My Top 10 Forever Friends {Books Close to my Heart}

Book Review, Books / Friday, February 13th, 2015
Photo Credit: Books by Elizabeth M, 2010

A friend and fellow book-lover recently asked me who my “Old Friends” are when it comes to books. I’ve wanted to share a Favorite Books post for a while so thought now would be better than never.

So here it is now. Below are the books closest to my heart. They are the ones I think about at random times and long to return to. They are most definitely my dear “old friends” that I met when I most needed them and which have stayed with me for all this time. They are my forever friends. I would return for a visit with any of these “Old Friends” any day – and maybe I will soon. Without ado, here is my –

Top 10 All-Time Favorite Books I’ve Read and Still Love

1. A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken

Whenever I think of this book, my heart yearns to read it again. Written by one of C.S. Lewis’s friends, this autobiographical book recounts the story of love born of a refiner’s fire. A love and mercy so strong it refines the characters down to their very cores. I’m not sure if I ever have or ever will read a book that portrays and defines love – even in the midst of great suffering – in such an eloquent, beautiful, and honest way as this one. This book takes life and love and God and all that we humans believe and yearn for and strips it down to the very depths of the meaning of everything. What’s left is something unspeakably painful…yet, at the same time, profoundly beautiful.

2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

As I’ve shared before, I love this book. “I cried, I laughed, I sat on the edge of my seat, I relaxed, I felt sympathy, I felt anger, I felt love, I felt life. Franci [the main young girl character] became my very best friend for a few days. I will miss her dearly, but I’m so glad to have met her.” Like A Severe Mercy , this is a book about life and a testament to the strength of the human spirit. It’s a book I think of fondly and hope to return to soon.

3. The whole Anne of Green Gables series: Anne of Green Gables; Anne of the Island; Anne of Avonlea; Anne of Windy Poplar; Anne’s House of … Ingleside; Rainbow Valley; Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery

What’s not to absolutely love about Anne (with and “e) Shirley? How could a girl possibly go through life without Anne by her side? These books are lovely, endearing, and whimsical. Reading these books is like reading a most scrumptious daydream or gliding in a canoe on the waters of the “Lake of Shining Waters.” I could sit and read these books over and over…and then over again. {Happy sigh}

4. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Amazing. Truly Amazing. Like I said before, “I loved how well-written it is and am amazed with how much work must have gone into it. I was surprised with how much I ended up liking it. Without giving away too much, I was deeply impressed with Louie’s struggles and how he came out of them in such a miraculous way that put my doubts to shame.”

5. Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom

I discovered this book in a bookshop one day – remember those? We were on a long drive back from visiting family a few states away and so I needed something to occupy my mind. I gobbled up the whole book by the time we got back home. I think my friend summarizes it best here – (Be sure to click over for some great quotes he includes.)

Tuesdays with Morrie is a small book of great wisdom, gently delivered. I think it also has a powerful message about the importance of suffering and the value of the last months of life, that our current culture desperately needs to be reminded of.

6. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I don’t know what exactly it is about this book but I think about it soo much throughout my days. There’s just something so…raw and real about it. I can’t quite get my fingers to capture the feelings I have for this book. I’ll leave it to to this editorial review on the Amazon page

In writing about such a troubled time in American history, Southern-born Stockett takes a big risk, one that paid off enormously. Critics praised Stockett’s skillful depiction of the ironies and hypocrisies that defined an era, without resorting to depressing or controversial clichés. Rather, Stockett focuses on the fascinating and complex relationships between vastly different members of a household…The Help is a compassionate, original story…

7. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

In one word: Epic. This is one of those book that, when you’ve finally turned the last page, you let out a big deep sigh. It’s akin to climbing up Mt. Everest and living to tell the story. I had a love/hate relationship with the main character, Kristin. Then I realized – I am Kristin. I learned a lot about the life of 14th-Centuray Norway and can see how even the beliefs of those times have trickled into our modern history.

As long and grueling as it was to read this, I feel like a better person because of it. I learned a lot from Kristin – as much as I loathed her at times. I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the time/attention span to read it again but it will remain with me always.

8. Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home by Elizabeth Foss

Have you ever loved a book so much you go around hugging it? (Come on, you know you have.) Well I did with this one. Real Learning came to me when our oldest was about three and I was seriously considering – even planning on – homeschooling her and our future children. Then, after reading this, I fell head over heals with the idea of homeschooling. I was enchanted by the home schooling life Ms. Foss painted for me, I wanted to be one of her children just so I could jump into her book and live the life I saw there.

Long story short, we ended up sending our oldest to Kindergarten a few years later and actually ended up really liking it. She’s still there, as well as our second child and soon-to-be third next year and so far the experience has been really great.

However, Elizabeth Foss’s ideas of Real Learning lives on in “the heart of our home” as we try to really live out a life of real, every-day learning together as a family. There are still days that I long for the dream I read about in her book, but when I lean back and look at our family, I see that we are living a reality that is beautiful and enriching.

9. Flowers for Algernon Daniel Keyes

This and the next one are the two stories we read in school that left a lasting impression on me. It’s honestly been too long since I’ve read them but I still hold a dear place in my heart for them. I hope to go back and pay them a visit soon.

Flowers for Algernon was the first book that planted a seed of curiosity for those who have any type of mental/physical impairment. My compassion for those who do began with Flowers and continues to this day. I remember that, in the end, after all the experimenting, he realizes that maybe life – as it is – is better than what we think it could be.

10. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Ok, ok, I know. Everyone hates The Scarlet Letter . Which, I think, is why I decided to like it. (I was a real rebel in high school, let me tell you.) I poured my whole heart and soul into this book and on the paper I had to write for it. It paid off as I earned my first (and maybe last) big fat Scarlet A of my own for that effort.

Like Flowers, it’s been too long since I’ve read it really say why I liked it. I hope to revisit it soon to remember what – or if I still do – I liked about it. Anyone else secretly love this book? Come on, I won’t tell anyone (except the whole Internet).

Bonus #11!

Lastly, I if I’m going to include the books that have majorly influenced me, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention The Bud McFarlane Jr’s Pierced by a Sword Trilogy

I can’t remember how many summer months I spent with my nose heavily buried in these books. They were addictively enthralling page-turners for sure. I think it’s safe to say they played a major role in my belief system and view of what it mean to be Catholic. Now, as an adult, I’m not sure that’s a good or thing or bad thing but it was what it was.

The good that came from it – a strong devotion and consecration “To Jesus through Mary”, a loyal and long-lasting group of friends who still get together to this day to pray, a greater appreciation for the community of believer praying for one another and strangers around the world.

Perhaps some bad that came from it – an overly imaginative idea of the lines between evil and good, a narrow-minded notion of what it means to be “a real Catholic”, and an overly fictionalized imagery of what the “End of Times” will be like – including an anti-pope and all!

That said, I think that as a high-schooler coming into my Faith these were a great read and I might even suggest it to my older children one day – with many caveats and conversations to go along!

Well folks, that’s my list of All-Time Favorite books that I’ve read so far. Note that I wrote this over a few days, including while I was/am dealing with a possible gall bladder attack. I also had to re-write the last half after WordPress ate up my draft! Bad blog! So forgive my misspellings and nonsensicals. (yes, I know that’s not a real word.)

If you really want to know me better – like really deep down – these books will give you a fairly good idea about the passions, hopes, and dreams I’ve collected in my reading soul. One day, maybe I’ll write a book that somehow encompasses all of these in one – wouldn’t that be some book?

Here’s my bookshelf of other favorites along with those already mentioned in this top 10 list:



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