Reading and Growing: 10 Books That Shaped and Changed Me

A friend challenged me this week to make a list of ten books that have affected my life in some way or helped me grow personally. At first I thought it would be difficult to come up with a list, but once I started making one, it was hard to limit it to only ten!

If you’ve read the book reviews I’ve posted on my blog so far, two of these books won’t be a surprise. I’d also like to add that although it’s not in this list, the Bible has shaped and changed me more than any other book.

So without any more introductions, here—in order from childhood through college— is my list:


1)  The Boxcar Children series originally created by Gertrude Chandler Warner. At one point I owned between 20 and 30 of the books in this series. The orphaned siblings Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden were the first friends I found in books, and I was amazed at how wise and “old” 14-year-old Henry was. Their adventures and mysteries sparked my imagination and inspired me to try writing my own stories.

2)  The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My mom introduced me to these books when I was seven years old. As soon as I opened the first book— Little House in the Big Woods—I was captivated by the pioneer life and adventures of the Ingalls family. I loved the books so much that during middle school I wrote several hundred pages of my own story surrounding a pioneer family, and it’s embarrassingly bad when I read it now.

3)  The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. There must be something about four siblings going on adventures that appeals to children. I traveled to the magical world of Narnia with Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie and met Aslan, a lion who explained the meaning of life, love, and sacrifice better than any pastor or teacher ever could. I think reading this series was also the start of my love for England and everything British.

4)  The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery. Is it possible to read these books and not immediately want to be Anne Shirley’s “bosom friend” and “kindred spirit”? I loved learning about Prince Edward Island and growing up with Anne as she learned about life, love, and loss. I remember laughing and crying while I read these books. I reread the series last year, and it affected me in very different ways than it did when I was younger because now I relate more to Anne of Avonlea and Windy Poplars than to Anne of Green Gables.

5)  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. This is yet another book centered on four siblings, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March. I loved their imagination and creativity. After reading about their own version of Pickwick papers, I started writing a family newspaper with my younger brother and sister. It was quite creatively called “The Gunn Family Chronicle,” and we wrote stories, weather reports, recipes, ads, and comic strips.

6)  The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I read this book in junior high school, and it was the first time that reality hit me. I remember sobbing and having long conversations with my mom about the evil in the world. It still amazes me that a young girl had such an astounding amount of hope in the midst of such horror, and I will never forget the lives that were lost in the Holocaust.

7)  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I discovered Jane Austen in high school after watching the 2005 movie version of the novel. I’ve been in love with England and Mr. Darcy ever since, and I wrote my college honors thesis about courtship in this novel. I could write pages about why I love Austen and her novels, but I’ll save that for another time.

8)  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. This novel is heartbreakingly beautiful. It challenged me to think about love and authenticity differently. I also realized how much I love classic literature.

9)  My Ántonia by Willa Cather. I read this novel in college and immediately loved Cather’s writing style. She can describe a place with such detail by using descriptions for all five senses. It’s cliché to say this, but when I read Cather’s novels, I always feel like I’m actually in the novel seeing and feeling everything. It challenges me to be more descriptive when I write.

10)  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I started reading the Brontë sisters’ novels after I read Jane Austen. I had to get past the fact that they didn’t like Austen’s novels, but this has definitely become one of my favorite novels. Jane’s strength of character is something I admire and hope to work toward.

Well, that’s the end of my list! It’s a good thing I limited myself to ten books after all. There’s no telling how long this post could have become. What are your favorite books?



2 thoughts on “Reading and Growing: 10 Books That Shaped and Changed Me

  1. Meagan! The first half of this list was my life! My mom read The Boxcar Children and The Chrinicles of Narnia out loud to me when I was young, I fell in love with history and wrote a story about pioneer life after reading the Little House On The Prairie books and Little Wonen. Anne of Green Gables was my best friend! Anyway, it made me happy to see all these books listed with the same amount of love I have for them. 😄


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