Winter has a bleak coldness to it. It embodies the feeling that life is over and may not come back again. Our hearts can grow cold when life seems too hard can't it? Sometimes in the bleakness, the desire to quit is overwhelming. A simple story can warm a heart unlike any other. When you hit a winter of the soul, it doesn't mean life is over, it just means that life needs to be rekindled. Here's my list of the top 10 books to warm a heart back to life again.
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Books to Warm a Child's Heart
No. 1: Willy's Trunk
Have you ever heard the phrase, "Why am I learning this? I'll never need it when I grow up!" Or do you have a child who has been raised with hard-working parents who provide well for them, yet doesn't see the need for working hard on their own education? When Willy receives an inheritance from a wealthy friend, he gets rich, but not in a conventional way. Only by reading his way through the books left to him in a trunk can Willy learn to be a young man worthy to manage the riches with honor and wisdom. Willy's Trunk is a sweet short story that will inspire hearts that have turned cold to hard work as they learn from Willy the value of studying and learning from books. Hear a short interview with Lamplighter founder Mark Hamby below:
No. 2: Trumpet of the Swan
It's so easy to feel as if you're in the bleakness of winter when you experience any type of disability. When it takes extra effort to do what others seem to accomplish effortlessly, it can make you want to quit all together. Louie, in Trumpet of the Swan, is a wonderful example of how a disability can provide the fire to produce a life beyond imagination. When the little swan is born unable to speak, his father steals a trumpet in order to help his young cygnet communicate. Louie must work harder than any of the other swans to pay back the debt his father owes to restore his honor. I absolutely love the audible version of this book as it integrates the trumpet into the reading. It's such a great book for reading over and over again.
C. S. Lewis's series the Chronicles of Narnia is one of our family's all time favorite book series. Most have read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or at least have seen the movie. While there is a movie form of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the book is one that that is a must read on my list because of Eustace. When Lucy and Edmund find themselves back in Narnia with their pesky cousin Eustace, there is great adventure and excitement. Eustace, however, doesn't see the adventure as a blessing, but more as a curse. When he stumbles across a dragon's lair with all the gold he could ever dream of, the true adventure begins and a transformation that can only happen with the help of Aslan occurs. It is a beautiful picture of a life changed that brings me to tears every time I read it!
No. 4: The Phantom Tollbooth
"When he was in school he longed to be out, and when he was out he longed to be in. On the way he thought about coming home, and coming home he thought about going. Wherever he was he wished he were somewhere else, and when he got there he wondered why he'd bothered. Nothing really interested him - least of all the things that should have." - The Phantom Tollbooth follows the story of a young boy named Milo who felt like seeking knowledge was the greatest waste of time ever. When he discovers a tollbooth in his room, he goes on a life-changing adventure that exposes his need for thinking and learning. I love how Norton Jester weaves clever plays on words and ideas all through the story. The reader will be engaged in the crazy episodes that Milo encounters. If you have anyone in your life that needs to warm up to the idea that learning is a worthwhile endeavor, share this great story with them.
Sometimes fiction stories don't penetrate as deeply because the reader knows that they are fabricated stories. If you're still fighting against a coldness of the soul that needs to be warmed, try this book series. Following the chronicles of the Church, these books by Mindy and Brandon Withrow are great inspirational reads about famous characters of faith. It doesn't take long reading through these books to become thankful for the relatively easy life we live today, as well as be inspired to trust God more in all things. We read through all five of these books in one year. They're great for reading aloud and learning more about Church history.
Books to Warm a Teen's Heart
Tolkein's magical world can warm a teen's heart towards true friendship, teamwork, and becoming who you're meant to be. Filled with adventure, The Lord of the Rings offers readers an amazing story that is not only gripping, but incredibly well written. I didn't meet this series until I was an adult, but as I began reading, the adventure drew me in and I couldn't put these books down. I feel like every one of these books I write about I think, "I need to read that one again," but this series just moved to the top of my list. Don't just settle for watching the movie version of these books. While they are well made, there is nothing like meeting Aragon as the Ranger and journeying with him as he comes to his rightful place as the High King, or following Bilbo as his simplicity and faithfulness make him fit for a task that even the bravest of men would fail to complete. Get lost in these books this winter and emerge in the spring reinvigorated to live nobly.
No. 7 The Chosen
Chaim Potok's The Chosen is a fascinating peek into the lives of two Jewish families in New York City during World War II. On the surface, this book explores the unique religious practices of two boys, but the deeper and more fascinating story is the challenges each of them face within their families to live up to the expectations of their fathers. If you have a teen that is struggling in their relationship with their father, this book could really warm their heart towards seeing the other side of the story. Another aspect that makes this a great winter read is the uniqueness of the story. Not too often do you meet a book that can pull off leading a reader to understand four main characters and having compassion on all of them. It is such a unique story that drew me in. If you haven't read this one, put it on your list.
No. 8 The Screwtape Letters
Teens are notorious for flipping whatever you are thinking and working it against you. It's not a new strategy, and they didn't come up with it. In C. S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters, Lewis takes his readers on a journey to the dark side. If a demon was assigned to chill your heart towards the Lord, what tactic would work best? This book falls somewhere between fascinating and frightening as you realize how easily we become distracted in our walk with the Lord by seemingly simple things. Why would the enemy need to come up with any new strategies if it was just that easy to knock you off course. While a short read, this book will be sure to occupy your mind with deep contemplations for days.
Books to Warm an Adult's Heart
While any of the above books have warmed my heart at some point in my adult life, there are two books that have deeply impacted my life as well as my husband's life in a way that we will never be the same again.
No. 9 The Odyssey
It doesn't take too long into your adult life to realize that the hard times can be really hard. My husband was assigned to read The Odyssey as a part of the CiRCE Institute Apprenticeship program. It's an intimidating book. Thankfully, their first assignment was a quick read. As I watched my husband read this epic adventure, I saw his heart warm in a way I hadn't seen in a long time. Odysseus, after leaving home many years before to go to war, fights to return to his home and his wife. The bravery and courage expressed in this epic journey stirred my husband's heart as he journeyed along with Odysseus. There is something to be said for a story that has been around and well loved for thousands of years.
No. 10 Norms and Nobility
When I first started homeschooling, my main goal was to have more time with my children. I had resisted homeschooling for several reasons, but mainly because I felt like the school system was sufficient to educate my children. After my first year of schooling, I realized that having my children at home gave me many more opportunities to shape their character than I had when they were apart from me for many hours in the day. My heart has been stirred through Classical education to not only use the Bible to shape the hearts of my children towards nobility, but to use all fields of study to inspire young people who will seek Truth and act upon it. It is not enough to simply fill my children's heads with quality information, but to also fill their hearts with a desire to be humble learners for life. When I read the writings of David Hicks, my soul cannot help but be warmed towards living and teaching with nobility. To inspire this type of living, I have to live it first myself.