What are your favorite books?
Many bloggers have a single blog where they list their top 10, top 25, top 100 or 1000 books. I’ve found that I just can’t do that because there are so many wonderful books out there that I’ve read. I also find that my predisposition toward a book, like a film, is to like it. A book has to work hard to make me not like it because I have so much goodwill toward the writer. I always want the writer to succeed. So, instead of listing my top books ever, I am instead putting together a series of blogs that cover my top three books in certain categories. Today I launch with the top three most significant books in the world. In my opinion, at least.
Without a doubt, it is the single greatest influential piece of literature, religion, philosophy and history in the whole world. Yes, that includes the non-Western world too, for there are probably more Christ-followers in China than in the United States and Asia and Africa are now filled with Bible teaching churches.
For many of us the Bible is more than literature, it is a way of life and the guide to knowing God. However, if we just think about it as a literary piece, it is the greatest literature ever. Whether you believe it or not, the stories in the Bible are gripping, heartbreaking, inspiring, and usually very crisp. Most of us forget how short Jonah is, or how brief the gospels are. Besides, we could barely speak if we stripped our language of every metaphor that emerged from the Bible.
The Iliad, Homer
Okay, we’ll throw in The Odyssey as well. For the ancient Mediterranean world, The Iliad and The Odyssey served an analogous function to the Bible today. It was memorized, adored, quoted, and believed as a religious guide. Most everyone rejects the religion of the stories today, but the narrative necessity of great heroes like Hector and Achilles, tragic kings, battles, and then the epic journey of discovery that is Odysseus’ destiny are the pillars of a great deal of storytelling. One can scarcely wonder what world literature would be like if The Iliad and The Odyssey never were.
Confessions, St. Augustine
Thomas Cahill, in his classic work How the Irish Saved Civilization, points out that St. Augustine’s Confessions was the first time, really, that anyone ever picked up a pen and wrote the word “I” and meant it as the subject of a book. Not many people today have read St. Augustine, and those that do usually gravitate toward his theology. Certainly there is theology in Confessions, but it is the first true autobiography, so the next time you pick up that overpriced hardback at Costco where a celebrity spills his or her guts about all their trials, tribulations and debauchery before finally cleaning up their act you need to thank St. Augustine because he literally invented that genre. He also gave us, in Confessions, one of the most interesting prayers ever uttered: “Lord, make me sexually pure, but not yet.”
In the coming weeks I intend to blog about my favorite books from other genres–history, preaching, classical literature, sci-fi, fiction, and so forth. But these are, in my opinion, the most important and influential books in the world. I would be interested to know what you think are the three most influential books?
image from simania.co.il