"The books that help you most are those which make you think the most. The hardest way of learning is that of easy reading; but a great book that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty."
Reading has always been a passion of mine, to the extent that it has occasionally got me into trouble, when I have been too deeply buried in a good book to pay attention to life going on around me. Yet few things give me greater delight than the discovery of a new book that makes me think; that makes me see the world and everything in it in a new light. In his introduction to Mister God, This is Anna, Vernon Sproxton speaks of Ah! Books, "those which induce a fundamental change in the reader's consciousness. They widen his sensibility in such a way that he is able to look upon familiar things as though he is seeing and understanding them for the first time. ... Ah! Books give you sentences which you can roll around in the mind, throw in the air, catch, tease out, analyse. But in whatever way you handle them, they widen your vision. For they are essentially Idea-creating, in the sense that Coleridge meant when he described the Idea as containing future thought - as opposed to the Epigram which encapsulates past thought. Ah! Books give the impression that you are opening a new account, not closing an old one down."
Everyone will have different Ah! Books. Mine include Beliefs of a Unitarian by Alfred Hall; Quaker Advices and Queries; Enough by John Naish; Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain; Rilke's Book of Hours by Rainer Maria Rilke; The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong; The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran; Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life by Frederic and Mary-Ann Brussat and A Backdoor to Heaven by Rabbi Lionel Blue. And of course Mister God, This Is Anna. Each of these books has shown me the world in a different way, and made me think about myself in relation to it. They have influenced what I believe, and how I behave in very fundamental ways.
What are yours?