For better or for worse, all you and I will ever know is comprised of what we experience and what we read. The end. And who I am is simply the grand total of that composition.
I was recently tagged by a good friend to make a list of the most influential 15 authors in your life–good or bad. Which is not as easy for me as it may sound. I love to read, so imagine asking an alcoholic what his favorite drink is. (Answer: Whichever one is nearby.) While I’ve certainly been more influenced by music than books (an entirely different blog), here is the meme and the list. Keep in mind, this list is not a list of best authors, but the ones who’ve influentially molded me for better or worse.
15 Authors (meme):
Fifteen authors (poets included) who’ve influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag at least fifteen friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what authors my friends choose.
1. Len Sweet. If you know me at all, you know how much I appreciate this guy. I’ve had the honor of spending time with him (yes, over coffee!). One of the greatest thinkers/writers of our time, IMO. My favs include Nudge, Soul Tsunami, Gospel According to Starbucks, Eleven, and Jesus Manifesto.
2. Brennan Manning. A friend loaned me Ragamuffin Gospel while I was in college. I still have it and it looks like a coloring book. It was instrumental in beginning me down the path of being free from ‘religion’ and understanding the free handout of Amazin’ Grace. Ragamuffin Gospel and Abba's Child are still on my 'read every year' list.
3. The wicked smart (former athiest and Yale/Princeton grad) Greg Boyd. God At War, and the companion work Satan and the Problem of Evil were instrumental in developing a trinitarian warfare theodicy that actually makes sense in real time. (Big words for ‘understanding why God allows bad things to happen’.)
4. Anne Rice. How could I NOT include Rice? Ever since the Vampire Chronicles, her writing and character development has amazed me. Lestat and Memnoch are probably the reason I’ve seen every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Likewise, it’s probably the same reason I hate the Twilight series. Seriously. Servant of the Bones and Angel Time are among my favorites.
5. C.S. Lewis. Duh. A close friend of J.R.R. Tolkien, I hope to continue being influenced by Clive Staples as the years go on. Favs include Mere Christianity, The Great Divorce, Narnia and The Screwtape Letters.
6. Dallas Willard. Divine Conspiracy and The Spirit of the Disciplines need to be read by anyone in ministry leadership.
7. Richard Foster. The only book of Foster’s I’ve continued to hang on to is Celebration of Discipline. It absolutely changed my life. It brought freedom in areas I didn’t know I was in bondage to. His insight to 'communing with God' has been transforming to me, to say the least.
8. e. e. cummings. Cumming’s writing is crazy beautiful. ‘anyone lived in a pretty how town (with up so floating many bells down) spring summer autumn winter He sang his didn’t he danced his did’. ‘children guessed (but only a few and down they forgot as up they grew)”
9. Bill Shakespeare. I feel I can call him Bill. After that semester in college when, as an English major, I read every major work he’d written…we’re close. He’s the reason I love iambic pentameter and tragedy.
10. G.K. Chesterton. One of the men I admire most is/was Rich Mullins. So when he said, ‘You need to check out Chesterton’, I ran and grabbed the only think I could find. Luckily, it was Orthodoxy. I still remember reading, ‘Oscar Wilde said sunsets were not of any value because we can’t pay for them. But Oscar Wilde was wrong. We can pay for them by not being Oscar Wilde.’ Thus, was the beginning of me chasing to know Chesterton.
11. Tim LaHaye. There I said it. As a Southern Baptist college student in east Texas, there were two things you didn’t question: Calvinism and Tim LaHaye. I ran into his end times, pre-tribulation theology everywhere…like mushrooms after a bad rain. It formed my theology for years.
12. Shel Silverstein. Probably most famous for The Giving Tree and A Light in the Attic, I realize how much I treasure his writing now that I am an adult and have kids of my own.
13. Chuck Palanuik. Two words that go without saying: Fight Club. His other works (like Choke and Lullaby) are sweetly twisted and expose the beauty and the fallenness of our humanity. But, because of the first rule of Chuck Club, that’s all I can say about that.
14. Edgar Allan Poe. American writer/poet best known for all things mysterious and macabre, who quite possibly invented what we know as detective-fiction. He kept me awake at night long after he was dead, not only by what he said…but by what was left unsaid. Probably the reason I wandered into the writings of #13 and #4.
15. Dr. Seuss. I’ve learned from Seuss that sometimes it’s the questions that are complicated and the answers that are simple. And he’s continually re-opened my eyes to the wonderment of living and the inherent value in each of us. After all, ‘today you are You, that is truer than true. There’s no one alive who is Youer than You.’