The Greatest Story Ever Told

I have a hard time choosing favorites. Blame it on indecision, ADD or that I simply enjoy too many things immensely. Whatever the reason, I can’t exactly pick just one favorite anything. Movies, music, colors, adorable puppies my husband won’t buy for me – the list goes on and on. Much like qualifying the question of ‘what is your favorite color?’, I will say that when it comes to books, I have many favorites from throughout the years.

Favorite book from middle school: Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis

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Cover of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

It is no secret that I love allegories, and the Chronicles of Narnia are beautiful examples that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike (many times over, of course). I have read the set at least ten times, though I don’t really keep track. I’ve even seen the old BBC version of the movies (not the latest Disney versions, but the ones with the corniest puppets and green screen effects you’ve ever seen. Yes, I said puppets – and I don’t mean the cool muppet type). While most people have either read or seen “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”, I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who has read “The Magician’s Nephew” or “The Last Battle“. As it turns out, those are two of my more favored tales from the collection. The Magician’s Nephew details the account of the creation of the world (pretty creative stuff in there, involving an in-between world full of pools that lead to various realms). The Last Battle is a bit darker, and involves a lot of speculation as to ‘end times’. Whether you are a person of faith or not, it is an interesting and compelling story that portrays characters seeking to deceive for the sake of power. Ultimately, that craving for power and control leads to selfish violence and destruction. Heavy stuff for a kid’s story, but if the books are read in order, the development of the characters and events paints a picture of human nature that is hard to deny. While it may sound that the books just point out our innate flaws, it also offers hope in the redemption of characters. Stories that confront truth while offering hope are the ones I am drawn to.

Favorite book from high school: The Source – James A. Michener

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Cover of The Source

For many, history is a subject that often puts us to sleep. I’ll admit: I love the idea of loving history…but my ADD won’t allow me to in reality. In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean..Hey! I like sailing! See what I mean? While traditional history books are quite boring to me, I was surprised to be enthralled with “The Source” when it showed up on my high school required reading for world history. It is a chronological history of the Jews from ancient times to modern day – told in fictional novel form. While the details of the book are a bit fuzzy (I’m a visual person, so if they made a movie, I’m sure I could recite the whole thing from heart), I remember being excited to read each chapter and find out what happened next in the story. My advice to history professors: write more novels! I’ve been meaning to give this one another read, now that I’m much older and wiser  – ehem. 

Favorite book from college: Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis 

C.S. Lewis

Cover of C.S. Lewis

While in college, I was fascinated with apologetics, and towards the end of my studies, I finally picked up “Mere Christianity”. Now, you may be wondering why I would include two books by the same author in my list. Although I think Lewis was a brilliant writer, I don’t get behind a single author or genre simply because of labels. I read a variety of authors and topics and in the end, I find that these books simply made more of an impact on me than others. That being the case, I can say with certainty that this book is quite compelling and convincing in its position and arguments. However, even if you don’t care for the theme of the content, read it as an exercise in debate. The manner in which Lewis presents his evidence, makes his case, and closes the deal is amazing. I constantly found myself in awe of how he was able to make complicated statements seem so simple and obvious. If I had the ability to reduce my musings to a single sentence the way Lewis does in Mere Christianity, I could convince someone of anything.

Favorite book after college: The Shack – Wm. P. Young

The Shack

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This one is a bit of an oddball in my collection. While it does deal with spiritual themes (did I mention I love allegories?) it really doesn’t fit with any of the other styles of writing to this point. The writing itself is nothing amazing, but the story captivated me. The story follows the journey of a man who returns to the shack where his kidnapped daughter was murdered. There, he has an encounter with God that surprises him, and changes his life. The authors interpretation of God is quite unusual and though I found it odd at first, by the end of the story, I understood the purpose for this choice. The story can be difficult to follow emotionally, and has a bittersweet ending. However, the story resonated with me because of the many losses I have experienced in my life. Journeying step by step alongside the main character was a sort of therapy for me in a way. Going through the emotions of grief, despair, anger, and then hope once more struck a deep chord with me as I recounted the times I had challenged the very concept of a loving God, much like the character in the story. The personal revelations I had through reading “The Shack” kept me thinking about it long after I had turned the last page. I think it helped me deal with many of the darker questions I was always afraid to voice. I recommend the book for the simple reason that it caused deep personal reflection.

Favorite book now: The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand

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Cover of The Fountainhead

Kept you hanging, didn’t I? Surely there has to be an architecture book in the mix (besides pop-ups, that is!). I find it amazing that I knew I wanted to be an architect since middle school, but it took me this long to even open Rand’s novel “The Fountainhead” about the  greatest architect of all time. While I haven’t finished the book yet, I can already tell that it will be my favorite book (okay, one of my favorites – I can’t choose, remember?). The writing is beautiful and complex. The plot is thick and detailed. The characters are developed slowly, and thoroughly. Almost every page contains a brilliant sentence or paragraph that perfectly describes every sentiment about architecture and design I’ve ever had. Ayn Rand’s novel is by far, one of the most accurate and thought provoking depictions of architects. It presents the obstacle each one of us face: pursue pure, unadulterated design for the sake of the design and be poor or work ‘for the man’ doing mundane projects that pay the bills. While this thought was distilled into over-simplistic labels, the manner in which Rand paints this picture is uncanny. You understand the struggle of the architect and you cheer for him as if your career depended on it.

I wish I had more time for reading. As it is, I find my time going towards writing and subsequently proof-reading my own articles – not exactly broadening my horizons, so to speak. However, when I have the chance, I love picking up a good book, reading a great story and examining how it relates to my life.

If you’d like to spend more time reading true literature, you can buy a copy of The Fountainhead (or any other book) through my store. Happy reading!

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  • Nadia Lauterbach

    I have read the magicians nephew too! I’ve read the whole series in fact, great stuff. The fountain head…I read it my last year of college tired of hearing non arkies say “you’ve NEVER read the fountain head????”

    • My motivation to read the Fountainhead was similar – my non-architect husband read it and said something along the lines of ‘you’re not a real architect if you don’t read this book’. I took it as a challenge. 😉

  • I need to get Mere Christianity. Only just started The Magestions Nephew but couldn’t stick with it.

    • If you enjoy C.S. Lewis in general, I’d recommend getting the CS Lewis Signature Classics book – it contains 7 of his works, including Mere Christianity. I read through that, then The Screwtape Letters (also brilliant), but had to put it down when I got into “Miracles”. That one is so thick and intellectually difficult that it was mind-boggling. It literally wore me out to try to understand it, so I just stopped 🙂 I should pick it back up again sometime though…now I’m inspired to give it another shot!

  • Brinn I like the way you tackled this…generally the same kinda vibe I was going for but you seem to pull it off much much better. ha!  funny I have read none of these books, but I guess this is how we grow ours lists of things to read. thanks for the posting. jb

    • Thanks for the compliment 🙂 This topic is definitely a great way to build our libraries! I’ll definitely have to look into the “Matrix prequel” (my brother is a Matrix fanatic). Thanks for stopping by!

      • Matrix Fanatic

        The Animatrix is very interesting

  • The two on your list that I’ve read are “The Source” and “The Fountainhead,” both of which I enjoyed.  I personally thought “The Source” was the best of Michener’s sweeping historical novels—and I’ve read over a dozen by now.  If you look around these days, though, you can find a number of historians who are writing what they call historical narratives.  One of the better examples is Shelby Foote’s three volume history on The Civil War.  If you read the first few paragraphs of the first book, you’ll see what I’m talking about.  If you’re not interested in the subject matter, then you’re not.  But if you ARE, that kind of writing never lets you down.  I read quite a bit of history these days, and it sometimes gets a bit dry, but people like Foote even it up a bit!

    • Sounds like I need to give Foote’s novels a try. I definitely love history, but I can’t seem to keep up unless it is in a form that helps me relate to the people. I really enjoyed “The History of Us” miniseries from the history channel – really helps me see the various event time lines overlap and make sense. Thanks for the comment and recommendations!

      • Foote’s books on the Civil War are histories, not novels.  But they read like novels!  Another historian who really wailed was William Manchester.  I have read a number of his biographies and histories.  He wrote some of the best sentences I have ever read in any kind of writing.

  • Interesting selections. The only one I picked up was The Fountainhead, & I couldn’t finish it. It was complete torture to me, like backing up to the beginning of time over & over with each new description. I got within about 1/8″ thickness of pages to go & threw it down, declaring never to pick it up again. 

    • I will agree that her descriptions can be rather lengthy. I’ve noticed it is taking me a lot longer to get through this book than most others I read, but I hope it will be worth it in the end 🙂

  • I love the way you’ve shown us what books you liked at different stages of your life. And you’ve persuaded me to read the Ayn Rand.

    • That is wonderful to hear! You’ll have to let me know how you like it. It is long, but definitely good so far.

  • Kevin

    I also loved Michener’s “The Source”!!  I was also the only one in the class who liked it   😉

    I will have to give Fountainhead a try!