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Old Haunts

“It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.”

C.S. Lewis

“Old books, yes! They are the true comforters; and principally because they are old and familiar.”

Vincent Starrett

“Old stories are like old friends, she used to say. You have to visit them from time to time.”

George R.R. Martin

Old haunts. I certainly don’t mean the scary kind. I’ve never been a fan of haunted houses or horror films or marching back to places and things that frighten me. No, I mean haunt in it’s truest grammatical meanings: as verb and noun.

H'AUNT, verb transitive

1. To frequent; to resort to much or often, or to be much about; to visit customarily.

H'AUNT, verb intransitive To be much about; to visit or be present often.

H'AUNT, noun A place to which one frequently resorts.

Simply, I mean my old familiar favorite books. This, first in a series, Top 10 List is a compilation of the books that shaped me, resonated with me, touched me deeply and set me on a path of healing ages 10-24. These are the books I go back to visit, read and reread and I highly recommend.


In No Particular Order

1. Luvly You! Luvable You!

by Char Crawford

A Do-It-Yourself Handbook for the Teenage Girl

My mother put this in my hands somewhere around puberty and it became tattered and torn from so many re-reads in those teenage years. I passed it on to my daughters. It’s dated, likely written in the 70’s by a former model, but it was a good foundational book for me. Her concentration was not just on the outside appearance but on good manners and a kind spirit. She masterfully linked body to soul and spirit. She sprinkled in poetry that I still quote. I truly learned basics of self-care and social skills from this book and I am glad for its friendship over the years.

2. Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Paterson

Winner of the Newberry Medal

I can probably count on one hand, maybe two, the books that have made me cry. As a fifth grader, this book made me sob. I’ve tried to reread it as an adult and it doesn’t have the same appeal. But it was a first look at deep friendship and deep grief so it likely struck chords in my young heart. Fifth grade was rough for me. Fifth graders can be brutal bullies and I was not exempt from them. Terabithia gave me a place to belong aside Jess and Leslie. It felt like a coming of age book for me. It sits on my shelf as a sad old friend.

3. Poetry Books

by Helen Steiner Rice

Helen Steiner Rice books used to come in little card size pamphlet-like gift books with a theme. I collected all of them. Or as many of them as I could. Then, I asked for Helen Steiner Rice calendars for Christmas every year. I pored over her poems. She is by far the single most significant influence on my poetry - especially my early poetry. I was a weird kid! Girls my age were reading Seventeen magazine and Forever by Judy Blume and I was geeking out over Helen Steiner Rice poetry. No wonder I got teased for wearing granny panties in the locker room. Rice passed away when I was almost 13 and I remember the occasion well from the news. No surprise here, her life was one to emulate. She suffered the early death of her father and husband. Her faith was preeminent. Her poetry is extensive in breadth and depth. You can read more about her here. And pick up one of her old books— you won’t be sorry.

4. Apples of Gold

compiled by Jo Petty

This book is a compilation of quotes, sayings, proverbs and verses to describe the nine Fruits of the Spirit. It might rank as my all time favorite book. In it, I first discovered my very favorite quote. This quote has served me through every season of life and has been immeasurably valuable in my healing. It’s on page 15.

"Come what may, hold fast to love! Though men should rend your heart, let them not embitter or harden it. We win by tenderness; we conquer by forgiveness.”

5. Wings of Silver

compiled by Jo Petty

This is volume 2 of Apples of Gold. Same format. Same chapter titles. New sayings and quotes. This book is particularly significant to me because it’s the first birthday gift my husband ever gave me as his girlfriend. It was gifted on my 21st birthday and followed up with a tender kiss on the cheek. I cried. He inscribed it ‘with love’. It, too, is worth the read.

6. Wisdom From The Bible

by Dan & Nancy Dick

Daily Thoughts From the Proverbs

This book is straight up a daily devotional book with the date written at the top starting with January 1 and ending with December 31. Old friend, indeed. Granting more wisdom than I could ever absorb but available year after year for fresh insights.

7. Lord of the Dance

by Deidre Bobgan

The Beauty of the Disciplined Life

This is the first book I bought myself after a heart-wrenching break up with my high school boyfriend of three and a half years. It’s premise is about ballet. And dance. I grew up in a home, a church culture and a school culture that didn’t dance. Ever. When I was a little girl, I asked my mom if I could dance ballet and she said only the chubby little girls do that cause their moms want them to lose weight. You can laugh. She might deny that quote. But that’s what my little ears heard. She probably didn’t want to spend the money or drive to the studio 3x a week or pay for the costumes or deal with putting her kid’s hair up in a bun every other day. She might not have wanted to explain that at our house we don’t dance. No matter - I got the message: I wasn’t chubby enough. Giggle. So, this book intrigued me and educated me about ballet. It’s demands. It’s finesse. It’s discipline and commitment. It was written by a Christian so I became exposed to the idea that good Christians can dance (some of you may not understand this as being novelty rhetoric for those of us reared in this culture, but many of my readers will). Most importantly, it was one of the first books I bought to start taking responsibility for myself. For my health, my growth, my well-being and my healing. It still speaks to me when I let it. All types of dancers often start with classical ballet and this book marries basic ballet and life beautifully. It’s a good place to start. I hope you dance.

8. Rich Christians in an Age of


by Ronald J. Sider

Moving from Affluence to Generosity

Required reading for a course my senior year of college put this book into my hands. I’m so glad. It was a read I may have missed had it not been demanded of me as a student. But it was transformative and offered me trajectory into how I wanted to live my life in regards to the poor, American materialism, money and calling.

9. Life’s Little Instruction Book

by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

511 suggestions, observations, and reminders on how to live a happy and rewarding life

My sister gave this book to me on the occasion of my 24th birthday which fell about 4 weeks after I graduated college and dedicated our first baby to the Lord. I needed an instruction manual for life! Besides it fitting into a genre I enjoy, which are easy reads with proverbs and quotes, I was also drawn to the fact that a father wrote this for his son. I think the books written from parent to child are especially endearing. I own all three volumes and there’s some really good advice housed here! My sister starred her favorites for me and as I leafed through today — getting reacquainted with this old friend— number 68 was starred. A lump swelled a bit in my throat.

#68 ‘Be brave. Even if you’re not, pretend to be. No one can tell the difference.’

I’m not brave. I’ve done so much pretending in my life even I can’t tell the difference any more. This little book has reminded me over and over to be brave. My sister starred it for good measure. And I hope you will remember this little treasure from life’s little instruction book: Be brave!

10. Balcony People

by Joyce Landorf Heatherley

Did I already say I had an all-time favorite book? Do I have to choose? This book is about balcony people and basement people. Balcony people are the affirmers and the encouragers in life. They are the empathizers and the listeners. They are the ones who see your pain and are the hands and feet of Jesus to you. I now own my late cousin’s copy. She was also my college roommate and maid of honor. She was my best friend. No book could begin to hold a candle to her depth of friendship. She was a balcony person. She spurred me on to be a balcony person. She now sits with other balcony people in my life- that great cloud of witnesses who’ve gone on before. Cheering from the balcony. Authors, family, acquaintances, strangers, friends—

My old haunts reminded me today that words penned on a page matter. Over the years, the authors of my Top 10 Book List taught me something, made me chuckle, breathed fresh life into weary places and gave me wisdom. They bring me comfort like old friends and they fit me like an old shoe. For all that, I am grateful.

As you face haunted places in your healing, I hope you’ll read the safe places within these pages. I hope you’ll travel to my old haunts. And I hope you’ll be brave. Or at least pretend to be.

Please share with me one of your favorite books that you consider an old friend!

Happy Reading!

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