Saturday, June 11, 2011

Five books that changed who I am:

Bethany tagged me for participation in a book meme and I'm happy because talking about books + filling out memes = my kind of fun.

If it were even possible to compile a complete list of the books that formed and shaped me, I'm sure it would contain dozens of titles. Books have shaped so much about who I am. They've opened my eyes to truth, taken me to places I'm far too much of a wimp to go to, chastened me for being such a wimp, and helped me discover the beauty of words. I devoured books when I was a girl. Now, I chew more slowly but I love them just as much. Here are just five of the many I have been fed by:

1) The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. I've read this many times since I was in my early teens. It's the true story of one family's loving defiance against Hitler's anti-Semitism in World War II, their own tiny world war waged by hiding Jews in a secret space in their home in Holland. Their defiance came at a great price, but it also resulted in great faith. I wish I could do this book justice in my brief review, but I can't. Honestly life-changing.

2) Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot. I've read this one multiple times, too, and every re-reading provides me with something new as well as a fresh dose of wisdom and passion. Although some will argue with me (I'm looking at you, Anastasia Lambert!), this book is incredibly romantic with a unique authenticity and genuineness. It has changed who I am by exposing me to new thoughts about love and romance -- true love, which is so much more than happily ever after -- and pointing me back to the Author of it all.

3) A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot. This is Elliot's biography of feisty, courageous Amy Carmichael, a poet who crossed oceans and cultures to break down the boundaries of caste exclusion and rescue young Indian girls from temple prostitution -- all of this in an era when frank discussions of sexual crime were highly taboo, especially from a middle-class, church-going single lady. Amy Carmichael said that she would rather burn out than rust out, and her burning is a challenge to my cravings for comfort and ease. [edit: Elliot's autobiography? I must have been half asleep]

4) On Writing Well by William Zinsser. This 'classic guide to writing nonfiction' might seem an unlikely inclusion in a list so far dominated by thoughtful discussions on life and faith, but writing is a big part of who I am, and this book has molded that to some extent. It's a brilliant handbook on the craft of writing and, though it has a decidedly journalistic focus, its sage advice rings true whether you write stories, review records, or scribble plays. Obviously, I'm still a work in progress as far as writing is concerned; this is evident by the fact that I crammed three cliches into two successive sentences. Awesome.

5) The Billabong Books by Mary Grant Bruce. Any number of books could also have gone here in the list, the spot reserved for fiction that I consumed like a starving creature as a young teen. But the Billabong Books (yes, I'm cheating by including a whole series here) are special in that they are so distinctly Australian. They are not brilliant works of literature (though they are good) and yes, they're decidedly dated when it comes to issues such as race, class, and gender, but they preserve so much from an amazing period in Australia's history. Written from about 1915 to 1940, they cover war, the depression, and the remarkable shifts in culture and society in Australia during that time. They are also wholesome, good fun adventure books which made me proud to be an Aussie kid. I read these books so many times I'm sure I could quote whole passages even now. They made me love living in a rural area, they made me love story-writing, and they made me wish I had an awesome older brother. Where is my Jim?

What would be on your list? I love talking books so I am opening this meme up to everyone. I tag you alllll! If you don't have a blog, feel free to leave your reply as a comment.

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Laura Elizabeth -- YES. I love the clashing, joyful riot of colours that God puts together in nature. So unlikely and yet so right.

Samantha R -- it's so hard to get good shots when you're powering through the countryside :).


  1. I'm hopeless at choosing things like lists of books that changed my life, so I'm just commenting to say I loved the Billabong series heaps too....and always wanted big brothers like those old bricks Jim and Wally!!
    Oh, and Elisabeth Elliot is FAB.

  2. To choose just 5 would be hard. But I could do it. I think :)

    Elisabeth Elliot's books are high on my list for sure. I have a few others that have def. impacted my life.
    The Blessing is one of those.
    And One Thousand Gifts too.

  3. Books have changed my life, definitely. But I've read literally thousands of them; it's very hard to pinpoint just five! I'll give it a shot...

    1. I and Thou, Martin Buber
    An ethics book about how we treat others, Buberian philosophy sums up my system of morality more adequately and succinctly than anything else. Treat other people as human beings and work to be in communion with them and with God.

    2. Grandmother's Attic series, Arletta Richardson
    A collection of stories about the growing-up and life of a girl who tries to be good but gets in lots of mischief, these books were not only entertaining, but also offered me hope that I (who always magically got into trouble, too and despaired of ever Being Good) might turn out ok. Besides, they were funny. ;-)

    3. Elements of Style, Strunk and White
    More than any other, this book influenced my approach to writing (shorter and more clear is always better!) as well as my approach to a lot of life. Brevity, efficiency and clarity in all things! (haha.)

    4. A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN, by Brian McLaren
    This book has an awfully long title, but it has proven fundamental in helping articulate my beliefs both about religion and philosophy. Basically, Truth is alive and therefore not able to be captured in a single symbol, word, or image.

    5. Language As Symbolic Action, Kenneth Burke
    This book is one of those which took the top off my cranium and let my brain roam. It explores the extent to which language is symbolic and motion, something which cannot actually be fully captured or explained. It's a bit heavy, but every time I read it it takes my breath away.

  4. Thanks so much for participating Danielle. I thought a book meme would be right up your alley. Very nice to see what books have changed you. Most of them I have never read, but heard of, so I should try a few out.

  5. There is a reason my username all over the web is "BushMaid". ;) I love the Billabong books! My five books would be:

    - The Bible
    This one needs no explanation.

    - Before You Meet Prince Charming, Sarah Mally
    This book is so full of wisdom; it is like a handbook on life for young women.

    Stepping Heavenward, Elisabeth E. Prentiss.
    This book never ceases to encourage me. I read this at a time when the things I was going through seemed as though I was the only one, and this book reminded me that I wasn't.

    What Katy Did, Susan Coolidge
    So many lessons I've learnt from this book, I can't write them all!

    Ranger's Apprentice, John Flanagan
    These books made me realize that my dream of becoming a writer could become a reality.

  6. I can't pass this meme up! I will have to think on what five books are on my list.;)

  7. Hi, Danielle... I know this is a REALLY _REALLY_ old post, but I thought I would join in... just for fun... ;)

    My top five life-changing books would be:

    1) The living, abiding, unaltering Word of God

    2) The Hiding Place. I have to agree with you on this one... it amazed me every time I read it!

    3) Personality Plus by Florence Littauer. I loved this book because it outlines the way different people think and why they respond to things the way they do. It also helped me to see areas in my own personality that I need to work on.

    4) How to ruin Your Life By 40 by Steve Farrar. This should have been up in number 2 spot. Written to younger people around 20 years old, it outlines the 'biggies' that are going to come up in life over the next couple of decades and how to make Godly decisions that we won't regret on our 40th birthdays...

    5) A Love That Multiplies by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. This is a book very close to my heart because This beautiful couple have the same passion and love for children and family that I do... The book tells the background story of dating, marriage, and then their lives since the births of up to their 18th child (now 19). They have such beautiful hearts and the book is altogether lovely.

    Anyway, that's my five, no matter how late! :D


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