Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How influential are books?

How influential are books? Hugely influential! It’s amazing how so many words in a row can impact our lives and return to our memories many years after reading them. I’ve had countless books that have been significant to me, so I was very happy to have the opportunity to write about the ten most influential books in my life for Sarah’s post-a-day December. And though you may think some of these titles too childish to be called “influential”, these books are still ones I refer back to as a young woman for the lessons I learnt from them as a child.

11. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
"The sun sets in the west (just about everyone knows that), but Sunset Towers faced east. Strange!"
Now the very first thing I did was cheat, and add a book to my top ten. But since you can guess what my #1 will be, hopefully you’ll forgive me! I’ve included this book because it’s my absolute favourite piece of fiction – purely for fiction’s sake. It is a masterpiece of mystery. It is brilliantly written. The pacing, the quirky characters, the humour, the plot; all of it is simply epic. The very first sentence is the answer to the entire book, AND – the author wrote this book by the seat of her pants: not a jot of planning, and yet she churned out a masterpiece that crossed every T and dotted every single I by its grand finale! I’ve read it countless times, and I never cease to be amazed. If any piece of literature has influenced my passion for writing, it’s this one.

10. Nightmare Academy by Frank Peretti
“Take away truth and people will lie. Scoff at virtue, and betrayal becomes a matter of course.”
I read this during a period where I had many questions floating at the back of my mind about why I believed what I did, and what Truth really meant. Nightmare Academy was the perfect book for me at that time. When the two main characters are sent to spy out a school where there is no right or wrong, the results escalate to a catastrophic level, and the logic of a world without Truth was groundbreaking and revelational for me. I still refer back to certain arguments posed in this book when in discussions with those who are unsaved.

9. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
“Whatever comes," she said, "cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.”
How I adored this book as a child, and still do today. As much as I love typical fairytales, this book is the journey of a girl who began her life in a fairytale, and had to have it all taken away from her. It’s an incredible lesson of praising God in the storm. Will you let those trials and hardships shape who you are? Or will you always remain the prince or princess you truly are on the inside? Do you let your circumstances shape your life, or do you respond to them in the light of your calling? This book has so many timeless lessons in it that I could read over again and again.

8. What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge
“Tomorrow I will begin," thought Katy, as she dropped asleep that night. How often we all do so! And what a pity it is that when morning comes and tomorrow is today, we so frequently wake up feeling quite differently; careless or impatient, and not a bit inclined to do the fine things we planned overnight.”
Ahh Katy. If ever you were real, we would have been soul sisters. As the eldest of seven children, and Katy being the eldest of quite a number herself, her peeves, frustrations, temper flares, faults and failings rang all too true for me whilst growing up. I loved that I had a fictional friend who shared my tomboy tendencies, ready wit and playfulness, but also yearned to become all that she wished she would someday be. The tragedy that began her recreation into the gentle soul she became was such a source of inspiration to me, and I have never forgotten how her life impacted mine growing up.

7. When God Winks at You by SQuire Rushnell
"Every so-called coincidence or answered prayer is God's way of giving you His small, silent communication. A little wink saying, 'Hey kid! I'm thinking of you... right now!' "
I picked this book up at random whilst browsing books at the library one day. Obviously it was not a coincidence. I sat on the floor in the aisle for about half an hour, engrossed by the most incredible stories of “coincidences” that had God-fingerprints all over them. This book has been one of the biggest sources of encouragement, inspiration and uplifting pick-me-ups I have ever read. It is packed with tales of how God moved in impossible situations, brought peace to stormy seas, and brought miracles into being in day-to-day lives. I have given away a couple of copies, so I need to buy another one. Honestly, this is one of the best books ever written; just a page can make your day!

6. Little Britches by Ralph Moody
“A man's character is like his house. If he tears boards off his house and burns them to keep himself warm and comfortable, his house soon becomes a ruin. If he tells lies to be able to do the things he shouldn't do but wants to, his character will soon become a ruin. A man with a ruined character is a shame on the face of the earth.”
The most incredible thing about this series by Ralph Moody is that – it’s true! This incredible man’s life is a great source of inspiration to my whole family for his integrity, his ingenuity, and his brilliant work ethic. Seeing how he learnt lessons the hard way, the wisdom his father passed on to him before his early death and the way it impacted the rest of Ralph’s life causes me to want to strive harder to achieve all that God has set before me to do. Ralph is living proof of the verse “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow to it”. Living in the will of God caused everything Ralph turned his hand to to succeed. This book is definitely a must read for everyone.

5. Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard
“But, Much-Afraid, I have already warned you that Love and Pain go together, for a time at least. If you would know Love, you must know pain, too.”
The journey of Much-Afraid is one I’ve identified with much over the course of my life. Every enemy she encounters and every victory the Lord brings her have always been faith bolsters for me. This book was like a girl’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress, and as such, I was able to identify with the main character so much more. Much-Afraid’s constant struggle against fear, and the fact that she is crippled made for many hardships she had to believe in faith to overcome. A particular lesson I learned from this book was to “bloom where you are planted”. How easy it is to fret and struggle against difficult circumstances instead of making the best of where you are! That lesson continues to motivate and challenge me.

4. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
“Don’t pattern yourself after her, Rebecca. Clover blossoms that grow in the fields beside Sunnybrook mustn’t be tied in the same bouquet with gaudy sunflowers. They are too sweet and fragrant and wholesome.”
If ever I have a daughter, her name will be Rebecca, for a closer fictional character to my heart there is none, but this young lady from Sunnybrook farm. Her creativity, her love of colours, outdoors, words and life, her embarrassing moments, her times of triumph; my heart plummeted and soared for her with ever page of her journey. Rebecca’s chastity and innocence coupled with her intelligence and righteous anger for the things that stirred her has buoyed me in many occasions over the years. Through these books, I learnt the value of a pure heart and guileless eyes in comparison to the gaudy and flirtatious. Words of wisdom from these volumes still guide me to this day.

3. Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman
“Because I care so much about what you think, my hiding has everything to do with you. I desperately want to manage your opinion of me. Nearly anything I do is to convince you I am good.”
I am a people pleaser, a mask wearer (though I’m learning to take it off). The opinions of others matter so much to me that I find it difficult to be the way God made me, and instead I strive to be acceptable to the people around me – a good girl. Emily Freeman hits upon all the points that “good girls” are striving for misguidedly, and gently reminds us that we weren’t meant to live for the multitudes, but to live solely for One. I’ve read this book only once, yet it deeply impacted me in that short amount of time before I passed it on to someone else. I need to get it back and learn again how to walk in the freedom of being unmasked.

2. Stepping Heavenward by Mrs E. Prentiss
“Our course heavenward is like the plan of the zealous pilgrim of old, who for every three steps forward, took one backward.”
This is yet another journeying book (I think you can guess the theme most relevant to me in reading!). Kathleen’s transformation from a rebellious, foolhardy, hotheaded young woman to a mature, peaceful, faithful and wise young lady was one I aspired to in my early years. Her lack of fervour for reading the Bible, her impetuousness and doubting nature exactly mirrored a period of my life as a young Christian. I learned so much from the wisdom of her wise mother, which in turn also helped me to pay heed to the words of my own. My Mum is so much like Kathleen’s, and many of the lessons she learned over the course of the book, I’ve found myself learning from my Mum over the course of my life. This book continues to exhort me to become more and more like the image of Christ.

1. The Bible
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” – Ps. 19:7-9
The most influential book in my life above all others is the inspired Word of God. So much more than a book, it is life (Heb. 4:12). It is the communication of love from my Father in heaven to me. It is wisdom, it is Truth. It is above all, and always will be first and foremost in my heart and mind. It is the gateway to the throne room of God, and it is the source of my inspiration, and the source of my peace.

Jasmine is a young woman in love with her Saviour God, a homeschool graduate, and the eldest of seven children. She calls herself eccentric, goes by the name of “BushMaid” online and likes white chocolate. She is a passionate jack-of-all-trades musician, obsessive writer of fiction and non, and freelance graphics designer who loves to spend time with her awesome family, read books, and dance under stormy skies. Visit her at:

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