*Yep, literally long pause.*
I'm kinda still figuring this whole blog idea out, which means I might have been staring at a blinking cursor for awhile. Oh believe me, I'm not out of words or ideas (at least not for another several hundred years) - that's not the problem. I'm just not sure what a "normal" blog post should be about!
So I'm reverting to a topic I know well, do daily and love much. A topic that brings me great joy! A topic, which hopefully, you enjoy too. Books!
If you want to skip to a list of AMAZING books that you should absolutely check out (many of which are free to download!) than scroll to the bottom of this post. If you have time for the long version, then keep reading. :)
I'll put the truth out in black and white: I'm a bookaholic.
Want some history? Books and I got acquainted when I learned to read at the age of four, but that's not when 'relationship' kicked off. It actually began when I was nine years old. You see, when I was eight, I was infected with Lyme Disease (long story), and suddenly I found myself stuck in my bed multiple days out of the week. For a girl used to being in a crowd of siblings, I often felt left out and lonely as I watched my sister and brothers out the window. Of course, they spent time with me, and I wasn't bedridden or anything like that, but my adrenal fatigue and other symptoms kept me in my room a lot.
Now I'm not trying to sound like a pathetic figure, (because I was not) but I'm telling you this because God used this situation to give me one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. He gave me the love of the written word.
Stuck in my bed with nothing to do, I began to expand my horizons with reading. I read story books, devotionals, picture books, child-friendly classics and biographies of famous children. And the more I read, the more I liked it. Over the years, my world grew bigger, and my imagination skyrocketed. When I wasn't reading, I would imagine myself in the different stories or time periods, and 'live' in the character's position in my spare time to understand their feelings, circumstances and decisions.
The older I got, the more I read; and the more I read, the faster I read. I jumped from
Little House on the Prairie to The Sugar Creek Gang, to Narnia to Accidental Detectives, to Little Lord Fauntleroy to Anne of Green Gables to The Wingfeather Saga to .... you get the idea :)
When I was fourteen, I had read all the children/teen books in the house countless times over. I decided to get a little more intentional with my reading, and began adding nonfiction books (teaching books, I call them) into my daily schedule. Books about prayer, history, theology, the Christian life, time management and the evolution/creation debate. "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis quickly became (and remains) my absolute favorite nonfiction book. I highly, HIGHLY recommend it!!
I also discovered my top favorite category of books: old ones! Sherlock Holmes, Ishmael, Pilgrim's Progress, The Virginian, any Lamplighters, G. A. Henty books, Charles Dickens, the list goes on for quite a while! But here's the one of the best things that I get to tell you about today. We have an old kindle, and on it I discovered treasure hoard of hidden gems. Myriads of amazing books and stories published by 'Public Domain'. (Love that guy.)
This is something I am super excited to share with you! These stories are for fellow lovers of sweet, wholesome stories that calm and inspire at the same time. Ready for this?
First off, you know the story Pollyanna, right? But did you know that Elanor H. Porter also wrote the book "Just David", a story of a little boy with no family name, a boy who is 'just David', and yet changes the lives of everyone he meets with his unique view of life? Porter also wrote one of my favorites, "O Money, Money", a thought-provoking novel/comedy about an eccentric millionaire who gifts his closest (distant) relations with $100,000 and then goes to live with them undercover so that he might see who handles it the wisest.
Did you know L. M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables) wrote "The Story Girl", "Rainbow Valley", and a couple hundred short stories compiled into volumes 'through the years'? Louisa May Alcott (Little Women) also wrote "Little Men", "Eight Cousins", "An Old Fashioned Girl" and "Jo's Boys". Kate Douglas Wiggin (Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm) wrote "Mother Carey's Chickens".
All these books are clean, wholesome, satisfying and make you slow down and smile, qualities that I have trouble finding in most modern books of our day. Now don't get me wrong, I LOVE adventure, mystery, intrigue and drama, but in my opinion, reading is an activity that needs to be balanced.
Yes, I said activity. :)
"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body." - Joseph Addison
And this is true. The best kind of reading expands the mind, stretches the imagination and strengthens the intellect. Books can challenge you to think about something from a different perspective, to look at the world from a different frame of mind and change how you view everyday circumstances or the people around you.
This is exciting to me to think about - but this realization also comes with a warning. Words can be life-giving, or they can be deadly. Choosing to consistently read (and therefore imagine) romance novels, witchcraft, or horror stories is very dangerous ground. Words paint pictures for your brain to "see", and such pictures, especially in story form, are very easy to recall. You know the saying: "Once seen, never un-seen," and once you read something, you can never 'un-read' it. It is always there for your brain to bring back up to the forefront of your mind at some random thought or trigger. And the more there is of something, the easier it is triggered.
Reading the right things is not only enjoyable, but also healthy for the state of your mind, soul and emotions. Reading the wrong things may bring pleasure at the time, but having death, romance, blood and horror pop into your mind at any given moment is not only distracting, but over time, devastating.
As a Christian, I am told to fill my mind with things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy. (Phil. 4:8) For me, reading is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to do this. What I read tends to be what I dwell on. I know this is not how everyone processes information and not everyone thinks the same way I do, but I think reading is still an important aspect of one's life to be aware of - 'cause it will still affect a person to some extent, even if that person doesn't think it does.
This is why it bothers me to observe fellow Christians reading (or watching) stories that put lots of content that is devoid of the list in Phil. 4:8 into their minds and imaginations. (Even 'Christian' horror and romance.) Sure, a Christian would never do the things described or implied in such books or movies (I hope!), but filling their brains with it seems to counteract the idea of a pure temple for the Holy Spirit to live in. A French novelist once said,
"If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads."
Something to think about: what do you - what do I - reread? What does our heart dwell on?
I'll say it again - I'm not against adventure, excitement, mysteries or romance (in moderation), and I personally enjoy reading books with these elements in them. I just feel like there are many, many great books on these topics that also include things that are true, honest, just, pure and so on - unlike popular novels I see being written and read today.
And now comes the moment that I have been waiting for! (If you've been waiting for it too, you can perform a drumroll on your lap.)
I announce to you: The LIST!
These are all great books that are clean, fun, exciting, mysterious, humorous, sweet, or allegorical as the case may be. Titles with an asterisk next to them you can find for free on Public Domain. Read on if you want a good book!
Sweet and Calming Books You've Possibly Never Heard Of:
*Anne of Green Gables Series (L.M. Montgomery)
The Neighborhood Shop (Julia Glover)
*Little Women Series (Louisa May Alcott)
*The Story Girl (L.M. Montgomery)
*Chronicles of Avonlea (L. M. Montgomery)
*Just David (Elanor H. Porter)
*O Money, Money! (Elanor H. Porter)
*The Secret Garden (Francis Hodgson Burnett)
*Little Lord Fauntleroy (Francis Hodgson Burnett)
*Eight Cousins (Louisa May Alcott)
*An Old Fashioned Girl (Louisa May Alcott)
*Mother Carey's Chickens (Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin)
*Understood Betsy (Dorothy Canfield Fisher)
The Elsie Dinsmore Series (Martha Finley)
*At the Back of the North Wind (George MacDonald)
Adventure/Mystery Books Written a Hundred Years Ago or More:
*Sherlock Holmes Series (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
*Ishmael, & *Self Raised (E.D.E.N. Southworth)
*To Have and To Hold (Mary Johnston)
*The Hidden Hand (E.D.E.N. Southworth)
*In Freedom's Cause (G.A. Henty)
Prisoners of the Sea (Florence M. Kingsley)
The Spanish Brothers (Deborah Alcock)
Adventure/Mystery Books (written more recently):
The Remnant Trilogy (Tim Chaffey)
Baker Family Adventures (C.R. Hedgcock)
Wars of the Realm (Chuck Black)
Circle C Milestones (Susan Marlow)
And it's about here that I'm realizing that we don't have many 'modernly written' adventure books... although more fall under the category of Fantasy.
(The authors whose names are in bold print are ones who are currently writing (and could use support) and publishing their own books. They are great series, and I'm sure any fun/adventure-loving kid, teen or adult would love them!)
The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis)
The Wingfeather Saga (Andrew Peterson)
Kingdom Series & The Knights of Arrethrae (Chuck Black)
The Green Ember Series (S.D. Smith)
The Lord of the Ring Trilogy (J.R.R. Tolkien)
Redwall Series (Brian Jacques)
These are books for adults and kids!
(The authors whose names are in bold print are ones who are currently writing (and needing support) and publishing their own books. They are great series, and I'm sure any fun/adventure-loving kid, teen or adult would love them!)
Faith and Freedom Series (Douglas Bond) Early American History
Shadowcreek Chronicles (T. Elizabeth Renich) Civil War
The Elsie Dinsmore Series (Martha Finley) American 1800s + lots more!
Crown and Covenant Series (Douglas Bond) 17th Century Scotland
All the G.A. Henty Books (G.A. Henty) Multitude of different events
These are all favorites of mine for learning history without trying!
Adventure, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Classics & Humorous Books for Kids:
Circle C Adventures (Susan Marlow)
The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic (Jennifer Trafton)
Viking Quest Series (Lois Walfrid Johnson)
Beyond the Orphan Train Series (Arleta Richardson)
The Sugar Creek Gang (Paul Hutchens)
The Accidental Detectives (Sigmund Brouwer)
The Prairie Thief (Melissa Wiley)
Black Beauty (Anna Sewell)
A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
Grandma's Attic Series (Arleta Richardson)
The Ladd Family Adventures (Lee Roddy)
Nancy Drew Series (Carolyn Keen)
The Hardy Boys (Franklin W. Dixon)
The Bell Mountain Series (Lee Duigon)
The Borrowers (Mary Norton)
Well-known Classics That Might Surprise You into Enjoying Them:
The Virginian (Owen Wister) adventure in the old wild west
A Christmas Carol and other stories (Charles Dickens) a Dec. book challenge?
The Prince and the Pauper (Mark Twain) yes, I mean the looong version
Hinds Feet on High Places (Hannah Hurnard) did you know there is a sequel?
A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens) who knows? you might like it!
Uncle Tom's Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe) the book that 'started' the Civil War
Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) mostly intellectual dialogue
Phantastes (George MacDonald) the book that turned C.S. Lewis to Christ!
Pilgrim's Progress (John Bunyan) the first 'novel' of the modern era
Christiana (John Bunyan) Pilgrim's Progress's sequel, and my prescriptive protonym*! not that that fact has influenced me...
Sherlock Holmes Series (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) Warning: don't read for the first time right before bed
Ben Hur: a Tale of the Christ (Lew Wallace) First Century adventure
You know, Mark Twain once defined classics as "Books which people praise and don't read."
Yes, they are old. Yes, many of them are filled with old English. Yes, they might take you awhile. But because of all these things, they stretch the mind. You actually have to think for a few moments, not to understand what the character said, but to understand what they were implying. They are full of witty dialogue and thought-provoking narration. I feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction whenever I close one of these books (or one of the many others on our shelves), and I hope you will too!
*Yep, just had to look that phrase up...
I hope the drop-downs help with the possibly scary amount of books. I tried to be objective, but I'm writing this in our library, with shelves of friends and acquaintances staring at me, begging to be introduced. And believe me, I left out a lot!
In an effort to be less intimidating (ha! too late!) I have omitted several large categories of literature that are the other half to the list above. Stories of true men and women and true events are very important to help us remember and appreciate our history, and the ways God has worked through people and circumstances. Basically, biographies are a great way to learn about other people, and especially other Christians. YWAM publishes a ginormous number of great biographies.
The other category is filled with the 'teaching' books, nonfiction works that expand our knowledge in practically every area of life. There is no way that I could possibly find or define the best out of the thousands of such books out of the hundreds of topics in the world, so just pick your favorite one (or ten). However, I will reiterate that my personal favorite in the topic of defining Christian life is so good it might become yours too - 'Mere Christianity' by C.S. Lewis. :)
One last point. The written word is powerful. It has the potential to live on decades, centuries, or even millennia after it was penned. But eventually, everything that every human has written, imagined or recorded is going to be forgotten or destroyed. There is only one book that will span the gap between this world and the next.
"Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall never pass away." Luke 21:33
The person talking is Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. His words, commonly known as the Bible, are the most important words ever written. The Bible gives a very special message to the world, one so pivotal and lifechanging that thousands of people around the world live and die for the truth in this book. A truth that gives the message of hope, salvation and eternal life.
I would sooo love to hear about your favorite books in the comments!! And I hope that the lists I put together are helpful to a few people out there who are looking for themselves, or perhaps as gifts for others.
Thanks for letting me rattle on about my favorite subject. Or one of my favorite subjects... Congratulations if you made it all the way to the end! :)
And just for smiles: