Meet Diana. Can I just say that from the moment I met her, I have loved her? She is intentional, she is wise (oh-so-very-wise), and love spills out from her heart as she responds to me and to others. My life is richer because I know her.
From my earliest memory, I have loved books. All kinds of books. I love the sight of them on shelves. I love the sound a new book makes when you open it for the first time. I love the smell of ink on paper. I love books. This love is an inherited one - my mother was a reader, a lover of words. And she encouraged me to love words, too. Especially words that might make me think, that would encourage my imagination, that might open a window into a different space, time, or way of thinking. (She introduced me to a lot of great authors, including C.S. Lewis and Paul Tillich when I was an early teen.)
When I was an elementary school kid, we had a mobile public library - a big van, filled with books to peruse. I was the first person in line from about 2nd grade on, checking out the legal limit every time. I read books about people and about animals. I read books set in faraway times, fantastic places, and usually peppered with unforgettable characters. From Nancy Drew to Anne of Green Gables to Sherlock Holmes, I particularly enjoyed serial collections, reading every volume produced by favorite authors, finding nourishment for my spirit and my imagination with each new edition.
When I was in high school, my mom discovered the writings of Catherine Marshall and Elizabeth Goudge, the former writing Christian commentary on life and the latter, beautifully crafted novels with discernible spiritual depth to them. When we found it tough to communicate verbally with one another (as teen girls and their mothers often do!), we still shared our love of reading with, often leaving notes about what we had discovered on pillows or dresser tops.
The snapshot above shows just a small portion of one of several bookcases in my home, each of them filled with volumes that have proven edible, digestible and nourishing to me. Some of them are fiction, some of them are not. All of them speak to me of beauty, truth, grace - and the power of the written word. And most of them, adhering to that serial-loving-tradition begun in childhood, belong to a group of favorite authors. If you have not dipped into any of this writing, may I encourage you to try a little of this, a little of that? When life feels overwhelming, when the baby won’t sleep, when the boss is demanding, when television is SO old hat - falling into the well-written words of one of these authors will offer you a taste of something rich and satisfying. I list them, in no particular order, with a title or two and a little bit of annotation.
Madeleine L’Engle - especially the non-fiction, but I adore the fiction as well. If she is new to you, begin with the Crosswicks Trilogy (non-fiction) or the Wrinkle in Time series (fiction).
Frederick Buechner - especially love his memoirs and non-fiction - a personal favorite? His sermon collection, entitled, A Room Called Remember. Fab.u.lous.
Eugene Peterson - anything and everything the man has ever printed, with a special note for his last 5-volume set. The easiest of those to enter into is Eat This Book, a magnificent portrait of why and how to read scripture.
Anne Lamott -again, especially the non-fiction. Bird-by-Bird is a superb book about writing/creativity and her memoirs paint a lovely portrait of the way in which she discovered that she belonged to God. (Allow room for 4-letter words here and there.)
Kathleen Norris - poetry and non-fiction which is soul-stirring. Dakota, The Cloister Walk are 2 favorites.
Marilynne Robinson - only 3 novels in 25 years, but oh.my.goodness - they are grand, especially Gilead.
Barbara Brown Taylor - one of the outstanding preachers of our generation (meaning 50 and older here…), her sermon collections are just wondrous to read. And her memoirs are also excellent, beginning with Leaving Church.
Henri Nouwen - anything and everything. Really, truly. Same for Brennan Manning.
Ian Morgan Cron - 2 volumes thus far - both superb: a memoir, Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me, and a novel that brought tears at multiple points for both my husband and me as we read it aloud from my Kindle on a recent car trip: Chasing Francis.
Parker Palmer, Gerald May, Richard Rohr - an educator, a psychologist and spiritual director, and a priest, respectively - each of these men has written remarkable volumes about authenticity, spirituality, faithfulness over time. Try: Palmer - Let Your Life Speak, May - Addiction and Grace, Rohr - Falling Upward. Amazing, thought-provoking, even if you don’t agree with every single word. Each of these was life-changing for me in some way.