The Influence of Books

If you and I could compare books, what would we learn about each other?

Perhaps I’d learn that you enjoy science fiction and Shakespeare. Maybe you like short novels that don’t take a lot of effort to read: the kind that help you relax at night. Or perhaps I’d learn that you don’t read books at all (when you can help it), and prefer to watch CNN and the Food Network.

Having a child makes you think about books in a new way. What I read will influence our son, and any siblings he may have someday. He’ll probably start by thinking that everyone reads what Dad reads. Next he’ll probably want to try reading out loud, the way his Mom does.

Will my book choices help him be his best self, or give him an excuse to be mediocre?

Well, I hope he’ll see me reading the following books frequently.

Informative Books

How do you become good at a business? What are good financial habits? What’s square foot gardening? How can I change my thinking? I want the books I read to teach our children, “if you’ve got a question, don’t just Google it–look for an expert and read.” Rich Dad, Poor Dad gets a line here: “I [Robert Kiyosaki] am concerned that too many people are focused too much on money and not on their greatest wealth, which is their education.”

The Bible and The Book of Mormon

I’d be lying if I tried to pretend that these two books haven’t helped me be my best self. Put briefly, when I read them, I become more charitable. I find myself not just being “Christian,” but actually trying to act like Christ: a little kinder, more patient, focusing on what matters most. Beyond that, I know that both books are a witness that God loves us, that we’re His spirit children, and that He has a glorious plan for each of us. They literally inspire! Both are best read with a healthy dose of prayer. One of my favorite verses comes from the prophet Nephi: “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”

The Lord of the Rings

There’s a reason that The Lord of the Rings still sets the standard for fantasy writing. While its depth, scope, and imagination are impressive, what I like about Lord of the Rings is that it reminds me of why we have heroes in the first place: to inspire us. One of my favorite lines: “Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.” (Tip: if you’re not ready to read something as massive as The Lord of the Rings, start with The Hobbit.)

A Christmas Carol/A Tale of Two Cities

If reading A Christmas Carol isn’t part of your December routine, what can I say–you’re missing out! Humor, wit and lots of holiday spirit. (And a dash of “spooky” thrown in.) A Tale of Two Cities, on the other hand, is a reminder of what our passions can do if let too far–but also a reminder of what we’re capable of. Quick line from A Christmas Carol: “His own heart laughed, and that was enough for him.”


Too many books in this category to name them all, but a few favorites I plan to read again are: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin; Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story; Up From Slavery: an Autobiography; and Garibaldi: Father of Modern Italy. Quoting Gifted Hands here: “Successful people don’t have fewer problems. They have determined that nothing will stop them from going forward.”

The Chronicles of Narnia/Other Children’s Books

C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series really deserves a spot by itself on this list, but I’m lumping it with other children’s books to be brief. If our son doesn’t learn who Aslan, Martin the Warrior, Ratty, Curious George, Captain Nemo, and the rest of my literary friends are, I’ll be asking myself, “where did I go wrong!?” The quote for this section comes from Redwall–Squire Julian Gingivere, to be precise: “[your sword] is a tribute to whoever forged it in bygone ages. There are very few such swords as this one left in the world, but remember, it is only a sword, Matthias! It contains no secret spell, nor holds within its blade any magical power. This sword is made for only one purpose, to kill. It will only be as good or evil as the one who wields it.”

What influence do your books carry?





P.S. FYI, the links above aren’t affiliate links–they’re just for reference.


  1. Love this post. Love that you’re so excited to share your reading heritage with your son. I felt the same way with my children and am now sharing my books with my grands. Our favorite books are like our literary fingerprints. Knowing you, I wasn’t at all surprised at the books you listed here. They fit you perfectly. I hope you enjoy many, many hours reading with your children!

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