February 1st, 2021

I’m always hunting for the next must-read book. But with a demanding position at Shield-Bearer, five children spanning from toddler to high-school senior, time being limited, and books galore to choose from…where to begin? I often turn to fellow bibliophiles for recommendations.

I remember a Literature professor once saying, “You have a limited amount of time in your life so only read the best books.” I took this to heart, but it caused me great anxiety all the same. What are the best books? How do I find them? I’ve calmed down since then and taken it day by day. The best books are those that come your way and that touch you in the way you need at that moment of your life. 

Given the current climate in our society and even worldwide, it is easy to become discouraged. After seeing so many churches closed and shuttered in 2020, I am left with imagining what the world would look like if we were to remove God completely from our midst. We have been given a taste of what the world would look like. I count that a blessing. Now, to be sure, our God can never be removed. We certainly do not have that power. Our false human pride may foster the myth that we can presume to direct God’s influence, but who is the potter, and who is the clay? What the world needs now is a heroic witness to Christ. There is nothing more transformative than one who is deeply touched when they experience a personal encounter with the holiness of Christ in another human being. After the year we’ve all experienced collectively, I desire to learn and grow toward the Lord. We need nourishment and the inspiration that comes from knowing His holy providence over our lives. 

Frequently, I find inspiration and education in books. Among all the distressing news and biased commentary that most often feels like an outright attack upon my senses, I like to pick and choose that which can wonderfully nourish, inspire, and stimulate. Let’s make a plan this year to find books that speak to our souls and deliberately avoid that which will harm and tear us down. I invite you to share your own lists and suggestions. Let’s delve into this endeavor together.

If you’re looking for a new book to read, here are some that have had a particularly positive effect on my life. 

A Call to Mercy: Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve – Mother Teresa by Brian Kolodiejchuk

Who could be a more inspirational and influential individual than Mother Teresa. This book walks the reader through her approach to her work. Much of the book are her words with brief accounts of her life. 

The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri Nouwen

The author tells of his spiritual journey that began after a chance encounter with a famous Rembrandt reproduction painting. The parable of the prodigal son is one of my favorites and the author’s personal journey was one I could identify with and brought me even closer to this bible story we all know and have heard countless times. It’s a wonderful book to read with others as an aid in a small devotional group as well.

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza

I have had the great fortune to meet Immaculee on numerous occasions. She is a remarkable woman. This is her story of living through the Rwandan holocaust and losing her entire family at the hands of those who were once her friends and schoolmates. How she turned to God in the midst of tragedy and loss and miraculous forgiveness. She has a number of followup books – all highly recommended. 

No Man is an Island – by Thomas Merton

I’ve always loved Thomas Merton’s reflections. They are deep and engaging while being practical to our everyday life. There is a healthy mixture of faith and day-to-day living in his writings. There is always something to glean from his reflections.

Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart by Jacques Philippe

We pray for peace and we wish one another peace often, but in a world and time that seems so agitated and disrupted, how can we find peace? Peace is a gift from God. Jacques Philippe uses concrete examples from our lives and helps us to place our confidence in God while resting fully in his loving embrace. This is a great book for this time in our world.

Men, Women and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights from John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility by Edward Sri

I was fortunate enough to have taken a course by Professor Edward Sri. He has many books that I love. In this very practical book he takes much of the amazing philosophical writings of Pope John Paul II and lays them out in a way that is accessible to anyone. He provides everyday advice on important topics and issues facing couples that deal with authentic love, pornography, friendship, and intimacy. It’s a great book for both married couples and singles as a preparation for a lifelong relationship.

What are some of your favorite books and why? What books have made the biggest impact on your life and how?