I WAS AROUND four years old when I remember first being captivated
by a book. My parents read to me from a German picture book of poems.
After much careful perusing, I was thrilled to spot a yellow bird in a
window of one of the pictures, a bird Id never noticed before. It
was like finding a treasure.
I also remember a series of blue hardcover books of Bible stories that
my dad read to me every evening. Its classic Bible pictures and stories
were imprinted on me, and formed the terrain of my young imagination.
Grade 4 teacher read to us from a series of adventure books by Enid Blyton
called The Castle of Adventure (and The Mountain of Adventure
,etc.), which I loved as much as I loved that teacher. The series was
read to us not too long after my oldest sister died of leukemia. Perhaps
it was a stable, idyllic world for me to escape into amid my familys
It was at the Henderson Public Library in Winnipeg
that I had my first religious experience as a young teenager. Those
aisles in the basement library were so familiar to me, with the sound
of the bowling pins in the distance emanating from the next-door bowling
alley. Id watch the librarians carefully copy out the call number
on the two cards, then stamp the book. That library was a world apart
from the Mennonite world I inhaled daily.
The book that made time stand still for me was a book by Kahlil Gibran.
I assume it was The Prophet, his most famous, but Im not
sure. I read the poems and his poetic, spiritual language, and I felt
transfixed, his words like a balm. I always thought of that moment as
being the onset of my adult spiritual path beyond the religious
naiveté of a child. The words seemed so beautiful and my heart
caught fire. I still love Gibran.
A book in high school that stuck out for me was Johnny Got His Gun
by Dalton Trumbo, a book about World War I which struck me with its
intense suffering and the protagonists agonizing struggle and
desire to communicate despite the massive setback of his war wounds.
engrossing book that was formative for me was M. Scott Pecks A
Road Less Traveled. I read it on a bus traveling to visit a friend
in St. Catharines, Ontario when I was around 24. His definition
of love of extending yourself for the well-being and growth of
another - really struck me, and has stayed with me ever since. Peck
wrote about an example of parents who loved their child this way. I
think that was the beginning of becoming re-parented: old ways of thinking
beginning to drop away. Also his concept of Life is difficult
was a new way of thinking, making me realize that struggle is not a
university, Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry by Owen
Barfield, was influential in developing a critical mind. The idea of
primary and secondary experience was introduced in this book, and helped
me understand how to better look at history and development. I remember
looking at this book like it was Greek when I bought it, and when I
expressed this to my prof, he said encouragingly, You can do the
book review, give it your best shot and see what happens. I ended
up loving the book and the whole course, Religious Quest in the
Modern Age. We read books like Herman Melvilles Moby
Dick, Samuel Becketts Waiting for Godot and Fyodor
Dostoyevskys The Brothers Karamazov.
Id also say that the thin volume Letters to Paul: Conversations
in Context by Calvin J. Roetzel trained me in understanding how
to read the Bible.
I also love reading the newspaper. I see it as a relaxing adventure
where Im seeking for nuggets of gold well-written articles
and interesting news. I have writers whom I follow with devotion in
the Winnipeg Free Press: Paul McKie (humour), Lindor Reynolds
(humour and human interest stories), Christopher Dafoe (contemplative
reflective). I read Fred Brick every Sunday. He is this cheesy writer
whose stories I find curiously funny. I always read the Sunday
Focus, a column of reflections on some aspect of life written
by different people. And the book reviews and top 10 book lists every
Sunday point me back to the bookstore.