I have read a lot of books in my life.
Maybe not as many as you -- for as much as I love books, I consider myself a slow reader. Some people can read a 400-page book in one day, no sweat. I read about one-fourth as fast as that. But still, I've lived seventeen years (say WHAT?) and I've been reading for about 13 of those years, so as you can imagine....that's a lot of books.
The other day I was browsing through a favorite blog of mine, Meghan Gorecki's A Northern Belle, and came across a post of hers where she talked about how certain books had influenced her life. That ignited a little spark in my mind, and I started thinking -- how many books have I read that have made an impression on my young life, and actually impacted the way I think about things, the way I live? And how many books, by just the mention of them, take me back to that season of my life when I discovered them for the first time?
So, I composed a list -- as I am prone to do -- of books that have made a specific impression on me, books that still take me back to that time and that place.
#1 Candle in the Darkness by Lynn Austin
I still remember the day I got this from the library for the very first time. We were at the library for my sister's and my piano lessons. I was twelve; at the time I was obsessed with Jane Austen (or more accurately, I was obsessed with the movie Becoming Jane, which I firmly and unreasonably defended as the honest-to-gosh truth -- but we won't talk about that now). I had just embarked on my lifelong fascination with American history, and at twelve, I thought it was high time I try some adult fiction. (Twelve is an adult, right? Totally. Of course.) This book had a pretty cover; it was about the Civil War, and I liked the Civil War. I plucked it off the shelf and started reading it before we even left the library. I think I'd finished the first chapter when I officially declared it was my favorite book. ;-)
I have fond memories of getting up early on those summer mornings, taking my pillow out to our deck swing and reading for hours while the sun rose over the hill. Candle in the Darkness was my first Christian historical fiction book, and thus opened a door into what would become a long and agonizing love/hate relationship with Christian fiction. It was sort of a rite of womanhood for me. I proclaimed Lynn Austin as my favorite author (the woman was genius!), and I started recommending the book to everyone I knew before I even finished reading it myself.
Candle in the Darkness really did change my life. It also showed me what a good historical book was, it inspired me to try my hand at historical fiction, and it introduced me to Lynn Austin, who is still one of my top favorite authors. Even though it's no longer my favorite book, it's got a special place in my book history. I'll always remember those summer mornings on the porch swing. ;-)
#2 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Chances are I don't need to even tell you what a gem this book is. The first time I read it was two years ago, in the spring, and it was a school assignment -- which meant that by default I decided I wasn't going to enjoy it. I have always had this weird quirk when it comes to reading books for school. If it's assigned to me, I will make up my mind not to like it. At least, this pattern held true for many years; I like to think I'm more open-minded now. ;-P Anyway, I knew TKAM was a classic, and classics are usually boring, so I didn't hold my breath.
Until I started reading it. And then I couldn't leave Maycomb, Alabama, until I'd turned the very last page. Even then, I was stuck there for about a week afterwards.
I read the first half of the book one afternoon while I was waiting around in the hallway of a university for my sister's violin lesson/concert. I honestly don't think I've ever been quite as transported by any book as I was that day. I was so engrossed, you probably could have walked up in front of me wearing a Winnie the Pooh costume whistling Dixie and I wouldn't have noticed you. I was obsessed.
What did TKAM teach me? Well, for one thing, it taught me that not all classics are boring! It taught me not to throw a temper tantrum when I have to read a book for school that I wouldn't have chosen myself (because pssssst, I might end up LOVING it to the HEAVENS). I learned so much from Scout and Jem. I learned that just because you're licked from the beginning of time doesn't mean you shouldn't get back up and try anyway. It also reinforced my feelings on swearing in books -- I don't like swearing, but sometimes it's necessary. I don't want to ever condemn a good book for having language, because maybe the language is meaningful to the story. (Now, there is definitely such thing as unnecessary language in books, and that's what I really hate.)
TKAM taught me that there's just one kind of folks -- folks.
#3 Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson
I remember reading this book very well -- it was Spring of 2014, I was hosting my Period Drama Fashion Week here on the blog, and I was just getting to know my very best friend ever, so it was a very exciting season of my life. (I also remember getting my Downton Abbey piano book in the mail, putting a hold on The Blue and the Gray at the library, and listening to Celtic Woman songs.) Sixteen Brides was just a random book I snatched from the shelf because I thought the cover was pretty. It ended up being the best Christian book I'd read in years, which made me happier than a tornado in a trailer park.
Sixteen Brides delighted me so much because it could have been so sappy, but it wasn't. It was WONDERFUL. I became friends with the women (don't worry, there aren't actually sixteen of them to keep track of), I laughed with them, I shared their struggles. The writing was infused with the pioneer spirit; the women's grit inspired me. I remember reading the book at church between services, at the dining room table one night before supper, on my sister's bed in the afternoon. It was the kind of book that bounced into my life right when I needed it and gave me joy.
#4 Dawn's Early Light by Elswyth Thane
I still get chills thinking about this one.
I think I first found it on Goodreads, actually. The series intrigued me, because duh, Williamsburg! so I looked for the books the next time I went to the library and AHA, they had them! (Isn't that the best feeling in the world, when you're looking for a book and you actually find it?) It was an ugly little orange binding, nothing extraordinary from the outside, but then I started reading it one afternoon in the haymow....and BOY HOWDY. Still to this day, I have not found one historical book about the American Revolution that grabbed me so much. This book was like fireworks; canon smoke; autumn sunrises; it was AMAZING. I fell in love with Julian Day, Elswyth Thane was inaugurated as my second-favorite author, and I vowed that if I one day wrote a novel about the Revolution that was HALF as good as this, my life would be complete.
#5 Softly and Tenderly by Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck
If there was ever a book that came along at just the right time I needed it, this is that book. It was last March, and I was in a funk. Life was hard. I was bored with myself. I needed some new joy. I don't even remember why I wanted to read this, because I don't think I'd started listening to Sara Evans yet....anyway, it doesn't matter. What I remember clear as a bell is that I needed this book. When I read it, I felt as though it had been written just for me. And man, does this book get you right in the feels. It was serious and funny and happy and somber all at once -- just like country music, come to think of it. ;-P It was like a salve to my weary soul, a God-given gift.
Softly and Tenderly taught me that true love fights. It taught me the power of forgiveness, and what's more the power of God. It also taught me that God can reach anyone, no matter who you are.
On another note: thanks so much to everyone who filled out my survey! It occurred to me after the fact that I would have liked to have a place where you could put your name so I would know whose answers were whose, but oh well. (I could tell who some of you were anyway. For instance, some weirdo wrote that they'd like to see me write a post on an analysis of quantum string theory written in elvish, and I'm pretty sure that can only be one person.) I appreciate your comments and suggestions, and I'll take them all into consideration! You're all darling squirrels. :-)
What are some books that have made an impression on you?