Six Powerful Books that Changed My Life

We all have them — those books that leave half our hearts inside of paper pages. Those books that, when we finish, we can’t imagine reading anything else. Ever. Those books that somehow turn our emotions into vapored ink.

I wanted to share six books/series (aside from the Bible) that did this to me. Because, if we all share six (or even one!) books/series that affected us in that way, then maybe we’ll spread some deeper emotions and vulnerability into the world.

BLog - Nadine Brandes

As a teenager: The Harry Potter Series, by J. K. Rowling

My imagination would still be a dull slab of limited dreams if I hadn’t read the Harry Potter books. They taught me what it was to have an imagination so big, I could create an entire world.

As a christian: The Mark of the Lion Trilogy, by Francine Rivers

These books. Wow…these books. Just read them. They awoke the zeal inside me to be a fiery daughter of Christ. Powerful stories make me want to make them my own. And watching the main character, Hadassah,  love and sacrifice in the passionate way God calls us to do, left my jaw on the linoleum. I picked it back up and decided to be serious about my faith.

As a reader who’d never touched christian fantasy before: Blood of Kings Trilogy, by Jill Williamson

Apart from the Narnia books, this was my first taste of Christian speculative fiction. It was powerful. I found myself thinking more about my relationship with God outside of reading. It grew my spiritual intentionality and made me want to write books that might affect others in a similar way.

As a world-building dystopian nerd: Ready Player Oneby Ernest Cline

Aside from the excessive swearing and long chunks of 80’s trivia, this book blew my mind. It was a great reminder that we need to live the lives we’re given instead of living vicariously through books, virtual worlds, or the lives of others.  I understood world-building before this, but not necessarily virtual world building. It’s been two months since I read it, and I still feel like I’m just waiting to put on my gloves and headset to get back into the Oasis.

As a skepticCinder, by Marissa Meyer

Science-fiction dystopian fairytale re-telling in futuristic China. Yeah, that’s what I thought, too, when I first read the description. What? If my sister hadn’t clobbered me over the head with demands, I never would have read this book. It’s incredible. It taught me that even a cliche storyline (i.e. Cinderella) could be done in a unique, emotion-stirring way.

As a bookworm who’d never heard the term dystopian before: The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

Come on, I write dystopian. Of course this was going to be on my list! I picked it up as a favor to my sister (yes, the same one who clobbered me over the head with Cinder. I owe a lot of my good reads to her.) Eight hours later, still in the same fluffy Barnes & Noble chair, I finished it and purchased the entire series.

I never understood a dystopian world or genre before. The Hunger Games made me want to explore worlds like that, seek meaning in them, and find power that motivates active living. So I started writing A Time to Die. It also made me want to live a life that fought for something I believed in. That great adventure that rests inside all of us.


Books are powerful, no matter the genre. They can move you. This is just a portion — mainly the speculative fiction portion — of the books that changed my life, my thinking, my writing, my dreaming. Now it’s your turn.

What books changed you? I want to read them. 🙂


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About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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  1. Great list, Nadine!

    Books that have had an impact on my life (off the top of my head):
    The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (taught a young mind a lot of things)
    Redeeming Love
    This Present Darkness

    • Yes! Redeeming Love was fantastic! It was hard to keep my list to only six books. 😉

      I haven’t read This Present Darkness yet, but I own it. Thank you for sharing some of your powerful books!

  2. Great list! Books that have impacted me…hmm…

    – The Chronicles of Narnia, The Space Trilogy, and Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
    – The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff
    – Tolkien’s LOTR, of course!
    – Kathy Tyer’s Firebird series (if you haven’t read those you must!)
    – The Blood of Kings Trilogy
    – Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles
    – The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
    – Stepping Heavenward by Elisabeth Prentiss

    …and I’m sure there are many others too!

    I guess I need to check out The Mark of the Lion, Cinder, and Ready Player One because I love all the other stories in your list. 😀

    • Oooh, you have some good ones. 🙂 I’ll have to check those out. Yes, I think you’d really enjoy Mark of the Lion and Cinder. Ready Player One is fantastic world building and story, but it does have some mature content (and dragging sections) that I didn’t like. I feel obligated to throw out a disclaimer. 😉 But if you can push through those, I thought it was great.

  3. Heidi: This book made me fall in love with reading at age 5. I wanted to BE Heidi. Probably shaped my views of what was important in life and gave me a love for the outdoors.

    The Little House Books: I read these dozens of times. I wanted to BE Laura. These also shaped my views of what was really important in life.

    Peace & Love by Janet Lynn: This book was central to my developing faith when I was an early teen.

    The Diary of Anne Frank: As a young teen, I completely identified with Anne Frank and I began to write a daily journal just like her.

    Madeleine L’Engle, everything she wrote: I love the way she writes fantasy and weaves all her stories together even if they aren’t in the same series. I met L’Engle when I was in college and was totally inspired to become a writer.

    Harry Potter: What imagination! These books were the catalyst that inspired me to finally begin writing my first children’s chapter book. I’ve been writing ever since.

    • Oh my, the Little House Books! I completely forgot about those! Definite favorites! I ought to re-read them. You met L’Engle?! Jealousy here…

      Thank you for sharing your list and how they changed you. I’m so inspired to go read right now. [grin]

  4. Oooh, I’m excited to read some of the books on these lists!

    I would add the Twilight books. I know a lot of people trash on this series but I devoured them. Bella’s sacrificial nature resonated with me and I was so fascinated by the idea of a world of mythical creatures hidden within our world.

    Christy by Catherine Marshall greatly inspired my faith and fueled my writing dreams.

    Anything by Jane Austen, but in particular, Persuasion. It is about missed opportunities and second chances.

    Shannon Hale’s Goose Girl, Princess Academy, and Book of a Thousand Days. She is incredible at fusing humor, deep emotion, and fantasy. She is my model for beautiful figurative language.

    Great post Nadine! I love your blog.

    • Aww, thank you Jen!

      And yes, I devoured the Twilight books too. 🙂 It was the first vampire series I ever read and, while I’m at a type of middle ground about some of the messages in the series, they’re popular for a reason! And it’s not just the romance. 😉

  5. Thanks so much for sharing, Nadine! I always love to hear the books (and the reasons!) that mean something to fellow bibliophiles 🙂 How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn was a book I read as a teenager, and which I’ve re-read through the years – there is such turmoil and nitty gritty real-life, yet such utter beauty, too, in that book. And Llewellyn’s use of language blows my mind – the way he spins words together (along with the completely charming Welsh way of speaking) made me want my stories not only to be exciting, but beautifully told, like his.

  6. I read the first of the Mark of the Lion series. A VERY well written story. If my characters were as well developed as Francine Rivers then, I wouldn’t have to really worry about the story. But the whole story is very well written. I thought it was racy but honest to how the Romans lived.

    Blood of Kings Trilogy. I haven’t read that yet but I have the first book. Got it at the Idaope 2014 Conference. 🙂 I’m excited to get a chance to read it.

    The series that really got me into reading though was the Redwall series by Brian Jaques. I love that series. Talking animals in a medieval setting with swords and armor?! Why yes, what more would a young boy want?

    I also liked G. A. Henty’s book In Freedom’s Cause. I thought it was very good.

    And a 2nd person Choose Your Own Adventure Story called Out of the Wilderness. I don’t know the author and can’t seem to find it on Amazon.

    I guess I’ve liked most books I’ve read. But Redwall inspired me to want to write. That was when I had the first idea of, maybe it would be fun to be an author.

  7. I’m curious about the origin of the photo used to illustrate this article. I originally saw it as a thumbnail for a Facebook advertisement a few days ago; “Which Banned Book Are You? by I did a reverse image search on Google, which brought me here. As far as I can tell, these are the only two instances of this image on the Internet.

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