Picking five favorite books is like picking the five body parts you’d like most not to lose. – Neil Gaiman

In case you haven’t noticed…Christmas is less than a scant fortnight away 🙂  You might have also noticed that this blog has been silent for a while.  I’ve decided to ease back into blogging while helping you with your Christmas shopping for the bookworm on your list, by listing fifteen of my favorite books and writing a line or two about each of them.  This list is in no particular order, and is not necessarily an all-encompassing “top fifteen” – just fifteen books that have impacted me in some way over the years.

1. The Bible

This past year I’ve been reading The Books of the Bible version (linked above), which does away with chapter and verse numbers, leaving the text to flow uninterrupted, as it was first written.  It’s been amazing!

2. My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers

There is a reason this devotional is such a classic.  Chambers’ observations of God, His ways, and man’s actions are beyond profound.

3. Love Does, by Bob Goff

Any book with balloons on the cover, written by a lawyer who meets with clients on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland (because clients must, of course, be in a better mood at Disneyland!), who considers his job to be “fundraising” for his real calling (founding a nonprofit human rights organization in Uganda and India)…has to be good.  But Bob’s whimsical sense of humor doesn’t overshadow the real star of his life: Jesus.  If you only buy one book off this list, make it this one.

4. The Myth of a Christian Nation, by Greg Boyd

This book completely changed my perspective on the world.  Boyd contrasts the kingdom of the world’s “power over” structure with the kingdom of God’s “power under” structure, and calls believers to a radical, non-commonsensical, looks-like-Jesus kind of love.  If you buy a second book off this list, this should be it.

5. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Scout, Atticus, Jem, Boo Radley…what more need I say?

6. To Have and To Hold, by Mary Johnston

This is the only book I’ve ever read that is 100% adventure, 100% romance, and remains 100% Christ-centered.  But it’s not a sappy love story, nor is it all swashbuckling pirate fights (though those do exist), so both guys and gals will enjoy this one equally.  The version published by Vision Forum (linked to above) is the best, though I don’t know how long it will be available, so get it while you can.

7. Albion’s Seed, by David Hackett Fischer

This is an excellent work, scholarly in its research, yet accessible to the layperson.  Fischer details the four waves of immigration from the British Isles to the American colonies, how each of those waves was made up of distinct peoples with very different ways, manners, and customs, and how the friction between these groups would eventually lead to some of the squabbles among the founding fathers during the American War for Independence, and later to the conflict between North and South.

8. Freedom in Chains, by James Bovard

The title is a fantastic play on words: not only has our freedom been chained, but the pervading view today is that freedom is found in the chains of the state.  Bovard hits it out of the park with this volume.

9. Safely Home, by Randy Alcorn

You’ll never look at comfortable American Christianity, or the persecuted church around the world, the same way again after reading this novel.

10. Metaphors We Live By, by George Lakoff & Mark Johnson

This is what I’m currently reading.  Lakoff and Johnson make some excellent points about the subtle metaphors we act upon on a daily basis, yet don’t even realize exist.  A thought-provoking and worthwhile read.

11. The Mysterious Island, by Jules Verne

Jules Verne at his best!  I can’t say more, for fear of giving away the story.  Suffice it to say that this novel makes such classic survival stories as The Swiss Family Robinson and Robinson Crusoe pale in comparison.

12. Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century, by Tom Woods

I walked into the bookstore and dropped $24.95 on this book – the first and only book I have ever paid cover price for.  And it was worth it.

13. Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin

In 1959, Griffin, a white reporter, darkened his skin and set out for New Orleans.  What began as a simple social experiment for a magazine article turned into something much more, a deeply personal and intensely psychological six weeks, as he lived as a black man in the deep south and experienced all the prejudice, racism, and segregation that went along with being a black man in the south.  Note: profanity and other serious adult-only themes.

14. Whatever Happened to Justice? by Richard J. Maybury

In this easy-to-read book, Maybury examines the concept of natural law and boils it down to two laws: 1)  do all you have agreed to do, and 2) don’t encroach on other persons or their property.

15. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, by Susan Wojciechowski

This is my favorite Christmas story of all time.  Build a fire in the fireplace, fix some hot chocolate, curl up under a blanket, and crowd around the book, as the illustrations are every bit as special as the story itself.  Also check out the movie adaption, which stays true to the spirit of the book.

And now, as a bonus, you get my top five movies, in no particular order.

1. The Scarlet and the Black

Good and evil face off in this movie based on the amazing true story of Hugh O’Flaherty, a Vatican priest who helped downed Allied pilots escape Rome during the Nazi occupation of the city.

2. Judgment at Nuremburg

Is there a law higher than man’s law that even the lawmakers must obey?  Is “I was just following orders” a valid excuse?  This movie, a compelling, fictionalized drama about the last of the Nuremburg Trials of Nazi judges, answers these questions.  A great companion to Whatever Happened to Justice? (Though, honestly, $58.97 is a bit much for a DVD.)

3. One Against the Wind

Contrary to how this list may appear to be taking shape, I’m really not a World War II movie aficionado.  But I do enjoy true stories of ordinary people who braved tremendous odds in the face of great evil for a cause greater than themselves, as Mary Lindell did.  It’s a shame this movie is only available on VHS.  You might have to start haunting yard sales in the spring to find a VCR to play it.

4. Amazing Grace

What is your calling?  To paraphrase Dr. Gary North, it is the one thing you can do with your life at which you would be most difficult to replace.  William Wilberforce found his calling in championing the plight of slaves before Parliament…certainly not the easiest of tasks in late 1700’s Britain.

5. Chariots of Fire

As I said, I like true stories 🙂  And while license was taken with the story of Eric Liddell for purposes of the movie, this still remains one of my favorites.

6. Finding Nemo

I can’t count.  And so, for some unexplainable reason, Finding Nemo remains one of my favorite movies.  For being an animated film, it’s incredibly profound.  Then again, most Pixar films are.

And as you’re deciding what books and movies to give as gifts and what books and movies to read and watch yourself this coming year (whether or not they’re on this list), keep in mind these wise words from Henry David Thoreau:

Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.

What are some of your favorite books and/or films?  Add them in the comments!