10 Most Influential Books

Julie over at Happy Catholic asked her readers a few days ago to participate in the “10 Books That Have Stayed With You” meme.  Being the avid reader that I am, I thought this would be an easy exercise… but it wasn’t. I could think of tons of books that I have read… and many that I quote from, or reference, often in my life… but which ones to list?

I must admit that I felt very lowbrow after reading everyone else’s list. There were many, many classics on there that I’ve either never read, or never got much out of (oh, for shame!)

But, I can’t be what I’m not, and my list is… well, my list. So here, in no order of importance, is my list (as of Monday evening. Ask me tomorrow and I may change the list completely!)

1. A Man Called Peter (Catherine Marshall)
This is the book that started me on my faith journey, as it were. I was born and raised Catholic, but I never really got the whole “WE are supposed to have a relationship with Jesus” idea into my head. I assumed that was for saints, and the rest of us schmucks just have to make due as best as we could. I would read the stories of the saints and try to live vicariously through them, imagining what it must be like to have Jesus love you like that. I picked this up in the library thinking this was going to be about St. Peter, my favorite apostle. My bad. Instead, it was about Peter Marshall, the Senate chaplain in the 1940s. In this story I saw a normal, everyday guy… and a PROTESTANT to boot!… who had that sort of relationship I was craving. Totally rocked my world. Of course, it also was the start of my foray into the Protestant world, but I digress (fast forward to the end of the story… I came back)

2. John, Son of Thunder (Ellen Gunderson Traylor)
3. The Big Fisherman (Lloyd C. Douglas)
I checked these two books out over… and over… and over again, until finally my good friend (who happened to be an atheist) went out and bought The Big Fisherman for me for my birthday. God love her! They both got me to contemplate the mind-blowing fact that Our Lord became HUMAN. The Incarnation never fails to stun me.

4. Surprised by Joy (C.S. Lewis)
This wasn’t my first C.S. Lewis book, but it was the one where he described (oddly) what he means by joy — and that definition stuck with me, and I can’t experience an autumn day… or take a walk around my block in the evening… without his words coming back.

5. Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis)
Great book, with so many quotes I bring up repeatedly. It’s worth reading, and rereading, and reading again.

6. Yours, Jack (C.S. Lewis letters)
Pretty much EVERY book by C.S. Lewis should be on this list. I’ve been changed by all of them. This one, however, is a compilation of the letters he wrote as “spiritual direction” in one form or another. Not only was it spiritually uplifting, but it also rekindled in me the desire to WRITE letters to others (as in cursive with a paper and pen… not banging out something on a keyboard)

7. The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)
8. The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)
Alright, I’ll admit this. I read both of them, but the books didn’t do much for me. The story brought to the big screen, however, did. Now, I will say that my older kids have read (and reread, and reread) these stories I can’t begin to say how many times, so it’s just me not getting much out of the printed story. The movies, however, have brought me to tears, and affected me deeply.

9. And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie)
My 5th grade teacher read this aloud to us, and this was the first (and only) time I was read to after being taught how to read… and the experience stayed with me. So much so that here I am, many decades later, still doing read alouds to my kids (even my teenagers) and loving it. (and yes, I read this one to them over the summer.)

10. He & I (Gabrielle Bossis)
Amazing, amazing book. Jesus talked to her, and she wrote it down. Simple as that, and yet I think I have underlined something on every single page.

Other books in my list (if it went on) would include:
11. The Body (Chuck Colson)
Read this during my Protestant years, and was moved to TEARS by the story of St. Maximillian Kolbe. I had never heard his story before, and it reminded me that yes, Catholics were in fact Christians as well (I had a rough couple of years)

12. The Confessions of St. Augustine
Read this in my Western Civ class in college (again, during my Protestant years) and was again slammed with Catholicism… AND the fact that saints were real people, just like us.

13. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
Again, no to the book, but yes to the BBC series with Colin Firth. Amazing story, and I’m just sorry that I couldn’t slog through the book (I don’t do well with 19th century literature in general… although Moby Dick and The Count of Monte Cristo were surprisingly fun reads… well, except for the chapter on whales…) “Alas, Flask was a butterless man” is a standard phrase in our house!

If anyone reads this post and would care to contribute in the comments box below, I’d be thrilled!!!


  1. I also never got much out of the Tolkien books until I listened to the audio (our library had all the CDs) so I could hear and appreciate the language. And also not skim over parts I thought were “extra.”

    Also, I discovered The Tolkien Professor podcast (Corey Olsen). He opened up the text so much just in asking thought provoking questions … that I suddenly fell in love with what had been there under my nose all along. His book on The Hobbit is a good place to begin if you aren’t into listening to podcasts.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment!

    Perhaps, as you said, I just need someone to read it to me. I listened to my husband reading it to the kids (well, I missed quite a bit), and it WAS better that way… although I’m not sure anything can make the Elvish songs better. (Unless you’re Peter Jackson, of course…)

    Loved the chance to do this meme! Thanks again!

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