Friday, October 24, 2014

Books that have Shaped my Life

Awhile back over on the AO Forum, there was a really interesting thread in which we shared some of the books that have influenced us the most in our lives over the years, inspired by this list by Leo Tolstoy.  I thought I'd share my list here, given that I am a lover of book lists, after all.  :) What I list here are books that I feel have influenced me - changed the way I live or think in some way - and not necessarily a list of favorites or simply books that I like. Some of these books I wouldn't recommend now or re-read, but they had some kind of shaping influence at the time that I first read it. Other books I really like and would consider 'favorites', but they haven't necessarily been profound, game-changer kind of books and so didn't make this list. (You can see my list of 'favorite' books up there in the Books for Mama tab if you want to compare lists. J)  So…here ya go.
I'm not sure I can articulate HOW these books were influential, but they are the ones that I returned to over and over again as a child, so I think that it is safe to say that they touched me at some level deep down inside. Many of the heroines in these books aspired to be writers and/or teachers, which perhaps influenced my decisions to pursue those things as well.
  • Anne of Green Gables series (LM Montgomery)
  • Emily of New Moon series (LM Montgomery)
  • Little House on the Prairie series (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
  • The Saturdays series (Elizabeth Enright)
  • The Shoes series (Noel Streatfield)
  • The All of a Kind Family series (Sidney Taylor)
  • The Chronicles of Narnia  (CS Lewis)
  • Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
Teens Through College
I didn't read much good literature AT ALL during these years - just lots of poorly written Christian romances and other drivel from the young adult section in the library (which thankfully wasn't as awful back then as it is now…but that's another topic entirely.) So that's why this list is a little thin. 
  • It was in my mid-teens that I started taking the Bible more seriously, but I can't think of any particular books that stand out as particularly meaningful. I remember John being particularly significant during a difficult time my senior year in college.
  • The Divine Conspiracy (Dallas Willard) - I have a feeling if I re-read this book NOW, I would disagree with some of the theology in it. Nevertheless, this was the first book that opened my heart to the idea that there was more to Christianity than just asking Jesus into your heart and having good morals.
  • Madeleine L'Engle's fiction - the Wrinkle in Time series and the series about the Austin family
  • Christy (Catherine Marshall) - inspired me to consider seriously teaching overseas – I probably wouldn't be where I am today without it. I could list this again under my 30's because it also has encouraged me to stay the course when the 'romance' of life overseas wore off and the going got tough.
Post-College 20's
  • Bible Books: Ezekiel, Philippians, Psalms all stand out
  • The Mitford series (Jan Karon): I know, that's kind of a silly one, isn't it? But I've found them comforting at times when I needed comforting, and a good example of an ordinary life well-lived. Could re-list under my 30's as well as I revisit the series every few years.
  • L'Abri (Edith Schaeffer) - answered prayer, the life of faith
  • The Mission of Motherhood (Sally Clarkson) and The Hidden Art of Homemaking (Edith Schaeffer) - I read both of these in the year after my oldest daughter was born. The transition from 'meaningful' outside-the-home work/ministry to stay-at-home motherhood was a huge struggle for me, and both of these books helped me understand that stay-at-home motherhood IS meaningful work/ministry in and of itself. I think Sally Clarkson's book was probably the one that planted the first seed of homeschooling in my heart too...
30's Thus Far
  • Bible Books: Hebrews, Romans
  • The Discipline of Grace (Jerry Bridges) - This is the book that helped me begin to understand that I didn't do God any favors when I got saved, but that it is really all about His grace in saving me when I didn't deserve it. Yes, I grew up in church and 'got saved' when I was a kid, but I never really understood what that really meant until I read this book. Huge catalyst for my spiritual growth (as well as re-evaluating some of the theological assumptions I was raised with) over the past few years.
  • What Did You Expect? (Paul David Tripp) - I'm not a big fan of marriage advice books, but this one contained some thoughts I really needed to hear at the time that I read it.  My marriage is the better for it.
  • Loving the Little Years (Rachel Jankovich) and Shepherding a Child's Heart (Tedd Tripp)- I'm not a big fan of parenting advice books either, but these encouraged me in parenting three littles 5 and under when I was ready to throw in the towel, helped me to shift my parenting paradigm away from a behavioristic parenting model and towards a more relational one.
  • Simply Charlotte Mason's Early Years book and For the Children's Sake  (Susan Schaeffer MacCauley) - It's funny because I don't particularly care for SCM resources now. At the time that I read it though, I was completely burned out trying to force kindergarten on my then 4.5 year old. I likely would have thrown in the homeschooling towel within the year if it hadn't been for reading that book when I did. This was followed up within the same time period by For the Children's Sake which is what started me down the Charlotte Mason path in earnest....
  • Charlotte Mason's Writings -  profound effect on my parenting, teaching, and view of life in general
  • North and South (Elizabeth Gaskell) - I live in a place not unlike Milton in some ways. This book helped (helps) me think through the grey areas in social issues, the nature of friendship, cultural adaptation...
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy (JRR Tolkein) - hard to articulate, but profound
  • Surprised by Oxford (Weber) - faith, importance of good literature, examples of thoughtful Christian womanhood
  • The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Butterfield) - faith, the impact of an ordinary life well-lived
  • Frankenstein (Mary Shelley) – sin and its consequences, gratitude for God's gracious hand at work in my life
What books have had the greatest impact on you?


  1. Love the connection you drew between North and South and your own situation. I have always thought that book could be a balm to those living in less-than-ideal (in whatever way) places.

    You did much better reading than I did as a child. Unfortunately, I spent most of my hours reading The Babysitter's Club. :/ The only thing I really read of value growing up was the Little House books, which were constant companions of mine.

    1. Well...I read plenty of Babysitter's Club too....for the record. :) Most of the good books that I read as a child were one's that my mom had enjoyed when she was a girl and so she introduced me to them, for which I am grateful. It's so much fun to see my own daughter fall in love with those same books now. :)

  2. I love your list. It's making me think of what I would put on my own list. A surprising number of yours would make it onto mine, too... Clarkson, Bridges, Jankovic, and Mason for sure. Off the top, I'd add "Let the Nations be Glad" by John Piper and "Money, Possessions, and Eternity" by Randy Alcorn (in my early twenties), and "Each for the Other" by Bryan Chapell and "Family Vocation" by Gene Edward Veith. I'd also add a poetry anthology...strange, I know, but I'm positive it was a shaping influence. "A Sacrifice of Praise" edited by James H. Trott. (Sorry for all the quotation marks...I don't know how to italicize titles in a comment.)

    1. Ooh...Family Vocation...I liked that one too. :) And I kind of think that maybe it was you...or maybe somewhere else that I read about that poetry anthology...I know I have it on a wish list now, anyway. Poetry can count too. :) It really was a very interesting exercise to think through.