My college advisor, an old curmudgeon of a guy, claimed that, “Books are just for fun. They can’t change you.” You buy that? Will a good story just entertain, or does it have the capacity to shape? My prof was a Dickens scholar, so it’s hard to understand his minimizing the power of story.
You cannot read Oliver Twist without seeing the world differently, through the eyes of an orphan, through the lens of poverty. If that does not change you, then check your pulse. You might be dead.
There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and the tired man who wants a book to read.
–Gilbert K. Chesterton
Books are borrowed brains. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “One thorn of experience is worth a wilderness of warning.” The best books put us in someone else’s moment so we can gain some measure of their experience. While trendy opinions may only amuse, enduring wisdom has the potential to instruct and inspire. Recently, a friend asked what books leapt off the shelf and knocked my socks off–the ones that I keep close at hand.
Here are a few that still leap for me…
To Change the World, James Davidson Hunter
Take-home message: How to fan a flame rather than to curse the darkness.
Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas
Once in a generation, a true hero emerges.
Blink, Malcolm Gladwell
For a bird’s-eye view of the bandwagons we usually observe from the tailgate.
The Reason for God, Tim Keller
Read this and you might begin to see “doubt” for what it often is: avoidance.
Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis
This is Mere Christianity reframed as a story—the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche retold.
The Idiot, Dostoyevsky
His epitaph might read, “Purposefully Naive.”
The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan
Bread, butter, meat and potatoes. Every word.
The Prince, Machiavelli
The real deal about the human heart. Brutal.
A Christmas Carol, Dickens (’nuff said.)
Flannery O’Connor’s short stories.
Shocker. See my conversation with my friend Jonathan Rogers, author of a book about O’Conner.
The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis
Not a “Velvet-Elvis” picture of heaven—but rather, an awesome glimpse from the outskirts.
Night, Elie Wiesel
A true, breath-taking whiff of Nazi Germany.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey
Still the most helpful book in learning to live more intentionally.
The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, Steven Sample
The truth about purposed leading can be stranger than the fictions we want to believe.
What would you add to this list?
Joani Jack says
Tim, these are amazing choices and I’ve already added a couple to my vacation list… but you’re just too dang smart.
So a little more non-classic fiction, all of which I’ve read multiple times and have been transformed:
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Echo in the Darkness series by Francine Rivers
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
The Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series by Laurie King.
I will grudgingly stop there…
Cliff Foreman says
Are you an American, Filston? Where are “The Scarlet Letter,” “Moby-Dick,” and “The Great Gatsby” on your list? How can you understand your own culture without reading our greatest books? And while your at it, “Light in August,” “Invisible Man,” “The Sun Also Rises” and “My Antonia.”
Tim Filston says
Don’t I get credit for Flannery O’Conner? Huckleberry Finn would be my American exemplar. Still mad at Faulkner for The Sound and the Fury. If you can explain it w/o requiring me to memorize an algorithm, I’ll buy you a milkshake.
Abby Blackmon says
Love the photo. Good memories . . .
As for others…
Also by Timothy Keller, I would add The Meaning of Marriage. Read it a few years ago, and now gift it to every young couple I know are even thinking about it.
And in the fiction genre, would strongly suggest Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. The elder Stone (at book’s beginning) reminds me of someone we both know – dearly loved and revered.
Peter McKechnie says
Daring Greatly, by Dr. Brene Brown
Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry
Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
Talent Is Never Enough, by Dr. John Maxwell