Recently I wrote a post titled “Books I Read Too Soon“. Today I was wondering whether there were some books that I wish I had read sooner. So I perused through the books that I’ve reviewed over the past few years and came up with a list of some I wish I had come across or read earlier in life. It is not that I did not benefit from these books when I did read them. Rather, I just wish I had enjoyed the benefit of discovering their riches sooner. In some cases, this would just not have been possible because they were written in the last few years. What I would say is, if you agree with my reasoning about each book and you are younger than I am, don’t wait until your fifties or sixties to read them!
The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald. I even wrote in my review of the former of these two that I wondered why I hadn’t read this sooner. Both are stories that work on multiple levels that only get richer with each reading. Of The Princess and the Goblin, G.K. Chesterton said it “made a difference to my whole existence.”
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. I think both my wife and I wish this book had been written years sooner. Introverts often feel they should try to be extroverts, which it seems society prefers. Susan Cain’s book, without being whiny, suggests that introverts bring a unique gift to the world. Wish I’d read this one in high school!
A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr. This was a sci-fi book I passed up reading as a kid because I thought “Canticle” seemed too highbrow. Read it a few years ago for the first time and was struck with both the memory of living under a nuclear cloud in the sixties, and the fascinating project of this book of preserving learning in a post-nuclear holocaust world.
The Critical Journey, Stages in the Life of Faith, by Janet O Hagberg and Robert A. Guelich. I wish I had understood in my thirties that faith was a journey rather than a static reality. It took hitting the wall that Hagberg and Guelich talk about in this book during mid-life to wonder if there are greater depths to the life of faith than what I was taught as a young adult.
Daring Greatly by Brene’ Brown. This is a book I wish I had read as a young leader. Brene’ Brown talks about the strength to be found in vulnerability, not something most men do well, including me. Her explorations of the way we avoid vulnerability through perfectionism and through numbing and through thinking we cannot allow ourselves joy described the strategies I’ve too often used to “maintain control” and not risk.
Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf. I think we (and I include myself here) spend too much time dividing the world into “us” and “them” and I spent too many years thinking in these terms. Yet the real question is how do we embrace the “other” who really is different in important ways from us. Volf’s “drama of embrace” and the practice of “double vision” gave me new ways of thinking about how we love across our differences and have genuine and deep encounters with the “other”.
To Change the World by James Davison Hunter. I’ve used “world-changing” rhetoric in my work during most of my life but my ideas of what real culture change looked like were naive and simplistic. Hunter challenges both our superficial engagements with the culture and the naive hopes we often have put in politics to change the world and calls for the “long obedience” of “faithful presence” in society.
I think I could have profited by reading each of these books earlier in life. Nevertheless, I’m glad I read them when I did because each of these were works of worth that have served me well since. I was also struck when I perused my reviews of how many books I did not necessarily wish I had read sooner. They seemed fine for this time and this group of books was in the vast majority. I’m really not overly troubled by this. But if the books I’ve mentioned encourage someone twenty or thirty or more years younger than I to read them and that person profits from the reading–then that will be a good thing.
Are there books you wish you had read sooner?