Despite my adversity to George RR Martin’s novels, I bought his book ‘fire and blood’ because Martin has created a fascinating world, and by studying the lore of his world, it could help my own fantasy writing.
Favorite books actually on my shelves? In no particular order …
The Great Gatsby - Fitzgerald
The Old Man and the Sea - Hemingway
The Catcher in the Rye - Salinger
The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Kundera
The Heart of the Matter - Greene
The House on Mango Street - Cisneros
Dune - Herbert
LOTR trilogy - Tolkien
The Killer Angels - Schaara
The Seven Storey Mountain - Merton
Mark Twain’s short stories.
A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry - C. Milosz
The Essential Kierkegaard - Hong & Hong
Pensees - B. Pascal
Edit: One more, for a fantastic pulp fiction thriller: Fools Die, by Mario Puzo (author of The Godfather). Do yourself a favor and don’t skip to the end.
For those who have kids of the right age for YA novels, here’s a good piece of historical fiction on that subject:
I mentioned Beowulf. I am also a fan of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and Robert Graves’ take on the Greek Myths. I recognise that they are Pagan, but they share some themes with the Bible.
Just read that one myself – it’s great to find books with positive portrayals (or any portrayal at all, actually) of female scientists!
Nonfiction was my first love, just wanting to know what was out there and how things work. Later, thinking more about what we are and how we work, I pretty much lived in the philosophy, religion and all things woo section. But eventually I got interested in depth psychology and the writing of James Hillman and that way of understanding what we are and how we work has satisfied me.
When I was younger I did read the occasional novel and every time I did I wondered why I didn’t read them more often. My favorites from that time were Robert Graves’ I Claudius and Claudius The God. Now in retirement I always have a book going while on the stationary bike at the Y and at bedtime. Some recent ones that have been major page-turners: Educated, A Memoir; All The Light We Cannot See; Cider House Rules; Circe; The World According to Garp; and, Middlesex.
Not on my bookshelf, but the wife read it and gave it a big thumbs up. The John Irving on your list reminds me how much I enjoyed A Prayer for Owen Meany. A great book about fate and destiny.
Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve just put holds on Less by Greer and Girls Burn Brighter by Rao, but I’ll give that Irving book a go. Right now I’m still thinking about a book @Randy recommended by Enns, The Sin of Certainty. The first book I read by Irving was Cider House Rules and that really moved me as well as being fodder for thinking about abortion and a sense of what it would be like to be raised as an orphan in an institution. Then I read the World According to Garp and it was more clever and funny but didn’t much affect me.
This is actually a question I’ve spent a lot of time pondering over the years. I was deeply influenced by Steven Sample (former president of USC) and his book, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, back when I was a college administrator. In it he claimed that far better than to read widely is to read deeply, to return again and again to a smaller number of books. So I very intentionally set about to develop my list of “Life Books”. I made one list of pre-1900 books, which includes:
- The Iliad, Homer
- The Republic, Plato
- Confessions, Augustine
- Don Quixote, Cervantes
- King Lear, Shakespeare
- Rasselas, Samuel Johnson
- The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevski
- The Death of Ivan Ilych, Tolstoy
- Heart of Darkness, Conrad
And then a list of post-1900 fiction:
- The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald
- Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis
- Things Fall Apart, Achebe
- The Chosen, Potok
- Silence, Endo
- 100 Years of Solitude, Marquez
- Name of the Rose, Eco
- The Brothers K, Duncan
- The Sparrow and Children of God, Russell
- Gilead, Robinson
- Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead, Card
I try to re-read a couple from each list each year. And when you get to be as old as I am, you can make it through the entire list several times over. I find it to be one of the great joys of life to dwell in these stories.
Always wanted to read, as I’ve said before I have read Beowulf and The Epic of Gilgamesh. I’m surprised there hasnt been mich discussion in the Jewish and Christian communities about thr ethics of enjoying pagan literature. It is worth noting that in most of these stories the gods are just characters, and fidelity to the gods is not a core value.
There is fascinating relevance for us today about divine action that comes from The Iliad. The narrative jumps seamlessly from what the gods are doing, to what humans are doing – often with no consideration of how these are related in bringing about the events described. They are merely presented as different perspectives or explanations that are not in competition with each other. Or at least that’s what I see there!
‘Till We Have Faces’ by Lewis has great dialogues in it - speaking of pagan cultures, gods, and interactions with them that can provoke deeper understandings in any of us. It took me a while to get through that book, but I felt rewarded for doing so by the end. I need to give it another read. Thanks for that challenge to read more deeply (i.e. repeatedly), @jstump.
Oddly enough, one of my favorite books by C. S. Lewis is his Surprised by Joy not only for his personal story told in his words, but the insight into life and boarding school in that era.
Aztec by Gary Jennings is another book I enjoyed that humanizes the mysterious people that developed the New World and their interaction with European invaders.
I too enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See, again for the insights into that time of history. Historical fiction and fiction set in historical settings does seem to be attractive to me.
Several studies have shown that reading, and reading fiction in particular, leads to empathy in people. (Too lazy to look up references, that is what Google is for). I think that is in part because it allows you to be privy to the inner workings of character’s minds, to see things as others see them.
Somewhere, there is a Christian novel to be written of a fundamentalist YEC adherent’s journey into questioning, deconstruction and rebuilding of faith, if it has not been written already. Lots of drama possible.
Hard to have a favorite!! So many items of interest in varying ways…I recently bought (and have read) Believe Me — the subtitle of which identifies this book as concerned with evangelicals and American politics. Also just bought (and am reading) White Cargo (the story of the enslavement of numerous white people who then came to the New World as virtual slaves (sometimes known as “indentured servants”)…also The Path of Christianity (church history)… Finding Ourselves after Darwin…Text History…
No, I do not watch much TV — except during breaks at the fitness center…
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“Curate’s Awakening” by George Macdonald. New favorite for me.
Sorry, @Randy, but the Baronet’s Song among some others too all slipped a notch for me now. And that is high praise.
Good one! Wingfold…the curate that struggled with unbelief. My wife and I enjoyed that one, too.
@Mervin_Bitikofer , Becky and I are now re reading “The Curate’s Awakening.” I agree–it’s probably one of the best. It’s amazing how advanced their considerations of Darwin and spiritual depth were. Macdonald addresses eugenics (maybe unpopularly at that time, as that was quite a movement) in praising the dwarf Polwarths, and emphasizes humility and asking the hard questions–so that his preacher admits that he doesn’t know if he believes in God. He is grateful for the needle of his atheist friend asking him why he believes in such “humbug” so he can really think this through.
Thanks for the reminder.
We’ve talked about that book before but I still haven’t read it.
I have more favorite books than I can even remember anymore. But Anne of Green Gables has a place place in my list as well. Not too long ago I read and loved Cider House Rules and, even more, All The Light We Cannot See. My favorite quote from any book comes from Crime and Punishment and my favorite silly/profound poem in any novel I found in Cat’s Cradle.