Recently, I was challenged by a Facebook friend to share 10 books that influenced my life. I don't generally accept Facebook challenges, but this one, well, how could I not?
Since such probings take time, and since I tend to get long-winded, I have chosen to share this first as a blog post, rather than a Facebook status. Aren't you the lucky ones? (wink, wink)
There have been way more than 10 books that have influenced my life, but I'll stick to the challenge. These 10 books are listed, roughly, based on my age as I encountered them, from my youth up, shall we say.
OK, here goes, and I challenge you to do the same, but that's entirely up to you, of course.
1. As the daughter of a preacher, the Holy Bible was a constant in our home from the day I was born. Like a golden thread, its words were woven throughout the tapestry of my life. I was captivated by its stories in Sunday school, at home, and in the messages I heard preached. As a youngster, I adored the varied characters of the Bible, and envisioned each one of them in my mind. When I became an adult, I fell in love with the Bible’s truths and its message, and most of all, with the God who made it all possible. The Bible shown here was given to me by my parents the Christmas after I turned 18. It’s pages are worn and some are even torn. I’ve marked up the margins and underlined verses galore. I’ve read through it, cover to cover, several times. I would never want to be far away from my old green Bible. It continues to be a book I turn to daily for strength, for direction, for answers, for comfort, for peace, for salvation. It is the Bread of Life, and I find something new and fresh every time I open its pages. The Bible's influence on my life cannot be measured and will never cease; it is eternal.
2. I loved books from a young age and used to haul home mountains of favorites from the library each week. The book, Henry and the Clubhouse, by Beverly Cleary, put me in touch with my storytelling tendencies. I fell madly in love with all of Cleary’s books and the assorted characters she brought to life. Somewhere, in a dusty box in the attic is my very first short story, written in fourth-grade, "imitating" the voice of Beverly Cleary. Predictably, I titled it, “Henry’s Clubhouse,” but of course.
3. One of my fondest memories from childhood was being read to by my mother, and my favorite book, without question, was Eleanor Clymer’s The Trolley Car Family. As a child, I was transported by this book, by the unique story line, the illustrations, the characters. Truth be told, I still am. I found great joy in sharing its pages with my daughter many years later. Lord willing, I will do the same with my grandchild.
4. I was probably 21 when I first read the novel, Just David, by Eleanor Porter, a story that moved me to tears—so much so that I remember having to lay the book down so I could sprawl out on the bed and sob unashamedly. When a book can do that, you know you’re reading the work of a great storyteller. It was the first time I fully understood the potential power in a single story. I’ve never forgotten this book, nor the impact it had on me. It will always be a favorite pick from my library.
5. It took several readings before I came to fully appreciate Charles Dickens’, A Christmas Carol, but it remains one of my favorite classics. The messages it contains are priceless ones, no matter our age. When readers witness the transformation of "a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner," as Scrooge was, and when they meet loveable characters like Tiny Tim, who, despite his grave illness and living conditions, remained a cheerful lad, it leaves them with a feeling of hope for all mankind.
6. As a new mother in 1986, I found very little time to read, which was why the small gift book, Children Won’t Wait, by Helen M. Young, was a welcome addition to my library. Given to me by my older sister, this book mirrors my own feelings about motherhood, that “no other career is so precious, no other work so rewarding, no other task so urgent.” Young urges mothers to not neglect, but accept their role gladly, “for children won’t wait!”
7. As a young parent, I relied heavily on the wisdom and experiences of those who’d walked a mile in my shoes. One of my favorite authors during the busy years was Chuck Swindoll. His book, Growing Wise in Family Life is a great source of information and direction, and offers parents a look at both what can help and what can hinder the nurturing of a child, based on not only he and his wife's experiences as parents, but on the experiences of other parents, as well. I remember being blown away by his advice to say "yes" to harmless activities as often as possible. When a parents' first response to a child's simple requests is generally, "No," a child quickly becomes discouraged and frustrated. In the opinion of Swindoll, what harm is there in saying "yes" to having a picnic for lunch? "It is amazing how much of a positive influence that simple guideline provided for our home," he writes. This book's lessons served me well through the parenting years.
8. In 1990, my mother gave me a life-changing book entitled, The Power of Optimism, by Alan Loy McGinnis. This book left its imprint on my heart and in my daily activities. I learned that simply being optimistic and having a cheerful disposition, no matter what troubles may be swirling around you, can change not just your day, but your life. In the words of McGinnis: “Optimism is not saying that everything is getting better and better every day in every way. Nor is it saying that our worst days are behind us. We don’t know either of those things. What we do know is that this world, for all its faults, is a big world filled with good things to be savored and enjoyed.” Oh, that people everywhere could understand and embrace this truth.
9. If I were imprisoned on an island I would hope to have in my possession Mrs. Charles E. Cowman’s Streams in the Desert, Volume 1. This daily devotional was given to me by my older sister for Christmas in 1999 and I have read it through every year since. Each day's Scripture is accompanied by insights from long-ago men and women of God. Their writings never get stale and have, on my occasions, provided the precise message I needed for a particular day or season. I cannot recommend this book enough. It’s influence on my life has been great, and continues.
10. Every summer, since discovering this book, it's become a tradition that I read again the classic, Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I didn’t discover this book until well into my 40’s, but, perhaps mid-life was the best time to encounter this gem. Published in 1955, this book contains timeless truths, words to live by, a steady reflection of women everywhere. It's a small book (barely 100 pages), but its richness requires time to absorb it all. And, if you ask me, those are the best kinds of books. I've quoted from Gift from the Sea often in my blogging and I believe every woman should have a copy of this remarkable work in her library.
Until next time, sweet friends, keep calm and read on! If you're up to it, I'd love to know what you're reading, or the books that have influenced you, from your youth up.