“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” –Confucius
For the book lovers out there…enjoy!
1. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
Lewis is one of the most quoted authors of all time, with good reason: he has written a plethora of incredible works. Some of the most well-known include: The Chronicles of Narnia, Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity. But this book stands out for me. It appeals to the creative muse in all of us, the part of our heart that loves what is beautiful, good and true. Whether you are ‘religious’ or not, this is an absolute must-read for anyone who is curious about the idea of an afterlife. A captivating and somewhat amusing story about a group of people who take a bus trip to heaven.
2. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
I read this book in high school and was immediately mesmerized by her lovely prose. Eloquent, vivid descriptions of seashells parallel the deepest themes of life. You will feel like you are sitting on the beach as her waves of words rush over you and your heart will beat faster as she lifts you up into the clouds with heavenly hopes.
3. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
If you love a good adventure story and are ready to take a thrilling ride around India through the eyes of an Australian convict who is running away from the law and still seems to find trouble wherever he goes, this is the book for you. It is quite lengthy, but I could not put it down once I started. Beautiful glimpse of the Indian culture, language and people. Note: some graphic, violent scenes.
4. Wild Swans by Jung Chang
This is a fascinating glimpse into 3 generations of Chinese women and their struggles. If you love historical fiction, this book is for you! From the ancient tradition of foot-binding to arranged marriages to communist society under Mao, I learned SO much about Chinese culture and history by reading this book. Some scenes are graphic and very hard to read without crying out in horror, but I find none of it extemporaneous gore, but quite relevant and necessary to the story.
5. The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
This classic tale is compelling for both the young and old. I read this when I was in middle school, but I recently read it again (and I recommend you do the same!). It is the story of a young girl who is sent off to live with her wealthy uncle after her parents die. Your imagination will come to life as you follow her through the mysterious halls and corridors of an enormous English estate and then happen upon a secret garden.
This is another lovely classic tale that is worth re-reading if you haven’t read it since junior high. It’s hard not to fall in love with the four sisters, each so unique in personality and character. My favorite, Jo, is the playful tomboy who just doesn’t fit the mold of a typical English girl. If you love Jo, you will want to read the sequel, Little Men, which reveals her life with a household of active boys. As a mom, I read this series with a new lens and laughed out loud on numerous occasions!
7. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
This is another classic tale that is filled with joy and beauty and laughter, despite the sad reality for the protagonist in the beginning. She is a red-headed orphan who nobody wants. There is such an innocence about the prose in this book that is incredibly refreshing. Lovely scenes of gardens and flowers and imaginary games played by friends. It took me a few chapters to get into the rhythm of the story, but once I did, I was captivated by the world that Montgomery paints. Reading this book is akin to gazing upon a beautiful piece of art in a museum. Anne is a vibrant, lively character who is constantly getting into trouble. Her joyful, imaginative nature ends up winning everyone’s heart, including the reader’s. Enjoy!
8. Emma by Jane Austen
Jane Austen’s writing is the perfect combination of eloquence and wit. At one point, you are soothed by her beautiful descriptions of nature, then laughing hysterically at the hilarious ploys of the protagonist, Emma, who is a meddlesome match-maker that wants to set everyone up except herself. But eventually…she can’t escape the love of a loyal and patient friend.
9. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
I read this in college, as part of my required course work for English majors. I absolutely loved the satirical humor of Jonathan Swift. It is a hilarious story of a giant who encounters a group of tiny villagers…an imaginative, humorous tale.
10. Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith
This is a book that is rather academic – one of those books full of sentences that you have to read a few times before they really sink in. But oh, this one is SO worth it! This book has changed the way I see life and how I view our culture and other cultures around us. It challenges my view of what being a Christian means, how I spend my money, what I value, what I read, etc. Mostly, it challenges me to desire what is to come…the Kingdom of Heaven.
Final note: I have found that some readers shy away from the classics due to the flowery prose and old-fashioned ideas that these books often contain. But I will say this: they are only classics because they are wonderful stories. If you aren’t a classics fan, I would encourage you to give them a try. Give any of these books listed here at least five chapters and if you haven’t been captivated by the story, it’s not for you. But if so, you will embark on a thrilling journey!