Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thursdays With Helen: Five Books That Have Impacted My Life

We've had numerous guests on our blog over the last few weeks sharing their list of five books that have impacted their lives.  Last Week Jess shared her list, and now it's my turn!

I have an interesting assortment in my five ... come take a look ...

The Folk of the Faraway Tree Series by Enid Blyton

These were just my favourite favourite books growing up.  I loved getting lost in the enchanted wood, climbing the faraway tree with it's crazy inhabitants and discovering what new land was at the top of the tree every day.  What an imagination Enid Blyton had! And her writing fuelled my own imagination.  I seriously wanted to have an enchanted wood of my own.  I wished there had been some woods for me to explore so I could really pretend I was off to visit Moonface.  But you know ... in Australia we have bushland ... it's not quite the same ...

Personality Plus by Florence Littauer

Doesn't sound too exciting, right?  But I swear, this book is life changing!!

You've probably heard Jess and I mention this book before (see here and here for more, if interested).  Everyone's personality is a combination of 4 types - melancholy, phlegmatic, sanguine and choleric - with one or two types being dominant in each person.

Still yawning? Put it this way - have you ever wondered why you always butt heads with a particular person? Or wondered why your spouse just can't seem to hurry themselves? And why someone else just won't slow down?

I read this book, and it was like the clouds parted and I had attained a clarity I'd never dreamed possible.  You can't change people, but understanding your personalty type and their personalty type helps to explain so many things and hence makes it easier to deal with.  For example, now that I understand I'm a melancholy, I'm not so hard on myself for being sensitive, prone to tears and prone to taking comments personally.  It's also a relief to realise that my beautician is of sanguine temperament and so she's going to say things about my body without thinking, but she doesn't mean anything by it! (I'm still trying to forget her recent comment about me being a prude ...)

Not only will this book change the way you see people, but it will give you a few good laughs in the process.  Florence is a Christian, so it's great to see this written from the perspective that God made us all unique with our own specific function in life.  That's a great comfort!

The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson

I read this, and a couple of other biographies (like The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, Forgive Me Natasha by Sergei Kourdakov) as a young teenager.  All three impacted me equally, but for the purposes of this exercise I'll stick with The Cross and the Switchblade.  It was the first insight I really had into the amazing things God does in people's lives.  This book wrenched my heart out as I read about the lives of street gangs in New York.  But it also made my heart soar as I read about the complete turn around the Holy Spirit can work in the lives of hardened street kids.  To see how specifically God can provide needs when you have nothing else to rely on but Him is something every Christian should know.

The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman

I'd always loved history ... particularly the middle ages in Europe and England.  I read history books, but what I really wanted to know and imagine was what life was like living in the past.

Then my friend dropped the historical fiction novel, The Sunne in Splendour in my lap.  I was swept up in the details of the reigns of brothers Edward IV and Richard II, captivated by the romance and totally lost in the period.  It was like I'd found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  I had a new favourite genre.  I particularly enjoyed this book because Sharon Penman is attempting to create the story behind the actual history.  I love learning about history whilst enjoying an enthralling story.

(Please note, this book is NOT Christian ... and contains some adult content)

The Anxiety Cure by Dr. Archibald D. Hart

I have had a couple of periods in my life where I have suffered from a fairly crippling amount of anxiety and panic attacks.  During one of these times, I read several books on anxiety that were written by Christian authors.  They all had a different perspective, they all had their merits but this one made the most sense to me.  

Dr Hart showed me that I'm an adrenaline junkie. 

You're confused, I know.  I'm not inclined to dare devil activities at all.  But it's true - I live life at a roller coaster pace.  I don't stop and relax, I put a low priority on sleep and I don't ever let my mind rest.  Dr. Hart's spends a whole chapter explaining what stresses do to our brain - both bad and "good" stresses - and it made so much sense.  It was a great comfort for me to know there was a physiological reason for what was happening to me.  Dr. Hart goes on to talk about the methods for treatment, including the appropriate use of medication as well as life style changes required to manage and prevent anxiety episodes.  I now understand and accept the importance of sleep and relaxing.  Whilst I still often get caught up in the fast pace of living in the 21st century, I know my early warning signs now and so I make myself slow down before I trigger panic attacks again.

By the way, Dr. Hart's book "Adrenaline and Stress" is another great read for all of us living in the fast paced world we're in today.

Helen's favourite genre is historical fiction with a strong romantic element.  She also enjoys contemporary romance, chick-lit and YA.  She's not caught up in the spell of fantasy fiction, despite The Faraway Tree series being a strong influence in her childhood.

Helen is currently working on her first book, a Christian young adult novel set between two opposite but equally fascinating places in Australia.


  1. I felt the same way about the magic faraway tree. I imagined I was in those lands at the top of the tree and I wanted that tree also. Enid Blyton knew how to capture a child's imagination. I loved the Circus series, naughtiest girl series and others.

    1. I still really enjoy the magic faraway tree ... I feel like reading it again now! They were books I read as a kid and still enjoyed late in my teen years. I once saw all three in beautifully illustrated hardback at one of those Dymocks table stalls in a shopping centre, and bought them for my kids. I can't wait to read it to them when they're a bit older!

      I don't know the Circus series, but LOVED the naughtiest girl too :) Did you read the two Wishing Chair books? They were great!

  2. Helen, Thanks for this post. I am not familiar with most of these books but am so glad that they all spoke to your heart! Blessings!

    1. Yes it's a bit of an unconventional list! It would look a lot different if I limited myself to fiction only :)

  3. Interesting list Helen! Loved the Faraway tree series and I'd read The Cross and the Switchblade when I was a young Christian... it was very powerful! Personality Plus sounds like it would explain a lot lol! And I'm particularly interested in The Sunne in Splendour... I believe the best.. and most enjoyable... way to learn about history is through historical novels!! Especially the romantic kind ;)

    1. Agreed! They are the best sort of historical lessons. :)

    2. Sharon Kay Penman's books are heavy going because they really do focus on the historical events of the day. But if you're going to learn about history, you're right - it may as well be romantic :)

  4. Helen,
    Awesome list:) I'm partial to David W. too and was so saddened when he passed away but oh my, what a legacy he leaves! You've given me some new ones to check out! Thanks for such a great series. You and Jess have the best ideas!

    1. Laura, I hadn't realised David W. had passed away! He was amazing ... so much guts and so much faith! I'm so glad you enjoyed the series - thank you for being involved and for following along. It's always so nice to have you drop in :)

  5. All of these books sound good, Helen! Thanks for sharing your five with us. I read a book about understanding personality types years ago, and I wish I knew where it was. It really does help you understand other people, and it's also helpful to have nearby when creating story characters. :-)

    1. Hi Gwen! Hope you're settling into Kentucky :)

      You're so right about using personality types and creating characters. In fact, in the character profile template I've created, I have a field there specifically for personality type! My hero for example, is a total sanguine - funny, the life of the party ... but you have a hard time getting him to be serious for a moment.

  6. Hi Helen :)

    What a great list. Interesting and varied. My 11 yr old daughter was lamenting the lack of 'interesting books to read', I borrowed the Faraway Tree series for her to read and she devoured them in a few days! :) The Anxiety book sounds interesting, I don't have panic attacks, but I nodded and smiled as I read about you being an adrenaline junkie. I think I must be as well, I never seem to slow down and relax either. And sleep? :/ too many interesting books to read or write for that! All the best as you write for His glory.

    1. Hi Lucy! Nice to see you here!

      So glad your daughter enjoyed the Faraway Tree series :) I think they're required reading for children - gets the imagination going!

      I think panic attacks are just one of the many different ways our bodies react to too much stress ... other people will react differently (depression, or physical ailments for example). If I kind of "disappear" from facebook or even this blog for periods of time, it's simply because I've pushed too far and need to chill out for a bit! Unfortunately, the reading often has to stop too :(

      By the way, I'm so excited you finished your book and I'm looking forward to reading it one day!