It is inevitable, but undeniable.
We are constantly being shaped by the things around us.
Music. Books. Television. Films. Magazines.
It influences us and the way we view the world. It moves us, makes us come alive, changes us.
We’re not always aware of it.
Lately I’ve been pondering about the things that has played a considerable part in my growing up. It has aided me in who I’ve become as a person. It has moulded the way I see the world, the way I write, the way I talk, the way I live.
Herewith a list of all the books, magazines, television series, films & music that I have loved and outgrown throughout my years on this wonderfully creative place called Earth.
Today, I will share with you the BOOKS that has influenced me the most.
YOUNG ADULT FICTION
I was about nine years old, and my father took me to the local library almost every weekend. He had a great love for reading, and he tried to implement that love on me as well.
He would leave me to browse the kiddies’ books while he went off to the adults’ section to find Wilbur Smith, John Grisham and Louis L’Amour.
I found the children’s books to be repetitive and predictable.
Until one day.
I was scrolling mindlessly through the children’s section’s rows of books, until I accidentally ended up in the teenage section.
Right there, the cover of a book caught my attention. The synopsis even more so:
Principal Clark is hiding something… When Jessica Wakefield started a house-sitting service with her twin sister, Elizabeth, she never imagined their first client would be Mr. Clark, the school principal. Elizabeth is nervous, but Jessica is psyched. She wants some juicy gossip about Mr. Clark’s private life, and snooping around his house will be a great way to find it. But Jessica finds more than she bargained for: a butcher knife in the hall closet, and a long lock of hair in the dresser. Then, in the cobwebs of Mr. Clark’s dark, damp basement, something makes Jessica’s heart stand still. Could her principal be a murderer?
From that day on, I was hooked.
Within months I was finished with all the Sweet Valley books I could find at the library; next stop was the second-hand bookstores where I could build up an impressive collection of books.
I read almost every English teenage book I could find at that library and all the second-hand bookstores. I even started making lists of all the books I read, but I kept forgetting to update the list. I gave up as soon as I reached a hundred books.
The Nancy Drew books also left a great impact on who I wanted to be as a person. I wanted to be like her: she was confident, secure, independent and full of adventure. She wasn’t scared to do things by herself and she was always off discovering and exploring new things.
Soon there were almost no more English teen books left for me to read, so I moved on to Afrikaans books. This move was a brave thing of me to do, as I was not comfortable reading Afrikaans (I went to an English school; Afrikaans is my home language but I rarely ever read Afrikaans).
The Maasdorp series were thick books of trilogies, and I was a bit scared to tackle them on. But boy, was I glad I did!
I enjoyed the world of Kobie so much that I soon moved on to other series of Afrikaans books as well: Saartjie and Soekie.
In DIE MEISIES VAN MAASDORP ontmoet die leser vir Kobie en ander karakters wat vir hope opwinding in die reeks sorg. Elsabe van den Heever, wat deur haar ouderwetse tante grootgemaak is, moet haar eie plek in die skool tussen die onnutsige Maasdorpers vind.
Another series of books that changed my inner world immensely, was the BRIO Girls series.
Since both my parents were in full time ministry, we regularly ordered stock from Focus on the Family in the United States.
One day my dad showed me a catalogue of all the teenage books they had in stock. At the time the books cost R50 each (there were no postal costs either!). I remember distinctly saving up pocket money every month just so I could buy the whole series (there were 12 in total). I also bought the Sierra Jenson series and some of the Christy Miller books.
The Brio Girls series were by far the ones that made the biggest impact on my life. If any teenage girl were to ask me what books they should read, I would immediately recommend Brio Girls.
These series have impacted me in such a way that I want to write my own series of teen books as well, inspired by Brio Girls. It is fun to read, filled with witty dialogue, has faith-filled answers and is not preachy at all.
Probably the last teenage book – or young adult book, as it is called these days – that I read was The Hunger Games. The first book shook me; I couldn’t put it down. I liked the second book as well, the third one not so much.
Now, on to the grown-up books. For some reason, I have had a hard time finding good adult books. So many of them have sloppy storylines, crappy characters and it is just not worth the read. But when I find a gem of an author, I hold on tight to them; I am faithful towards their careers and the books that they have written.
It is interesting: During my childhood and teenage years, I focused on the books and their stories. Now that I’m an adult, I focus on the writer as well:
Who are they? Where did they come from? What inspired them to write? How do they write? How do they conduct their research?
Most people would blame it on social media, but I say it’s because of the fact that I want to be a writer as well.
These are some of the authors whose writing I admire and whose books I devour:
The first book I read of her was My Sister’s Keeper, and the twist in the end still haunts me to this day. I love how she takes difficult topics and makes them even more difficult. She climbs into people’s heads and researches the reason why people do certain things, why they are the way they are.
I have almost all of her books in my collection.
Every time I buy her book, it takes me a couple of weeks before I am ready to sit down and dig into her books. You have to be emotionally ready and stable every time you read a book of her, because by the time you are done, you become undone.
Some of my favourite books of hers includes Nineteen Minutes (about a school shooting), Handle With Care (about a girl with brittle bone syndrome) and House Rules (about a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome).
She also visited South Africa in January 2015 on the release of her book Leaving Time (also a stunning book about grief, loss and elephants), and of course I attended her launch in Johannesburg. It was a highlight for me and I will never forget it.
I also know that it takes Jodi Picoult nine months to write a book, the same time it takes to ‘launch a baby into this world.’
She is a thorough researcher and she never takes sides when it comes to right and wrong (she’s always smack dab right in the middle of grey).
A truly great author and researcher.
I came to Alice’s books through the recommendation of Jodi Picoult. Alice is a favourite of hers, and of course I was interested to see why.
The first book I read of Alice was The Dovekeepers.
It blew me away. I was in a trance for days. I was dumbfounded by how someone could write with such prose, magic and spirituality.
I also enjoyed The Marriage of Opposites and The Museum of Extraordinary things.
However, I would not recommend her books to just anyone because her books are strange, out of this world and just plain weird at times.
Her books are just like wine; you have to give it time before you can develop a taste for it.
I love Googling interviews and articles on Alice Hoffman; she gives great advice to aspiring writers who wants to write in a different way.
My aunt recommended The Secret Keeper to me a few years ago. At first glance the book looked like a love story; it was anything but. Full of mysteries, family secrets and haunting revelations, this book really surprised me.
Now I have each and every single one of her books in my collection.
And can we talk about Kate’s hair?! She is stunning Australian; she first studied to be an actress. I loved her fringe (bangs) so much that I copied the style for a while. Love, love her hair.
It takes Kate almost two years per book; I personally feel that it’s a really long time to wait for each book. I sometimes wish she could write quicker and do her research even more quicker, but she is the mother of 3 boys.
My favourite book of her by far is The Forgotten Garden.
My least favourite? The last book she wrote – it was sadly a big disappointment: The Clockmaker’s Daughter.
And lastly, but not the least: Francine Rivers.
I fondly remember the first book I read of Francine Rivers. I was about 11 years old and our school had a mini library. Unfortunately, the books were only for the high school kids, but I so badly wanted to read the Mark of the Lion trilogy. The cover of the first book, A Voice In The Wind, looked exciting, adventurous and serious. Auntie Nicky was in charge of the books and she forbade me to read it because it was ‘for grown-ups.’
I went home and asked my parents for special permission, just so I could read that book. I went back to school, handed Auntie Nicky the slip and from there on it wasn’t a problem anymore.
If I could sum up A Voice In The Wind in one word, it would be that it’s a classic. All I can say is, read the book. Your life will never be the same again. The follow up book, Echo In The Darkness is just as good. There’s a third book – As Sure As The Dawn – although I didn’t like that one as much.
I have read the Mark of the Lion trilogy a couple of times again over the years. This one is definitely for the books.
Another book I enjoyed by Francine Rivers was The Last Sin Eater. The first time I read it, I couldn’t really grasp the adult themes of the book. But years later, I tried it again and it’s hauntingly beautiful. Here is the synopsis of the book:
The Last Sin Eater revolves around Cadi Forbes, ten-year-old girl who lives in a settlement community of Welsh Americans in the mid-1850s. Cadi carries a heavy burden of guilt and grief because of something that happened the year before. It deals with the themes of sin, guilt and forgiveness, and tells about the atonement of Jesus Christ.
I have to say, I’m a bit puzzled by all the other books Francine have written. It feels like it’s not the same author that wrote the Mark Of The Lion series…
In October 2014 Francine Rivers visited South Africa, and I drove especially from Worcester to Cape Town to attend the launch of one of her books. It was a highlight as well. She is a sweet, soft lady with impeccable manners.
What books have you read that changed your life? What are your favourite books? And the ones you read over and over again?
Share with me in the comments – maybe I’ll check them out as well!