Our main family e-mail account is with AOL, and one of the AOL headlines that caught my eye yesterday was “10 Books to Read Before You Die” based on a popular opinion poll conducted by Netscape. Their list included:
1, Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
I really have no desire to read this. Though there were parts of the movie I liked, overall it was the story of a spoiled immature girl growing up into a spoiled immature woman. Not terribly inspiring, to me anyway. But it was cited for the historical accuracy of the era, so that might be worth exploring.
2. Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.
This I would agree with. There is a richness to the story itself, the vocabulary, the imaginativeness, the quest of good vs. evil.
3. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling.
I’ve never had an interest in this. I suppose if my boys had been interested I would have explored it. I’ve read many debates by Christians about whether we should read it or not. I’ve got too many other things I am interested in reading to get involved with this, and I am not inclined to read things dealing with the occult, even in fun. That may seem inconsistent with having read Lord of the Rings with its wizards and magic, but the wizards in LOTR were more like superheroes of Middle Earth — I don’t think they did what real witches would do.
4. The Stand by Stephen King.
I am not a Stephen King fan.
5. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
I was amazed at how the public flocked to this. I’d recommend The Da Vinci Deception by Erwin Lutzer.
6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
On my TBR list.
7. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown.
This precedes The Da Vinci Code. I’m not really interested in exploring it.
8. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
I had never heard of this one. It’s described as “a hymn of praise to the concept of rugged individualism…[the] polemic for Rand’s philosophy of ‘rational self-interest.'” Doesn’t sound like anything I’d be interested in.
9. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.
Since it cites “liberal use of profanity, its frank conversations about sex,” I don’t think I’d explore this, either.
10. The Holy Bible.
I was surprised to see this on their list. The reason the site lists is “No book has had more influence on the world. Its pages tell the story of the creation, fall, and redemption of mankind and the coming of Jesus Christ in the Gospels. The Bible contains epic stories of history, heroism, and hope.” I once wrote of reasons to read the Bible here.
My own list of classic “Books To Read Before You Die” would include the following:
1. The Bible.
For reasons mentioned above.
2. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
Classic picturesque allegory of the Christian life.
3. Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Classic picture of early American homesteading, homemaking, and family values.
4. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.
Classic English waif in the industrial era, tale of a boy overcoming many odds against him to grow up into a decent human being.
5. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
Riveting example of “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
6. Something by Jane Austen.
My favorite Austen book is Persuasion (my review is here), but probably most people would list Pride and Prejudice as quintessential Austen and the quintessential novel of classic English society and romance.
7. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Besides a painful picture of the cruelty of slavery, it also represents Uncle Tom, as one former pastor put it, as “the kind of Christian you always wanted to be.”
8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
For many reasons mentioned in an earlier review.
9. At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon.
The Mitford series is a sweet and poignant picture of small town American life. This first book in the series is my favorite.
10. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.
Classic, beauitful tale of redemption.
I had originally meant to include both Christian books and classics on one list, but I am discovering I have more than enough for two separate lists. So here would be my top ten Christian books to read before you die. The first two in the above list, of course, could also go on this list, but I will leave them where they are:
1. Hudson Taylor: Growth of a Soul by Mr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor.
This is one of the classic missionary biographies. It includes many of Hudson taylor’s own writings as well as the story of his life and faith.
2. Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur by Frank Houghton.
Life story of a remarkable missionary to India.
I can’t begin to express ways in which my heart was touched or lessons learned by reading these books.
I have probably given away more copies of these books than any others. the first is Isobel’s own journey from doubt into faith; the second details certain experiences of her life in which God’s grace and power were on display.
5. To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson.
Biography of Adoniram Judson, America’s first missionary. I admire his conviction, his passion, his steadfastness in the face of persecution, his overcoming in the face of loss, pain, and doubts.
6. Winning the Inner War: How To Say No to a Stubborn Habit by Erwin Lutzer, reviewed here.
I’ve read this two or three times, maybe more. It’s a great help in learning to overcome temptation.
7, Changed Into His Image by Jim Berg.
Great resource on how to live the Christian life.
8. The Shaping of a Christian Family by Elisabeth Elliot.
Not a “how-to” guide, but the story of her own family. Wonderful, inspirational examples.
9 Through Gates of Splendour by Elisabeth Elliot.
The first and classic story of the five missionaries speared to death in the early 1960s by what was known then as the Auca Indians, and the subsequent reaching of that tribe with the gospel.
10. Not My Will by Francena Arnold.
One of the first examples of Christian fiction I am aware of and one of the best.
My mind is swirling now with book titles, many more that I could recommend. But these are the best of the best.
How about you? Would your list include any of these? What would you list differently?