Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Favorite pieces of fiction

Giving others a recommendation on a fiction book is like recommending a favorite movie. On countless occasions, a recommended movie has been a flop, not because the movie couldn't have been moving, but because I was not in the same place as the previous watcher.

A piece of fiction is often powerful because it comes to a reader at an important moment in their life. It wasn't only powerful because of the literature itself, but God's unique providence was in play in having you read that book when you did.

All that to say, here are my top 7 favorite authors in years gone by, a few of their works, and why they spoke to me. I offer the names of authors first because usually the greatest authors write more than one compelling book. This shows that they have the ability to understand and depict life in a way that gets at the recesses of our souls.

Chaim Potok: The first book I read of his was, My Name is Asher Lev. This book spoke to some of my own father issues, some of my own issues in developing my own faith with the LORD, and the importance of being authentic before God and others. Other books by Chaim Potok that have been powerful for me are: The Chosen, The Gift of Asher Lev, and The Promise.

Alexander Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo may be the best book I've ever read on the nature of justice, revenge, and mercy. So too, it may be stand out as the best book overall I've ever read to date. I was quite disappointed in The Three Musketeers after reading The Count. Where The Count seems to celebrate character and truth, The Three Musketeers reads like a book about fame, sexual conquest, and boyhood antics.

C.S. Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Great Divorce, his Space Trilogy are my favorites. Lewis shows that there is deep truth ("deep magic") that touches the soul of every person. These deep truths are better presented in stories than in non-fictional prose.

J.K. Rowling: I've read through all 7 Harry Potter books twice and am rereading all 7 aloud with my wife currently. These are some of the best books in recent years on the importance of friendship and sacrifice. Those who get hung up on the "witchcraft" should know that it only serves as a backdrop to a powerful tale of good vs. evil, where good triumphs.

George MacDonald: Only in recent years have I been enjoying this amazing author. Lilith and Sir Gibbie (a very trying read because he writes in a Scottish dialect), Thomas Winfield, Curate, and The Princess and the Goblin are all great reads. MacDonald touches on deep spiritual issues without giving pat answers.

Jane Austen: I think I've read all but one of her romantic comedies. She teaches us that dreams do come true, bad company corrupts good character, and that character is the foundation for deep relationships.

JRR Tolkien: Though I've never been a huge fan of The Hobbit (fun story, but not that moving), The Lord of the Rings trilogy makes my heart sing every time I read through it.

What are the 2-3 fiction books that have spoken deeply to you in your life?

1 comment:

Tim R. said...

I would agree with quite a few of yours. I would add Isaac Asimov's "Complete Robot" series of short stories, which explores a variety of philosophical issues while creating a great unified whole "book" out of a series of short stories that were written quite independently of each other. I would also add Orson Scott Card's "Maps in a Mirror" short story collection (esp. the "Cruel Miracles" sub-collection), which has a lot of wonderful stories - most of which make you think, some of which make you laugh, and virtually all of which are unforgettable.

Oh, right, book. The Prince by Jerry Pournelle and S.M. Stirling is a wonderful work on the decline of an Earth-based system of interplanetary colonization, following the lives of about half of the handful of characters who were dedicated to ensuring that civilization survived the collapse. A fun military science-fiction story (though it is sadly lacking in space opera) that prompts you to think, though the characters' actions make it clear which views the author believes to be correct.

To sneak in a fourth recommendation, Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga is also worth reading - it mostly follows the life of its central character and while it much more philosophically shallow, it makes up with it in terms of brash adventuresome space opera.