Without introductions, let’s dive!
1. Grace Awakening (Charles Swindoll). This is the first proper Christian book that I read from cover to cover and for that reason, I will always think of it as my number one favorite next to the Bible, even if my taste has changed and my understanding has grown ever since. Swindoll opened my eyes to the wonderful concept of grace.
2. Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien). This is the most difficult series I read so far and that’s mainly because of the kind of English Tolkien used. I read all four books before I switched to electronic reading so I literally had to carry a dictionary around to help me with my vocabulary. It was difficult and tedious but it felt like I entered into a magical world. Tolkien’s skill with words is unmatched. He could describe the falling of the morning dew in exquisite detail like it was the most glorious thing in the world. When he described the natural beauty of Lothlorien, it sounded like he was describing heaven.
3. Harry Potter series (J.K. Rowling). Let’s just say that I was one of those who made an advance reservation for The Deathly Hallows at National Bookstore, went to SM San Lazaro branch before the mall opened on release date, and didn’t sleep in the next two days in utter fascination. I sobbed for a good five minutes when Mad-Eye Moody died. I was 27 years old. One doesn’t easily recover from anything like that.
4. Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis). Of the three book series on this list, this is by far the easiest to read. That doesn’t mean, however, that this is shallow. I believe it is a mark of great skill for the author to convey multi-layered meanings to a seemingly simple children’s story. I’ll probably never get over the depth of the significance of Aslan’s death in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Lewis’ concept of the deeper magic from the dawn of time helped me in my subsequent understanding of Christ’s death on the cross. This book is theology in the language of children.
5. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee). This is my lame attempt at reading the classics. I honestly envy people whose educational background included real reading (I’m talking about you, Jeremy!). I never had that chance when I was a student. This book stayed with me because this is my foretaste to the amazing world of classic literature.
6. What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (D. James Kennedy). I accidentally bought this book at Isetann-Recto on my way home from Victory U-Belt many years ago. I didn’t know the author back then but the title really made me curious. The book answered the one question that really bogged me for years: “Is it true that more people died in the name of religion than any other cause in world history?” Kennedy’s answer helped me see through the diatribes of those who hate Christianity. Each time a skeptic offers a barrage of objections to Christianity, this is the first book that comes to mind.
7. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint Exupery). This is another lame attempt at reading the classics but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. This little book makes me feel nostalgic about innocence. It also makes me want to be child again.
8. Pontius Pilate (Paul L. Maier). This is the most recent favorite in the list. I read this during the Lenten Season this year and I was struck by the easy combination of Biblical account, history, and drama in the book. The book retells the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus seen through the eyes of Pontius Pilate. I have been reading the Bible for too long that I forgot that the Jesus narrative was actually a very small speck in the vast swath of the Roman Empire. How that simple, ordinary life turned the world upside down is fascinating to read. The Flames of Rome, Maier’s sequel to Pontius Pilate, tells of the time when Christianity was beginning to creep into the Roman capital. This book helped me place Christianity in the larger context of world history.
9. Message in a Bottle (Nicholas Sparks). Right. Uhmm, the thing about Nicholas Sparks is that if you read one of his books, it feels like you already read everything he wrote. The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, Nights in Rodanthe, and Message in a Bottle all have the same feel and drama. I refuse to read more. Four overly saccharine, heart-rending plots are more than enough for a lifetime.
10. The Testament (John Grisham). What Nicholas Sparks is to romance, John Grisham is to legal thrillers. The only difference is that John Grisham’s stories are really riveting. Still, I could not now remember the particular details in The Testament, The Firm, The Pelican Brief, and The Client (why do they all sound alike?). They all kind of drown together in my head.