Books Worth Reading

In Progress

Note: I consider all these books worth picking up, and most have exerted a deep influence upon me. The star ratings (1-3) have to do with level of general recommendation rather than opinion of quality. Three stars, for instance, I would strongly urge just about everyone to pick up at least once in their lives. I’ve put a dagger next to those that made a major impression on me in my childhood but which I have not revisited.

Religion, Theology, and Spirituality

  • Athanasius, On the Incarnation (c. 318) ***
  • Hans Boersma, Heavenly Participation (2011) *
  • G. K. Chesterton, The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904) *; Heretics (1905) **; The Man Who Was Thursday (1908) ***; Orthodoxy (1908) ***; The Ball and the Cross (1909) *; Manalive (1912) **; The Everlasting Man (1925) **
  • C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952) ***; The Four Loves (1960) **; The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (1980) ***
  • Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (1961) **
  • Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible (2011) *
  • Archimandrite Sophrony, St. Silouan the Athonite (1975) ***

History and Related Fields

  • Omer Bartov, Mirrors of Destruction (2000) *
  • Umberto Eco, Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages (1985) *
  • Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi, Fascist Spectacle (1997) *
  • Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering (2008) *
  • Etienne Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (1955) *
  • Nathaniel Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (1989) ***
  • George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture (2006) ***
  • James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State (1997) **
  • Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835-40) ***
  • Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905) **
  • Donald Worster, Rivers of Empire (1985) *

Aesthetics, Art, and Literature

  • Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949) *
  • John Dewey, Art as Experience (1934) ***
  • Umberto Eco, The Open Work (1962) *
  • J. R. R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories” (1947) ***

Fiction and Poetry

  • Lloyd Alexander, The Chronicles of Prydain (1964-1968) †
  • Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones (1944) **; The Aleph (1949) *
  • Albert Camus, The Stranger (1942) *
  • Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004) *
  • Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy (c. 1320) **
  • Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers (1937) †; David Copperfield (1850) †; Great Expectations (1861) †
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment (1866) **; The Brothers Karamazov (1880) ***
  • Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose (1980) **
  • George Eliot, Middlemarch (1874) ***
  • T. S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday (1930) **; Four Quartets (1945) **
  • Shusaku Endo, The Sea and Poison (1957) *; Silence (1966) **
  • William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (1929) **; Light in August (1932) *; The Wild Palms (1939) *
  • Ferdowsi, Shahnameh (c. 1000) **
  • Allen French, The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow (1924) *
  • Nikolai Gogol, Taras Bulba (1835) *
  • Luo Guanzhong, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms (c. 1370) *
  • Frank Herbert, Dune (1965) *
  • Homer, The Iliad (?) †, The Odyssey (?) †
  • Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862) ***; Ninety-Three (1874) **
  • Stanisław Lem, Solaris (1961) *
  • C. S. Lewis, Space Trilogy (1938-45) *** ; The Screwtape Letters (1942) **; The Great Divorce (1945) **; The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-56) ***; Till We Have Faces (1956) ***
  • Thomas Mann, Buddenbrooks (1901) *; Death in Venice (1912) **; The Magic Mountain (1924) **
  • George MacDonald, Phantastes (1858) **; At the Back of the North Wind (1871) **; The Princess and the Goblin (1872) *; The Princess and Curdie (1883) *; Lilith (1895) *
  • George R. R. Martin, Game of Thrones (1996) *
  • John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667) **
  • Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood (1952) *; The Violent Bear It Away (1960) **; Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965) ***
  • Shota Rustaveli, The Knight in the Panther’s Skin (c. 1200) *
  • Henryk Sienkiewicz, Quo Vadis (1896) *
  • Rosemary Sutcliff, The Shining Company (1990) †
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit (1937) **; Leaf By Niggle (1945) **; The Lord of the Rings (1954-55) ***; Smith of Wootton Major (1967) ***
  • Tomas Tranströmer, The Great Enigma (2004) *
  • Valmiki, Ramayana (?) *
  • Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) **; Around the World in Eighty Days (1873) †; The Mysterious Island (1875) **; Michael Strogoff (1876) †; The Begum’s Millions (1879) *
  • Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) *
  • Vyasa, Mahabharata (?) *
  • Lew Wallace, Ben-Hur (1880) †
  • Tobias Wolff, The Short Stories of Tobias Wolff (1988) **
  • Charles Williams, The Place of the Lion (1931) *; Descent Into Hell (1937) *
  • Johann David Wyss, The Swiss Family Robinson (1812) †
  • Yevgeny Zamyatin, We (1921) *

Other

  • Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace (2002) ***
  • Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968) *
  • Annie Dillard, For the Time Being (1999) *
  • Thomas Merton, The Seven-Storey Mountain (1948) **
  • Josef Pieper, “Leisure: The Basis of Culture” and “The Philosophical Act” (1948) **
  • Marco Polo, The Travels of Marco Polo (c. 1300) *

Bonus: Movies Worth Watching

  • Ingmar Bergman, The Seventh Seal (1957) **; Through a Glass Darkly (1961) *; Winter Light (1963) ***
  • Joel and Ethan Coen, Fargo (1996) *; O Brother Where Art Thou (2000) *; True Grit (2010) *
  • Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity (2013) *
  • Victor Erice, The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) **; The South (1982) **
  • Cosa-Gavros, Z (1969) *
  • Kryzystof Kieslowski, The Decalogue (1989) ***; The Double Life of Véronique (1991) *; Three Colors Trilogy (1993-1994) ***
  • Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) **
  • Akira Kurosawa, Seven Samurai (1954) **
  • Fritz Lang, M (1931) *
  • David Lean, Lawrence of Arabia (1962) *
  • Tatyana Lioznova, Seventeen Moments of Spring (1973) *
  • Terrence Malick, Days of Heaven (1978) *; The Tree of Life (2011) **
  • Hayao Miyazaki, Princess Mononoke (1997) *; Spirited Away (2001) **; Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) *
  • Phillip Noyce, The Quiet American (2002) **
  • John Sturges, The Eagle Has Landed (1976) *
  • Andrei Tarkovsky, Ivan’s Childhood (1962) **; Andrei Rublev (1965) ***; Solaris (1972) ***; The Mirror (1974) ***; Stalker (1979) **
  • Béla Tarr, Werckmeister Harmonies (2000) **
  • Guillermo del Toro, Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) *
  • František Vláčil, Marketa Lazarová (1967) **
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