What’s On Your Bookshelf?

Books with quote

Two years ago, I asked this question…but Communicating Across Boundaries has grown exponentially since then, so I’m asking it again.

The task is simple but oh so hard! Pick three books on your bookshelf that summarize you. What three books give us a snapshot of your life?

This was introduced by National Public Radio’s ‘All Things Considered‘ show a couple of years ago and I loved it so much I want to use it here at Communicating Across Boundaries. Anyone who responds in the comments will be put into a drawing to receive one of the books that is a snapshot of my life.

So let’s get started! My three are:

1. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. Katherine Boo takes us into the stories of real people living in the Annawadi slum in Mumbai. The slum shares walls with the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai. This ethnically diverse community lives in close quarters, daily confronting poverty, violence, conflict, illness, and government corruption. Because I love the Indian subcontinent this book resonates at many levels.

Quote: “.. becoming attached to a country involves pressing, uncomfortable questions about justice and opportunity for its least powerful citizens.” 

2.The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: A Jewish Family’s Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World by Lucette Lagnado. This book is my heart book and chronicles the journey of a Jewish family from their home in Cairo through their adjustment to life in New York City. There is so much I love about this book, not least is its descriptions of how much this family misses Cairo and their cry of “Ragaouna Misr” (Take me back to Egypt!) that still echoes through my soul.

Quote: “We had barely drifted out of Alexandria‘s harbor when I heard my father cry ‘Ragaouna Misr!’ – Take us back to Cairo! It became his personal refrain, his anthem aboard the old cargo ship…”

3. Some Far and Distant Place by Jonathan S. Addleton. Jonathan is a childhood friend, best friend to my brother Tom through the years. He writes of growing up in Pakistan but intersperses throughout the book history of what is happening in the region – things I caught only partially while growing up. I love this book and periodically reread it. This book is home.

Quote: “…’Look carefully’ my brother said. ‘It will be a long time before you see stars shining this brightly again….'”

So now you – Three books from your bookshelf (or Kindle) that give us a snapshot of your life!  Include quotes if you can! 

 Photo Credit from http://pixabay.com/ photo art by Marilyn R. Gardner

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9 thoughts on “What’s On Your Bookshelf?

  1. We’re currently on furlough and we used 6 of our allotted bags in our move to Malawi for books -they fill my soul.

    Off the top of my head because my bookshelf is far from me
    1) the poison wood bible – barbara kingsolver because when i was tired of trying to figure out how in the world to answer the question “what was it like to grow up in the DR Congo” i could hand people that book.

    2) Sacred Rhythms – barton. Because moving to the USA made me lose that rhythm and as i thought i was finding it again i became a mother and moved back to the African continent

    3) making room: recovering hospitality as a christian tradition – pohl. I loved this book so much that when i found out that pohl was a professor at one of the seminaries my husband was looking at i insisted the seminary get bumped im priority so i could meet her ;). Pohl speaks so eloquently of creating space for the stranger in our midst and letting go of fear and the nees for safety. It’s high timw i read it again.


  2. Unfair question! I have too many on my bookshelf…and too many on my bedside table, for that matter…to pick favorites. But here’s a sample of the current rotation:

    1. Parenting Without Borders, by Christine Gross-Loh

    The author looks at the approaches taken by different cultures to things like feeding kids, teaching them to sleep, discipline, fostering social responsibility, and on and on.

    It’s a fun read, and a helpful reminder that (despite the strong opinions floating across the web) there are at least a million right ways to parent.

    2. What the Dog Saw and other adventures, by Malcolm Gladwell

    Essays touching on science, economics, culture and much more. There’s a great chapter on why we have so many different kinds of mustard available, but only really one kind of ketchup.

    3. Paul and the Faithfulness of God, by N.T. Wright

    A detailed, meaty and long exploration of the writings of the apostle Paul. I love that the author takes the time to examine Paul through the overlapping lenses of 1st century Jewish, Greek, and Roman thought. Paul was writing in cross cultural multi-national context, and the author contends that it’s hard to get at the fullness of the letters without appreciating the mix of these influences.

    There’s also a whole section of shelf filled with books by people named “Brown” and “Gardner” but I might get in trouble if I started picking favorites from that section…


  3. I’m excited to check out some of the books others have mentioned!

    Off the top of my head, my three books would be:

    1. Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis. A re-telling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, it explores motivations and identity and how the truth of who we are can only be seen when we remove our masks. It goes along with the verse “the pure in heart shall see God” and looks at a person in the process of becoming real. I love it.

    2. Girl at the End of the World, by Elizabeth Esther. An autobiography of a woman raised in a Christian fundamentalist church obsessed with the apocalypse who grows up, discovers Jesus, and converts to Roman Catholicism. Although I never shared many of her experiences, there was a lot of familiar terrain. And her descriptions of being a clueless alien just wanting to pass for normal in her “own” culture mirrored my young adult life. It’s weird when my foreign husband, who never lived in America, knows more American cultural references than I, who grew up there, do.

    3. I love James Herriot’s books and their funny depictions of country life. While I’ve no desire to become a farmer, someday maybe I’ll have a place with a garden to call home.


  4. oh, 3, that define who you are, that’s hard! It would have to be thought about a while… honestly the hardest thing for me to part with upon moving is books. The timing is interesting as I am in the process of trying to jot down my favorites (sort of in preparation for a move) and my kids’ favorites (The Wind in the Willows, The Stray by Dick-King Smith, The Maude Reed Tale, too bad that is not still in vogue!!). Anything I have read by Corrie Ten Boom certainly ranks quite highly.

    I want to read that “The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit”


  5. It is hard to think of what really represents my life. I think The Chronicles of Narnia have to represent my childhood, when the Lord graciously gave me an alternate world to escape to while still learning about Him and starting, like Eustace, to shed my dark, knobby skin and reveal my inner self.
    Next would come What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey, because it was God’s grace that got me through my 20s and 30s, and because that book made me think about grace in a different and deeper way.

    For my later years, I choose I Dared to Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh, the autobiography of a Pakistani lady who encountered Jesus in a dream and eventually believed in Him. (I met her daughter while working in Pakistan, and also the missionaries who helped her. Bilquis herself died just 3 months before I went to Pakistan.) She made the difficult decision to leave Pakistan and go to America for some years, and I did the reverse, going from America to Pakistan. We both went back to our home countries because of family needs. We both grew spiritually and sought/seek to live daily for the glory of the Lord, and learned a lot about ourselves in the process.
    I loved Jonathan Addleton’s book, too, Marilyn, but since I was never a student at MCS, it was less personal for me. He donated two copies to the MCS library, which I cataloged (I was the school librarian) and put on the shelf, and then I promptly signed out one copy and read it. It was so much fun to read about the very place I was at, and see pictures of its early years! Then Jonathan came to visit for the school’s 50th, and I got to meet him in person, and now I am Facebook friends with his mom, too. We may not meet until heaven, but we enjoy each other’s posts on FB.


  6. On the bookshelf in my head although Frome and Gatsby are probably still floating around my kids’ rooms.

    1.”The Widow’s Son” by Mary Lavin. From my Mom’s bookshelf when I was a kid. 44 Irish Short Stories. Always stayed with me. Lavin provided her readers with two versions of the same story. Both sort of miserable. Makes one think when they ask, “What if this happened instead of that?”

    2. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. Been a long time but really made me ponder cause and effect. What is meant to be vs what is our environment? Isolation of the place and the times?

    3. Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Last line is my high school year book quote. And my daughter’s. :)
    “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

    I read, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” and it certainly opened up my eyes—my husband lived at the hotel just across from the airport in Mumbai-to what I was seeing but would never actually see. Heartbreaking that it wasn’t fiction.


  7. Hard to choose just three!

    I. A place for you, by Paul Tournier. I read this soon after we settled in our home in England , and it helped me understand that my longing to settle was an innate human need, and tha it was okay to admit that 40 years of criss-crossing the globe was enough! Also his concept of the ‘two movements ‘ applies to many different issues in life. (Falling upwards, mentioned above, which I read recently and loved, is about faith in the second half of life, and is an example of the ‘two movements, that Tournier develops in this book.)

    2. I heard the owl call my name, by Margaret Craven. A classic novel set in the Pacific Northwest in which a young priest is sent to a parish strung out along a sound, and must face his own mortality. Exquisitely beautiful and lots of cross-cultural themes. One of my ‘comfort’ books.

    3. The Lion Christian poetry collection, compiled by Mary Batchelor. I love poetry and have more anthologies than I care to admit. This one is a stunningly good collection of over 700 poems covering several centuries, arranged by themes.


  8. 1. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom – It is one of the most beautiful biographies I’ve ever read – of an overwhelmingly normal woman thrust into such abnormal times and experiences, and how she trusts God and His plan through it all. I first read this as a teenager, and this book formed the framework for how I still attempt to relate to God today – focusing on the next thing without getting lost in all the other things, keeping my faith simple, even as the world tries to make it complicated, and looking for Him everywhere.
    2. Falling Upwards – a spirituality for the two halves of life by Richard Rohr – As a TCK, I have experienced a lot of loss over the years – some of which has only surfaced in mid-life. In this book, Rohr gave me language to describe the role that loss plays in my life, particularly in this season of life. It also gave me a framework to see my life as a whole, and gain sight of who I hope to become, not just how to accomplish what I hope to do. The difference is huge.
    3. The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen – I could have chosen any of half a dozen books by Nouwen to make my three. This one is a classic. As a trauma therapist, I am drawn to themes of how God uses pain redemptively. In this book, Nouwen teaches how to cooperate with God, first as a recipient of His healing in our own lives, and then becoming an agent of His healing in a world that is swimming in pain.

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