Monday, November 27, 2017

Recommended Reading List: Fiction

I was brought up “in the fear and admonition of the Lord" in an area of Missouri known as “the "golden belt buckle" of the Bible Belt. My folks instilled a love of reading in me, and my library included Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Boxcar Children, Hardy Boys, the encyclopedia, Reader’s Digest, the Bible, Danny Orlis, and other primarily Christian titles.

As a child, books occupied my free time. In grade three, my teacher, dear Miss Snyder, sponsored a contest to see who could read the most books throughout the school year. I won the award but was somewhat non-plussed when my prize was… wait for it… another book. Even then, I felt reading had to be for some ultimate purpose beyond just the love of reading.

I read ravenously as a teen, chewing through mysteries and “Christian romance” novels, until I entered university. The academic research and reading load was so great, I simply burned out on reading as entertainment and set it aside. As an adult, reading became utilitarian. I focused on self-help and how-to, but hardly any fiction, with the notable exception of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, of course. As my own child grew, my desire was to cultivate a love of reading in him also. We read together, I read to him, and my library expanded to include children’s classics, youth, comedy, graphic novels and YA books. Other than that, my exploration into the fiction genre has been quite limited and unfulfilling. Something was missing. I decided in retirement, it was time to change that.

So, I asked my Facebook friend, John D Blase, for a favor in compiling a recommended reading list of Fiction titles. As an author, poet and editor, John seemed the most credible literary candidate within my circle to help with this. Being the thoughtful and approachable gentleman he is, John responded in fairly short time, recruiting input from his own Facebook friends and followers.

Here was the criteria:
What are the top seven fiction titles you believe every person of faith should read? These would be titles to stretch your mind, challenge your worldview, crack you open with beauty, inspire you, bring you to tears or belly laughter or both. If you can't conjure up seven, at least try for four. And remember - fiction.
John started with his top titles and many of his friends responded. You can read the raw data on Facebook here. I collected and sorted those recommendations, which initially included 153 titles but I excluded a few nonfiction that snuck in and where a recommended book was part of a collection, I combined them. What follows is the list of books that received nods, sorted by number of mentions, then by author. I have included the title, author, year originally published and, in some cases, the sub-genre. At the end, I include the list of books only recommended by one person, sorted by Title.

Disclaimer: This list is not a personal endorsement of any title. If you'd like this list in an Excel spreadsheet to sort and expand on yourself, click here to access a copy in Dropbox. Typographical errors may exist.

Enjoy, and happy reading.

11 Recommended
Peace Like a River, Leif Enger, 2001
Gilead Triology, Marilynne Robinson, 2004

8 Recommended
All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr, 2014
The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1880, classic
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving, 1989

7 Recommended
Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis, 1956
The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell, 1994, scifi (has a sequel)

5 Recommended
Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis, 1949, fantasy
East of Eden, John Steinbeck, 1952
Les Miserables, Victor Hugo, 1862, classic

4 Recommended
Space Trilogy, C.S. Lewis, 1943, scifi
Godric, Frederick Buechner, 1981
Lord of the Rings trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien, 1954, fantasy
A Ring of Endless Light, Madeleine L'Engle, 1980
Silence, Shusaku Endo, 1966
Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry, 2000

3 Recommended
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver, 1998
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith, 1943
The Power of One, Bryce Courtenay, 1989
My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok , 1972
Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh, 1945
Harry Potter Series, JK Rowling, 1997
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood, 1985
The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd, 2001
The Confessions of X: A Novel, Suzanne M. Wolfe, 2016

2 Recommended
Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton, 1948
The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas, 1844
Selected Stories, Andre Dubus, 1995
The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas, 2017
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1943
The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis, 1945
Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk, 1996
Hyperion, Dan Simmons, 1989
The Complete Stories, Flannery O’Connor, 1971
The Violent Bear It Away, Flannery O’Connor, 1960
Son of Laughter, Frederick Buechner, 1993
Lilith, George MacDonald, 1895, fantasy
Phantastes, George MacDonald, 1858, fantasy
Robert Falconer, George MacDonald, 1870
Tenth of December, George Saunders, 2013
Returning to Earth, Jim Harrison, 2007
Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Kate DiCamilo, 2006
Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill, 2016
Benediction, Kent Haruf, 2013
Eventide, Kent Haruf, 2004
Plainsong, Kent Haruf, 1999
Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery, 1908
The Giver, Lois Lowry, 1993
Love Medicine, Louise Erdrich, 1984
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle, 1962
Don Quixote, Saavedra, 1615
Anything by PG Wodehouse, P.G. Wodehouse, 1900-1970s, humour
The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck, 1931
Beloved, Toni Morrison, 1987
Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner, 1987
Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner, 1971
Book of the Dun Cow, Walter Wangerin Jr., 1978
Anything by Wendell Berry, Wendell Berry, 2000
Hannah Coulter, Wendell Berry, 2004
Life of Pi, Yann Martel, 2001

Books Mentioned only once, sorted by title:

A River Runs Through It, Norman McLean
A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams
Abide with Me, Elizabeth Strout
Anything by Elizabeth Goudge, Elizabeth Goudge
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
Atticus, Ron Hansen
Aurora, Kim Stanley Robinson
Between Noon and Three, Robert Farrar Capon
Bless me Ultima, Rudolpho Anaya
Breath Eyes Memory, Edwidge Danticat
Broken for You, Stephanie Kallos
Byzantium, Stephen R. Lawhead
Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
Cat's Eye, Margaret Atwood
Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, Louise Penny
Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Gabriel García Márquez
Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier
Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Anthony Marra
Dear and Glorious Physician, Taylor Caldwell
Descent into Hell, Charles Williams
Dream of Scipio, Iain Pears
Drums Girls and Dangerous Pie, Jordan Sonnenblick
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
Glittering Images, Susan Howatch
Hard Times, Charles Dickens
Havah, Tosca Lee
Here I Am, Jonathan Safran 
Hershey Herself, Cecelia Galante
Holy the Firm , Annie Dillard
Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson
In This Sign, Joanne Greenberg
Keys of the Kingdom, A. J. Cronin
Kimchi and Calamari, Rose Kent
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christopher Moore
Last Temptation of Christ, Nikos Kazantzakis
Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann
Make Lemonade, Viginia Euwer Wolff
Millicent Min Girl Genius, Lisa Yee
Needful things, Stephen King
Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout
Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, Mark Twain
Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers
Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Something Wicked This Way Comes  , Ray Bradbury
Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time, Lisa Yee
Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli
Swiftly Tilting Planet, Madeleine L'Engle 
Tandia, Bryce Courtenay
The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
The Bards of Bone Plain   , Patricia A. McKillip
The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty , Eudora Welty 
The Day the Angels Fell, Shawn Smucker
The Dog Stars, Peter Heller
The End of the Affair, Graham Greene
The Fishermen, Chigozie Obioma
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
The Hawk and the Dove, Penelope Wilcock
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers
The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
The Road, Cormac McCarthy
The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
The Second Coming, Walker Percy
The Shack, William P. Young
The Shipping News, Annie Proulx
The Stand, Stephen King
The Stone and the Flute, Hans Bemmann
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley
The Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
The United Tates of America, Paula Dazinger
The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett
Thin Blue Smoke, Doug Worgul
Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
When Mockingbirds Sing, Billy Coffey
Where Angels Fear to Tread, E.M. Forster

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