When summer hits, I always get much more serious about reading. I think this tendency was spurred by a childhood up-tic in library visits during the summer months. My brother and I always read right off those summer reading charts that the library produced. Before the end of July, we had more stamps than the chart could fit (a fact that sometimes really peeved librarians). But still, when summer rolls around, I feel like I should be curling up with some great books and lolling away the afternoon.

To honor this feeling, here is my list of my top ten favorite books.

10. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver – More than any other book, this one has feuled my thinking about food, my vision of my ideal life, and my sense of good, book-length nonfiction.

9. The Hours by Michael Cunningham. – This book was one I just picked up when I was working at a bookstore. I read through it almost without stopping and was absolutely invested in the lives of the three women depicted here.

8. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. L’Engle’s words made me believe I could travel in time and save the world.

7. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. For a long time I had meant to read Robinson’s work, and when I finally took the time to do so, I regretted that I had waited so long. She has a great ability to make fascinating the life of the normal among us.

6. American Ground by William Langeswiesche. While I was deeply affected, as we all were, by the events of September 11th, I never thought I would be interested in reading about Ground Zero. Yet, this book helped me experience the personal side of the tragedy from the oblique angle of those who had to clean up the rubble.

5. Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton. If Kingsolver’s book showed me the actual style of life I want, Merton’s work has taught me about the pace I want. He has shown me that time to think and pray is crucial to a peaceful life.

4. Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris. Some part of me still wants to be a monk after reading this book. I love the speed and contemplation on these pages.

3. Travelling Mercies by Anne Lamott. If Norris makes me want to be a monk, Lamott shows me the glorious irreverance that would keep me from becoming one. Lamott’s humor and biting insight give me hope, even on my worst day.

2. My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. There are a lot of books about tortured artists, but this one – set in an Orthodox Jewish community – gave me a religious lens to look at the challenges I feel as an artist in my own faith community.

1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. While this is a series of books, each of them has been pivotal in shaping my world view. I eagerly await the return of Aslan, my Lion King.

What are your favorites? Did any of these make your list? What makes something a favorite book for you?

Aslan, the Lion