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  • Writer's pictureMatt Woodcock

#39 Read.

Thank the Lord for books this year.

They’ve been an absolute lifeline for millions of us stuck indoors.

Unsurprisingly, a new survey has revealed that we in the UK have almost doubled the amount of time we"ve spent reading books since the start of the first lockdown.

And 35 per cent of respondents felt books were providing “an escape from the crisis”.

Yes and Amen.

Aside from bringing my own book out this difficult year (Being Reverend), I’ve revisited a few classic reads and discovered some new authors.

It got me thinking about my all time favourites.

Those books that have made the biggest impact on me for all manner of reasons.

So (excluding the Bible), here are my #TopFiveFriday books that have made life loads better.

Don’t be shy in telling me yours.

5. Transforming Mission - David Bosch

Whenever I get jaded, cynical or shallow about my Christian calling, I return to Bosch’s masterpiece on mission. Transforming Mission always alerts me afresh to the urgency, grace and commitment required of all Jesus followers. But more than anything, Bosch bludgeons my heart with the truth that I am called to be a channel of good news. And that I should never tire of sharing it - practically, lovingly and compassionately - in whatever little corner of God’s world I find myself.

4. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

This was my first introduction to Bill Bryson. It’s still his funniest and best book. Travelling the length of our island - mainly on public transport - he captures our idiosyncracies, fortitude, achievements and ridiculousness, better than anyone has ever done. I found it educational and utterly hilarious. Impossible to read in public without annoying everyone with my uncontrollable belly laughs. My own country never quite looked the same after reading it.

3. To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee

This book was genuinely transformative for me. Its weighty, noble, vital themes of race and justice in America’s Deep South, stirred up a sense of disbelief and righteous anger. The book sparked a fascination for American history and social justice. It inspired me to read up on the likes of Martin Luther King and Archbishop Oscar Romero. Lee’s literary genius is also in creating unforgettable characters and a family we really care about. The way she captures the power and spirit of youth and those little moments of parental tenderness between Atticus Finch and his daughter Scout, are masterful. And don’t get me started on Boo Radley.

2. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

Surely Dicken’s greatest book?! It’s transfixing from start to finish. It shouldn’t be possible to create that many absolutely unforgettable characters in one work of fiction. Characters like the appalling, dark-hearted Edward and Jane Murdstone, the skin-crawlingly creepy Uriah Heep and the loyal and generously spirited, Clara Peggotty to name a few. Dicken’s sheer imagination is staggering. And his gift at revealing both the best and the worst of the human condition is unsurpassed.

1. Goodnight Mister Tom - Michelle Magorian

I first read this as an 11-year-old when it appeared in my stocking at Christmas. I’ve read it every year since. No book makes me happier, sadder and more convinced of the power of human goodness. The story of young Willie Beech, evacuated under the care of Tom Oakley, this is a story of healing, friendship and the human capacity for good and evil.

If there’s a more heart-warming chapter in fiction than ‘The sea, the sea, the sea!’ or one emotionally involving than ‘Grieving’, I’ve never read them.

It’s the children’s book every adult should read. Every year if possible.

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