Life Changing Books

Recently a young person studying at an East Coast university wrote me about his interest in becoming a Catholic as a result of having read Thomas Merton's "Seven Storey Mountain." His query got me thinking about life changing books. As a young person I read Bernard Haring's "The Law of Christ" in French (my German was too imperfect to read it in the original) and that reading radically changed my view about how to understand moral theology. That led me to think about other books that set me on a new way of thinking. Then, I began to think of books that I have read and taught many times but to which I can return with pleasure and instruction. Visiting one of my classes a few years ago, Robert Wilken told my students that one reads "The Confessions" quite differently as one grows older. I think that to be the case as I reread it again in preparation for my Fall classes.So, Commonweal Nation , as August dribbles away, here is an easy question: Is there a book or some few books that were life changing in your own journey? Is it a book to which you return eagerly or, as in the case of my reading Haring, has it now been simply a marker on the way? No extra credit for those who mention the bible.

Lawrence Cunningham is John O'Brien professor of Theology (Emeritus) at the University of Notre Dame.

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