J.K. Rowling says, “There are always room for stories that can transport you to another place.” Maybe that’s why I am head-over-heels in love with stories and those who tell them well. As an abandoned child, I suffered abuse that beggars the imagination. Stories were like magic carpet rides that transported me away to far better places. For a few precious hours I could travel a thousand leagues under the sea with Captain Nemo, drift down the Mississippi with Huck Finn, and even fly to the stars with Jules Verne. Yet stories offer more than a temporary escape from unpleasant realities. They have the power to stir our deepest emotions and transform us with hope that the impossible is really possible. Perhaps that is why God packs our Bible with epic tales of adventure, intrigue and redemption—and why, when Jesus wanted to move people, he told stories that still inspire and transform us 2,000 years later.
Having been transformed by the power of storytelling, I have given my life to crafting stories that bring hope and inspire courage. Please allow me to share five books among many that have inspired me to become a better storyteller.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
From this classic allegory, I realized the power of allegory to speak gospel truth to the nonreligious. Like Jesus’ parables, great stories have a universal attraction. Those who have ears to hear heaven’s message will get the gospel. Those who don’t will get a great story. My One Year Book of Amazing Stories has been written for the unchurched. Yet spiritual lessons are tucked within each, waiting to be gleaned by those who have ears to hear. Perhaps, if more faith-based books and movies took the approach of Jesus’ parables and C.S. Lewis’ chronicles, they might find a larger crossover audience.
Alaska by James A. Michener
This master storyteller knew how to weave together epic sagas spanning multiple generations. And yet these various threads of DNA come together in a single person who is transforming today’s world. From Michener I learn that each of our stories is only a chapter in a saga that God has been writing for untold generations, and will continue to write in the lives of those who follow us. Each of us is an indispensable character in the greatest story ever written.
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
This storyteller writes like a journalist, with short, declarative sentences. He is the master of distilling great themes into a few well-chosen worlds. Movie critics say that films are not great because of what is on the reel, but for the film that is left on the cutting room floor. There is a reason that an Oscar is given for film editing. Hemingway shows that stories soar when the excess fat is cut away.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Though it was written in the 1830s, this is the prototype of the modern novel. More importantly, it is the story of redemption. It deals with the human condition, the consequences of our actions, and the struggle between God, morality, and the destructive idea that any of us can be the Superman in our own saga. From this profound novel, I learned that every story must mirror the only story that matters: the story of redemption.
God Meant It for Good by R.T. Kendall
This breathtaking story of Jacob’s son Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers, and his triumph over bitterness, is an epic saga of God’s working through the evil of people to produce ultimate good. Kendell’s masterful storytelling brought healing to me, and taught me that great stories can be the most powerful instruments of healing. I also learned that God is writing my story; that your and my history is really His Story. Most importantly, the darkest chapters—the ones we wish he hadn’t written—are the ones that shape us best to help others experience their amazing stories.
So many great stories have contributed to the DNA of my storytelling, but these five stand above the rest. Thank God for storytellers and stories they tell. Plato was right: it’s the storytellers who change the world!
Robert Petterson, author of The One Year Book of Amazing Stories
You wouldn’t believe it, but . . .
- James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader, grew up mute.
- Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
- Albert Einstein was bullied mercilessly in school.
- Beethoven’s mom almost aborted him.
Life takes the strangest sharp turns—and sometimes, U-turns. Robert Petterson—popular speaker, storyteller, and author—has been a student for his entire life of what God is teaching us through those real-life U-turns. In this book, he compiles 365 amazing stories that teach lessons you won’t easily forget. Each entry is written in the rest-of-the-story style popularized by Paul Harvey. With The One Year Book of Amazing Stories, you’ll marvel at how God has used the lives of these ordinary p/eople to change the course of human history.