Years ago, I attended a writer’s conference where a speaker said, in three words, what I feel about writing: “Reading is writing.” As an author, reading is the fount of inspiration, sustenance, and courage. That’s where it all began. So it is with great delight that I share five books that have inspired, sustained, and imparted courage—and continue to do so every time I have the lovely chance to revisit them. (This is excepting the Bible, by the way. The Living Word didn’t just rock my world; it upended it, and it is a category unto itself.)
Charles Portis is a much-overlooked and under-appreciated novelist who earned every point of his spurs with this now-classic western, brought to life by two popular movies. (Both are great, though the latest version is much closer to the novel.) Try as I might to outdo one particular reviewer’s comment, I can’t, so here it is: “Charles Portis’s True Grit captures the naive elegance of the American voice.”
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
I’ve only read this novel twice. It’s one of the most potent, shattering stories I’ve ever engaged. It’s tall as Everest, wide as a continent. It’s Steinbeck’s best, in my opinion, though I’m not sure I’m a good judge since I’m not a frothing fan of his other stuff. But this? I still shake my head in awe over this fine, fine novel.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
I’d call this my guilty-pleasure novel. I could restart this book as soon as I’ve finished if I’d let me. The characters, the iconic lines, the events, the unabashed heroism . . . oh, yeah. Give me my Bible and this book on a deserted island.
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
If I had to choose between Narnia and this book, first I’d say it was the meanest choice I’d ever had to make; and second, I’d pick this one. I can still quote a paragraph (mostly) by heart. Wanna hear it? “Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him.”
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
See how I did that? I packed The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King into one handy and accepted title, getting three for the price of one. I’m currently reading the series for the umpteenth time, taking notes as I go, marveling that certain phrases escaped me during previous readings. Well, that’s why we reread books, right? For the stuff that escaped us the first dozen times.
Tracy Groot long knew she wanted to write, but a funny thing happened on the way to college: she became a Christian. She had a wacky but heartfelt notion that she had to make a trade with God for this new life, so she gave him the only thing she really wanted to do—writing. A few years passed. Then one day, doing accounts payable data entry, she realized she had much more fun writing office memos than plugging invoices. Epiphany: She finally got it into her head that God gave her words, not numbers, so she quit and got a job writing radio commercials. Guess how she got the job? Yep—she presented copies of those office memos.
Tracy soon realized writing commercials didn’t quite satisfy her, so she began writing novels in the genre she most loves, historical fiction. Along the way, she raised three sons and ran a coffee shop with her husband.
Tracy loves to bake, eat what she bakes, drink coffee with whatever she has baked, play Catan and Carcassonne, watch movies, read until she passes out, knit until carpal tunnel comes on, stare at Shawn Krueger paintings, travel, do research for stories, walk, hike, sail, and hang out with friends. Not necessarily in that order.