The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
I’m not sure how old I was when I first read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but I do remember that it was the most enthralling piece of literature I had read at that point. It is difficult to point to any one thing in the Chronicles that affected me because it is now so ingrained in how I think. Perhaps one thing that it gave me was the idea of a specifically Christian way of writing.
Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
This book changed my life. I was raised in a non-denominational charismatic church where the pastor used the word “doctrine” as a term of abuse. Trying to think through one’s faith was discouraged, since that led to doubt. Mere Christianity showed me that it didn’t have to be that way. Faith and reason could work together.
The Lord of the Rings, etc. by J. R. R. Tolkien
It was the works of Tolkien that introduced me to a sacramental vision of the world. (Though it is in Narnia to some extent, I wasn’t able to see it until after reading Tolkien.) Lembas and entdraught prepared me to accept the Eucharistic mystery.
The Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis
While I enjoyed the trilogy as a whole, it is That Hideous Strength which most affected me. It taught me the power of words and helped me see the spiritual warfare which underlies even the most “ordinary” of experiences.
Descent Into Hell by Charles Williams
It was from Williams that I first learned the possibility of redemptive suffering, not just for oneself, but for others as well. As a charismatic, I believed praying for each other was effective, but actually participating in Christ’s redemptive work was a revolutionary concept.
Evangelical is Not Enough by Thomas Howard
Except for my early childhood (in a country Methodist church*) my experience of church could best be described as anti-liturgical. The charismatic pastor would poke fun at other churches for having an “order of service.” Howard showed me the beauty of liturgical worship, and was one of the final influences in moving me toward Catholicism.
* To which I am still grateful for teaching me the Doxology.
Our Lady and the Church by Hugo Rahner
While at this point I knew the Marian doctrines, Rahner helped me to set them within a broader context: Mary as the icon and present realization of the Church’s future. Mary is the ecclesia immaculata; the Church is immaculately conceived in Holy Baptism.
The Life of St. Francis by St. Bonaventure
A vision of Christian holiness. It is impossible for me to describe.
The Hidden Life by Edith Stein
Rae and I read this together while we were dating. It is a collection of hagiographic and other spiritual writings that profoundly shaped how I understand holiness. Poverty, chastity, and obedience as the three nails which bind us to the Cross of Christ.
What books have formed you and shaped your understanding of Christ, the Church, and the Christian life?