Okay, since I'm a big Narnia fan, and the Prince Caspian movie is now opening, I'm going to plug it, even though this is a blog about books. I've heard from credible sources (including our friend Doug Gresham, the co-producer and step-son of C. S. Lewis) that Caspian is a fun movie, true to the spirit and content of the book (though to work on the big screen there had to be additions and subtractions, of course).
Before getting to Narnia and some of my other favorite fiction, let me go back in time, to my childhood.
I grew up in a nonchristian home. I learned to love reading through comic books: Archie and the Marvel comics among them, especially the Fantastic Four. But mainly I was a DC fan, my favorites being The Justice League of America (Green Lantern was my hero) and The Legion of Super Heroes (go, Lightning Lad). From there I dove into science fiction and fantasy, spending my nights looking through my telescope, then coming to bed freezing and reading science fiction by flashlight under my covers, so Mom wouldn't see the light on.
Much as I would have enjoyed video games and computers as a boy, I'm profoundly grateful they didn't exist then. If they would have, I'm afraid I wouldn't have come to love reading as I did. (Which creates a real challenge for today's Christian parents, doesn't it? How do you cultivate a love for reading in children, especially your boys, when there is so much in our culture working against it? And especially when we remember that those who are not readers will not be readers of God's Word.)
I vividly remember forty years ago looking through the kids fiction section in the old Gresham library, and discovering a book I checked out numbers of times over the next years: Stadium Beyond the Stars, by Milton Lesser. It centered on a journey to the interplanetary Olympics.
Not a great book by literary standards, but a wonderful book to me to this day, not simply the book but how the book fed my longing for something greater, for adventure beyond my world. As C. S. Lewis said of George MacDonald's Phantastes, "it baptized my imagination."
It was a great joy to hunt down Stadium Beyond the Stars online a few years ago, to order and reread it and be taken back in time forty years and forward in time a few hundred years. When I see it on my shelf my heart is moved.
I think of how God had his hand on my life long before I was in high school, when I read for the first time a book that really captivated me...the Bible. That Book came alive to me when I met the Author, who soon became my best friend. Can't wait for all the adventures He has awaiting us, His children, in the new universe.
Okay, here are some of my Favorite Novels (with apologies to Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Dickens, Hemingway, and Steinbeck, who didn't make the cut).
And here's a disclaimer—there are a lot of contemporary Christian fiction authors whose books I've read and loved. But because many of these have become my friends over the years, I just can't get started, or I couldn't stop. I will mention some of them periodically in my blog, but not on this list. (Okay, one example: The Atonement Child, by Francine Rivers; a powerful novel.)
Instead, here are books mainly that I read many years ago, and a number of them I've reread, with delight. As Lewis said, any book not worth rereading is not worth reading the first time. (Walter Wangarin's books are more recent, but since he's not a personal friend I'll keep him on the list; besides yesterday in the car I was listening to an old cassette of him reading his book Paul, A Novel, on the list, and I was captivated by his mastery of the language.)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew, Softcover (7), C. S. Lewis
The Lord of the Rings, Young Adult Boxed Set (3), J. R. R. Tolkien
Perelandra, Space Trilogy Series, C. S. Lewis (closely followed by the other two in the space trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, Space Trilogy Series and That Hideous Strength, Space Trilogy Series)
The Singer Trilogy, including The Singer, The Song and The Finale), Calvin Miller; okay, Calvin became my friend, but it was twenty years after I first read his books, so that's different
Odyssey and The Iliad, Homer
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
Complete Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis
The Chosen, Chaim Potok
In His Steps, Charles Sheldon
Pontius Pilate, Paul Maier
Ben-Hur, Lew Wallace
The Birth, Gene Edwards
The Mantle (name later changed to Elijah), William H. Stephens
Paul, A Novel, Walter Wangerin
The Book of God, Walter Wangerin
I think it's likely I've not yet read my favorite novel. Not just because it's out there and I haven't yet discovered it, but because it may not be written until after the resurrection, when we're on the New Earth. Think of the book discussions we'll likely have there!
Your favorite novels or shorter fiction or fiction writers? Share them in the Comments. I look forward to hearing from you.