11/05/2009 10:12:00 pm

Influence

Posted by Tom French |

I have to fill out a form for a good conservative, Christian organisation and one of the questions is "List your 5 most influential books, outside the Bible?"

I thought that was a good question, so I thought I'd answer it here:

1. Evangelical Truth - John Stott

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I never knew what an evangelical was before I read this book. It was on my pre-reading list for Youthworks. It's the only non-compulsory pre-reading I've ever done I think.

Anyway I read this book about evangelicals and Stott described a Christian that was me. I loved the Jesus and fervently believed the Bible. After growing up in a rather liberal church, I had never know my brand of Christianity had a name, or that it was popular. But then I read this book and realised I was an evangelical. I suspect the feeling was somewhat similar to the feeling mutants get when they realise they're not alone and they get accepted into Professor X's academy. Someone had defined me and it felt good.

Ever since reading that book I've been excited about loving and believing the Bible, and excited that there are plenty of people out there who feel the same as me. And I think I've loved the Bible more, and teaching the Bible more, because I realised it's not so strange to love the Bible.

2. Making Movies - Sidney Lumet

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This was given to me for Christmas one year by my sister. I think I was 14. Up until that point my obsession with film and television production was leading me to want to be an actor. But then I read this book and I realised that actors had to be in touch with their feelings, and that sounded terrible.

But directing on the other hand meant that you got to play with cameras, lights, lens, set design, story, acting, editing, everything really. The entire film production process was open to you. Directing was where it was at.

And the life that Lumet described, seemed like the best life ever. I love film making, and this whole book was about a whole life of film making. I wanted that.

And so I decided to be a film director on the strength of this book.

I subsequently discovered what a famous and fantastic director Sidney Lumet is. I think that could be my favourite non-fiction book ever.

3. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis de Bernieres

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This is my favourite book ever.

I read this after Jo lent it to me. I don't know what I was expecting. Jo just said it was good.

It was amazing. And the film is has nothing on the book.

I do love love stories. But the love stories I love the most are the ones about the hardness of love, and the unfulfilled longings and messiness of love. And this book is all that.

De Berniares' style of mixing real life with mild fantasy, his wonderful use of words, his hyper-real characters, it all just makes me so happy.

Reading this book felt like magic the whole time I read it. It gave me that feeling in my gut I get when I hear an amazing guitar solo, or see a spectacular scene in a film. I don't quite now how to describe it, but it's like the happiness is too intense for just the usual outlets, it has to employ organs usually reserved for other functions to express how profound the joy is. It's like I feel heavier and lighter as the same time. It's pretty darn special.

I know I've quoted this before, but just the first line of this book fills me with joy:

"He took the old man over to the window, threw open its shutters, and an explosion of midday heat and light instantaneously threw the room into an effulgent dazzle, as though some importunate and unduly luminous angel had mistakenly picked that place for an epiphany."

I couldn't really quantify the influence this book has had on my life. But I know it's made me love words more and appreciate love more. The book has stayed with me, its story has become part of my story and every fiction book I read gets compared to this book.

4. The Trivialization of God - Donald McCullogh

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I picked up this book for $5 at Koorong. I think I was 18. I got it because Mum had been lent it by one of her friends and I liked the front cover.

The whole book is about how big God is. God is not a god you can fit into your own schemes and agendas. He doesn't exist to support your cause. God is his own person, he rules the world, and he's terrifying in his magnificence and power.

This book taught me how scary and terrible God is. It made me appreciate what it means that a person would die to look into the face of God. God is not my buddy. He's a consuming fire.

I think my respect and awe of God grew ten-fold as a result of this book. And I better understood the grace shown to us in Jesus so that we can approach this magnificent and awesome God without being destroyed, this God whose amazing power is bent on love.

5. Don't Just Stand There, Pray Something - Ronald Dunn

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I think I was in year 10 or 11 when I read this. It was also Jo's. I don't actually remember much about this book but it had two lasting effects on me. It made me pray more and it inspired me to have regular quiet times.

The book told me to have a daily quiet time and when I did it to systematically work my way through books of the Bible. So I did. Ever since reading that book I've been having daily (or almost daily) quiet times. And because of reading this book and working my way through books of the Bible I read the whole Bible. I reckon I've read the whole Bible a number of times now, and this book inspired me to do it. That's pretty influential I'd say.


And they are my five. 3 out of 5 of these books I got from my sister. That's pretty cool. Thanks Jo. You changed my life.

What are your five? Or if the Bible is not a most influential book in your life, what are your six?

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