One of my Facebook friends shared a post about the ten books that have most influenced his life, which I thought was a great idea. But it took me two weeks to figure out which books I wanted to write about and by the time I hit 500+ words I thought, why not just make it a blog post? So if you are reading this and care to share your most influential books consider yourself “tagged.” I’d love to see what books have had the biggest impact on your lives either in the comments or on your own blog (there’s an article topic you don’t have to come up with on your own!). The original list was 10 but I ended up with 8, so post however many you like.
A rather obvious first choice for a Christian blogger, but this book definitely deserves the top spot when talking about books that influenced my life. It’s still influencing everything I do and I fall more in love with this book and it’s Author every time I read it. It’s the greatest love story every told, the best handbook you’ll ever find for life, and an incredible source of hope and purpose. Since more than 50% of this blog is devoted to talking about this book I’ll stop now. You know I could (and have!) keep going on about it for several books worth of text.
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
I could have put several books by C.S. Lewis on this list, but this is the first of his non-fiction I read and it’s the one that’s been most influential (with Screwtape Letters a close second). I just love the way he writes about his faith. Not only is he firmly grounded in scripture, but he’s also a persuasive speaker to those who don’t already put their faith in the Bible. In the words of Anthony Burgess, “C.S. Lewis is the ideal persuader for the half convinced, for the good man who would like to be a Christian but finds his intellect getting in the way.”
Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
I started researching my personality after starting college and realizing I was even more different from “normal” people than I’d previously thought. This is one of the first books I read on the subject and it literally changed my life. Like many introverts, particularly INFJs, I always felt there was something off about the fact that I couldn’t seem to socialize the way so many other people did. This book pointed out how introvert brains are wired differently and that there are strengths in that personality. In other words, it shows that we’re not broken extroverts and introversion isn’t something to “fix.”
The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron
I picked up this book the same time as “Quiet” and it had just as much influence. Aron’s research into Sensory Processing Sensitivity is fascinating and it’s helped me so much to understand this aspect of my personality. High sensitivity traits explained why other people’s moods affect me, why I’m made uncomfortable by bright lights, loud noises, and large crowds, and why I need to withdraw during busy days, among other things. Since reading this book, I’ve actually become physically healthier as well as more confident and emotionally balanced.
Refiner’s Fire by Sylvia Bambola
This book is a fictional account of the persecutions endured by Christians in Romania under the reign of Nicolae Ceaușescu. It follows the story of two brothers separated when they were young. As adults, one is a Romanian army official and clandestine Christian while the other is the American Ambassador to Romania. I read it at a time when the people around me were starting to worry about persecutions facing Christians in the U.S. because they were being told not to bring Bibles to school and the 10 commandments were being taken out of pubic buildings. This book snapped that into perspective for me. Most of us in the U.S. don’t really know what persecution is. These Romanian Christians were literally risking their lives to meet with each other and even read the Bible. If a church had a Bible they would cut it up into sections so each person could hide the pages and read them until the next time they met a Christians and could swap pieces of God’s precious word. That’s the sort of dedication to faith that I hope God will see in my life.
Dinotopia Lost by Alan Dean Foster
I’ll admit this is a strange choice. A book about pirates invading an island of dinosaurs – how could that have a lasting influence on someone? But by the time I got to this book at age 16, I was already thoroughly immersed in the world of Dinotopia from other novels and I loved it’s peaceful, connected philosophy. Who wouldn’t want to move to an island people with peaceful dinosaurs where you never have to worry about money and there’s always something creative and/or useful to do? So reading that in Dinotopia one was “supposed to act like a grown-up” by the age of 15 and that “freedom and play were encouraged; irresponsibility was not” stuck with me. This fictional world also played a key role in shaping my ideology and style that now prompt people to call me a hippy.
Breath deep. Seek peace.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
I’ve enjoyed sci-fi that makes you think since Dad first introduced us to Star Trek, but this is the first book I read along those lines. And I’m still thinking about the big moral questions of Ender’s Game and its sequels years after reading it for the first time. This book also had a profound influence on me as a writer, particularly in how I write characters.
By the way, I think Ender’s an INFJ not an INTJ. That will mean nothing to many of you, but for some it will be like throwing down a gauntlet — discussion on this topic can get quite heated. I’m not sure that I want to write a whole post on it, but thought I’d mention it while I’m on the topic of this book.
Evelina by Frances Burney
I suppose it’s not so much that this book was influential as it was that the college professor who taught it was influential. Because I enjoyed this book, my professor suggested we conduct an independent study to keep reading Frances Burney’s novels. Then we added some Mary Wollstonecraft and Anne Radcliffe, the one-quarter independent study turned into two, which turned into an undergraduate research project, which led to presenting my research twice at the Denman and graduating with research distinction. I’d never expected to complete a project like that while in college and the whole experience was wonderful. It changed how I read books, how I think about research, and how I viewed what I was capable of intellectually and academically.
Which books would you put on your list?
9 thoughts on “What Are The Books That Have Influenced You The Most?”
I love book lists. My list would include Knowing God by JI Packer.
I read the HSP book years ago. Need to get the Quiet book. Mere Christianity is worth a re-read.
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I’ve been thinking of re-reading “Mere Christianity” myself. It’s such a good book. And I’ll have to check out “Knowing God.” Haven’t read that one
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I have read the Bible twice, and it has had some level of influence over me–perhaps not as much as it should. The Lord of the Rings still captivates me with the adventure, friendship, and fantasy. The whole genre of Gothic historical romance or mystery has had both a positive and negative impact on my personality. I regret reading certain perverse and violent novels.
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Me too, regarding what you said about novels you regret reading. There are quite a few books that I now wish I’d never picked up or that I’d stopped reading sooner. But Lord of the Rings is fantastic! I love Tolkien’s world and his books 🙂
The Karamazov Brothers and The Screwtape Letters have influenced me tremendously—probably more than any other books beyond the Bible. Nonfictional books include A Small Cup of Light by Ben Palpant (I read this 5 weeks ago and every day since has been affected by it for the better), Accidental Pharisee by Larry Osborne, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller, and Learning Contentment by Nancy Wilson are the tops for me. Other books may have impacted me—I’m sure—without my knowing.
I enjoyed reading your list. I’ve gone through your to-read list of classical literature—I think that’s what the list was—and it’s fun to see how many books we have in common that we’d like to read.
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Ooo, now I’m really looking forward to reading The Brothers Karamazov. I almost started it last week but opted for The Mysteries Of Udolpho instead. I’ll put it next on my list. And I’ll be looking up the other books you mentioned, too. My to-read list is huge and yet I’m always looking for more recommendations 🙂
Several of those would have to make my list too. I am currently reading Mere Christianity (I know, finally), but so far The Ragamuffin Gospel and The Case for Christ have sufficed me. I do like Mere Christianity the best, however. My husband says The Gospel Primer is also really good.
In addition to that, The Bible, Quiet and Ender’s Game, I would have to also include Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and then I’d have to decide between a bunch of middle school books set in foreign cultures and The House of the Scorpion.
I also have to admit that Harry Potter would have a spot because it was the first thing that made me realize that it’s worth reading books. Later on, I persevered through Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and learned that I could also read very long books. The Picture of Dorian Gray was my first classical love, and now I am attempting a new feat with Les Miserables. (It’s 60 hours long!)
I also think Ender used way more Ti/Fe than an INTJ naturally would. He might have had some INTJ moments, but I thought that at least half the time his thought processes seemed more akin to an INFJ. Bean is similarly typed as an INTJ but is extremely INTP-ish. I recognized a lot of Ne and Ti in Ender’s Shadow. It was harder to tell in Ender’s Game.
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You mentioned a few I haven’t read. I’ll have to look them up! I’m getting so many books for my to-read list in the comments on this post — I love it 🙂
I’m glad someone agrees with me about Ender. And I agree with your analysis of Bean (loved Ender’s Shadow and its sequels). Any thoughts on Peter’s type? I’d been thinking maybe ENTJ, but it’s been a while since I read the Shadow series and it’s hard to type him just in Ender’s Game.
I thought of Peter as an ENTJ during Ender’s Game for sure, but I admit I was disappointed with him in the Shadow series. He was made out to be pretty pathetic, and something about it didn’t seem so ENTJ-ish. It is also possible that is my bias speaking however. I love ENTJs, especially seeing how I am married to one. I was very interested in Peter during Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow, but he never seemed to do anything impressive like he did with Locke and Demosthenes in the Shadow sequels. I was so sad. Anyway, he is probably an ENTJ after all. The only other suitable options are the other ExTx types and I can’t think of any particular one that fits better than ENTJ, though ENTP seems least likely. In some ways he appears S-ish during the sequels, but he isn’t much during Ender’s Game. There’s so much plotting and careful planning involved in the original, so perhaps it’s the Se development during adolescence that makes him appear more like an ESTP or ESTJ.
Yes I’m dying for someone else I know to read Dawn of Wonder. I bet that’s one you haven’t picked up because it was self-published and it is hard to find, but it’s my new favorite book and no one I know has tried it yet because it’s not at our library. I need to buy a few copies I guess. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell might be something you would like too, if you haven’t. They’re both fantasy, and both long, though JS&MN is written with a lot of victorian-style British humor and extremely slow storytelling (I won’t lie). The footnotes are often very fun, often like short stories by themselves. One was about a girl who got shut in a magical broom cupboard and took up four pages by itself.
DoW is modern young adult fantasy but it reads like it was hybridized with classic literature. Also, even before I knew for sure that the author is a Christian, I was extremely impressed with every aspect of the book. I was especially astounded at how realistic the characters were. I love it when I like many characters in a book, but I love the main character the most. He was so well developed.
But I should stop myself from gushing any further, lest I overwhelm your comments section; though typing this very sentence has reminded me: I’ve been seeking a word all week and kept coming up with “espouse”, which I knew was wrong, but now I recall that “effuse” is the one I want as a pretentious term for “gush”. Binging on Oliver Twist and Oscar Wilde is probably dusting off a few dormant parts of my brain. I normally listen to modern things but I was getting bored.
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