Fifteen Authors That Changed My World (and Why It Matters)
“Sir, with no intention to take offence, I deny your right to put words into my mouth.” ― Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island
Fifteen Authors that Changed My World
(and Why It Matters)
I grew up when classics were still revered as required reading in school, so they shaped me at an impressionable time. Looking back and contrasting the book market of today, I’m grateful that such powerful literature filled my heart and mind.
When a book blogger once invited me to write a guest post about the fifteen authors who had the most influence on my life, I knew it wouldn't be an easy accomplishment. The first few names quickly came to mind, then I had to begin filtering whether I simply liked an author, or if that author's work had a lasting influence in shaping my character in a way that continues to have a postive effect on how I interact with the world. I finally narrowed the list down to fifteen, mentioned here in the order of their importance to me. These men and women come only after the best-selling book in the world, penned in words inspired by the Holy Spirit. Christ will always be first in my life for every role model, and His words have molded me as no other author can. Scripture is the sieve through which I filter my comparisons of worldviews and morality, and it inevitably influenced the choices I settled on for this post.
Robert Louis Stevenson I love anything by Stevenson, but the two books that often still come to play in my life are Treasure Island and A Child’s Garden of Verse. I truly admire this man, for he conquered the pitiless adversary of chronic illness and used the forced periods of rest to write books that contributed immeasurably to the world. He’s also a terrific example of how writers can enthrall audiences by creatively crafting rough characters and situations to make them readable without course language. One of many timeless life lessons I learned from Stevenson was:
“We must go on, because we can't turn back.” ― Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island
James Herriot When I was a teenager, I babysat for a professor and his wife who lived across the street from me. They introduced me to James Herriot’s work by giving me All Creatures Great and Small. Herriot’s true accounts of his escapades as a veterinarian in the English countryside were profoundly insightful peeks into human nature, and he told them in ways that left me gasping in laugther! He taught me to show respect and be patient with people, and to be alert to unexpected life lessons that they can teach me. I can't even find a link to the large vintage hardback volume of stories I collected, but when I want a feel-good story of hope, I pull it off the shelf.
Margaret Mitchell This author’s classic story of the war-torn South has always been a favorite for me because of her fascinating characters in Gone With the Wind, though I personally think that she failed readers in the ending. The line that shocked so many was also the point where Rhett had a chance to shine as a hero, but he fell, and Mitchell left readers unfulfilled. I’m so glad another author, Alexandra Ripley, came through in the 1990’s with the sequel, Scarlett. The sequel was satisfying in her redemption of Scarlett and Rhett.
“Longing hearts could only stand so much longing.” ― Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
Jane Austen I know, this is predictable. But on so many levels, she is the ultimate in classy romance writing.
Catherine Marshall Christy was the novel that opened my teenage eyes and heart to the need for missionary work in the mountains not far from my own home. She taught me that it's okay to acknowledge that you are in over your head, to be flexible in the face of a situation you can't control, to trust God, to pick yourself up when you fail, and Catherine Marshall taught me through Christy that romantic love doesn’t conquer all.
"When you heart is ablaze with the love of God, when you love other people - especially the ripsnorting sinners - so much that you dare to tell them about Jesus with no apologies, then never fear, there will be results."
- Catherine Marshall
Jules Verne I love clean and humorous adventure, and Around the World in Eighty Days is unforgettable! I always appreciate the main character's unflappable and unstoppable spirit in the face of obstacles that should have made his goal impossible. And when you add an unexpected love to his life, the story becomes delicious!
Lew Wallace Ben-Hur, a Tale of Christ was a story that deeply affected me, and the movie adaption is still one of my all-time favorite Biblical tales. This profoundly moving story covers almost every universal situation in one timeless epic.
“Would you hurt a man keenest, strike at his self-love; would you hurt a woman worst, aim at her affections.” ― Lew Wallace, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ
C.S. Lewis Narnia, Mere Christianity, and the Screwtape Letters are truly books to study, not just to read through. J.R.R. Tolkien The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are gold mines of life truths and encouragement for spiritual battles. I never read this collection without understanding profoundly that it's the unremarkable, unexpected people who make the biggest difference in the world.
“Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.” - Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Bram Stoker Yes, the classic vampire story. Many people don’t realize that the original Dracula is written from a deeply Christian perspective, and that we battle spiritual “monsters” every day. Hollywood deviations are far from the spirit of Stoker’s masterpiece, and don't get me started about my thoughts on the vampire romance genre...
Is there anyone in the civilized world who can honestly say they are not affected by A Christmas Carol? Whether critics like him or not, I was moved by stories like David Copperfield and Great Expectations. I was so moved by The Old Curiousity Shop that I collected an antique plate with the engraving on it, and included a reference to it in my novel Hugo, Painter Place Saga Book 2.
“No space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
The List was my introduction to this author because I love stories set in Charleston, SC. It was another nudge for me in the direction of writing about Southern fiction and the spiritual dimension behind so much that happens in our lives, sometimes for generations.
Jeanette Windle This author’s missionary background and the way she crafted rough, dark settings and characters into art, rather than communicate with offensive words, inspired my writing style. Crossfire and DMZ are so well written that she’s been interviewed by governments about her knowledge of the settings!
Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye The Left Behind series reminded my family of the impact that scripture could have when presented in a dramatic story.
Edgar Rice Burroughs While there is a wide gap between this author’s outlook and philosophies compared to my own, he created an amazing character in Tarzan. Derivatives of this novel stirred my imagination for years, and a few elements from it influenced Jaguar, my latest novel release in the Painter Place Saga. My worldview of Tarzan leans toward marveling at God’s provision for a man whose only environment in his formative years was survival in the jungle, and how the man’s reactions play out with the Biblical truth that we are not evolved from animals but created in God’s image, with His moral truth stamped into our very essence of heart, soul, and mind.
If you were asked to name the fifteen authors who have most influenced your life, would it be easy, or a challenge? What criteria would you use to judge the impact that their personality or message had on the way you engage with the world today?
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