Wednesday, November 4, 2015

My 10 Favorite Books (right now) (with a lot of qualification)

Some months ago people were posting lists of their 10 favorite books/authors, those that have proved most memorable to them.

Since seeing those lists I’ve been mulling what books/authors I’d include on such a list.

There are books that I read when young and youngish that were quite influential in fueling my imagination and pleasure of words. Some of those authors include Henry Gregor Felson, Ian Fleming, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, among others.

Of course, as an adult there were the necessary business books. Of these I think In Search of Excellence and Good to Great as well as a couple by Charles Handy are most memorable. The value of the books in this category would have been dictated by the needs of the moment.

There were also the books addressing special interests areas like Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, On Writing Well by William Zinsser, Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture by Adam S. McHugh, and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain,  Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity by Nancy Pearcey (highly recommend this one), The 40 Most Influential Christians Who Shaped What We Believe Today by Daryl Aaron, and many, many more.

Then there are books of which parts were impactful but not necessarily the whole book -- too many to list but The Human Stain by Philip Roth comes to mind.

I think it’s important to read books by those we don’t agree with or on topics outside of our primary interests. For example, I’ve read in these: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and The Red Smith Reader by Red Smith (sports). I’m not a sports fan, but Red was an excellent writer! And, in fairness, so is Dawkins.

And there are the authors who grabbed me for a time such as Anthony Burgess, Eugene H. Peterson, Thomas Pynchon, Tom Wolfe, Phil Yancey, Stephen Lawhead, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Carol Shields (especially Unless and The Stone Diaries), to name a few.

Of course, the classics are always meaningful such as The Scarlet Letter and Paradise Lost. Perennially favorite poets such as Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, e e cummings (reading his Complete Poems was transformational). Kurt Vonnegut would probably fit here.

There were those authors/books read that lingered large for the moment but faded such as On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Future Shock by Alvin Toffler, Beyond Freedom and Dignity by B.F. Skinner, The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan, The Natural House by Frank Lloyd Wright, and many others. Then there were some that were supposed to be big deals but didn’t really strike me as such like Catcher in the Rye.

Then, of course, there were the books I read truly just for fun such as the Kinsey Milhone alphabet mysteries by Sue Grafton and the Mitford books by Jan Karon, and a few by Anita Shreve, among others, like Douglas Adams.

Plus other random more “literary” books truly enjoyed such as Tidings by William Wharton, The Final Beast by Frederick Buechner, Lila by Marilynne Robinson, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and on and on.

And finally, add to this the authors/books I’ve always wanted to read (or read a lot more of) but am just getting around to (most recently Vladimir Nabokov, Anne Sexton, and Carl F. H. Henry, among others).

So to distill all this down into a “top 10” is tough. And it’s not necessarily a static thing. Any list I might develop a year from now would probably be very different from today’s.

But, in the spirit of doing the list, below are 10+ books/authors, in no particular order, that, as I’ve thought about this, have left perhaps slightly larger impressions than others, for sometimes indeterminate reasons, except that many are books/authors I’ve repeatedly recommended and/or returned to.

Of course, the Bible would top any list, and so is a given.

KEY: NF = nonfiction, F = fiction, P = poetry.

  1.  (nf) The God Who is There and The Mark of the Christian by Francis Schaeffer (and all of his other books)
  2.  (f) The Centaur and Couples by John Updike (and most of his other books).
  3.  (f) The Short Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever.
  4.  (p) Poems, 1957-1967: Wesleyan Poetry Series by James Dickey.
  5.  (f) The World According to Garp by John Irving.
  6.  (nf) Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck.
  7.  (nf) The Soul of A New Machine by Tracy Kidder (and many of his other books).
  8.  (nf) Necessary Losses by Judith Viorst.
  9.  (f) Dangling Man by Saul Bellow / One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (tied).
  10.  (f) A Separate Peace by John Knowles.

There you have it! Until tomorrow* when I’ll think of others I’d rather have on the list.

So why am I sharing all of this? My hope is that your interest in picking up a book will be piqued and, perhaps, those I’ve read may draw you in as well.

The truth is, reading is fun. Really.

* NOTE: Edited/updated/expanded 11/5/15.

What books and/or authors are your favorites or have made a lasting impression on you? What books and/or authors have you been most disappointed with? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Links to other posts related to reading with more book suggestions:

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