dried up and out of words. I read her writing when I’m feeling uninspired and dreary. And in many seasons of life, I’ve resonated with her questioning and depth of faith. This is truly a book I come back to again and again.
2. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning–During my sophomore year of college, I felt like I was rediscovering Jesus and what grace really looked like–for me and for others. I’m forever thankful for his work and can certainly relate with his description of “ragamuffin.” This quote sums it up, “The deeper we grow in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the poorer we become–the more we realize that everything in life is a gift.” (p. 81)
3. Love Does by Bob Goff–I read this in two days, and I’m a slow reader. I couldn’t put it down. As someone who almost always hesitates and second-guesses myself instead of just loving people, his book messed me up in the best of ways.
4. Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist–This book is so dear to me. I read it during a very bittersweet season of my life, and I couldn’t shut up about it. She has taught me so much about being present: in my home, in mothering, in my marriage, in friendships, etc. I have quotes from her all over the house, so it’s time for Kyle to get some context. She asks a question near the end that still resonates with me, “I don’t know anyone who has an easy life forever. Everyone I know gets their heart broken sometime, by something. The question is not, will my life be easy or will my heart break? But rather, when my heart breaks, will I choose to grow?” (p. 233)
5. Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright–It’s impossible to summarize what this book has meant to me (and so much of his work in general) in just a few short sentences. In some insane ability, N.T. Wright continually calls me up higher in the way I see Jesus. He has been called “the C.S. Lewis of our time” and I wholeheartedly agree.
In Kyle’s own words, here’s what he chose for me:
1. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway—Of all the Ernest Hemingway’s works to choose from, I am picking The Old Man and the Sea because it encapsulates everything about Hemingway in under 120 pages: his terse prose; protagonists battling against an uncaring world; more being left unsaid than said. It is a succinct response to Hemingway’s belief of the nada that faces everyone—you must fight against it.
2. A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean—“In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fishing.” Norman Maclean uses fishing as a way to connect with a brother he ultimately could not help. This story explores our desires and inabilities to help those closest to us. For me, this book was a gateway to Hemingway’s short stories.
3. Silence by Shusaku Endo—Powerful and layered, Silence explores the survival of European Christianity in xenophobic Japan during the 16th century. Partly narrated, partly epistolary, Endo’s book takes the reader to the verge of apostasy and asks the question, what does God’s silence mean?
4. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger—Holden Caulfield resonates with my inner-teenager. Irreverent, anti-social, ornery, Holden tries to hold on to an innocent youth to stave off what he perceives as a phony adult world. He struggles to cope with death and growing older—two subjects that hit far too close to home.
5. The Calvin and Hobbes 10th Anniversary Book—Calvin and Hobbes is the single greatest comic strip of all time. Every time I reread the strip, it gets better. What I love is the truth Watterson captures using a 6-year-old and his tiger. This particular Calvin and Hobbes book is wonderful because Watterson leaves comments throughout. My favorite quote of Watterson’s is “The best comics expose human nature and help us laugh at our own stupidity and hypocrisy.”
So, if you could make your spouse/best friend/mother/dog read one book, what would it be?