Which Books Changed Your Life?

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?



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. I’d have to say that Harry Potter is at the top of my list too. It was my introduction to fantasy and I fell in love!

  2. The first book that changed my life was War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. That book taught me how to love reading

    The Chronicles of Narnia also taught me how to see the Christian life as a battle -one that if you try to fight alone, you will fail. In those books I love how every time Aslan appears, things change, and every word out of his mouth makes me cry.

    The Out of Time series also changed me. It opened up the world up Christian Fiction in a way I never thought possible. From the first day that my friend brought A Time To Die to school and I opened the first page, I’ve realized that my personal walk with God can be so much deeper than it’s ever been before.

    The last two books are Unashamed by Lecrae and Rooms by James L Rubart, because they have inspired me to use my talents for God and surrender completely. Unashamed is a true story that takes place in the south, and Rooms is fiction that takes place at my home, but both hold special places in my heart ❤

    P.s. My friend and I are freaking about your next book! We can’t wait to hear about it!

    • I love your response to The Chronicles of Narnia. How beautiful! I’m reading those aloud to my husband right now–he’s never read them before so it’s fun to share the allegory with him and see his responses.

      You’re so sweet to say that about the Out of Time Series. That response is such a blessing to my heart. I am praying for you and your walk with God!

      p.s. New book info will be in my next newsletter–it goes out on Monday!!!

      • Can’t wait!!!!

        And I should really revisit Narnia one of these days……I’m currently bookless

  3. Mine was Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand. It’s very foresty and magical, which I really enjoyed, but the main character has anxiety and depression, which I also have. It’s so good and ~real and hopeful and I just want to shove it in everyone’s faces ahhhh

  4. The Jewel Series by Hallee Bridgeman inspired me to want to write for Christ. I had been dabbling in writing for so long with no goals, no idea what to do with it, no thought of how to use my gifts of writing. I began to read books by Hallee and thought, this is something I can do, this is possible for “me”. And so I began to write and now I have a 3 book series which I’m submitting to publishers. That series was a catalyst that spurred me to want to dive into writing Christian Fiction.

  5. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand I read it as a teen (and 2-3 times after that); it’s still my favorite novel despite it’s atheistic POV. There is a lot about personal responsibility and doing the right thing.
    The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan – This is a periodic re-read for me. Matthew 7:13-14 is one of my favorite passages. It’s about passing through that narrow gate into the great adventure! Following Christ is to be a challenging journey on a narrow path!
    The Zion Chronicles by Brock and Bodie Thoene. Not only are they excellent examples of what good Christian fiction is, they are historical and provide a powerful message. I read the final book September 10, 2001. I could not fathom such acts of terrorism…
    Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia. The two series that converted this hater of speculative fiction. I wouldn’t be reading (devouring) or writing speculative fiction without these books.
    More recently The Five Times I Met Myself by James L. Rubart It puts into perspective what true success means and setting your priorities.
    How the Out of Time series impacted me – knowing that we’re not guaranteed a century, decade, month, or even a day. Not even our next hour or moment are secure. It’s inspired me to live life to its fullest. Excelling in work and writing, enjoying my family, and pursuing all activities with joy and wonder.

    • Oh the Pilgrim’s Progress!! I love that book and read it over and over as a teen.

      And what a blessing that Harry Potter and Narnia opened you up to spec-fic! You are such a wonderful asset to the spec-fic crowd–I can’t imagine it without you! <3

      You are so sweet to say those things about the Out of Time Series. <3 Amazing how God uses stories to grow our lives with Him! <3

      • “You are such a wonderful asset to the spec-fic crowd–I can’t imagine it without you! <3"

        You made my day!!
        Yes, 18-year-old Parvin inspired a woman old enough to be her mother!

  6. At the top of the list is actually A Time to Die. xD

    My first introduction to fantasy must have been… Wow, I’ve been reading fantasy for a long time. I guess it was either Bryan Davis’ Raising Dragons, or Donita K. Paul’s Dragonspell.

    • Aww you sweetheart!! My heart is smiling. <3

      I remember finding both those fantasies in my nearby bookstore as a teen. So thankful for those authors for getting Christian fantasy out there! And, um, DRAGONS.

  7. Pilgrim’s Progress changed my life as the first book I epicly fangirled and obsessed over. Then the Tales of Goldstone Wood and the WIngfeather Saga changed me in that I discovered that Christian fiction could be cool, awesome, and fantastical.

  8. Thank you for your kind thoughtful insight. Now that my ministry had official begun, I hope to both read all the books you suggested as well as publish my own.

I love hearing from you!