Well, I had to list six. I couldn’t limit it to five. Some of the books I have listed here are not Christian books, but I didn’t know about all the great Christian authors when I was a young adult since I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. Thus, I didn’t say “Christian books,” I just said books.
For instance, I did not know about C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, George McDonald, and many other Christian authors. I did discover in the library A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine I’Engle when I was about 12, which is the only “Christian” worldview book I read as a teenager, and loved. I lament that I didn’t discover other Christian authors until I was in my 30’s, when my birthfather (whom I didn’t meet until I was 30) introduced me to C.S. Lewis.
I was introduced to other wonderful authors/books when I homeschooled my daughters, and so I have a new set of books I love in this genre now.
My first all-time favorite would be The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I have read this book at least three times and it embodies much that I want to write in my own books: Characters that are memorable, a Christian theme without being preachy, original creativity, a well-constructed plot, meaningful symbolism, and redemption. When I think of a story that is among the best, this book always comes to mind.
The second would be The Giver, by Lois Lowry. I have read this book twice, once with each of my daughters. It is hard to believe that this story isn’t real. Ms. Lowry writes such a believable story that I wonder if I could ever come anywhere close to emulating her. Because my YA Seventh Dimension Series is a fantasy of sorts (part of it), I have reflected on how she made the story seem so real.
The third book would be Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan. Again, I loved the Christian message, the symbolism, the struggle, and the redemption. I can relate to the protagonist and all that he went through.
My fourth and fifth all-time favorite books would be Gone With the Wind and The Exodus. I remember how I felt reading them as a YA and the sorrow when I finished them. I didn't want the books to end. I still remember the young girl in The Exodus who died; my heart was broken. It’s interesting that I don’t remember the exact plot. I remember the characters. I fell in love with the protagonist in The Exodus. I didn’t know it was possible to fall in love with a fictional character in a book. The same holds true for Gone With the Wind (Yes, I thought Rhett Butler was handsome and charming).
I recently read The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank, and I couldn’t avoid listing it here. I don’t have the benefit of time to see where it will eventually fit into the collection of books that I have read as my all-time favorites, but because of the way she wrote it, the book touched my heart. I was drawn into her world of suffering, and the way she described the people in the attic and all the things that happened, it was hard for me to believe she lived and died before I was born.
Even when I was young, I enjoyed books that had significant undertones/struggles, and these also are the books that have made significant contributions to the literary world. I believe teens can handle difficult, heavy topics. My dream is to write books that can touch the heart of YA readers and influence their worldview with Christ’s love—enabling them to grow and become the person God created them to be.
Note: I didn't include The Lord of the Rings Trilogy as I consider it to be more for adults. The pace is rather slow to engage YA readers, though maybe I should have listed The Hobbit. Sigh. It's so difficult to narrow it down, isn't it?