Do you have any books that you remember reading when you were young that influenced you so much that they ‘helped you grow up’? These are usually the books on our shelves that we keep for years and years, an no matter how many other books we read, buy, and eventually weed out again, these have a permanent place on our shelves and in our hearts.
While thinking what to write on this subject, I was struck by how much we are formed by what we read. It may seem like just an outlet for entertainment, something to do when we unwind, but really it’s much more than that. What we are feeding ourselves on a regular basis really does have an impact on who we become. There are many great classics out there, –both old and new—that are classics for a very good reason. The younger and sooner we can read these great books that came from great minds the better, for it is in our formative years that we are most influenced.
No other book will have influenced me like the Bible. This is the ultimate ‘growing up Book’ we all could use a daily dose of. It was my Little Children’s book of Illustrated Bible Stories when I was small. They’re simple stories for young minds but teach one right from wrong and about the character of God early on.
I was thinking over the books I’ve read when I was a kid growing up and realized that none of the titles I loved so much were books that greatly stood out to me at the time (or even now) as having made me think “Wow! I sure am maturing as I read this!” Instead, I think it’s the subtle telling of truth and life in fiction form that has the most effect on us. That’s the power of a good story, by the way. Or we could think of the opposite: reading books written by someone with a corrupted worldview will lead to us being subtly influenced by lies and evil. It seems harmless, but it’s like poison to our souls. I want to cry when I read the majority of book reviews of today’s ‘popular books’. They’re so dark with no resolution toward the light.
Books can help us grow in so many ways. It can challenge us on a practical level. I remember tackling “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” when I was in 7th grade. It really was a book for a higher reading level than what I was accustomed to (which up until that point mainly consisted of “The Sadie Rose Adventures” by Hilda Stahl). There were many words I didn’t know how to pronounce, and the wording was a bit thick. But I persevered because the story was so exciting and I felt good when I finished it. It broadened my vocabulary and led me to try other classics like the Sherlock Holmes mysteries.
Of course, the most obvious ways great literature impacts us is by modeling what excellent character looks like. I know I enjoyed the Little House and the Grandma’s Attic series when I was little, and then books like “An Old Fashioned Girl” by Louisa May Alcott and “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen when I got older. Heroines I tried, and still do, aspire to. Usually the characters in these books are growing in life as well, and the reader grows along with them.
When the characters in fiction are so realistic we often feel we identify with them, and this can help us feel as though we have a comforting friend in a good book to help us through a hard spot in life. I have a few like that. It’s why I like the book “Christy” so much, and “Wives and Daughters” by Elizabeth Gaskell. These heroines are so inspiring and inspiration is a good thing! It helps us form a vision of who we’d like to become, which is the first step in the growth process.
I realize that a lot of these books are ‘girlie’ books (I am one, after all)! But there are great character-building books out there for the guys as well. But this in no way excludes girls from enjoying these adventure classics! I find that the great ‘guy books’ of literature can teach us females what a true man should be, even if some would argue they are too old-fashioned. Hey—true manliness is never out of fashion, for the record! “Ben-Hur,” “Treasure Island,” “Ivanhoe,” “A Tale of Two Cities,” and “The Tenth Man” are all very good books in this gender genre.
I’ve included the titles of many classics in this article, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t worthwhile modern books that may not even be considered literary classics that can be healthy reads + good fun, too.
What are some of your favorite books that helped you grow up?