I’m not going to include Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I’ve already said I read that pretty much every year, so obviously it’s one of my most favorites.
- Persuasion, Jane Austen: An elegant, simple, well-told story of love lost and found again. Anne is such a wonderful, kind, long-suffering woman, no one could wish that Captain Wentworth didn’t love her. A timeless story, and my next favorite Austen book.
- Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card: I liked Ender’s Game, but this, in many ways, is the truly superior novel. There’s so much going on, and the characters are so real. As a reader, I can empathize with the situations, can feel the emotions, and am engrossed in the story. And, I feel, that’s a mark of an excellent book.
- So Big, Edna Ferber: A simple book about a simple woman who never loses sight of who she is and what she values in life. It’s also about Beauty and Truth and how love of money can corrupt the Beauty and Truth in us. Good characters, a good story, an excellent book.
- A Canticle for Leibowiz, Walter Miller Jr.: Once I started this book, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a fascinating tale of the end of the earth (through nuclear holocaust), and the earth’s rebirth. It’s very profound on many levels. It’s a tale of how history inevitably repeats itself no matter how educated the people are about the past. And the kind of damage humans will do to one another in the name of power. It is a classic novel.
- My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok: A very powerful look, I think, into the life of a Hasidic Jewish artist and the struggles of belief and talent/desire/art. It’s my favorite Potok book, though The Chosen and The Promise are good, too. I didn’t understand all the art lingo and found myself skimming sections, but the overall effect of the book is powerful. It should be read with it’s companion book, The Gift of Asher Lev, which isn’t as good, but worth reading just because it fills out the story.
- The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien (Fellowship of the Rings, The Two Towers, The Return of the King): There isn’t room to say everything I want about these books. They are truly classics; books to be savored rather than rushed through. You can read them at many different levels; truthfully, each time they’re read, one can get something new out of them. Story-telling at its absolute finest. Fantasy buff or no, everyone should, at some time in their lives, read The Lord of the Rings.
- To Say Nothing of the Dog and Doomsday Book, Connie Willis: These books were recommended to me by my sister-in-law. I loved To Say Nothing. It was one part time travel, one part mystery, one part Victorian romance and a whole lot of fun to read. Doomsday deals with the more serious side of time-travel. It’s kind of a “prequel” to To Say Nothing; it involves the same time/place and some of the same characters. It deals heavily with the consequences of time travel, especially when going to a time much less technologically advanced than the “present”. A bittersweet, but excellent book.
- I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith: So this book really isn’t “about” much of anything; it’s basically a growing up, coming-of-age story. But it’s such a charming one, I had problems putting it down. It’s beautifully written, and you truly end up loving and “capturing” the characters by the end of the book. Wonderful.
- The Shepherd of the Hills, Harold Bell Wright: A book set in and about the people of the Ozarks. But, that’s almost too simple of a description. It’s about redemption, choices life, love, forgiveness, God’s mercy… A simple, but deep book.
- Life of Pi, Yann Martel: A character in the introduction says this story will make you believe in God. It didn’t do that, but it did amaze me, thrill me, engross me and fill me with wonder. Excellent.