I love to read. Lately for me I’m consuming audiobooks on my long daily commute, something I used to call “not really reading.” But sitting in front of the fireplace, or laying in a hammock, or curled up in bed requires more down time than I currently have. So multi-tasking with audiobooks is now a way of life.
I like devotional books, books about leadership, parenting books, and history. But my greatest love is literature. Good, old, classic literature where you have to work hard to get your mind trained to appreciate the flowing speech and keep track of the foreign names. I also prefer stories where the flaws of human nature are pointed out as flaws, not celebrated or held with ambiguity like in much of modern fiction.
Here are my current top ten favorite books (Classic literature, history, biography, modern historical fiction, and theology).
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
Like Elizabeth Bennett, I am not sure when I fell in love with Mr. Darcy. “I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”
The plot of Jane Austen’s most popular novel is driven by beautiful dialogue. This story examines with sharp humor and insight such weighty topics as marriage and family, virtue and vice, and of course pride and prejudice. My favorite characters are the ridiculous Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins.
And if you are going to skip the book and watch a movie, for heaven’s sake do not watch the Keira Knightley nightmare. This book deserves the commitment of the BBC miniseries starring Jennifer Ehle.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Oh my goodness I love this book! I am actually tempted to replace the beloved P&P from its longstanding spot as my number 1.
This is a tale of vengeance and redemption. Justice and mercy. The tale of our innocent hero Edmund Dantes’ transformation into the dark and dangerous Count is mysterious and vast. Will he get the girl? Will his vengeance be satisfied? Is vengeance ever satisfied?
“Hatred is blind; rage carries you away; and he who pours out vengeance runs the risk of tasting a bitter draught.”
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
A world gone mad. Can you relate?
I have been horrified by and obsessed with the French Revolution my whole life. I also love pretty much everything Charles Dickens has ever written. Therefore this is an easy recommendation.
Injustice. Bloodlust. Political Intrigue. Terror. Suspense. And a swashbuckling handsome rogue you love to hate and hate to love. This book has got it all.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
I am not a fantasy or sci-fi lover. So I don’t know exactly why these books appeal to me. But they do.
In a world where all hope seems lost and the forces of darkness seem to be winning comes a tale of a little somebody. A brave little somebody. Whose tenacity and courage and faithfulness and love turns the course of world history.
We all need to believe that our lives matter and that the good we spread in the world makes a difference. I guess I just figured out why I love these books with all my soul.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
“Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”
Good children’s fiction is fun, timeless, promotes moral virtue, and gives hope.
These stories do all the above and introduce some of the most beloved characters I know.
C.S. Lewis writes understanding the nature of children but also the nature of humanity and Christ. The Chronicles of Narnia bring the mystery of the gospel alive in our childlike imaginations.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
“Be worthy, love, and love will come.”
Okay fellas, you’re probs not gonna love this book.
But for the ladies, this book is a beautiful tale of sisterhood. Little Women taught me to see the Megs, and Jos, and Amys, and Beths for the valuable contributions their very diverse natures provide to the world. Thank God we are not all alike.
It’s also a reminder that women can be independent, strong, willful, and wild without doubting their woman-ness. Jo’s unique beauty as a woman is that she is strong enough to choose her own path, apart from society’s pressures and expectations and to do what is honest and right even if it feels so wrong.
The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan
D-Day was a miracle. No I mean it. Like a miracle miracle.
If you don’t believe me, just start doing some research about how many “coincidences” turned the tide again and again. The Longest Day is a fun place to start.
The Longest Day tells the 24-hour story of June 6, 1944 through the accounts of over 300 different people: French, German, Canadian, British and American.
“Believe me…the first twenty-four hours of the invasion will be decisive … for the Allies, as well as Germany, it will be the longest day.” –General Erwin Rommel
If you love WW2 history, you’ll love this book!
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
“If God has shown us bad times ahead, it’s enough for me that He knows about them. That’s why He sometimes shows us things, you know–to tell us that this too is in His hands.“
Never again. That is what I remember about studying the holocaust in school. We must collectively determine to never let the world get that wicked again.
I’m not sure it’s working. The forces of evil still advance. Dark days may be ahead–for our nation, for our faith–but the quote above, and this absolutely inspiring tale of survival and love and forgiveness should keep our fears at bay. Is the future scary? Maybe. But God is there. That’s enough.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This is a super amazing book-club worthy selection by one of my favorite contemporary authors. If you want an easy read, but on a grown up topic, give this book a try.
The Nightingale is a WW2 historical novel that tells about the war from the perspective of two sisters. This gripping story reveals the unique impact of invasion, deprivation, violation, and ultimately retaliation on the lives of women in Nazi-occupied France.
“In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.”
The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul
Great googley moogley, hold onto your prayer journals! This book just might wreck your worldview–in a good way.
God is holy. You might have heard. But you might not have really thought that much about it.
If you’re okay with being put a little in your place in the whole vast scheme of the cosmos and God’s unstoppable majesty, if you’re ready to renounce your me-centered faith, then read this book.
If not, read it anyway. You need it.
“Every sin is an act of cosmic treason, a futile attempt to dethrone God in His sovereign authority.”