Try something old for a really good read
June 4th, 2019 / By: Jane Rodgers | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
In the Twitter age, story too often is reduced to badly phrased punchlines. The soul craves more.
Why not a good book?
What should Christians be reading? The Bible, of course. Devotionals, sure. But how about a good book, preferably one that stretches you to think deep thoughts and understand just a bit better the nature of humankind—made in the image of God, yes, but fallen.
If you are looking to read more these days, if only to escape the 24/7 news cycle, why not reach for something more potentially rewarding than the latest best-seller, Christian or secular?
In an online article posted in The Federalist, Focus on the Family’s Glenn T. Stanton makes the case for reading books that stand the test of time. Stanton suggests imagining a dinner party with two guests: one who has read all the New York Times best-sellers for the past two years and one who has spent the time to read 50 of the greatest books of the ancient and classical worlds.
Which guest would your friends choose to hear? Which would be able to tell you more about humanity, crisis, virtue, ideas, hope, faith?
Literature can be transformative. Jesus taught using story. Good literature resonates with the soul.
The TEXAN informally polled a dozen Christian college English professors and secondary English teachers, asking the question: What would be the top five works of literature you would recommend every Christian read? Answers varied. The results are summarized below. These recommendations are given with teenagers and adults in mind.
With a few exceptions, most of the choices listed are not too long. Moby-Dick is a personal favorite but can be slow reading, so it did not make our very incomplete list.
Even if you have already read them, these books are worth another look. They have stood the test of time for a reason.
The Great Gatsby: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece is not all about Daisy and the American dream, despite what you thought as a high school junior.
To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee’s classic … try it again.
East of Eden: Steinbeck’s epic illuminating the power of forgiveness and God’s gift of free will, all set in California. His classic “The Grapes of Wrath” should make the list, too.
A Wrinkle in Time: Madeleine L’Engle’s masterpiece is not just for kids. The same is true of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and the novels of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Flannery O’Connor’s short stories: This Southern gothic writer will surprise you. Her use of exaggerated, grotesque characters shouts to the spiritually deaf that humanity needs a Savior. If you like O’Connor’s stories, try the collection of her prose: Mystery and Manners.
Dickens. Anything by Charles Dickens. Period.
Austen. Anything by Jane Austen. Period. Start with Pride and Prejudice. Or try the shorter Persuasion.
Jane Eyre: As one respondent put it, “a tale of true faith, of faithful mentors, of the purity of love given freely when God is invited in as the third strand.”
The Screwtape Letters: C.S. Lewis’ classic depiction of Satan’s methods yet rings true.
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy: Tolkien’s tale never gets old. Don’t depend on the films.
Les Miserables: Victor Hugo’s masterpiece is more than a musical, but you might try an abridged version, which will also be long but worth it.
Cry, the Beloved Country: Alan Paton’s tale of South African apartheid and the love of fathers and sons. Beautiful and short.
Anna Karenina: Tolstoy’s masterful exploration of family, temptation, stubbornness, love. It is long but readable. Also worth the effort: Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Brothers Karamazov.
The Aeneid: Virgil’s masterpiece tells of the founding of Rome. As one of our teachers polled put it: “Like the Roman roads, The Aeneid paved the way for an understanding of a Savior king and brought the message far and wide throughout the Mediterranean region and beyond.” Try the Robert Fagles translation. Don’t forget Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, too.