“A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading,” C.S. Lewis once quipped.
Books have always had a huge impact on the people who read them, and even this age of digital streaming cannot break the power of a well-written book. Books that showcase someone’s story are especially powerful; the human experience is something we all share and can relate to. A friend of mine told me about someone close to her who struggled deeply with depression. It was through reading “The Hiding Place,” about Corrie ten Boom in Nazi-occupied Holland, that she found God’s healing. The story of someone else trusting God through difficulty made an incredible impact on her life.
Looking through another lens
I think biographies sometimes get a bad rap. Probably because we call them “biographies,” which only reminds us of boring middle-school book reports.
But a good biography is far from boring.
A good biography is a well-told true story. It shows a person’s struggles and victories and gives us glimpses into a life either vastly different from or somewhat similar to our own. Either way, we soon see parallels in shared experiences and feelings. We learn new things and go to new places. We emerge from our reading changed, looking at life with a richer perspective because we briefly looked through the eyes of someone else.
So many stories to choose from
Nearly every world leader, celebrity, business tycoon and adventurer has published their story — we will never be able to read all of them. So pick one and read the first chapter or two. If it still doesn’t grab your interest, pick a different one. There is no sense slogging through a book you don’t like when there are so many others you might love.
Find a book about someone you’re interested in learning more about. Or consider reading a biography of someone you disagree with. Your convictions may not change, but you will probably gain an appreciation for how someone else arrived at an opinion opposite yours.
Ask your friends for ideas. Or choose from these gems:
“The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom. The story of the ten Boom family living under the Nazi occupation has gripped the world ever since this book was published. If you’ve already read this one, check out “Return to the Hiding Place” by Hans Poley, or try Focus on the Family’s theatrical-quality audio drama based on the book.
“The Drop Box” by Brian Ivie. Brian, a film student, traveled to South Korea to get the scoop on a pastor rescuing unwanted babies, most with special needs. The resulting documentary (also called “The Drop Box”) told the pastor’s inspiring story, but Brian’s story of his own changed life is a must-read.
“Safer Than a Known Way” by Pamela Rosewell Moore. Pam was afraid to become a Christian because she thought God would call her to face her three biggest fears: leaving the country, public speaking and lifelong singleness. She decided to follow Him anyway. And those fears? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
“A Company of Heroes” by Tim Keesee. We’ve all heard inspiring stories of missionaries from years ago, but missionaries are still on the front lines all over the world today. This book shares brief glimpses into the daily lives of several missionaries, some in very difficult places.
“Eight Twenty Eight” by Ian and Larissa Murphy. Ian and Larissa were planning on getting married. But then a car accident left Ian with a traumatic brain injury, and their entire future looked different — if there would be a future at all.
“The Magnolia Story” by Chip and Joanna Gaines. Chip and Jo skyrocketed to celebrity status with their show “Fixer Upper” and the Magnolia Silos in Texas, but not without plenty of trial and error beforehand.
“Unplanned” by Abby Johnson. Abby was a clinic director for Planned Parenthood who made headlines when she switched sides, becoming pro-life after witnessing an abortion for the first time.
“God’s Smuggler” by Brother Andrew. After WWII, a Dutch Christian began smuggling Bibles through Soviet checkpoints and delivered them to persecuted Christian congregations, launching an international ministry.
“Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert” by Rosaria Butterfield. A feminist, atheist, lesbian professor encounters Christ. Rosaria doesn’t sugarcoat how hard her transformation was, and her deep theological wrestling combined with the heaviness of the topic doesn’t make for a simple read. But if you’re up for the challenge, this book offers an incredibly valuable perspective on a hot button issue. If you want similar stories of transformation with a lighter tone, try Rosaria’s second book, “The Gospel Comes with a House Key.”
“Bruchko” by Bruce Olson. In the 1960s, 19-year-old Bruce Olson traveled to South America to evangelize a Stone Age tribe. He didn’t know their language. He had hardly any money and even fewer friends in the area. This unlikely missionary shares an unforgettable story of what God can do.
Make a story a priority
We usually think we’ll have extra time in the summer. Sometimes we do. Sometimes we have less. No matter how much free time you have this summer, challenge yourself to read at least one biography. What other biographies would you add to this list?
The Bible tells us that those who have gone before us are witnesses. Because of their example, we are spurred on to follow after God like they did. The more we read their stories, the more we can remember God’s faithfulness in our own.
And it makes me wonder. What will people learn from the stories of our lives?
Editor’s note: Brian Ivie, Larissa Murphy and Rosaria Butterfield have been featured on “The Boundless Show.” Check out their interviews and get inspired to read their books!
Copyright 2020 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.