The Books that Shape Your Life

While cleaning my bookshelves, I wonder what I would do if I had to choose a few of the hundreds of dusty books to keep. 

I treasure books–their smells, their textures, their histories, their marginal notes.  I flip through my old favorites and find phrases I underlined and circled when I was a young college girl.  I have fond feelings towards that lost young woman who searched for truth deep within every word. She underlined everything in case it might matter one day.  The books that have hardly survived the decades all fall into one category: 


I cannot part with the Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, John Keats, A.R. Ammons, or Walt Whitman.  I hungered for truth back then, and the poets, to me, had most of it.  All these poetry books held a spotlight on truth; Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, and Sylvia Plath all bore witness to. . . something.

I had to find it.  I wanted that thing that every great poem gestures toward.

Back then, I read C.S. Lewis writing about desire and joy.  He writes this:  “. . . For all images and sensations, if idolatrously mistaken for Joy itself, soon honestly confessed themselves inadequate. All said, in the last resort, ‘It is not I. I am only a reminder. Look! Look! What do I remind you of?'”  

Poets isolate moments and make us see them in new ways.  They rearrange experiences and press into them until they tell the truth. The poems cry out, “Look! Look!  What do I remind you of?”

The poets helped my journey towards God.  I needed words like that.  I still do. 

Journal:  Do you have a poem that helped you discover a great truth?

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0 Responses

  1. i love your blog, it reminds me to think deeper,look inward, take the higher road… thank you so much

  2. Within the past year, I find myself turning more and more to poetry. Thanks for the encouragement! Yes, I need to cull my books, too, but real books are much like friends, unlike e-books. My home without a library is not a home in my “book.”