It’s a risky thing to pass a book you love into the hands of someone else. Can you trust them not to bend down the pages, break the spine or write in the margins? Can you trust them not to crush the cover? Can you trust them not to put the book in a backpack next to a leaking juice box? Can you trust them not to lose it completely? I’m still missing Catch 22 (oh, well…didn’t like it anyway) and The Poisonwood Bible (gave up and bought another copy. It had been over ten years and it was time to face facts.)
On the other hand, there’s a joy in sharing the stories that have touched your life, and there’s a joy in knowing that a friend would give you a book because they thought of you while reading it.
This list had me collecting the six books on my shelves that don’t actually belong to me so that I could read them and get them back to their rightful owners. I’ll try to do a better job at returning them promptly (aka, within weeks or months instead of years) in the future.
A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
Borrowed from Mom: My mom and I don’t have a long history of enjoying the same books, but there are a couple (mostly historical fiction) that speak to both of us. I enjoyed The Kite Runner many years ago, and I borrowed A Thousand Splendid Suns when I moved to Missoula in 2013. I couldn’t put this novel down, and I thought about the characters continually. I was so close to finishing one evening, and I set the book down with regret because it was nearing midnight. After lying sleepless in the dark for a while I reasoned it was better to just finish the book and find out what happened rather than lie awake and wondering the rest of the night.
Flyboys, by James Bradley
Borrowed from Dad: My grandfather served in the US Marine Corps during World War II. He died of cancer before I was old enough to be curious about his experiences, but even with his own sons he never talked about it much. Because of that family history, my father has an especial interest in the Pacific battles and can recommend several good books on the subject. Flyboys discusses the recently de-classified fates of eight young men who crashed near the island of Chichi Jima and never made it back home, and two who survived, one of whom was President George Bush. (I’m now quite keen to read his new autobiography.) The book also discusses the military history of Japan and the introduction of aviation into modern warfare. There was so much information that was completely new to me, and the author did a fantastic job of presenting the point of view from both sides of the war.
The Madonnas of Leningrad, by Debra Dean
Borrowed from Mom: Mom came to visit me when I lived in St. Petersburg, Russia, and we did a lot of traveling around the city and soaking up the history. I enjoy so much that we shared that experience. Mom recommended this book about the staff of the Hermitage during the Siege of Leningrad and their efforts to preserve the priceless paintings and treasures. The main character describes paintings that are hidden in caves across Europe as if they were hanging on the walls before her. It really brought back those happy hours in the Hermitage, and I was grateful for the legacy the staff had preserved.
The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as if He Doesn’t Exist, by Craig Groeschel
Borrowed from my mother-in-law: (I don’t think she actually knows that I have it.) I espied the book on her shelf and picked it up, as author Craig Groescchel is a frequent and beloved guest pastor in my own church, Fresh Life. Mr. Groeschel is the pastor of Life Church, the biggest church in America with twenty-five locations in seven states. Fresh Life follows their example of a live sermon in one location, with video broadcasts being sent out to many other locations. The book went over the habits of what many Christians have become: a lukewarm believer who is OK with God as long as they’re not inconvenienced. Groeschel used a lot of great examples, and I was occasionally laughing out loud and interrupting my husband to share a funny story. His own faith journey was filled with doubts and failures, and it was encouraging to read a pastor’s humble admission about the times when he too lived as if God didn’t really exist. The book left me with a lot to think about and a desire to re-examine my faith life and see where it’s going.
Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Borrowed from Book Club friend Alisha: It’s the second book in the Little House series, but I enjoyed it more than the first book. My emotions were more tied to this one. I felt their sorrow as their beautiful home in the woods became increasingly encroached upon by new neighbors that kept arriving every day. I felt their uncertainty as they packed their belongings and took off for the unknown. I felt and understood their fear of the Native Americans who lived where they eventually settled, and then with the gift of hindsight felt a lot for the Native Americans who were also being pushed out of their homes.
Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Borrowed from Book Club friend Alisha: I know I read this in elementary school, but the only scene I remembered was the children pouring maple syrup into fresh snow to make candy. I also seem to recall a class project where we “churned butter” in baby food jars with Popsicle sticks and spread the result over not-so-authentically pioneer Saltine crackers. In addition to being a story about a family, it also seemed to be a How To guide for hunting, growing and preparing your own food. I found myself increasingly grateful for the grocery store down the road.
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
Borrowed from my youngest sister Haley: Haley knows I enjoy dystopias, so this was an obvious book to recommend. It takes place years after whatever cataclysmic event threw the world upside down. The details were incredibly vague, and I was never allowed to connect with the characters in the story. I understood WHY the author wrote it as he did, but I was so frustrated because I wanted more information.