On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.
I asked Sally Lloyd-Jones—author of several children’s books including The Jesus Storybook Bible (read “The Jesus Storybook Bible Turns 10: The Story Behind the Bestseller”)—about what’s on her nightstand, the children’s books that have most influenced her, her favorite fiction, and more.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Tim Keller
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
- Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott
- Moments of Being by Virginia Woolf
What are your favorite fiction books?
I have quite an eclectic mix, but here are just a handful that come to mind:
- East of Eden by John Steinbeck
- Earth and Heaven by Sue Gee
- The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
- A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
- A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr
What children’s books have most influenced you and why?
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. Where do you begin? I fell in love with Aslan. I lived those books as a child. My mother was one of those children sent away on the train from the blitz with the label. The story felt real and close and like it could actually happen at any minute—you just had to be on the lookout. My Mamgu (Welsh grandmother) had a huge wardrobe in her bedroom with a fur coat in it. I checked it every time I went to her house. Actually, I still check wardrobes, just in case.
- The Complete Nonsense by Edward Lear. My parents gave it to me when I was 7. It was a revelation. It was the first proper book I ever read all the way through. For those who aren’t familiar with Lear (I’m on a one-woman mission to make him more well known in the United States), he writes these crazy limericks and then illustrates them with wild pen and ink drawings. I had no idea you could have so much fun inside books; I didn’t know it was allowed. And today, really, that’s what I’m doing: having fun inside books.
- Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne. Its voice, its truth, its gentleness, and just the genius of how funny it is. I think because it’s seen as a children’s book it’s underrated for its sheer brilliance. As C. S. Lewis said, “No book is really worth reading at the age of 10 which is not equally—and often far more—worth reading at the age of 50.”
What are some books you regularly re-read and why?
- The Waiting Father by Helmut Thielicke. It moves me and sets my imagination on fire (much the way Tim Keller’s preaching does).
- Poems by Mary Oliver. It helps me slow down, pay attention, and not just look but see. I love the mystery of how a poem can start out with something seemingly small and everyday and—by the order of the words on the page—suddenly catch in your throat and you hardly know why. It takes mastery and heart.
- Fin Family Moomintroll (and all the sequels) by Tove Jansson. I adore the voice! And her wild imagination and the freedom of her writing. I aspire to write like her.
- Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne. The gentleness, the language, the characters, the humor—it’s a work of genius. I aspire to write like he did.
What’s the last book you read that surprised or moved you in some significant way?
Shusaku Endo’s Silence. The beauty, the simplicity of the language, the imagery, the honesty, and the breathtaking ending. The book ambushed me.
What are you learning about life and following Jesus?
To be more childlike. How many times have you woken up with that awful feeling of already being behind, before your feet even touch the ground? Instead, I’m learning to give the day to Jesus: to actually let him be my boss, to check in with him about decisions, and to ask him for ideas, solutions, and help throughout the day. It’s helping me combat perfectionism—and of course under that (and everything else) is fear. When I’m “following clues” rather than feeling like it’s all up to me, life is more playful, more filled with wonder. Corrie ten Boom (a personal hero of mine) said that faith is the “fantastic adventure in trusting him.” I adore adventures. So I’m in!
Also in the On My Shelf series: Darryl Williamson • D. A. Horton • Carl Ellis • Owen Strachan • Thomas Kidd • David Murray • Jarvis Williams • Gracy Olmstead • Matthew Hall • Drew Dyck • Louis Markos • Ray Ortlund • Brett McCracken • Mez McConnell • Erik Raymond • Sandra McCracken • Tim Challies • Sammy Rhodes • Karen Ellis • Alastair Roberts • Scott Sauls • Karen Swallow Prior • Jackie Hill Perry • Bruce Ashford • Jonathan Leeman • Megan Hill • Marvin Olasky • David Wells • John Frame • Rod Dreher • James K. A. Smith • Randy Alcorn • Tom Schreiner • Trillia Newbell • Jen Wilkin • Joe Carter • Timothy George • Tim Keller • Bryan Chapell • Lauren Chandler • Mike Cosper • Russell Moore • Jared Wilson • Kathy Keller • J. D. Greear • Kevin DeYoung • Kathleen Nielson • Thabiti Anyabwile • Elyse Fitzpatrick • Collin Hansen • Fred Sanders • Rosaria Butterfield • Nancy Guthrie • Matt Chandler