3. Pride and Prejudice

For those who have known me and my love of books for a long time, there’s a burning question, perhaps an angry one: Why is Pride and Prejudice now number three on my top ten list after nearly a decade at number 1? Rest assured that my affection for Pride and Prejudice has not diminished; in fact, it’s probably grown over the years.

Here are a few reasons why: Continue reading “3. Pride and Prejudice”

4. Peter Pan

Why is a children’s book ranked fourth in my favorite books list? It’s simple really: Peter Pan isn’t a children’s book, much as Gulliver’s Travels isn’t for children. Unfortunately, when most people hear the title of J. M. Barrie’s book, they think of the Disney animated rendition, or worse the movie, Hook.

I fell into this camp until a little over seven years ago, content to keep my knowledge of Peter Pan purely theoretical. Then I started talking to, flirting with, and dating this young woman whom I later persuaded to marry me. Abigail was planning to do her master’s thesis on Peter Pan (though I think choosing to write a thesis on something indicates both that you love it and don’t want to love it anymore). Of course, I did the one thing any intelligent suitor would have done; I located a copy of Peter Pan and started reading. Continue reading “4. Peter Pan”

5. A Tale of Two Cities

I generally do not consider myself to be a fan of Charles Dickens. I’ve read a number of Dickens stories including Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations and can’t claim to have especially enjoyed any of them. For my twenty-first century taste, Dickens can be boring and longwinded. Still, A Tale of Two Cities is the book I’m encouraging my wife to use as the novel for her literature course.

A Tale of Two Cities takes the best of Charles Dickens—his ability to capture humanity—and makes it succinct. Even though the story spans decades, the plot moves fast, and because the story takes place during the French Revolution the narrative carries more weight and resonance than the typical Dickens story. Continue reading “5. A Tale of Two Cities”

6. The Lord of the Rings

Virtually everyone with a literary palate knows that The Lord of the Rings is extraordinary. It’s impossible to deny its impact in both literature and cinema. Name a fantasy book or series that was written afterward and we can highlight a vast number of parallels or points of influence, direct or indirect.

Because The Lord of the Rings is so well known and frequently scrutinized, I’m reluctant to spend time analyzing the story. I’m not a scholar, and I don’t have anything new to add on that front. I’ll say simply that my father loves the books. Consequently, I was introduced to the story at a young age, and my appreciation has grown. What I would instead like to focus on is Tolkien’s writing process.

I have this reoccurring emotional response every time I get to the end of The Return of the King. I feel sadness and loss that the journey is over, but I am also incredibly disappointed that Tolkien didn’t write more books. I feel like the world missed out because The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are all we got of J. R. R. Tolkien. Continue reading “6. The Lord of the Rings”

7. The Things They Carried

I first ran across The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, during my junior college Introduction to Literature course where we read the first chapter. I was unaffected. Most likely I wasn’t mature enough to appreciate what I was reading at the time. However, to my credit, as an adult I bought the book and it resonated with me, so much so that it’s become one of my favorite works.

The Things They Carried is a collection of essays written by a Vietnam veteran. We learn about the author’s experiences fighting in the war, being drafted, returning home, his childhood, and even revisiting Nam later. It’s not a particularly long book, but it does an incredible job of capturing the experience. Continue reading “7. The Things They Carried”