{ten things for friday • xxix}

August 30, 2014 2 Comments

If you’ve been on social media lately, you may have seen the “Ten Book Challenge” that’s currently making the rounds. The general gist of it is to make a list of ten books that have stayed with you over time– not to over-think it, but name the first ten that come to mind. They don’t have to be necessarily “great” works of literary art– that term alone gives me flashbacks to Dr. J. Evans Pritchard, PhD. They simply have to be great in the way that they have influenced your life.

I was challenged by my good friend and fellow Downers Grove South H.S. alumna Julie Miller, and being a passionate bibliophile took her up on it. Without thinking too much about it, I listed my ten. Soon after, my friend Lisa expressed an interest as to why I chose the works that I did, so I told her I’d do a write-up of my reasons.

And here we are.

1. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

When I first read this story as a young child, I hated it. I totally didn’t get it, and thought that the tree was incredibly foolish for letting the boy walk all over her (it?). Why on earth would she be happy being used in such a way? Ugh. No thank you. Move along; nothing to see here.

But. Over time I grew to appreciate this little tale as my own experience of love and relationships grew and developed. Whether you read Silverstein’s parable as an allegory of a parent-child relationship, or perhaps a metaphor of God’s unconditional love– this children’s story is timeless and poignant.

2. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Another book that I first read as a girl, this book is one of the reasons I love gardening so very much. The idea of the hidden garden, full of mystery and romance was incredibly influential to me.

Aside from that though, the major theme of love as the great healing agent rings so true to me personally. That people can change, walls can come down, and when we look past outward appearances and snap judgments that we see the wonderful and lovely humanity in all of us.

(As a side note– I spent the morning before I made this list working in my garden. After the fact, I mused that had I spent the morning writing I probably would have picked a different book in its stead– Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Jo March was one of my girlhood heroes. Either way, both novels have impacted me greatly.)

3. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Part poetry, part memoir, Voskamp’s book has created a movement in the Christian world. Her challenge to find gratitude even in the midst of darkness has provided me with much to reflect upon.

As a writer, I am inspired by her signature blend of expressing faith-filled topics with a grace and lyrical style that is more than just liturgy. Rather, her words are art.

As a reader, I am moved to find beauty in all the little moments– God-winks in all their myriad shapes and sizes.

4. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

I have a huge love of 19th century English literature, and love all the greats of that era. Austen, Dickens, the Brontës, Hardy. But when forced to choose just one from the genre, I pick the slightly more obscure North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Think similar themes to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but a little more brooding ambience and greater social commentary.  

In fact, awhile back I dedicated an entire post to my kinship to the novel’s hero, Margaret Hale.

Throw in a fabulous BBC adaptation of Gaskell’s work (Richard Armitage as Thornton? Shut the front door.), and its place is firmly secured on my list. 

5. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

Just mention the title of this classic to me and suddenly I’m back sitting in my senior year English honors class at Downers South with the immortal Richard Connaughton. Hands down the most challenging work I studied in high school, it opened my eyes to the power of words to pick you up, swirl around you like a tornado, and leave you utterly changed. 

The stream-of-consciousness style explored in the first section of the novel was like nothing I had ever experienced, and as I threw myself into Benjy Compson’s world for the first time, the power of Faulker’s method on my young mind was intense. 

6. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

I had a bit of an internal tug-of-war on this one, trying to choose between The Lorax and The Sneetches. Ultimately, our friend the lifted lorax won out.

I’ve always felt a deep connection to the earth, and have pretty strong opinions about our God-given stewardship of this beautiful world we call home. Obviously then, the environmental themes resonate with me. It’s also a favorite story of my budding ecologist, nine-year-old Taylor.

But just as much, I love the idea that even when everything seems dark and lost, there is still hope for the future. Things can change if we have the courage to be the good in the world. I adore that Seuss’ tale ends on that hopeful note. 

7. A Quiet Heart by Patricia T. Holland

A book that I reread at least once every year, it’s probably the single most quoted work here on my blog. Of all the wonderful, strong female writers of my faith, Sister Holland’s words have influenced me the very most. (And if you know how much I love other strong Mormon women like Sheri Dew, Valerie Hudson, and Julie Beck, that’s saying a great deal!)

My parents gave me this book for my birthday during a particularly difficult time in my life, and I’m forever grateful that they did. It will make you laugh, ponder, and inspire you to deepen your trust and relationship with God.

8. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

I picked this of Lewis’ canon, though I could have populated this entire list with just his works. Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity— all pivotal and precious books in my library. But I picked The Great Divorce because of the way it has spoken to me personally. 

I was first introduced to this more obscure work of Lewis’ by my favorite religion professor at BYU, Richard Draper. The influence of St. Augustine, Milton, Dante, Blake, and George MacDonald mix beautifully alongside the signature Lewis wisdom and wit mix to create a thought-provoking, fantastic tale.

9. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

This book has left its footprints on my heart for so many reasons. It reminds me to always consider the important things in life. And that the important things aren’t always what we’d immediately consider as an adult in the modern world. It asks the reader to reconsider exactly what true matters of consequence are, and look at life with more childlike eyes. One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from its pages: “One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Also, on a slightly more personal note, my mom gave a copy to my dad of this book as an engagement present. I’ve always thought that was such a lovely and sweet gift. Consequently, I had a lot of meaningful one-on-one talks about “matters of consequence” growing up. 🙂

10. Sacred Writ, including but not limited to the Bible and the Book of Mormon

Such a list would not be complete– nor accurate– without the inclusion of Scripture. Something I am given to reading every single day, these sacred books have had a very real and profound influence in who I am today. 

The teachings of Jesus Christ are collectively the singular lodestar of my life. I love Him and worship Him as the Master Teacher and Savior of the world. Because of Him I have experienced peace that passes all understanding. (See Philippians 4:7)

• • •
So, there you go, Lisa! Probably way more than you ever wanted to know on the subject, but it was a fun exercise for me to revisit exactly why these were the works that came immediately to my mind at this time in my life. I think you learn a lot about a person by the books one might put on their “Top Ten.”
What would you put on yours?



  1. Reply


    September 2, 2014

    I don't have pictures like you, but here is my list:
    You Are Special -Max Lucado – This book was introduced to me at a time when my middle boy, Kyle, was really struggling with self worth issues and this was a way I could help him understand how special he really is.
    Heckedy Peg – Audrey Wood – This is yet another children's book – I guess they resonate more with me! This book gave me the motivation to start spending more one-on-one time with my children so that I came to feel I could also identify them as the mother in this book did, and as our Heavenly Father can.
    Little House on the Prairie series – Laura Ingalls Wilder – For a lonely only child until I was almost 13, this series became a great escape for me and gave me a love of history.
    Yertle the Turtle – Dr. Suess – The one and only book that survived from my childhood, I do love the story, but the sentimental value of having the actual book I grew up with is the stronger reason it is on this list.
    Between Ring & Temple – Victor Cline, Quinn G. McKay, and Moana B. Bennett – Josh and I were engaged for 13 months and this book was given to us the December before our May wedding as a Christmas gift. We read one chapter a week as our FHE lesson. The last chapter involved talking about intimacy and I was terrified to because even after so many months of being engaged we hadn't talked about "that" and I had no idea what his reaction was going to be. It turned out to be a pivotal turning point in our relationship because I came to learn that I truly could talk to him about ANYTHING and it would be ok.
    A Knight in Shining Armor – Jude Deveraux – Ok, this book is basically a cheese romance novel, but it is a fun story with some very humorous scenes. The reason it is on this list is because it was given to me as a gift by my step-brother and it was the one and only time I can recall in our relationship that he took the time to choose a gift for me that took some thought. I love history and he thought by the title and description that I would like this book, which I did. It means the world to me that he made the effort to pick something out and not just go the gift card route.
    The Monster at the End of This Book – Jon Stone – Only*the*best*book*ever*written*!!! It just cracks me up every time I read it! There is also a digital version that lets you interact with Grover.
    Promise Me – Harlan Coben – This is the first book I read (listened to on tape, actually) in the Myron Bolitar series written by Harlan Coben. I loved it – it's a witty, funny, and very well written mystery series and I went on to read all 10 books in the series. It also holds special meaning because I listened to most of them while I was on my weight loss oddessy about 6 years ago.
    16 Lighthouse Road – Debbie Macomber – This is the first book in a series called Cedar Cove. I love them because they are clean, easy to read, and the characters are really fun. It's 12 books all focusing on the person or people living at a certain address in this made up town of Cedar Cove. I also like them because my step-mother introduced the series to me and it helped our relationship to have something to talk about.
    The Book of Mormon – I probably don't need to explain this one. I'll just say that having the history of those that lived before us and being able to feel the spirit so strongly when I read these words means more to me than any words could express.
    SO, there you have it. Thanks for being interested – it was fun to re-visit why I love to read so much!

  2. Reply


    November 6, 2014

    I'm looking forward to checking up on some of these books. I have to agree with the Mac Lucado choice–his books are beautiful!


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