“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” ― C.S. Lewis
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” ― Charles William Eliot
Oh books! How I am thankful for you. You were my first friend. My first love. I learned so much about how I hoped I might be as I read. I learned about others. I learned about the world. From the trivial to the deep books have changed me; shaped me. And they amuse me. And for someone growing up without many friends and with ADD (Ie. super low attention span) you were a saving grace!! I get stressed waiting someplace without a book – I don’t feel quite whole unless I know there is a book somewhere near by. Books just make life better. When I was 13 I went to Disneyland for a week with my family and one half of my suitcase was clothing, the other half was entirely books. I definitely over packed on books but felt so glad they were there.
I love all sorts of books. I love mystery books and historic fiction, I love chick lit and Christian insight books. I love so many books. And interestingly, I get bored by so many other books. I’m the worst English Major ever, as a general rule I dislike the classics greatly. But there are some that have shaped and inspired me – and mixed with a smattering of other book choices I bring you, my top ten most influential books (or Authors) in no particular order. (Tagged by LeAnna!)
1. Laura Ingalls Wilder - Little House on the Prairie Series
From Laura’s eagerness to her hands on attitude, I immediately found a main character in a book that I connected with. Laura didn’t have it all together – I totally related to that the first time I read this series. I loved the glimpse at life past and especially loved getting to immerse myself in that culture – and as I got older I was sure that if I was Laura an Alfonso would love me too. That was probably the first love story I fell in love with.
2. L.M. Montgomery - Anne of Green Gables Series & Blue Castle
Oh did I relate to Anne – of course I didn’t have red hair, nor was I an orphan, but there wasn’t something about her joy for life and intensity that I loved. She felt things so deeply and longed for friendships – I related so well. I never quite understood her issues with Gilbert or her love of classical literature but I loved how helpful she was in a tough situation and I loved seeing a story of community, family and friendship surround a lonely, isolated child. It was what I longed for in life and it gave me hope to see it happen for Anne.
Oh and the Blue Castle! What a winner. The main character Valancy represents everything one hopes to experience as you grow - a life! a love! a home! Her story is so engaging, so heartbreaking and so beautiful...it gives the reader courage and joy to watch her transformation.
3. C.S. Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia Series, especially the Voyage of the Dawn Treader
My mom first read the Chronicles of Narnia to me when I was young, and then as I got older I read them to myself over and over again. I loved the adventure! When I was feeling particularly sad or lonely I would imagine myself walking into the wardrobe with them and finding a whole new world. I loved the adventure and the idea that kids could have such an impact in Narnia. The parallels to Christianity weren’t necessarily obvious in the moment, but looking back I can see how the ideas in the book helped shape my idea of God.
4. Ann M Martin - Babysitter Club Series
The Babysitters Club Series definitely filled a major role in my life. There were so many books, it was like having a thousand friends! One can’t be lonely when the BSC gang were around! They were familiar, they were friends, they were so much fun. It constantly switched which of them I felt like – was it Kristy? With her no-nonsense attitude, turtlenecks and planning skills? Or Claudia with her love of junk food and artistic side? Rarely was it Stacy – as she was such a fancy New Yorker but often it was Mary Anne with her sweetness and cute boyfriend (haha, wishful thinking). They were the friends I wished I had, and they were always available!
5. Carolyn Keene – The Nancy Drew Series
If the BSC gang was my best friend, Nancy Drew was definitely next in line. I loved her quick thinking – her ability to reason through things and make such amazing discoveries! Though in reality she would scorn at my detective and reading habits (I remember the sadness I felt when she described a negative character as being the type of person who skipped to the back of mystery novels, yikes guilty as charged) I still loved to read along.
6. Diana Gabaldon - Outlander Series
When I hit High School the school librarian recommended this series (actually the same day she recommended Harry Potter – which I rejected as being for kids). To this day I am shocked that she recommended this book to a 16 year old as it was just bursting with sex but I am so thankful. Sex aside it is one of the best series I have ever read. Not only did it teach me so much about history (scottish and more – I learned so so much) but it taught me a lot about marriage and relationships, family, how to respond in stressful situations and what real love looked like. Jamie won my heart instantly and raised the bar for every man there after. While Paul isn’t identical to Jamie, they do have many similarities. They both are tall, red headed and strong, yet their size is only outdone by their hearts and their loyalty. Neither will back down from a fight if necessary though both would find ways to deal with a situation outside of that. I reread the series yet again (I think I’ve finished 6 read throughs of the series thus far) when newly married and realized the similarities I actually had to stop and pray and thank God for giving me my Jamie :)
7. Torey Hayden - “Just another Kid” + actually all of her non-fiction
Torey Hayden is a teacher who works with kids with different types of developmental or situational disabilities – she has worked with some really interesting kids and has taken the time to write out her experiences. I read “Just another Kid” when I was 15 at my aunts house – I was bored and it was on the shelf – and I devoured it. I found it so engaging. I learned things about people and and difficulties that I had never known about. I spent years tracking down all of her books and have read and reread them all many times – learning so much along the way. Now I lend them out to people and love to let them experience the engagement that comes in these stories.
8. J.K. Rowling – The Harry Potter Series
Since rejecting this series as “too kiddie” in high school I’d intended to stay away, I hate to be wrong. But in my early twenties these books were turned into movies so I went. And fell in love and immediately started reading at book 2 and kept reading all the way through, waiting with bated breath for each new installment, rereading the series each year before the newest book would come out. I read the entirety of the final book in one day, including breaking down crying in the tanning salon I was working at – thankfully I was sitting with a pile of towels so I could dry my face. I loved these stories and while I couldn’t necessarily relate to the main three it didn’t matter – they were so engaging, the stories got me. I loved them. I dont know what exactly I learned here but I know I was reminded of how beautiful story telling could be – and how enjoyable a well written book could be.
Harry Potter also opened my eyes to this new sort of genre that I might not have experienced otherwise – it led me to the Hunger Games, to the Divergent series and to Lynn Flewelling – all series that have been wonderful and engaging to read. I’m so thankful for this style of writing and for having my eyes opened to it!
9. Maeve Bunchy – literally all of her books, though "Glass Lake" is my favorite
My roommate Sheri in University recommended “Tara Road” – because she loved it and my name was in it. I was skeptical but gave it a shot and fell in love. I spent the next many years again tracking down all of Maeve Binchy’s books and devouring them. She created such beautiful worlds, with such engaging people, and in doing so gave you these wonderfully deep glimpses into humanity. Her stories were deep at times, and silly at others, and often made me laugh out loud. I love the way she interweaves relationships and connections and basically makes me feel like I am in the story with the characters. Maeve had a true gift and I am so thankful for the books she wrote before she passed. I will never stop reading and rereading her books – each time I pick up one of her giant “door stopper” of a book I feel comforted and as if I’m with friends. What a gift.
As honourable mentions, following in her footsteps is Marian Keyes, Jill Mansell and Cathy Kelly. I love love love their books, and would recommend any of them (though Jill’s books are a lot more light hearted and chick flick like).
10. Kristin Hannah – again, everything she’s written, though “Winter Garden”, “The Things we do for Love” and “Magic Hour” especially stand out.
Lastly comes Kristin Hannah; an author that can write a chick flick type movie in one moment, then a Torey Hayden style page turner, followed by a desperately sad but interesting and educational history fiction piece.
Kristin has a true gift, I love, love, love to read all that she writes. Again I have spent time tracking down all her books and am never disappointed. From the first thrift store finds ($2 for my first few books of hers) to following along on kindle the moment the book comes out, she has me hooked. “Magic Hour” was a beautiful story that engages your heart and really looks into the question of what makes a person have value and the power of believing in someone. “The Things we do for Love” questions what makes a family and how to live in a moment of loss or let down. Lastly, “Winter Garden” is a beautiful piece of historic fiction that engages your mind and your heart – I was swept away in the story. I dare you to read it without crying. I’m not sure how it’s possible.
I’m so thankful for stories and the authors who pour so much into them. Books gave me a glimpse into a life outside of my own as a child, and how they give me comfort and expand my mind. I am so thankful for books of all types – that they don't all have to be by Jane Austen to be good – not to be down on Jane Austen, I know many people who love her books, they just don't catch me personally.
“Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.” ― Jane Smiley, Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel
“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde
“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” ― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish