My Testimony of the Leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

I am a Christian. When I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I made a promise to take Christ’s name. As far as Christlike character goes, though, I still have a lot of work to do.

I remember the United States presidential election of 1988. I heard the name “Michael Dukakis” in my house often enough to still remember it today, although I don’t think he was mentioned in a positive way. That election is my earliest recollection of learning how the political system in our country works.

This is why, as a 7-year-old, I once asked my mom when we would elect a new president of our church. I assumed that the process was the same, since the leader of our country and the leader of our church were both called “president.” Her response was that we don’t elect presidents in our church. They are chosen by the Lord and hold that position until they die. I have since learned many more details about the succession of prophets, but this simple answer to a 7-year-old’s question was a great beginning.

I was born when Spencer W. Kimball was the prophet. Ezra Taft Benson was the president of the church until I was 13, followed by Howard W. Hunter, Gordon B. Hinckley, and Thomas S. Monson. With each of these men, the Spirit has borne witness to me with a feeling in my heart that these men were called of God. As my husband and I watched the church broadcast on Tuesday morning to announce that Russell M. Nelson is the new president of the church, I once again felt the confirmation from the Spirit that his calling is from the Lord. I actually have that feeling—a swelling in my heart—as I write these words. I saw in his face, in his actions, and in the way he spoke the change that the mantle of prophecy makes in every president of the church.

But over the past couple of weeks, the Spirit has borne witness in my soul of something far more important. The true Leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a mortal man, but our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am confident that nothing in the church will change because Jesus Christ never changes. Hebrews 13:8 states: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”

Moroni, a Book of Mormon prophet, further explains: “For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?” (Mormon 9:9).

As we watched the press conference that followed the announcement of Russell M. Nelson as president of the church, Brett and I realized that there are some in the world who expect a change of president to mean a change in the policies and practices of the church. That way of thinking is understandable, since that’s how it works in politics. But true religion is not politics. Even though the mortal leader of the church has changed, the Eternal Leader has not. We were the Church of Jesus Christ while Thomas S. Monson was our president, and we are still the Church of Jesus Christ today. In 3 Nephi 27:8, Christ Himself taught: “And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.”

The apostle Paul understood this when he said: “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:12-13).

I know that Jesus Christ leads the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that He has chosen President Russell M. Nelson as His prophet and mouthpiece on the Earth today. I am grateful for our Heavenly Father, who hasn’t forgotten His children and is active in guiding us through this tumultuous life. I may not be perfect, but I continue to pledge my life to being more and more like Christ every day.

My Reading Life Now: 5 Favorite Children’s Books

In the past three weeks, my son had a cold, my daughter had a cold with a fever, I had a head cold of my own, and now this week my son got another head cold, this time with a fever. Blogging hasn’t really been at the top of my list of priorities. So I was grateful when my sister-in-law nominated me to write a post listing five of my favorite children’s books. It was like being handed inspiration for a blog topic on a plate. Head on over to Man-Cub Mamas to see Mama R’s list of five books that I will need to add to my own “to-read” list. She predicted that I would have a hard time narrowing my choices down. At first I didn’t think that was true, but it turned out that she was right.

As avid readers, Brett and I decided that we want our children to be avid readers, too. Nothing less will be tolerated. Before Wolfie was born, my sister requested that our baby shower guests give us books instead of cards. Most of them did and our children’s book collection began to grow. We add to it on birthdays, at Christmas, and any other time we can find a good deal on books. We also make trips to the public library as often as we can. Throughout the day we make time for reading, and reading is part of our children’s bedtime routine. So far, they love books as much as we do. Although, sometimes Brunhilda is more interested in eating them or throwing them than actually reading them.

Some of the books on this list are ones we own and some were great library finds. So, here they are, in no particular order:

Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb
Written by Al Perkins, Illustrated by Eric Gurney

One thing I love in children’s books is a good rhythm. I think that’s linked to my love of poetry and music. Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb is written to invoke the sense of drums. My son loves when I drum my fingers on his arms or back as I read, “Dum ditty dum ditty dum dum dum.” Reading a book with a good rhythm and rhyme scheme is really fun for me and helps to keep my son engaged.

Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo
Written by John Lithgow, Illustrated by Leeza Hernandez

This one was a gift from my best friend before Wolfie was born. She told me that it’s one of her favorites to read with her children, and it quickly became one of my favorites, too. The story is very imaginative and fun, teaching the instruments in an orchestra while also naming many of the animals that can be found in the zoo. The illustrations are humorous and engaging. An added bonus is the accompanying CD with John Lithgow singing a song based on the words of the book.

One Moon, Two Cats
Written by Laura Godwin, Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka

I love everything about this book. The words are simple but poetic, the images are stunning, the pace is perfect. After reading this from the library, I wanted to check out every book they have by Laura Godwin. She is a great children’s writer, but this one is still my favorite. My son loves everything to do with outer space, especially the moon, so that’s his favorite part of this book. It’s nice when a book has something for us both to enjoy and makes us both want to return to it over and over again.

Bedtime for Batman
Written by Michael Dahl, Illustrated by Ethen Beavers

In case you missed my post about comic books, we are huge comic book fans in our family. My husband in particular loves Batman. When he found this book, there was no question that we were going to buy it. How do we teach our children to love comic books? We introduce them to the characters through children’s books. (And T-shirts. Lots of them.) This book tells the story of a little boy getting ready for bed, comparing his routine to Batman saving Gotham at night. Not only does it help Wolfie to see what he needs to do to prepare for bed every night, it also shows him that it’s fun to use his imagination.

Robots, Robots Everywhere!
Written by Sue Fliess, Illustrated by Bob Staake

Wolfie is extremely passionate about two things: rocket ships and robots. About six months ago, our city library had a two-story robot made out of balloons. He was fascinated and has loved robots ever since. Out of all the robot books we’ve read since then, this one is his favorite. It rhymes and has a good rhythm, and it also has colorful pictures filled with robots of all shapes and sizes doing a variety of tasks. After reading robot books, he will immediately sit on the floor and start to build robots out of his blocks. Of course, we can easily read this book three times in a row before the building begins.

An honorable mention would be the Duck & Goose books by Tad Hills, particularly Duck & Goose Find a Pumpkin. But since this challenge was to name five books, you’ll just have to check this one out to see why it’s so fantastic.

There are many other books I could mention, but I chose these because they show a glimpse of the variety we enjoy in our home. Our daughter is finally starting to show an interest of her own in books, so it will be fun to see which subjects she is passionate about a year or two from now. But don’t worry, gentle reader. When that time comes, you will be among the first to know.

My Danish-American Christmas

I love Christmas. It’s my second-favorite holiday. Even though our finances are tighter now than they have ever been before, I still enjoy the feeling the holiday brings. I’m entering a new phase now, too: the mother of a child who is excited about each new thing he learns about Christmas. From the Christmas lights to the advent wreath to the unwrapping of gifts, he’s finally at an age to see the wonder of it all. I hope that he will grow up looking forward to our traditions the way I looked forward to my family’s traditions growing up.

My mom is Danish and my dad is American, so our Christmases were always a bit unique and different from the traditions I heard about from my peers. To put it simply, Christmas Eve was Danish and Christmas Day was American.

But the simple explanation is boring and not very informative.

In Denmark, the biggest Christmas festivities take place on Christmas Eve. My parents continued that tradition in our home here in Utah. I remember spending the entire day of December 24th in excited anticipation. In the afternoon my mom would start preparing dinner while the rest of us finished wrapping gifts. At 5 o’clock or so, we sat down for a Christmas feast of pork roast, boiled potatoes, gravy, and red cabbage (for those who liked it, which I did not). We all enjoyed eating the crunchy pork rind—the real stuff, not the pale imitation you can buy in the snack aisle at the store. I still remember the smells, the sounds, the tastes. After dinner, we ate rice pudding for dessert. A whole almond was stirred into the pudding and whoever found the almond in his or her bowl got a prize. Traditionally, the prize is a marzipan pig, but in our house it was usually some kind of chocolate.

Once the dishes were done, we gathered around the tree and sang Christmas carols. Sometimes my dad read the account of the birth of Christ from Luke 2. We ended by singing “Silent Night.” Then came the part we were all waiting for: we opened all of the presents under the tree. Every single one. They were the presents from our parents, siblings, and friends. Most of the time, I received at least one book. Every year, one of the presents was a new pair of pajamas. I’m sure most people can relate to that part.

We changed into our pajamas and went to bed, perhaps reading a new book before falling asleep. Since we had just opened a lot of presents, we didn’t wake up until 7 or 8 the next morning. I’ve never quite understood the intense excitement that had my friends waking up at 4 or 5 o’clock. If we woke up before 8, we stayed in our rooms, playing with our new toys or reading those all-important books until our parents came to get us. Then our American Christmas Day began.

We rushed to the Christmas tree to see what Santa Claus had brought us. Each of us received two or three gifts from Santa. Once all of these presents were opened, we checked our stockings to see what else Santa had brought, plus how much chocolate he had given us. I’m not sure why it’s so exciting to find an orange at the bottom of the stocking, but I know it is. I feel disappointed if it’s missing.

By then breakfast was ready. One year my mom made an egg, cheese, and sausage casserole and we liked it so much, it became a yearly tradition. We ate our breakfast and drank hot chocolate, then dug into our candy. Some years we went to our paternal grandparents’ house or our aunt’s house to spend the day with my dad’s side of the family, opening more presents and eating another big dinner. If we didn’t do that, we would watch movies or play games together all day.

As I’ve gotten older, I care less about the presents and more about the traditions. I’m blessed to have a husband who is not only willing but eager to carry on the Danish-American traditions of my childhood. We are also working to create new traditions of our own. This year, with our financial circumstances, I find myself thinking more and more about Jesus Christ and how He wants our family to celebrate this holiday. I enjoy coming up with creative ideas for gifts and decorations that won’t cost extra money. Most importantly, it warms my heart to teach my children what Christmas is all about and to see their faces light up with every new experience. I hope I can continue to see Christmas this way, no matter what life brings for us next.

Sense & Sensibility: A Story about Sisters

My faithful readers will know that Sense & Sensibility was the first of Jane Austen’s books that I read. For a long time it was my favorite book. I think that’s because, in many ways, I am like Elinor. I could identify with her desire to take care of her family, making sure that, no matter what, they always had what they needed. If only I could say I have always shown her level of poise and grace. I also have a heavy dose of Marianne’s romantic nature, which may or may not be a good thing.

Sense & Sensibility does not center on a love story. The central relationship in the book is the relationship between Elinor and Marianne. It is a story about sisters and how they relate to each other, conflict with each other, rely on each other, and support each other. Having five sisters myself, and a unique relationship with each one, I know what this is like. While it’s wonderful to fall in love with a good man, no other relationship is quite like the one between sisters.

Jane Austen’s exploration of sister-relationships is not unique to Sense & Sensibility. In Pride & Prejudice, we have the five Bennet sisters. Persuasion has the three very different Elliott women. In a minor capacity, Emma shows us the differences between Mr. Woodhouse’s daughters. Mansfield Park is a different sort of beast, with the cousin/sister relationship between Fanny Price and the Bertram sisters, and, towards the end of the book, the newly-discovered relationship between the Price sisters. Only in Northanger Abbey is the relationship between actual sisters nearly non-existent. But the one book where the sister relationship is most noticeably at the forefront is Sense & Sensibility.

Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are the opposite personalities of the book’s title. Practical Elinor shows the sense, while romantic Marianne is the sensibility. When both sisters appear to lose everything else, they must lean on each other to hold onto the hope that they so desperately need. Their differing personalities serve to strengthen their friendship and provide an avenue to explore new perspectives. Yet the sister relationship is actually stronger than friendship. I can’t help but wonder how much of the relationship between Elinor and Marianne was inspired by Jane Austen’s relationship with her own sister, Cassandra. My sisters are probably not friends I would have chosen for myself, but the bond I feel with them is greater than any bond of friendship. When we look at the story of Elinor and Marianne—who have little reason to hope that they will ever marry—we see how important it is to hold onto the relationships we do have.

But the fact that they have little reason to hope for marriage is why their personality differences are so important. Much is made of the fact that, near the end of the book, Marianne decides to adopt some of Elinor’s sense, but we tend to overlook that Elinor also takes a little of Marianne’s sensibility. Throughout the novel, Marianne refuses to give up hope that she will not only find a husband, but that she will find a husband who mirrors the men in the romantic poems and novels that she reads—wealthy, handsome, and desperately in love. She learns, though, that trying to live out the plot of a romantic story will not make her happy and could end in tragedy. A little bit of practicality will actually do more to fulfill her dreams than constantly dreaming will.

Elinor, on the other hand, spends much of the novel believing that there are many practical things needed to make a marriage work, no matter how much love exists between husband and wife. Yet, instead of pursuing Colonel Brandon—whom friends and family believe would be a great match for her and who could provide a comfortable living—Elinor continues to love a man she believes she can’t have. In the end, when she learns that she can marry Edward, she doesn’t let practicality get in the way. They are by no means wealthy, but they are comfortable and very much in love.

Anyone with sisters knows that, despite being born to and raised by the same parents, we can have very different personalities. But like any good team, this is what allows our relationships to be so strong. We learn from our sisters in ways we can’t learn from anyone else. Sisters help us to look from a different perspective and consider possibilities we might not have considered before. They can help us to become our best selves.

This is only one of the many things I have to say about Sense & Sensibility. When thinking about this blog, I had so many thoughts and knew that it would take more than one post to cover them all. That’s what you can expect when you’ve read a book more times than you can remember. I’m sure any book I’m passionate about will be that way. If this post has sparked any thoughts in your own mind, I would love to hear them!

My Discovery of Comic Books

How did I know Brett was the perfect man for me? I don’t believe anyone has ever asked me that question, and that’s probably because I was the last person to realize that he was the perfect man for me. In my defense, he did tell me that all we would ever be was friends. (Don’t worry; I wasn’t hurt. At the time I agreed with him.) There are many answers to the question about how I finally knew, and I discover new answers all the time.

One reason is that Brett inspires me to try new things. Before, I was determined not to do anything I didn’t enjoy. Other men I dated made “trying something new” feel like a burden. With Brett, I was willing to go to basketball games, rock concerts, and karaoke night with friends (although I didn’t sing—I have to draw the line somewhere). He wasn’t pushy and never expected me to do something unless I really wanted to. I found that his respect for my boundaries made me more willing to expand them.

Brett is passionate about reading, and especially reading comic books. Before our children came along and our finances became tight, he looked forward to picking up new comic books every Wednesday. Being a literature snob, I didn’t think that comic books counted as “real” books at first. But because of Brett’s passion, I decided to give comics a try. I wanted to find something that really interested me, though, and not just something that Brett liked.

I started with Captain America: Winter Soldier. Brett is a DC man so I thought Marvel would be an uncharted territory. It was interesting, but I didn’t like the overall tone.

Then I crossed over to DC and read Wonder Woman: Odyssey. I loved it. However, it was a special story arc and not part of the regular Wonder Woman series. When I tried to read stories that were part of the series, I didn’t enjoy them as much.

I enjoyed comics enough to not give up, even though I still hadn’t found a hero with whom I could connect. So I decided to give Supergirl a try. I was born in a decade when Superman was arguably the ultimate superhero. Every child knew him, whether they read comic books or not. But Superman was too popular. I don’t like to admit that I like anything popular (see my Jane Austen post). I had a feeling I would like Superman’s less-popular cousin.

Kara Zor-El was the perfect fit for me. DC’s The New 52 gave us a reimagined Supergirl who arrives on Earth not knowing how to communicate and quickly learning that her intended purpose has lapsed. She is the misfit of all misfits, trying to figure out her place on a new world with new powers. I have read many other comic books since discovering Supergirl, but she is my definite favorite. I enjoy discovering new (and old) iterations of the character.

Since deciding to give comic books a try, I have repented of my literary snobbishness. I look forward to Free Comic Book Day every May and I’m excited to get comics for my birthday or Christmas. Most importantly, I understand that comics can have just as much literary value as works in other genres. If we can see the worth of cultural mythologies, then why not comic books?

But that is a topic of its own, worthy of attentive research and its own post.

The Burden of Anxiety & Depression

My life is a paradox. At least it is right now. I know that if I eat healthier, go outside more, and get daily exercise, the anxiety and depression I suffer with will subside. But because of my anxiety and depression, I feel nervous about going outside, have no motivation to exercise, and lack the energy I need to prepare healthy foods. I also spend my days with two adorable energy vampires. Self-care—whether it’s writing, reading, or enjoying a good opera—usually takes a back seat. It doesn’t help that I like to be informed, but the news rarely shows the good side of the world and the bad news only inspires a weight of hopelessness. Anxiety and depression don’t just suck the joy out of life, they suck the life out of joy. In the happy moments, I think to myself, This is nice, but what bad things will happen tomorrow?

Still, despite the gloomy moments and stunted emotions, I have faith.

My life isn’t supposed to be easy. How would I grow stronger if it were? God has helped me out of darkness before and He will do it again. I am making a greater effort to pray to Him every morning and every night, and as often as I can throughout the day. I study the scriptures at least once a day and hope to create more opportunities to immerse myself in the word of God. Experience has taught me that these things will bring about a change that nothing else can.

God does not expect me to rely on my faith alone. He has given me so many insights into how my body works and He expects me to use that knowledge. I take medication daily. I set goals to eat healthier and exercise. The next step is to act on these goals, and being more forgiving of myself when I don’t meet them perfectly. When I can’t do aerobics because my children don’t want to be more than three inches away from me, I can take them for a walk. The sunlight will do us all good. I can remind myself that they will be just fine if I take a few minutes to cut up a carrot or peel an orange.

I’m grateful for the moments of light and joy, even on my darkest days. When I set down my smartphone and watch the children play together, making each other laugh. When Wolfie tells me what he has learned about the wonders of the world. When I watch Brunhilda develop new skills. When our family dances to upbeat music, whether it’s music from our own collection or a song that comes on in a TV show. When the children smile or make silly faces. And especially when Wolfie says, “Mom, I love you—so much!”

It wears me down to deal with the anxiety and depression, but, with God, I am stronger than my ailments. When I feel like I need to be in control of everything around me, I can focus on controlling my thoughts. I have complete confidence that I can find more life in my joy and create more joy in my life.

Autumn Haiku

Haiku: my favorite form of poetry. My love for it goes back to elementary school. It’s simple, thought-provoking, and just challenging enough to write. I hope you enjoy these three that I wrote to celebrate the season.

 

Cool, crisp autumn air

Children laugh and breathe it in

Heals my tired soul

 

Clouds on the mountain

The promise of snow-capped peaks

Brightened by the sun

 

Humble, submissive

Bare fingers reach to the sky

Sleep until the spring

 

What kind of poetry do you like? Tell us in the comments!

Naming the Blog

As a gas giant with no known solid surface, it would be impossible to stand on Jupiter and watch a moonrise. But that is only a footnote to this story.

I started thinking about writing a blog eight or nine years ago. At the time, I was working as a phone book editor and a co-worker suggested that it would be a good way to get my name out there as a writer. (I just wish I hadn’t taken so long to take his advice.) While driving to work one morning, I saw a sign behind a business. I read: “Bones for Sale.” I wondered what that could possibly mean. I had visions of the gravediggers from Hamlet. There was a dog training business nearby, so I thought maybe they were selling chew toys.

Every morning I looked at this sign and wondered. It was weeks before I realized I was reading the sign wrong. It read: “Boxes for Sale.” Much less morbid. But the phrase “bones for sale” still intrigued me and I thought it was an interesting name for a blog.

For years I played with the idea, but when it was finally time to actually start my blog, the name just didn’t seem right anymore. The romance of sadness had worn off and I wanted something happier and more hopeful.

My two-year-old son, Wolfie, loves anything having to do with outer space. His favorite show on PBS is Ready Jet Go! He constantly searches the sky for the moon and he uses empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls as imaginary telescopes. My husband and I have encouraged curiosity and interests in a variety of things since he was a baby, but this is the one he has thrown himself into the most—or at least it’s equal to robots. Because of this passion, he can name many of the planets, tell us that Saturn’s rings are made of ice, and explain what causes a solar eclipse.

His interest has allowed me to learn new things about space, too. One fact I’ve learned is that Jupiter has sixty-nine moons. This ignites my own curiosity. How do scientists count so many moving objects without losing track? How do all of these moons dance around Jupiter without bumping into each other? What is each moon’s unique personality?

And the most intriguing question: If I could stand on Jupiter, what would a moonrise look like? Somehow, this question sparks my imagination with wonder, amazement, and a desire to create stories.

The title Moonrise on Jupiter is about more than just satellites orbiting a planet. It represents everything I love about writing. It is putting myself into a new and unexplored place, asking questions, and discovering the answers. It is embracing what makes me who I am. Most importantly, it is finding a balance between my various responsibilities as I dance through the day and move forward in my life.

The Jane Austen Problem

I discovered Jane Austen during my sophomore year of high school, but not because of assigned readings in English class. In high school I had a crush on Hugh Grant and was excited to see him interviewed on a morning news show. He was promoting Sense & Sensibility. I had never heard of the book or author, so I went to the library after school and checked it out. At the time, it was the best book I had ever read. After that, I wanted to read every Jane Austen book I could find.

Aside from film productions, it was probably another ten years before I saw Jane Austen discussed in anything but an academic setting. And I miss those academic discussions. The way most people talk about Jane Austen is why I’m reluctant to admit that she’s my favorite author.

When I asked my husband, Brett, what he thinks of people who say that they love to read Jane Austen, his response was, “Hopeless romantic.” He pictures women who fantasize about romantic relationships they themselves don’t have. I believe this is why he has never read her books. When he was single, he felt like he could never live up to this ideal.

There is a tendency to focus on the love stories in Austen’s books while ignoring everything else. I suspect this way of thinking is heavily influenced by the films, which remove chunks and pieces of the story out of necessity. I confess that I used to sometimes read the books this way myself, but I have learned from that mistake. Now when I read the books, it isn’t for the love stories.

Jane Austen had a great understanding of human nature and a satirical way of interpreting the rules of society. Romantic relationships were only some of the relationships explored in her novels. She also wrote about relationships within families and relationships between classes of society. Austen wrote in an intelligent, readable voice that you don’t often see with her contemporaries. I don’t read Jane Austen to fantasize about a romance I won’t ever have, but to learn about people who are very much like the people I interact with today. I could easily write my impressions of each book and what I learn from them, but that would make this post longer than I want it to be. I think it would be better to write about each of them individually in upcoming posts.

Another thing that bothers me is how often Jane Austen’s fans refer to her as simply “Jane.” I see these readers as modern-day Mrs. Eltons and wonder if they have read and understood Emma. (“’Jane!’—repeated Frank Churchill, with a look of surprise and displeasure.”[Vol. III, Chpt. ii]) Jane Austen lived too long ago for anyone alive now to be her close relative or friend. As much as I wish I personally knew her, all I will ever really know are the stories she wrote and a few facts about her life gathered from a fraction of her letters and the research of biographers. She deserves the same respect as other authors and should be referred to the same way we would refer to Charles Dickens or Elizabeth Gaskell.

Brett and I both agree that in order for an author to be considered our favorite author, we have to read or want to read all of their books. I have read all of Jane Austen’s books, plus she is the author I can reread over and over again. This is why, if I had to choose one favorite, it would be Jane Austen.

Speaking of Favorites

As an English major, one question I am often asked is: “Who is your favorite author?” I hate that question. I assume that the person asking has no idea what it’s like to study literature. If I went into college with one favorite author, I certainly didn’t come out with one. I like to read a variety of authors in a variety of genres. I might have favorites in a particular genre, but even then there is generally more than one, and those I like can change depending on my current situation in life. But there are some that I consider timeless, authors I still turn to over and over again.

When I want to read a mystery, I pick up Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Last year my husband and I read The Secrets of Wishtide by a new mystery writer named Kate Saunders and we are anxiously waiting for her to write another one. For the past few years, though, the mysteries I have enjoyed the most are the Flavia de Luce books by Alan Bradley. Flavia is a precocious pre-teen in 1950s England who manages to get involved in quite a few murder investigations. I’m amazed at how well a septuagenarian man can write in the voice of a young girl and make me believe it.

I also enjoy reading biographies and histories. For the most part, I choose these books based on my interests at the time, whether it’s a historical figure or time period that fascinates me. Sometimes, I read a history book as research for my writing, to help me build the world my characters live in. The exceptions are the writers William Hague and Claire Berlinski. Their writing styles are so readable, I would probably read anything they write. Hague’s biography of William Wilberforce helped me to see that politicians can be good and serve God, while Berlinski’s book about Margaret Thatcher belongs in a category of its own.

As far as the classics are concerned, what I read depends on the mood I’m in. I might read Elizabeth Gaskell or Anthony Trollope or Jane Austen. In the past few years I’ve discovered just how much I like Sir Walter Scott, after reading Ivanhoe and The Antiquary. Classic authors are my favorites as a whole. They are able to weave an interesting story with a large cast of characters, while also revealing the complexities of human nature.

If I need a laugh, I turn to P.G. Wodehouse or, again, Alan Bradley’s mysteries. Flavia de Luce makes me laugh out loud and if the classics reveal our complexities, Wodehouse reveals our absurdities.

When I was a teenager I went through a phase where I refused to read fantasy books, but now those are the books I read most often. The series that inspire me the most are The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. These also happen to be the two series that my sister convinced me to read and that changed my mind about fantasy. Without them, I probably wouldn’t be the writer I am today. I also like to read Shannon Hale’s books. Her writing voice reminds me of my own.

Instead of, “Who is your favorite author?”, maybe a better question would be, “Who do you enjoy reading right now?” It’s a question that needs to be asked often, since the answer is likely to be different every time. Life is always changing, so what I’m reading is changing, too.

If I had to choose just one author—well, I’ll save that for another post, as well as why I always hesitate to say who it is.