My whole life has been shaped by story. A young girl with a fanciful imagination, I was book-loving and Jesus-loving, both. I grew up in rural Minnesota, firstborn daughter of five. Our vegetables were homegrown and our clothes second-hand. I could count on one hand the books I actually owned, unless we’re counting the Dick and Jane readers my Mom let me buy at garage sales for a nickel each. Most of my favorites came from my elementary-school library—B is for Betsy, Caddie Woodlawn, Little House on the Prairie, All-of-a-Kind Family, Strawberry Girl.
My favorite fiction combines beautiful writing with stories of redemption. Like my speaking platform, my reading preferences tend to cross generational lines.
Newly added: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger -- In my humble opinion, this Minnesota author has written a perfect novel.
The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers – Every time I read this one, I remember why it’s my favorite. A hauntingly beautiful and imaginative story about an Appalachian child, desperate to have her sin taken away.
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton – Another book I’ve read multiple times. A lyrical and moving story about a Zulu Pastor and his son.
Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare – Set in colonial Connecticut in the late 1600’s, a heartbreaking story of false accusation and genuine love.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – Just mentioning it here makes me want to go to the library and check this one out again. A little girl endures her brutal life by reading books.
The Heaven Tree Trilogy by Edith Pargeter – Reading all three (which is a must) is an undertaking, but entirely worth it. An epic story rich in symbolism and artistry, set in twelfth-century England and Wales.
The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge – Amazon calls this “a compelling saga of an unlikely friendship threaded together by redemption and grace.” The story of a nineteenth-century English watchmaker and his apprentice. I love to read this one leading up to Christmas.
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier – Written for children, but even my husband loved it. Part history, part fantasy, a tale of child labor and sacrificial love.
Long Way Gone by Charles Martin – The Prodigal Son meets Nashville meets the Holy Spirit. Just read it.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – Heartbreaking, inspiring, and SUCH GREAT WRITING. A World War II story. Five stars all the way.
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom -- Just to prove how truly wacky my reading tastes can be!
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett – I am a lover of girl-story classics! Other favorites include Heidi, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Little Women. In other words, the obvious list!
My list of nonfiction favorites is admittedly diverse. Each of these books has shaped me in some way, and has become part of my story.
The Holy Wild by Mark Buchanan—I found this one on a clearance table several years ago, and from page one it felt like God’s personal gift. My husband and I have read everything by Buchanan, and would put him as #1 on our nonfiction author list.
A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller—I’ve probably recommended this book more than any other. Miller has inspired me to be a praying parent. I’d also recommend his A Loving Life.
Waking the Dead by John Eldredge—This was the perfect book at the perfect time. Years ago this book gave language to my own miracle of “waking up.”
The Forgotten Way by Ted Dekker—This one was a surprise. A typically fiction author wrote a devotional of sorts, and this one had me saying “Yes! That’s it!” from beginning to end. (I’m not sure this book is still in print, but there are plenty of used copies on Amazon.)
Covenants and Blessings by Andrew Murray—I am a Murray fan, and have read and appreciated many of his books. Covenant is one of my favorite topics, and this is the best description I’ve found.
The Search for Significance by Robert McGee—God used this book powerfully during a season of transformation in my young adult years. It’s been a while since I’ve read it, but I’ll never forget its impact.
Free of Me by Sharon Hodde Miller—Written for women, this book is WISE counsel.
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp—No one writes like Ann. Her poetic prose, and poignant story-telling have inspired me in all the ways.
Atlas Girl by Emily T. Wierenga—This book is less known, but absolutely beautifully written. Emily weaves the stories of her own eating disorder, and her mother’s cancer, into an incredibly hope-filled memoir.
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh—Amazon calls this one a “beloved classic.” Lindbergh meditates on youth and aging, peace and contentment, while reflecting on days spent at the seaside.
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken—The friend of C. S. Lewis tells the story of his young wife’s untimely death.
Peace Child by Don Richardson—Not for the faint of heart, a powerful missionary story.
Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner—I’m a fan of Winner’s thoughtful writing, and unique perspective as a Jewish girl who finds Jesus.
Love Does by Bob Goff—Kyle and I took Bob’s advice to heart when we followed God’s prompting to “Just say Yes!”
Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle -- Written by a writer, for writers, L'Engles essays are honest and inspiring.