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39 Books That Have Shaped My Life in 39 Years of Living

39 Books That Have Shaped My Life in 39 Years | Kristy's Cottage blog

I’m thirty-nine years old today.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than giving a nod to the books which have shaped me as a woman, wife, mom & educator.

Because, friends, I’ve loved words for as long as I can remember.

My earliest recollection of wanting to read is a memory from my kindergarten year:

I was five years old and attending a public school in Springdale, Arkansas. I remember sitting at a little airplane-style desk in my kindergarten class while my teacher, Mrs. Baker, walked through the classroom handing out colorful, softback Scholastic books.

When I received my book, I gently turned it over in my hands, my eyes perusing the pictures and scanning the words. I wanted to know what those words said.

A few months later, my dad left his management job in Springdale and my parents went into full-time ministry as missionaries in Latin America.

My mom pulled me out of public school that January and my homeschooling journey began.

My second “book” memory is sitting on the gold couch in our living room- it was, after all, the 1980s- beside my mom, reading a simple sentence from my Rod and Staff primary reader:

“God made light.”

I never stopped reading.

And I’ve never stopped loving books and words.

Today, I’m giving tribute to thirty-nine (plus!) books that have shaped my life in the past thirty-nine years.

There have been many more, but these are the volumes that stand out in my memories; the books I still treasure in my home; the books I read to my own children or have underlined and reread a million times.

Without these books, I would be a vastly different woman than I am today.

And, without my parents- Eddie and Brenda Smith– who so deeply value truth and beauty, and who introduced those values to me at an early age- I would be a vastly different woman.

I owe my love of learning to you both!

Here’s to living and loving-and learning!- well

P.S. Want to share the book love? Hit a “share” button! Many, many thanks.



39 Books That Have Shaped My Life in 39 Years of Living | Kristy's Cottage blog

Books That Shaped My Childhood

Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.”

-George Bernard Shaw

#1 A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson

I’ve adored reading and writing poetry my entire life, and I believe this book is why.

(The lines of “Where Go the Boats” and “Bed in Summer” still roll through my brain as an adult, thirty-something years later.)

This particular volume really is a marriage of masterpieces by two profound artists: the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson, and the whimsical drawings of Tausha Tudor.

#2 Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

My Grandma- affectionately known as MeMe- gave me a complete set of the Little House books when I was about seven years old.

When I was eight or nine, my family traveled to Mansfield, Missouri, to visit the home of Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Seeing Laura’s writing desk and the pages of her original writings in person- Laura always wrote in pencil- thoroughly fascinated me.

Those books birthed my lifelong love for American history.

#3 The Beatrix Potter Treasury

My childhood eyes feasted on these books and pictures from as early as I can remember; to me, the fantastic world of Beatrix Potter is my childhood.

I owe my love for whimsy and “delicious” words- and probably my love for cups of hot tea on rainy days- to the creative imagination of Miss Potter.

#4 Grandma’s Attic, by Arleta Richardson

My mom read the entire Grandma’s Attic series to our family in the evenings, after supper and before bedtime.

The stories about Mabel and her friend, Sarah Jane, fueled my love of history, old-fashioned values, and adventure.

Mabel also grew up and married a pastor, which is what I knew I wanted to do too. (And I did.)

#5 Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan

I distinctly remember pouring over Pilgrim’s Progress when I was about nine years old; our family was living in Guatemala at the time, and there really wasn’t much to entertain myself with- other than my books.

Something about Christian’s struggle with guilt, sin, and temptation drew my interest. My young, moralistic heart related deeply with this story; I read it many times as a child

A few years ago, I bought a beautiful, hardback copy of Pilgrim’s Progress and read it to my kids. It is now one of my eleven-year old son’s favorite books.

Books That Shaped My Teenage Years

Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

-Neil Gaiman (paraphrasing G.K. Chesterton)

#6 The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael, by Elisabeth Elliott

I read a number of biographies about Amy Carmichael during my teen years, but this one by Elisabeth Elliot was by far my favorite.

I admired Amy’s life of service as a missionary to India, and felt inspired by the fact that she was such a skilled writer and poet.

I named my oldest daughter after Amy Carmichael. xoxo

#7 Beautiful Girlhood, by Mabel Hale

My mom gave me a copy of Beautiful Girlhood when I was twelve or thirteen years old. I loved the old-fashioned charm and lady-like appeal of this book, and read it many times.

#8 My Utmost For His Highest, by Oswald Chambers

My dad lent me his hardback copy of this book when I was in highschool. I read it numerous times and still refer back to many of the devotions in this little volume.

Oswald Chamber’s thoughts on the Christian life deeply shaped my values as a young believer.

#9 Keep A Quiet Heart, by Elisabeth Elliot

This devotion-style book was pretty much always on my night stand during my teenage years.

I found a sense of comfort in Elisabeth Elliot’s raw, honest faith in God. Her writings had a deep impact on my life as a young woman; I still consider her one of my life mentors.

# 10 Stepping Heavenward, by Elizabeth Prentiss

This book was another staple in my regular reading as a teenage girl. Being a rather serious teenager myself, I related with the heroine of the story- Kate- on so many levels.

Stepping Heavenward is written in journal-form and chronicles the life of young Kate and her quest for living out her faith through the ups and downs of life in the late nineteenth century.

The author of the book, Mrs. Elizabeth Prentiss, was an American writer and the wife of a minister; her life story is a worthy read, as well.

Books That Shaped Me As a Young Wife and Mom

A child’s first teacher is its mother.”

-Peng Liyuan

#11 Gentle Passages, by Robin Jones Gunn

My mom gave me a copy of this book when I was twenty-two years old.

I was still a new wife, and was expecting my first child- a daughter- in a few months.

This short, little book opened up some hard places in my heart and began a work of growth and healing that has sustained me as an adult woman and mother of two teenage daughters.

Sadly, this book is no longer in print but you can still find it, used, on Amazon. Every “girl mom” needs a copy of this book in her hands.

You can read my review of it here.

#12 Loving the Little Years, by Rachel Jankovic

I read this book as a young mama and it deeply shaped the way I viewed motherhood (for the better!).

Rachel’s personality and gifts are so different from my own; her writing gave me much to think about and shifted my thinking while affirming my values.

I read this one more than once!

#13 Love and Respect, by Dr. Emmerson Eggeriches

My mom gave me a copy of this book when I was a new wife; I’m forever thankful that she did!

The message of Love and Respect became a corner stone in the foundation of my life as a woman and wife. I read it many times in the early years of my marriage.

Also recommended by this author: Mother and Son: the Respect Effect. You can read my review here.

#14 Lies Women Believe, by Nancy DeMoss Woglemuth

My sister, Julie, recommended this book to me many years ago.

Nancy’s message spoke to my heart on such a deep level; it exposed and uprooted some very long-standing lies I had believed about God, myself, and my role as a woman.

Also recommended: Lies Girls Believe, by Dannah Gresh, and Lies Young Women Believe, by Gresh and Wolgemuth.

#15 The Hardest Peace, by Kara Tippetts

I discovered Kara’s blog and this book at a time in my life when I desperately needed “centering” and perspective.

Kara was dying of terminal cancer when she wrote this book; I wept my way through the pages, wept when she lost her battle with cancer- and left behind four young children- and I’ve never forgotten the lessons her life taught me.

On the tough days, I still think of Kara and this book. It changed how I view life and eternity.

#16 Own Your Life, by Sally Clarkson

I’ve never read a book I didn’t like by Sally Clarkson, but Own Your Life is probably my favorite.

I’m a pretty autonomous woman, so the message of this book spoke loud and clear to me: honor God by taking responsibility for your life and who you become.

Sally’s vision of living with excellence has shaped me greatly.

# 17 Heartfelt Discipline, by Clay Clarkson

I read Heartfelt Discipline about five or six years ago; this is another book I wept my way through.

I’ve recently reread it, and am so thankful for the message of Biblical grace and discipleship it offers parents.

Heartfelt Discipline is a “corner stone” book in my life as a mom.

#18 Moms Ultimate Guide to the Tween Girl World, by Nancy Rue

I found this book on a “$5 table” at a book store several years ago. At the time, my oldest daughter was just moving into the tween years and I felt like I was floundering as a mom.

Nany Rue’s message not only opened my eyes to truths about raising and loving a tween-age daughter, but it opened my heart to much-needed healing from my own adolescence.

This book only cost me five dollars, but it is invaluable to me. You can read my review right here.

#19 The 20 Hardest Questions Every Mom Faces, by Dannah Gresh

I discovered Dannah Gresh through True Girl (formally Secret Keeper Girl) events. I’ve read most all of her books, but this one is probably my favorite.

In The 20 Hardest Questions Every Mom Faces, Dannah tackles some pretty tough- and sometimes taboo– topics that are very much a part of raising kids in this generation.

#20 Different: he Story of an Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him, by Sally Clarkson

I read Different several years ago, when Sally Clarkson wrote it with her son, Nathan. Honestly, I didn’t love it.

Last year, I pulled it off my book shelf again and revisited the pages.

This time, I cried as the messages of hope and affirmation rolled over my weary mommy-heart.

Some books are for certain seasons.

#21 Hold On To Your Kids, by Dr. Gordon Neufeld and Dr. Gabor Mate

This isn’t the type of book I typically read; the authors are secular, and it’s more about child development than parenting.

But I needed to read this book.

It mended some of the gaps in my parenting paradigm, and brought a sense of understanding to areas I felt were lacking in my own development.

Hold On To Your Kids may not be for everyone; but it was a necessary read for me.

#22 Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood, by Dr. Lisa Damour

Here’s another book by a secular author that greatly shaped my parenting paradigm.

As a believer, there were parts of this book that I skimmed or filtered out. But the majority of this author’s message spoke to my own journey as a girl-turned-woman.

I feel like reading Untangled contributed to my personal wholeness- a necessary part of mothering my own daughters well.

#23 Raising Great Kids, by Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud

The title sounds a bit simplistic, but the message is deep.

This is building-block material for Christian parents, right here. I enjoyed working through the Raising Great Kids workbooks, as well.

Books That Help Me Grow As A Woman

One of the marks of a godly woman is that she takes responsibility for her soul’s need for joy and delight.”

-Sally Clarkson

#24 Will I Ever Be Good Enough?, by Dr. Karyl McBride

This was a tough read for me. I don’t think every woman needs this book, but I certainly did.

Will I Ever Be Good Enough? helped me identify unhealthy patterns in my life and gave me the courage to deal with old baggage and move forward.

#25 Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

This book literally changed my life. I feel like the message of Boundaries could be the missing key for anyone who feels trapped in unhealthy relational or communication patterns.

I highly recommend this book.

I’ve also read and recommend Boundaries in Marriage, Boundaries With Kids (read my review here), and Boundaries With Teens.

#26 Changes That Heal, by Dr. Henry Cloud

This book is a manual to help a person move from emotional unhealth to wholeness.

I read Changes That Heal after about a decade of healing and difficult heart-work; this book is spot on.

#27 Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey

This book sets the bar high for emotional growth and maturity.

7 Habits was a paradigm-changer for me.

I also recommend 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, by Sean Covey.

#28 Fierce Women, by Kimberly Wagoner

I knew when I heard the author speak on a podcast that I needed to read this book.

Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior chronicles the journey of Kimberly Wagoner, a type-A pastor’s wife and mother, in her journey of embracing her personality and using her God-given strength as an asset in her marriage.

#29 The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men and Marriage, by Suzanne Venker

Ironically, I discovered this book when my husband, Jeremy, read one of the author’s articles on a Fox News column. Suzanne Venker has since become one of my favorite authors.

The Alpha Female spoke to me as a type-A woman, and felt both affirming and challenging. Although the author is secular, Mrs. Venker’s voice aligns with Scriptural principles of marriage and womanhood.

You can read my review of another book by this author- The Two Income Trap- right here.

#30 The Introverted Mom, by Jamie C. Martin

The Introverted Mom is a recent read for me- and a personal new favorite.

Jamie Martin, a fellow introvert, is a breath of fresh air as she gives readers permission to live and love well within our own, unique design.

#31 Grace, Not Perfection, by Emily Ley

Another recent read which made it to my “best books of all time” list.

As a woman who is a textbook “Type 1” on the Enneagram, I found much solace and freedom to breathe within the pages of this book.

Books That Shaped My Perspectives on Health & Wellness

Doctors won’t make you healthy. Nutritionists won’t make you slim. Teachers won’t make you smart. Gurus won’t make you calm. Mentors won’t make you rich. Trainers won’t make you fit. Ultimately, you have to take responsibility.”

-Naval Ravikant

#32 Herbal Antibiotics, by Stephen Harrod Buhner

This is the first “natural living” book I ever read, and it quickly became one of my go to resources as a young mom.

I still use this book as a reference and have lost count of how many times I’ve read it.

#33 Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon Morell

I first saw this book lying on the kitchen table at my midwife’s home in 2010. I purchased a copy of Nourishing Traditions for myself and have implemented many of its “whole food” values over the years.

A second and related recommendation would be The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care.

#34 Taking Charge of Your Fertility, by Toni Weschler

This exhaustive book will tell you everything you need to know about your body as a woman, but no one had the guts to tell you.

I’ve read a number of books on women’s health and reproduction, and this is the most informative and professionally compiled resource I’ve found.

#35 Mouth Care Comes Clean, by Dr. Ellie Phillips

Our homeopath recommended Dr. Ellie Phillips to me many years ago; I’m a fan of her books, her oral health protocol, and her healthy gum and mint line- Zellies.

This book is a must read for every woman who wants to really know how to take care of her oral health, or help her kids have healthy teeth.

Check out my interview with Dr. Ellie and review of Zellies.

Books That Shaped Me As An Educator

Give your child a single valuable idea, and you have done more for his education than if you had laid upon his mind the burden of bushels of information.”

-Charlotte Mason

#36 Educating the Wholehearted Child, by Clay Clarkson

Over the years, I’ve read oodles of books about homeschooling. This book is one of the few I’ve read which focuses on heart issues with grace, instead of relying on methods, rules, or stringent routines.

Educating the Wholehearted Child is an exhaustive resource that has carried me through many phases and seasons of homeschooling.

#37 The Charlotte Mason Companion, by Karen Andreola

My friend, Tammy, lent me a copy of this book on “the gentle art of learning” when I was a young, homeschooling mom. The Charlotte Mason Companion wooed me over to Charlotte Mason methods and greatly shaped my paradigm as an educator.

Although I consider myself a classical educator these days, at heart, I think of this book as my reference point for how I want my children to learn.

#38 Teaching From Rest, by Sarah Mackenzie

Last year was a particularly tough homeschooling year for our family. My friend, Tiffany, mentioned this book one day to me as I was confiding to her some of our struggles.

Teaching From Rest literally transformed our homeschooling. Well, actually, it transformed me.

I revisit this book often and cannot recommend it highly enough.

#39 Dyslexia 101: Truths, Myths and What Really Works, by Marianne Sunderland

Two of my five kids are dyslexic. Learning how to help them learn has been one of my most daunting challenges as a home educator.

Dyslexia 101 is a resource I turn to often. It also introduced me to Marianne Sunderland- a mother of eight kids, seven of whom are dyslexic- and her incredibly helpful blog- Homeschooling With Dyslexia.

Are you a reader?

What book(s) would make this list for you?

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39 Books That Have Shaped My Life in 39 Years | Kristy's Cottage blog

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  1. Happy Birthday to my wonderful and inspiring sister!! Excellent article and resource information!

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