The current trending hashtag among my friends on Twitter is #7FavBooks. I have to admit that I’m a little intimidated by my friends’ selections, which are on the whole very theologically-inclined. (Goes to show you the calibre of scholars I pal around with on Twitter.) If I tried to limit myself to seven books, I think my list would be much more focused on fiction,and I would need to explain all my selections. So I’m going to break the rules a bit.
What I’ve included below is not my all-time list (I don’t know if I can come up with one), but it’s definitely my much-beloved list.
Seven Novels/Series I Love and Recommend (Mostly):
- The Chronicles of Narnia, by CS Lewis. Yes, I have some problems with Lewis’ theology in a few places, but this series has been formative in my life. I’ve read through these books almost a half-dozen times, starting back when I was in grade school. I have a deep and abiding love for these books that won’t go away any time soon.
- Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. It’s been almost a decade since I’ve read this one, and I think that’s way too long. This Pulitzer-winning novel tells the story of an septuagenarian Iowa preacher named Aames, who is writing down his legacy of memory to give to his young son, since he probably won’t be around to see the boy reach adulthood. It’s a touching meditation on fatherhood and faith, and I need to get back to this one soon.
- Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. The summer between high school and college, I worked my way through the 1400-page unabridged version of this classic novel, and I loved every bit of it. Even the random fifty-page diversions in which Hugo would talk about the details of Napoleon at Waterloo or the particular history of an order of nuns in France. The story of Jean Valjean’s transformation of grace is one that has been depicted over and over again in film and on stage, because there is something compelling about the power of forgiveness and mercy. This book revels in that beauty.
- The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan. Criticisms of this Puritan classic generally include that the allegory drives the story–that the story is just an excuse for the didactic sections. That may well be true, but if you’re a believer, I don’t think you can read this book without coming away encouraged and reminded of the spiritual realities of this world. This is a book I have appreciated more and more with each reading, and I think I’m going to start reading it every year or two because it’s so rich with truth.
- A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. Dickens is still one of my favorite writers of all time, and it was hard to choose one title to represent that. However, I know that his wordy descriptions and multitudes of characters can be tough sledding for some, so I think Tale is his most accessible work with one of his most memorable scenes. No spoilers, in case you made it through high school without reading it, but let’s say that the final chapters produce a moment of nobility that is awe-inspiring. Worth another look, if you haven’t read it in years.
- The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. This sprawling story about the relationship of the three brothers Mitya, Vanya, and Alyosha is possibly over-long (it’s Russian, so that tends to happen), but within its pages are some of the greatest examples of a novelist wrestling with the realities of faith. There’s a LOT going on here, and it’s a daunting read at first. But it’s worth the investment in order to experience this story. This is another one I want to tackle again sometime.
- The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King. This one will get me some raised eyebrows, no doubt, but Stephen King’s books are one of my slightly-guilty pleasures. What fascinates me about King is that his novels demonstrate a startling understanding of the depravity of man, but he refuses to turn to Jesus as the answer to that depravity. (As such, religious figures in his books are generally painted in a pretty terrible light, focusing on hypocrisy and moral corruption.) That said, he knows how to spin a good yarn, and the Dark Tower series is his magnum opus–a sprawling fantasy epic that pulls in elements of westerns, horror, science fiction, and medieval fantasy, and shares points of contact with nearly half of King’s immense bibliography. I would definitely NOT recommend it to everyone for several content-related reasons. And I don’t know if I’d ever try to read it again. But I still regard it as a storytelling masterpiece and it holds a special place in my memory.
That’s my current seven for fiction. Tomorrow (probably), I’ll post my list of seven non-fiction books. See you then!
Your Turn: Okay, I’ve given you my list; now what’s yours? What are some of your favorite works of fiction? Share them in the comments below (and, as always, be courteous about the opinions of others).