Ten books that changed my world

This is my long delayed contribution to an occasional series in which MercatorNet contributors discuss some of the books which have changed the way they see the world.

It is a mixed and somewhat arbitrary selection of reading that has formed my ideas about life and literature.

Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I don’t mind joining half the world in nominating LOTR one of the great reads of my life and among the most influential, though I was late coming to it.

There are few things more pleasurable than a gripping story which is also very long, since we never want a really great tale to end.

Tolkien’s epic “fairy story” also reawakened in me a childish delight in imaginary worlds and creatures, where, at the same time, familiar struggles and victories are played out in a way completely plausible to, and instructive for real humans.

Thanks to Tolkien’s profound intelligence, love for Creation and teeming imagination, I fell in love again with creative fantasy.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (The Oxford Authors) Ed. Catherine Phillips, (OUP 1986).

This collection of the 19th century English poet’s work includes letters and other prose pieces, but it is his highly original poetic style that opened my eyes to nature and the “dearest freshness deep down things” as a teenager at secondary school.

I struggled to understand some of the few poems we studied then until I heard them on a recording.

I am still not sure that I fully grasp the meaning of “sprung rhythm” or follow all his imagery, but I will never forget lines such as:

Look at the stars! Look, look up at the skies!
O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!
The bright boroughs, the circle citadels there!
Down in dim woods the diamond delves! the elves eyes!
The grey lawns cold where gold, where quickgold lies!…

Introduction to Christianity, by Joseph Ratzinger (1968). Continue reading

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.

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