A couple weeks ago, Tamela Hancock Murray blogged about What Book Changed Your Life? — a blog inspired by Steve Laube’s keynote speeches. I loved the idea of learning about all the books that changed other people’s lives, so I thought I’d borrow it and share it here!
What books changed my life? This is one of the most frequent questions I get in interviews. I’m going to focus on the fiction aspect (though I sneak an allegory at the end.)
1. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter taught me to dream. Taught me to imagine. I’m pretty sure I wrote fanfiction before I knew what fanfiction was. The first three HP books were out and I was busy waiting for the 4th to release, and because I couldn’t possibly wait I remember pulling up a document on Mom’s computer and writing a scene about Dudley and Harry outside at a park. I think that’s also when I learned that writing is actually pretty hard.
But I started dreaming about other worlds. And those worlds led to stories of my own, which led to me writing…well…everything I’ve ever written. 🙂
Fun fact: I hid in a secret room in our rental house when I read these books…and I felt like Harry in the cupboard. (For clarity’s sake–and also so you don’t think my parents were crazy zombies–my hiding happened because it was fun, not because there was actually something to hide from.)
2. The Mark of the Lion Series by Francine Rivers
I got on a Francine Rivers kick (I mean, who didn’t?) when I was a teenager and read The Mark of the Lion Series — a trilogy about a Messianic Jewish slave girl who is purchased by a Roman family. It’s probably the most powerful piece of Christian fiction I’ve ever read, while getting gritty and real. People, READ IT.
But this changed me because I set down the book thinking, “I want to be like Hadassah.” No, that didn’t mean I wanted to be some Roman family’s slave, it meant that I wanted to have faith like hers that trumped fear. She was such a timid thing and I could relate. But the power of Christ flowed through her timidity and small actions. It showed me that we can be great for God without having to be great by the world’s standards.
3. The Blood of Kings Series by Jill Williamson
I can honestly say that this was the first piece of Christian fiction that actually made me FEEL something.
It’s funny hearing about Jill talk about this series–like many of us authors talk about our first series. She mentions all the things she did wrong, and all the things she didn’t know, and all the ways her writing could have been tighter. But I think that’s the beauty of first novels–we’re so ignorant and then they get published and God uses them “just as they are” the same way he uses us just as we are. 🙂
I left those books wanting to a mighty warrior for Jesus–bold and brave and, of course, able to wield a sword like a knight. But this also showed me how powerful fantasy can be with Jesus behind it. Even though the spiritual threads were woven into the story smoothly and in a non-distracting way, I could feel them. I could feel the spiritual growth.
And it made me want to write something that could do that.
4. The Out of Time Series, by yours truly. 😉
Maybe this sounds like tooting my own horn, but every author will tell you that their books carry a part of their personal story. The Out of Time Series was the story of my heart–the story that hit me during the darkest and brightest times of my life. Writing it made me question everything I knew about living, about pursuing God, about being real with Jesus. It made me examine my life and choices and values.
It showed me God’s interaction with my writing, because prior to that I never prayed over books I wrote or ever thought about writing them with Him. But when I wrote A Time to Die I looked at it and thought, “This isn’t me. This isn’t how I normally write. This is…alive.” It was like reading something written for me, but it somehow came out of my fingers.
And thus began my author journey, which is knit permanently to my spiritual journey.
5. The Story of With by Allen Arnold
It’s crazy to think that the first time I read The Story of With was only a year ago. And yet the past year I’ve tackled writing from a completely new mindset–the right mindset. The mindset that makes God the reward, not the published book. It taught me to fight the discouragement in my head. It freed me to write from my heart. It showed me how to accept first drafts and how to find joy in the process.
It turned my writing process into communion with Christ, instead of just wordsmithing. And that doesn’t just change my writing…it changes my living. It renewed my mind and my pen. Any book that sends you to Jesus when you finish reading is a book worth reading again and again.
What books changed your life?