Once a week I read a book just for fun, generally a book that is a guilty pleasure. Recently, it was the John Carter of Mars series, by the creator of Tarzan. I had great fun reading these books, some of them crazy bad junk lit, with fiction replacing science in "science fiction." There is a possibility that I will read Chessmen of Mars again, but it is certainly no necessity.
Yet some books are clearly worth reading more than once. Here are ten that I read every year and why.
1. The Bible
Even if I were not a Christian, I would look for wisdom in this great set of texts. As a Christian, I want to saturate in the written Word of God. One rule of my life: if I do not read my Bible and pray every day, I need look no further for a first solution to spiritual problems.
2. The Republic
This book anticipates most of the great philosophical questions and is a guidebook to classical education. One line of Republic can captivate me for a week with its beauty.
3. That Hideous Strength
This is the first “not great” text on the list, but this prophetic, if imperfect, novel captures the twenty-first century. Where are we going? How will we get there? The best response to those questions is found in the community of Saint Anne.
4. The Divine Comedy
If Plato had been a Christian, the Republic might be the Comedy. These three books encapsulate a Christian view of reality. Nobody can believe every detail of how the poet works out his Christian thinking in politics, cosmology, religion, and love, but everyone believes some of it or should.
5. Jane Eyre
My view of marriage came from Wuthering Heights and my misreading of that book nearly killed me. Jane Eyre helped save my romantic soul. This book is training for the romantic nature.
6. A Christmas Carol
Ignorance and want, and indifference to them, stands opposed to Christmas. This short story works out a Christian response to modernity and its evils.
7. Wordsworth’s Poetry
This is God’s world and Wordsworth wallows in the beauty.
8. T.S. Eliot’s Poetry
I can see God in the City when I read T.S. Eliot. I can see the possibility of poetry to transform ugliness to beauty when I read Eliot. He wasn’t a great man, but he was a great poet.
9. A Winter’s Tale
The play that is the best artistic expression of the Easter message: winter ends in resurrection. Jesus redeems even our ugliest sins.
10. Poetry by William Blake
He is mad, quite mad. He loves Jesus so much, that he is enraged that Newton has killed the Savior. Blake is a warning to me that romanticism and love can turn to hate and that hate can mar even the greatest beauty.
These authors and books shape me. God help me to read more, read better and read wisely.