I think the books on your shelf say something substantial about you. The authors I've read were not chosen at random. Typically I latch onto something in an author; something about their message, their style, the challenge they pose, or the imaginative way they pose it speaks to me and hooks me.
As a lot of what I read is non-fiction, I find myself becoming a student of these people I've never met, opening myself to their ideas. And the various works of different authors tend to have some similarities, I find. Maybe a common way of seeing the world or a common agenda in their writing.
I think if you looked at my shelves, you could make some at least tentative conclusions about me. Not just about my present interests, but about my journey. Some of my books I read a long time ago and don’t feel they are really reflective of my thought and life now. Other books I'd very closely identify with as being good representations of where I'm at today.
I was curious about this, so I counted. Listed below are the fifteen authors most represented on my shelves, and the number of books I own by each. And, to clarify if it’s not clear: this is NOT a ranking of my favorite authors, but of who is on my shelf. In my case at least, there's a difference.
- CS Lewis (18)
- Bill Watterson (12)
- Henri Nouwen (9)
- JRR Tolkien (8)
- Lesslie Newbigin (7)
- Frederick Buechner (7)
- Stanley Hauerwas (7)
- Thomas Merton (7)
- Brian McLaren (7)
- John Eldridge (5)
- Donald Miller (5)
- Miroslav Volf (5)
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer (4)
- NT Wright (4)
- Jurgen Moltmann (3)
Now, I could definitely draw some conclusions about the presence and number of some of these books, but I’ll leave it up to your imaginative speculation as to 1) why each of these authors are so well-represented in my library, 2) what seasons of life I was in that led me to their material, 3) what particular topics/ideas/goals are characteristic of each 4) who I’d say today is most like a mentor to me or who I’d most closely identify with, and 5) who I’d most distance myself from now.
But more importantly, how about you? Look at the books you own…is there one author more represented on your shelves than others? Would you call this author (or authors) a “mentor” to you because of how his or her writing has shaped you?
And, how do you choose the authors you read? Do they challenge you to think differently and creatively or simply reaffirm you in what you already think? Are you embarrassed by your possession of certain authors/books? Do you feel deficient in some areas (e.g., too much non-fiction, too many male authors, too much about one particular topic and not enough about others)?
One thing I've learned today: I'm long overdue to dive into some of my 19th century Russian fiction.