12 Authors Who Influence Me

by | Jun 3, 2014 | Books


A friend messaged me over the weekend saying she bought one of the “I can’t put it down” books I shared on my list of summer binge reads last week. When she said she finished The Forgotten Garden in 48 hours, the most satisfying smile spread over my face. I’m not sure there is a more fulfilling gift to give away than a book that touches your life dramatically.

And that was just my fiction list.

Today, I’m sharing books of non-fiction that have shaped my life; titles that I return to over and over again like opening a tin of dark chocolate when depleted. And perhaps this is more pointedly a list of favorite writers and a revelation of sorts.

These twelve authors are actually some of the great leaders of my life. Their influence often shapes my doubt into truth. World thinkers, futurists, theologians and craftsman who inspire, challenge and re-create my thoughts like an artisan working on a masterpiece.

And their words don’t always reflect my beliefs. They challenge, enlighten, refine and sometimes redefine my beliefs.

Recently I heard Rick Warren give some of the best advice about reading.“If all you are doing is reading contemporary books you are no smarter than your peers. Develop roots. Read counter to your personality.”

Let’s scour the shelves together, shall we?


Codependent No More by Melody Beattie – As the child of an alcoholic, this book was the beginning of my beautiful ugly journey toward healing. If you rub shoulders with someone who suffers with addiction, you are kidding yourself if you think you aren’t affected by codependency. This book sheds light on brokenness in the right places for a legacy of beautiful redemption.

Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown – I read Codependent No More about 25 years ago and these two books by Brown are like an addendum delving deeper. Her work as a shame researcher is a life raft for humanity. I’m not sure any of us are exempt from the fear of vulnerability.

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller – When this book first published, I highlighted large portions, engaged conversation among friends and gave it away like candy. Perhaps it was the first book of its kind — authentic, raw and childlike about relationship with Jesus. All I know is that Don’s real and unpretentious faith captivated and inspired me. (Psst, it’s only $2.99 on Kindle through Amazon if you already own the hard copy.)

Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner – One of the most memorable moments of my writing life is standing face-to-face with Lauren in the breezeway at Laity Lodge, asking for advice about publishing. I shamelessly admitted being a fan after I read GMG while sick in bed for a week. Her Mudhouse Sabbath  inspires the Sabbath Society.  I think Lauren’s faith journey somehow lends courage — to know what I believe with conviction and then live it out with abandon.

Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer – The pages are dog-eared and yellow and the words have done more to shape my thoughts about the attributes of God than any other besides the Bible. I read it the first time in carpool when my son was a preschooler, wiping my eyes with tissues so I could see through the windshield.

The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan – I think Mark may be my favorite Christian author of all time because I have read every single one of his books. I don’t like to lend them out for fear I won’t get them back. I read this one almost every week because it fuels my thinking for the Sabbath Society emails but I also read Spiritual Rhythm the same way, over and over again. Read all his titles, you won’t be sorry (this post will be lengthy if I write about all of them). The fact that we’ve shared emails about writing and publishing; that Mark has a guest post here, is God loving me in all the best ways — truly.

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp – I picked up Ann’s book after people told me repeatedly that her writing reminds them of me somehow. (Which, by the way, I consider a great compliment.)After I read the last page, my life shifted. I didn’t know Christian blogging existed until I read the end notes about where to find Ann’s writing. I found  A Holy Experience, (in)courage and The High Calling afterward which fueled a desire to follow in her footsteps. Ann’s influence feels sacred to me somehow, like looking in the mirror with greater clarity. Words fail me to describe it. But I return to her words often.

The Sacred Echo by Margaret Feinberg – A few years ago, I put this book in my carry-on to Kansas for my best friend’s surprise birthday party. Her closest friends were gathered in the living room for morning devotions when she had to leave abruptly to take care of something unexpected. And everyone looked to me for guidance. I began reading excerpts from The Sacred Echo and the rest is history. This book has done more to make me aware of God’s voice than any other and providentially, she is hosting a summer online bible study with it. Margaret is a dear friend and mentor now. Pinch me.

The Great Divorce by C S Lewis – In certain scenarios, scenes from this come back to me like living illustrations. In Lewis’ usual way of serving up truth with divine storytelling, he has shaped my thoughts about heaven and living in ways unmatched by any other author.

The Artisan Soul and Soul Cravings by Erwin McManus – Erwin inspires me to be thoughtful, innovative, creative and unique. I have highlighted almost the entire content of The Artisan Soul and plan to host this one for our next book club. I want to dish this one out like ice cream and savor each paragraph for the sweetness. It is written for everyone but those with vocation in the creative arts will especially appreciate his wisdom and encouragement.

Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire – This book initially fueled my love of reading Christian non-fiction. He is a beautiful, reflective and poetic writer who pens the incarnation of Christ in a way that is meaningful and rich.

Listening to Your Life by Frederick Buechner – While this is a daily devotional it’s really more than that. Every single thing he writes is like exposing your soul to hidden truth. He has a way of seeing that is revelatory, convicting and well, brilliant. Mostly I wish I could write like Frederick, his prose is swoony.

If it were possible, I dream of gathering all twelve of these authors in a room for a chat. A glimpse of heaven, perhaps?  And then I would faint for the joy and forget what I wanted to ask them. Perhaps there is a reason Jesus chose twelve disciples, yes?

For more recommended books in other genres, check out my What I Read tab. Next week, I’m sharing my favorite memoirs.

What title(s) would you add to this list?


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  1. ro elliott

    I have read many of these…and they have been powerful voices of truth in my life… one other major Author… another Canadian… and a hidden treasure… Mike Mason… Mystery of Marriage, Practicing the presence of people, champagne of the soul to name a few. I mentioned him once on my blog(a very long time ago) and Ann V actually commented that he had a great impact on her as well.

    • Shelly Miller

      You know, I actually remember you mentioning him on your blog but I didn’t follow up on that. Thanks Ro! My hubby has dual citizenship now. He has an American and Canadian passport.

  2. Natalie

    I enjoy several of these authors. Windows of the Soul was my first Ken Gire book and I’m right now re-reading his The Reflective Life. It’s still a soul-stirring gift 11 years later. Thanks for sharing.

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh my goodness, I’m not sure I know anyone else who is familiar with GIre. Of course, this is clearly a sign God meant for us to be friends Natalie. *wink*

      • Natalie

        Clearly. Absolutely Providential. You make me laugh. Seriously though, when I saw him on the list, I thought, “Of course. No wonder I connect with her.”

  3. DeanneMoore

    Love so many of these authors and books. Ordered three books for vacation and one of these is in the mail and one I picked from your fiction list. I will probably pack more books than clothes. It’s good that I am going to the beach! I love Eugene Peterson’s book “Run with Horses: The Quest for Life at its Best.” Peterson writes about the prophet Jeremiah…and you may remember, I am an Old Testament “junkie.” So thankful too for his paraphrase of the Bible “The Message” as it has opened up the wonder of God’s word to so many.

    • Shelly Miller

      More books than clothes is always a good choice Dea. Run with the Horses is one of my best friend’s (LuAnn) favorite books. I almost included The Jesus Way (she recommended that one too) but I haven’t finished it yet, I’m savoring. Have a great vacation, you definitely deserve the gift.

  4. Kelly

    I LOVE your blog- because I am a voracious reader and love others who are too.
    I would add: Knowing God by J.I. Packer- fantastic and awesome book that helps you go deeper with your knowledge of God…so so so good. And EVERYTHING by J.C. Ryle….EVERYTHING. he is so good.

    • Shelly Miller

      Aw Kelly, your comment blesses me, thank you. I had the pleasure of sitting across from J.I. Packer and his wife for dinner one evening while in California. What saints! I haven’t read Knowing God and think you may have convinced me, thank you. Voracious readers are good company, yes?

      • Kelly

        I thought I knew God…but truly, this book helped me think of God in different ways than I had thought of Him before. Really made an impression on me. And dinner with J.I Packer????? What in the world did you talk about? Books? 🙂

  5. Amy Young

    Why does it make me smile when I see we’ve read many of the same books? I don’t know, why, but it does :). Here’s to more good reading in the future too!

    • Shelly Miller

      I think our meeting is providential somehow Amy. I’m smiling right back atcha friend.

  6. Kelly W

    One particularly profound book for artists and doers of any style: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield… one is encouraged to take your inspiration seriously. (It’s equally applicable to artists and scientists!)

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