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Several days (weeks?!) ago a friend challenged me on Facebook to name the ten books that have influenced me the most. Of course I have a tendency to think of the last ten books I read, but this time I wanted to dig in and see if I could come up with a real list that spanned more of my life. Sandi, here is your answer, finally.  And I figured that anything that took this much thought deserved its own blog post!

I’m not counting the Bible. It continues to influence me. How can you hear something ten times and then, on the eleventh hearing, get something completely new? So I’m leaving it off.

The Little House series: Seminal books in my growing-up years. I read and re-read these and I still love them.

The Phantom Tollbooth: Also a kid book! I had no idea how much wit and sarcasm an author could fit in one book. I reread it recently and it held up well.

Deliverance: An odd choice…because I loathed this book. We were required to read it in 12th grade English and I just thought that it wasn’t worth the time. I was disappointed in our teacher for requiring it, and I think that I was one of only two students who didn’t think our teacher was awesome for requiring it. (Several days in the library for us, right, Kris?)

The Great Divorce: I could name several by C.S. Lewis, but I’ll just pick one. I re-read this about every 18 months. Lewis opened my eyes to what real love is in this book, and he forever altered my vision of Hell.

Love and Respect:  Bill found this book, and we read it together. It was the first time we tried to apply, in a concrete way, Biblical principles in our marriage. It made our already good marriage great, and helped us to learn to trust God and His Word.

Same Kind of Different as Me:  Another earth-shaker. I so closely identified with the white guy in the book. It was eye-opening to read Denver’s point of view.

Great Expectations:  Hands down my favorite novel. I read it first when I was in my early 30’s and was blown away at how much I loved Dickens. I’ve read others but this is always the one I come back to.

The Artist’s Way:  The book that convinced this engineer/actuary that I could write and paint (not well!) and be creative. And also that I didn’t have to do things perfectly for them to be worthwhile.  The process changed my life…but you can only do it once!

Painting as a Pastime: Probably Winston Churchill’s shortest book, really more of a long essay. Necessary reading for all adults. I’m sorry but it’s true.

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: Mostly because I wanted to list an influential book I read this year. Read this book.

Gates of Fire: Possibly my favorite historical fiction novel. Plus the Battle of Thermopylae is widely discussed in our house. Win-win.  Pressfield is so accurate in his descriptions of ancient Greece that history professors have their students read this book for the history.

Oops, that was eleven.

So I’d love to hear what books have influenced you over the years!  And do you find fiction or non-fiction to be more influential?