1. Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is one of my favorite classics, full of some of my favorite images of all time in literature. In particular, I love the part early on, when Nick first sees Jordan and Daisy billowing in that breezy room full of windows and flowing curtains. I still long to have a room like that in my house. As I posted earlier, I recently re-read the book and was mesmerized by Fitzerald’s gift once again. I didn’t remember Nick being so jaded nor Daisy so damaged. But Gatsby was a tragic as ever.
2. Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice. I read this novel, which focuses on one year of Jesus’ childhood when he and his family return from Egypt and settle in Nazareth, as a panelist on a monthly locally televised book club—and loved it. Rice, who is best known for her Vampire Chronicles, recently returned to the Catholic Church through a several-year journey. This is her first work since embracing the Christian faith. When the book came out last year, it made good reviews both in the secular press and Christian media, both of which attest that it’s well-researched and written. Because of this research, one of the novel’s greatest strength is also one of Rice’s greatest demonstrated strengths as a writer: she puts us smack dab in the middle of the time and space in which Jesus grew up. (And Rice’s Afterward at the end of book is something not to be missed, either.) You can read my full review here.
3. Eragon by Christopher Paolini. Although this novel came out awhile ago, I didn’t get around to reading it until this year. The book (although it received mixed reviews from critics) spent a great deal of time on the NY Times Bestseller List and garnered a rather large following—myself included. What can I say. I have a weakness for novels like this: they are fun and easy to read, have a great number of characters which feel like old friends (probably because you’ve met so many versions of them in the books you’ve read before) and a good plot that keeps the pages turning even when you should be sleeping. It’s no great classic, but it sure is a good yarn, not to mention it also touches on some biblical themes common in high fantasy: good versus evil, a quest for truth, a fight for right-ness, hope, sacrifice, nature of love, redemption, faith, community, etc. All of these are dominant themes in Scripture, and most of them also run through Eragon in one form or another. The film version of the novel was released this month, but it didn’t even come close to capturing the story (or even to being a good film). So, if you like the fantasy genre, skip the movie and read the book.
4. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. This 2004 novel was a critically acclaimed by both secular and Christian critics. The novel is in the voice of 76-year-old preacher James Ames, who is writing a long letter to a young son born late in Ames’ life. It is gentle and meandering, an insightful delving into faith and life. It reminds me a bit of Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter—one of my most favorite books of all time. I don’t think Gilead is quite as wonderful as Hannah, but it’s a good read.
5. Orso: The Troll Who Couldn’t Scare by Brad Thiessen (illustrated by Jeremy Balzer). Part of the joy of having children is discovering (and re-discovering) all the wonderful children’s books out there. This one, written by a former colleague of mine, is new to our collection and has become a favorite in our household. It follows the gentle struggles of a young troll who has no desire to scare people and would rather play, make friends and laugh—and is quite good at tickling. The “tickle troll” is now a nighttime ritual in our home, to the delight of my three-year-old son who scampers for his bed and pillow where he is safe from our own version of Orso, the Tickle-Troll-Mommy. Heh.
(Images: Amazon and Amazon UK)