Picking the fifteen authors that have most influenced me is a bit like picking groomsmen. There are a few selections that just have to be there, even if a couple of them are semi-embarrassing and don’t quite fit with all the rest. After the absolutes, it is a vast prairie of possibilities. Every committed decision unleashes three possibilities that could very well be in its place. But, if this is the hardest task of my day, I’m doing pretty well. So, here they are, in no particular order. My Friday Fifteen.
2) Madeline L’EngleI still cry at the end of A Wrinkle in Time. Love is the most important thing in the world and it is displayed as an epic hero in much of L’Engle’s work.
4) Charles DickensReading Dickens is like watching an artist carefully paint stroke by stroke. It seems slow at times but, at the end, you’re shocked to see the beautiful fullness of the picture and are thankful you were watching each and every stroke.
6) Gary PaulsenAnother huge influence from my childhood, Paulsen’s novels felt to me like a call to masculinity. I read The Hatchet and The River in school and it made me start to consider what it might mean to be a good man.
8) Jules VerneThey’re just fun, aren’t they? The Jules Verne novels. They don’t try too hard, they just tell a great story.
10) James DashnerThis is one of my new favorites and it is strange how much it has impacted me. The Maze Runner did what 1984 once did and challenged the boundaries of my imagination. I also appreciate Dashner’s breakneck speed. They are the kind of novels that dare you to blink – not just The Maze Runner series, but The Eye of Minds and others of his as well.
Those are my fiction influences. The rest are non-fiction, which is just fiction that has been lived. These non-fiction influences shaped the way I think and feel about the world, God, and myself. Obviously, this bleeds into my stories
12) A.W. TozerI don’t know what to say about Tozer. It just feels like worship when I read his words. It is the most God-centric writing I’ve encountered to date.
14) Donald MillerMiller writes with such whimsy and grace. It is like an roller coaster ride through a cloud – it should be scary, but it is oddly comforting and a whole lot of fun.
15) Jonathan EdwardsOk, so I went to seminary and can sometimes be a nerd about it. Edwards taught me that I might be able to change the world just by being who I am. Writing and speaking from the heart, boldly and with a humble eye toward truth, Edwards is my favorite theologian and he communicated mostly through writing. His sermons were boring affairs where he read a text, line by line. But people were engaged because it was dripping with truth. And that was enough to monumentally change the world around him.
Sorry to those who didn’t make the wedding party. You still matter a great deal to me.
Check out my debut novel, The Mountains, to see what all this influence brought about. It is a story of adventure and identity, based on my experience travelling to 12 countries (five continents) in 2013 as a missionary.