5 Books That Changed My Life: Tara Johnson

So many books. So many stories that painted my world with color and taught me about the sacredness of life. The beauty found in brokenness. That light cannot be appreciated without shadows. Nuances of grace, hidden motives and quirks that give each character a unique personality print all their own.

When I’m asked which books have influenced me the most, I balk. It seems an impossible task because each one I pick up teaches me something new . . . a fresh way of looking at the world. Not all stories are created equal, however. As I pondered, I realized some of these exquisite books took my heart and mind to a deeper place . . . not only for the passion of their content but also because they crossed my path at a very crucial time in my personal journey.

Here are five books that changed my life:

Wings of the Morning by Lori Wick

I first read this book as a teenager, after having spent years reading only Little House on the Prairie and a few sweet romances recommended by my mom. I read Wings of the Morning. Then I read it again. And again. And again. I was entranced, not only that a story could have a historical Christian theme outside of a prairie but also that the characters struggled with deep wounds. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t wrapped up with a neat little bow. Parts of it were messy but beautifully redemptive. I remember thinking, I want to read more books like this. Now, years later, that same longing has bled into the desire to write books with the same kind of adventure and wounded characters.



Anne’s House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery

This fifth book in the Anne of Green Gables series was a staple as I grew up. I must have read it at least ten times as a teenager, but as I grew into my twenties, the richness of the storyline, and Montgomery’s psychological and emotional understanding of the characters like Captain Jim, Cornelia, and Leslie Ford embedded deep in my heart. This was especially true when I lost my third child. I flipped open this beautiful story once again, reliving Anne’s torment when her own precious baby Joyce died. Her lament and mourning . . . Marilla’s helplessness to know what to do or say . . . all of it made me feel as if I weren’t alone. Montgomery had understood the torment all too well. The words she penned became a bridge between her world and my own.



To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I read this masterpiece as a senior reading assignment in high school. It was the first book where I stopped to reread lines, puzzling over each words’ placement. I didn’t understand how an author could communicate such a profound truth in such a simple sentence. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, To Kill a Mockingbird was my first study in the craft of writing. It was also the first time I realized a book could make such a defining statement on social issues and, as a result, leave a lasting imprint on culture.





Lies Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets Them Free by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

I read this amazing nonfiction book several years ago, and I cannot overstate how much it impacted my walk with God. The enemy constantly lies to us. He lies about our worth, our relationship with God, and our mistakes. This book made me aware of the many lies we all fall for and how this influences the decisions we make. It became so integral to understanding human behavior that I now base each book I write on a lie my main character has believed.




Embracing Obscurity by Anonymous

This small but powerful book forced me to reevaluate my life and what truly matters. It’s not about my name being known, how many books I sell, or how many social media followers I have. The markers this world embraces are broken cisterns. We are a people starving to death while choking on our own self-importance. Embracing Obscurity continually reminds me that pride is the continual enemy if the goal is to love God and love people. He must increase. I must decrease. The author so beautifully illustrates this concept by leaving his name off the credits. It’s written by . . . Anonymous.

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