Someone shared the story with me again this week. I had nearly forgotten. Several years ago, a distraught mother and her daughter came into our bookstore. The mother was at her wits end and came right up to the counter to ask a question. She was so desperate that she just blurted it out, “My daughter is suicidal and I don’t know what to do. Do you have anything that might help?”. After thinking for a moment (and I am sure praying too), my colleague did what came natural, she recommended a book. Instead of going to the self-help section or the counseling section, she went to the classics section, found a book by C.H. Spurgeon and handed it to this mother. The book was called “Satan, A Defeated Foe” and dealt with the heart of the problem – our sufficiency in Christ and His power to conquer every problem, even suicidal tendencies. To God’s glory, her daughter read the book and began the process of “taking every thought captive”. Today, she is alive and her mother shares that story with anyone who asks. While no one book is guaranteed to fix a person’s life, it is remarkable how the right one recommended at the right time can begin the process of life change that often seems so elusive.
At a time when our culture seems to get coarser by the day, getting a good book in someone’s hands can be remarkable act of kindness and community building. Recently, I have been more and more curious about Russia and its relationship to the rest of the world. Several weeks ago, I arrived at our Bible study group and discovered a bunch of books in the entrance way to our host’s home. As I stepped through the door, Kevin (our host) told me he was getting rid of these and I was free to take one. After looking through what was available, my eyes stopped on a biography of Peter the Great that had been a best seller at one time. I picked it up and have not been able to put it down since. Chapter after chapter have opened my eyes to a culture very different than my own and helped to explain a history that I had never heard before. As I listen to the news about Russia these days, I see things through a different lens and can readily make connections from the past to the present. I am no Russia expert now, but I have become much more sympathetic to a people have struggled greatly for their survival over many centuries.
Finding books to recommend has been one of the great joys of my life. This typically starts by committing to reading widely, but also includes a lot of research. At our annual conference this past month, we had a panel discussion on books that had impacted the lives of our team members. It was remarkable to hear the diversity of perspectives and the different types of books that had been read. Ironically the first panelist started with a book by C.S. Lewis and the last one finished with a book by Tolkien. I love hearing how books have shaped a person’s thinking and perspective. One of my favorite ways to discover great new books is to ask another trusted friend what they are reading and what they would recommend. It is a wonderful conversation starter and can lead to all kinds of unique books and authors that I would never have considered.
Last weekend I attended a cookout with our Bible study group and the conversation turned to children’s books. We were reminiscing about reading books like The Little House on the Prairie series and Pippi Longstocking. It was remarkable to learn that many of us had read the same books and were impacted in similar ways by the authors and their stories. I was so glad that my parents had introduced me to the Sugar Creek Gang right along with the Hardy Boys as those adventures captured my heart. It is never too early to start reading and recommending great books. You never know who might benefit from a book that has changed your life.