Ronna Bonifacio | Top ten books that have made an impact
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Top ten books that have made an impact

I answered this Facebook status chain almost two weeks ago but my very first list was drawn up in private. I had sent it to my good friends from college who are fellow English Literature majors because I was curious as to which books were on their list, did we share any titles, and which books should I perhaps read next.

Oh the happiness that is coffee in one hand and a book in the other. Image credit.

Oh the happiness that is coffee in one hand and a book in the other. Image credit.

I read a lot growing up. I remember that as a child, we had a limit to the things we could buy but there were two things my parents hardly ever put a price tag on: books and food. I wasn’t allowed to buy a Barbie doll all the time but I could buy 10 books if I wanted to (and I think I did, once). My parents didn’t really even check the kind of books I was reading, as far as they were concerned, if it was published, it’s probably good for me. I read Sweet Valleys, Nancy Drews, a bunch of young adult novels (like Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret) and as a child I also read lots of stories. I always used to carry a book with me, in case I would grow bored wherever I was (something my mom also said was my problem and not hers, hehe!).

These days I’m reading much less than I wish, but thanks to this little Facebook chain, I’m deciding to challenge myself to read more. Here’s my top ten books that made the most impact on my life and what I remember about them. My first private list was not the same, truth be told, because I thought the list was one’s favorites. It was only until I was tagged when I understood the mechanics.

“I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.” – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee | Image credit

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – This was required reading for me in freshman year of high school and I think it might be the first great work of Literature I have ever finished. I think it also started my love affair with Literature. I remember not understanding what I was reading, probably one-tenth into the book but was forced to keep reading one afternoon when I was locked out of my parent’s room (the TV and all my other paraphernalia for recreation was inside) and they were a long way from home. That was when I finally got hooked and could not put it down, even after my parents’ room had been opened. It taught me about racism, which was difficult to understand and imagine for a 13-year-old living in the Philippines in the `90s. It just wasn’t relevant to my world, but perhaps that’s what made Literature so powerful for me then, it opened up worlds I did not think existed, worlds that could not exist, and worlds that no longer existed. Maybe if I could give my child(ren) a reading list they are required to finish before leaving our home and live independently, this would definitely be on it.
  2. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera – Another required reading, this time during my sophomore year in university. I cannot say I completely understand the novel (nor Tomas and Teresa), but the way Kundera created his narrator and presented how Teresa was born out of the grumbling of a stomach, it just blew my mind.
  3. Les Miserables  by Victor Hugo – Oops, a lot of the books were required readings pala. I read this during my senior year in high school and may have been one of the very few from our batch who bothered to read the novel for our book report. I remember not getting a grade as excellent as some of the other brainiacs in my class but I couldn’t care less, she may have received a good grade but I was enriched forever. (Can you say NERD ALERT!?) Again, just how this transported me into a world with issues that were so far from what I knew and my existence, it was life changing. Also reading how Fantine died was heartbreaking for my 16-year-old self.
  4. The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller – I haven’t read a lot of marriage books, in fact I’m not actually through with this yet, but how Pastor Tim explains marriage and its likeness to the cross of Christ changes the way I understand and therefore live out my marriage. I think he may be one of the foremost Christian thinkers of our time. If you are married, are planning to get married, can see yourself in marriage, get a hard copy of this book!
  5. The Odyssey by Homer – I’m not sure why I enjoyed this more than The Iliad, perhaps because the latter was more about war while this was about Odysseus’ journey home. And his journey home was colorful. I imagined how his son might deal with his father’s return after twenty years of being away.
  6. Lilies of the Field by William Edmund Barrett – This wasn’t part of my original list, it replaced The Hand of the Enemy by Kerima Polotan. But I distinctly remember reading this as a sixth grader and being introduced to the issue of racism. I could not understand why there would be so much hatred because of difference.
  7. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis – This is a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche Greek myth and I think, if I am not mistaken, one of he last works Lewis wrote. I was told about it as a freshman in university but it was hard to find a copy back then. I read it two years later for my Philosophy of Religion class but it was hardly a chore. The idea of a virgin sacrifice in Psyche being so horrific gave me a different perspective of Jesus on the cross. Orual, the ugly older sister, entering Psyche’s home with the beast and seeing a completely different home from what her sister sees was an interesting allusion. I enjoyed the Christian elements of the novel which were not explicit and were complex.
  8. What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey – I remember reading this during a time in my life when I needed a lot of both grace and mercy. I would read it on the way to work while I sat in the MRT (yes, there was a time one could sit inside the MRT and actually read). Yancey’s explanation of grace allowed me to understand grace better and I like how he did not just talk about it on a personal level, but also for groups of people and nations.
  9. The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg – This one I read during a time when I needed to rekindle my faith. Ortberg’s idea that a relationship with God and life in general should be enjoyed was refreshing and what I needed to hear at that point. I think though that they are not ideas that are only applicable when you feel like you’re in a rut, but it is something one needs to be reminded of constantly.
  10. Poetics by Aristotle – It isn’t technically a book, nor are other works which I wish I could cite or include, but this is one of the first theories of Literature I read which gave a backbone to my enjoyment and love for Literature. I suppose if I were to make a list of theories that “made an impact” or “changed my life”, 10 would be too short. Reading theories only enriched my love for Literature.

“To love another person is to see the face of God.” – Les Miserables by Victor Hugo | Image credit

Do you share anything from my list? Or do you have any recommendations? Let me know, leave me a comment! I want to read more! <3

  • Dani
    Posted at 02:54h, 27 September

    I also have #8 on my list, and ‘The Jesus I Never Knew’ from the same author

    • Ronna Capili Bonifacio
      Posted at 03:02h, 27 September

      Hi Dani! I haven’t read that one yet, but it is one of his popular books isn’t it? I will pick it up soon! Thanks for your recommendation.