The “10 Books” Challenge has been making its rounds on social media, and I recently took part. But for someone who loves to read, pasting a list of (just) 10 books with no explanation is decidedly unsatisfying. So I created this, partly to indulge myself, partly to benefit you. I don’t know about you, but I find myself wanting to read extremely different genres depending on my strange and colorful spectrum of moods. If you’re looking for a good read of a specific nature, maybe something here will suit your fancy. Or you can tuck this away for future reference. Or you can skim my list, scoff, and move on with your life. But don’t tell me if you go with option 3.
The categories are relatively loose, and I defined them mostly after choosing the books. So don’t take the structure too seriously. There is a wide, wide range here. I can almost guarantee you won’t like every book – because you aren’t me. But I found something worthwhile in every single one, whether it was life changing, magnificently written, or simply a very good time. (My private, and secondary, ambition was that everyone would find at least one book on the list that they: have never heard of, are also totally enamored with, are severely opposed to, would add to their to-read list. Did I succeed?)
This isn’t a list of books you “must read before you die.” I don’t feel qualified to make one of those. But I will stand behind this as a list of worthy reads.
Tell me what you think. And what’s on your list?
For Your Soul
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis: Lewis holds up bravely in the face of existential and post-modern philosophies.
The Gospel According to Jesus, John MacArthur: Cut the sugarcoating. MacArthur will bring you face to face with the Jesus who said, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me.
Heaven, Randy Alcorn: If you’re skeptical about this, so was I. But Alcorn is biblical, thoughtful, informative and enthusiastic about eternity in a contagious way.
The Truth of the Cross, R.C. Sproul: Sproul brings home the fullness, significance and depth of the cross. Appreciate grace all over again.
Saved in Eternity, Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Lloyd-Jones is an unparalleled expositor of Scripture – watch him tackle John 17, the High Priestly Prayer.
Outta This World
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien: If you can’t make it through the entire series – I get it. But if you do, I hope you understand why Peter Beagle calls Tolkien the colonizer of dreams.
The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis: Don’t be like Eustace; read the right sort of books. Like these.
The Giver, Lois Lowry: What makes us human? Lowry paints a world that is almost seductive yet terrifying.
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Matthew Stover: You would never guess that this brilliant, sweeping tragedy rose out of the ashes of that less-than-mediocre movie. I’d venture to say: not just for diehard fans (but I sort of was one, so take it with a grain of salt).
Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis: It’s weird, but profound. It’s haunting and Lewis touches something deep in us.
Rollicking, Good Adventures
The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas: This is a crazy thrilling ride. It’s not lacking in depth either.
The Scarlet Pimpernel, Emmuska Orczy: It’s like Batman during the French Revolution, sans Christopher Nolan’s dark makeover.
Mark of the Lion, Francine Rivers: Its historical Christian fiction and it comes with some common flaws of the genre. But on the whole, it’s a grand story that’ll take you back to the heyday of Rome and, I daresay, inspire you with its conviction and courage.
Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones: Characters with quirk, wit, and warmth. The story is also tons of fun.
Watership Down, Richard Adams: Yes, it’s about rabbits, but it’s a better adventure story than many about humans.
Drama & Real Life
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee: It’s a timeless ode to childhood and growing up wrapped in something noble.
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini: He brings characters, in all their brokenness and feeble aspirations, to life. And I seriously envy his prose.
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen: She understood a woman’s heart even better than the way Taylor Swift understands girls today. Lest you think it’s just the predecessor to empty-headed rom coms, Austen has plenty of social insights, satire, and highbrow humor.
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak: It’s a simple story, but it will wrench your heart out.
The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom: True story, and a good one at that, about courage, faith and compassion.
Nancy Drew, Carolyn Keene: When I refer to my detective novels phase back in the day, this is all I really mean.
Doctor Doolittle, Hugh Lofting: I definitely preferred talking animals to talking humans.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Robert C. O’Brien: I have fond memories of this book. Writers have really done some magic with mice – Mrs. Frisby, Reepicheep, Hermux, Redwall… Yes, I wanted a pet one.
Cedar River Daydreams, Judy Baer: Warm and cozy books with an ensemble of lovable characters. Just remember to suspend your disbelief, because they’re not much like real high school kids.
The Chronicles of Prydain, Lloyd Alexander: Classic fantasy tropes based on Welsh mythology. The princess is named Eilonwy and there’s a magical pig. You should be sold.
“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” – Franz Kafka