On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.
I spoke with singer and songwriter Sandra McCracken about what’s on her nightstand, her favorite fiction, books that shape her as an artist, what she’s learning about life and following Jesus, and more.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
- Present Over Perfect (Shauna Niequist)
- Till We Have Faces (C. S. Lewis)
- A Wrinkle In Time (Madeleine L’Engle)
- Playing Big (Tara Mohr)
- The Songs of Jesus (Tim Keller)
- The Blessing of a Skinned Knee (Wendy Mogel)
What are your favorite fiction books?
- East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
- Jayber Crow (Wendell Berry)
- Peace Like A River (Leif Enger)
- Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston)
- The Return of the King (J. R. R. Tolkien)
What biographies or autobiographies have most influenced you and why?
I’ve recently enjoyed I Am Malala, Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, Tom Petty’s new biography, and Johnny Cash’s autobiography. Cash was such an important figure in my childhood through his songs and storytelling. I’d really like to get into this genre more, but I often default to documentary films over reading biographies. Your question nudges me to dig in more here, as I so enjoy knowing more about people’s stories!
What are some books you regularly re-read and why?
I like to keep some Henri Nouwen close. The Inner Voice of Love is by my bedside and is an encouragement to me to read a page or two when I’m feeling overwhelmed or off-center. With young children, I like to read The Chronicles of Narnia on rotation. And of course, The Jesus Storybook Bible always refreshes and surprises me.
What books have most profoundly shaped how you serve and lead others for the sake of the gospel?
Early on, I was most influenced by Francis Schaeffer’s writings, and always dreamed of a L’Abri-kind of wholistic, communal home life. With regard to emotions and spirituality, I read Dan Allender’s The Cry Of the Soul about the Psalms more than 15 years ago and had forgotten how deeply it had shaped my thought and process until recently. Surprised by Hope by N. T. Wright has formed much of my perspective on heaven and the way it addresses the need for believers to to care for creation. I’m sure there are so many others I’m not thinking of. A well-written narrative compels the reader to see the world through new eyes.
What one book has most influenced your understanding of being an artist? And how so?
My creative process has been most heavily influenced by the Psalms and Scripture, alongside the habit of journal writing more than in specifically reading books about writing. Songwriting for me has often come out of telling stories and experiences through self-reflection and prayer.
What are you learning about life and following Jesus?
Lately, I’ve experienced more internal quietness, a “leaning in” to the silence, even when life is clamoring with daily happenings and responsibilities. I’m learning to hear the Spirit’s voice with more clarity through that silence. In this, I’ve been increasingly inclined to prayer and I crave more solitude than I used to. Through these habits, I’m recognizing myself more as God’s beloved daughter, by his free grace. It’s a journey from quietness to prayer, finding new freedom to be just who I am—at home in God’s love. I’m not there yet, but these are sure signs of the journey into God’s love.
Also in the On My Shelf series: 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, and Matt Chandler.
- Sandra McCracken on Life, Loss, and Longing in the Psalms (Ivan Mesa)
- Let’s Sing the Beauty of Confession (Sandra McCracken)