1. One book that changed your life:
I have to go with Chronicles of Narnia, starting with The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe… it was early on when I read these, maybe third grade, and it was the first that my imagination was captured in a Christian sense, in literature. My imagination was baptized in light of faith, learning and entering beautiful layers of relation to Christ.
Later, That Hideous Strength and Brothers Karamazov were very moving to me. More recently, George MacDonald’s sermon “Abba, Father!” from Romans 8:15 is the most powerful thing I’ve read in a long time.
Also honorable mention: Megashift: The Best News Since Year One, by James Rutz. Also, I’ve recommended Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge, to different men of value in my life. A Vietnam vet [whom I’d never met] walked across a gym and asked me a question: Do you read? He then introduced himself and handed me a paperback copy, telling me that the book rescued him again: he’d been rescued by a Navy corpsman in ‘Nam, and he said the closest he came to that feeling of rescue was reading this book. Obviously, he had my attention: so I read it and it is very salient, guy stuff. Also, The Life of Antony, by Athanasius... despite academic questions regarding the text and authorship, it is a challenging read, raising potentialities and necessities of prayer.
2. One book you’ve read more than once:
Many. Mentionable: That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis; also, Chronicles of Narnia [see: above]; Lord of the Rings Trilogy by Tolkien; George MacDonald’s sermons and selected texts, Brothers Karamazov, by Dostoevsky; Provocations, by Kierkegaard [and other texts]…
3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
Robinson Crusoe had the Good Book, and it was enough for him! And, as one great thinker commented, “If it’s good enough for Robinson Crusoe, it’s good enough for me!” Or, maybe I misheard that quote, lol. But the point still stands. :-)
4. Two books that made you laugh:
Henryk Sienkiewicz’s With Fire and Sword – Sienkiewicz captures human irony so well, the loyal and comic in the human condition: the inimitable character of Pan Zagloba, the unruly, boisterous [verbosely so!] knight, my, my! lol… suffice to say I heartily laughed and smiled so often, in the story, lol.
Also, two little books by Tolkien: Farmer Giles of Ham, a short story which documents the mythical encounters between intrepid Farmer Giles and the wily dragon Chrysophlax – ribald storytelling which skewers several sacred cows along the way, lol. Also, Smith of Wooten Major, which skewers one huge, sacred post-Enlightenment cow, at least.
5. Two books that made you cry:
Henryk Sienkiewicz’s With Fire and Sword, once again – not only does he capture the human irony very well, he also presents eucatastrophe in all its power: he understands hope unveiled in human destiny, loyal kingship. His vision of Prince Yeremi Vishnyevetski riding his horse on the doomed city walls, singing a song in the face of impossible odds… facing certain death from a million Islamic besiegers, he yet rides upon the city walls in supernatural and kingly grace, and sings! His song rises and wings over the besieging fires… and his starving men weep and shout for joy, that they can die with such a man. And the Sultan hears the sound, and fears… It’s a thematic twin to Tolkien’s vision in Return of the King, where Eomer laughs in the face of despair on the hopeless fields of Gonder:
Stern now was Eomer’s mood, and his mind was clear again. He let blow the horns to rally all men to his banner that could come thither; for he thought to make a great shield-wall at the last, and stand, and fight there on foot until all fell, and do deeds of song on the fields of Pelennor, though no man be left in the West to remember the King of the Mark. So he rode to a green hillock and there set his banner, and the White Horse ran rippling in the wind.
Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
These staves he spoke, yet he laughed as he said them. For once more lust of battle was upon him; and he was still unscathed, and he was young, and he was king: the lord of a fell people. And lo! even as he laughed at despair he looked out again on the black ships, and he lifted up his sword to defy them.
And then wonder took him, and great joy; and he cast his sword up in the sunlight and sang as he caught it. And all eyes followed his gaze, and behold! upon the foremost ship a great standard broke, and the wind displayed it as she turned toward the Harlond. There flowered a White Tree, and that was for Gondor; but Seven Stars were about it, and a high crown above it, the signs of Elendil that no lord had borne for years beyond count. And the stars flamed in the sunlight, for they were wrought with gems by Arwen, daughter of Elrond; and the crown was bright in the morning, for it was wrought of mithril and gold. The king!
This is eucatastrophe [a word coined by Tolkien] – the turn from hopelessness to victory, laughing the face of despair and finding it crumble before faith: The turn, the kinglike turn from despair to impossible victory, casting all one’s lot on destiny and finding it true, against all odds. Yes, With Fire and Sword and The Return of the King both moved me to tears!
6. One book you wish had been written:
Plato: Definitive Dialogues: Women for Dummies!
7. One book you wish had never been written:
Anything by J. Dominic Crossan or Bishop Spong or Elaine Pagels.
8. One book you’re currently reading:
George MacDonald, Discovering the Character of God, edited and compiled by Michael R. Phillips.
9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
I’m a book-a-phile: if I mean to read it, I read it! :-)