Shelf Life: A Must-Read, Lifetime-Learning List for Men

Readers are inveterate and unapologetic list makers.  Indeed, according to Umberto Eco, “Lists are the most necessary literary accessories of all.” 

  • There are lists of books that must be read. 
  • There are lists of books that must be reread. 
  • There are lists of books that must be read by others. 
  • There are lists of books that must be bought. 
  • There are best-seller lists. 
  • There are best of the best lists. 
  • There are the indispensable book lists—those titles readers might profess to be their preferred companions were they stranded on a desert isle. 

It seems that list-making simply goes with the territory—it is the natural accompaniment to the shelf life.

T.S. Eliot quipped, “I love reading another reader’s list of favorites.  Even when I find I do not share their tastes or predilections, I am provoked to compare, contrast, and contradict.  It is a most healthy exercise, and one altogether fruitful.” 

Here at King’s Meadow, we share that sentiment wholeheartedly.  So, we trust you’ll enjoy mulling over, arguing with, and amending the following lists:

 

My Favorite Non-Fiction Books from the 20th Century

Compiling a list of my favorite non-fiction works of the twentieth century is harder than it might appear at first glance—at least partly because most of the really good books written in this century are barely up to the standards of mediocre books written in earlier centuries.  But, of course, in accord with God’s good providence, there have been a number of happy literary aberrations.  Almost any of the books by G.K. Chesterton, Abraham, Kuyper, Hilaire Belloc, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Niall Ferguson, Arthur Quiller-Couch, or Paul Johnson might have made the list—but I had to start and stop somewhere. These are listed in no particular order (other than the ramshackle, stream-of-consciousness order in my own mind).

1. Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton

2. The Stone Lectures, Abraham Kuyper

3. Knowing God, J.I. Packer

4. Mont St. Michel and Chartres, Henry Adams

5. The Servile State, Hilaire Belloc

6. Up From Slavery, Booker T. Washington

7. The Birth of the Modern, Paul Johnson

8. The Path to Rome, Hilaire Belloc

9. The Gathering Storm, Winston Churchill

10. A World Torn Apart, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

11. Home, Witold Rybczynski

12. A Texan Looks at Lyndon, J. Evetts Haley

13. How the Other Half Lives, Jacob Riis

14. My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers

15. I’ll Take My Stand, Donald Davidson, et al.

16. George Whitefield. Arnold Dallimore

17. 84 Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff

18. The Calvinistic Concept of Culture, Henry Van Til

19. A Wake for the Living, Andrew Lytle

20. A Christian Manifesto, Francis Schaeffer

21. Where Nights Are Longest, Colin Thubron

22. Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman

23. Civil Rights, Thomas Sowell

24. Essays and Criticisms, Dorothy Sayers

25. Ideas Have Consequences, Richard Weaver

26. Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis,

27. The Intellectual Life, A.G. Sertillanges 

28. The God Who Is There, Francis Schaeffer

29. The Fundamentals, J. Gresham Machen et al.

30. The Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn

31. Witness, Whittaker Chambers

32. Christianity and Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen

33. The Defense of the Faith, Cornelius Van Til

34. Battle for the Bible, Harold Lindsell

35. Spiritual Depression, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

36. The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

37. The Mind of the Maker, Dorothy Sayers

38. Modern Art and the Death of a Culture, Hans Rookmaaker

39. Idols for Destruction, Herbert Schlossberg

40. Fire in the Minds of Men, James Billington

 

My Favorite Fiction and Verse Books from the 20th Century

From this close distance, it is very difficult to tell which novels from our time will continue to have relevance in the days to come.  Like any list, this one is subjective and reflects my own peculiar interests, biases, and concerns.  At the same time it is rather wide ranging.  Many of the writers included on this list could have had any number of their works listed.  And again, these are listed in no particular order.

1. Oxford Book of English Verse, Arthur Quiller-Couch

2. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

3. The Father Brown Stories, G.K. Chesterton

4. Witch Wood, John Buchan

5. The Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot

6. The Space Trilogy, C.S. Lewis

7. A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

8. The Four Men, Hilaire Belloc

9. Penhally, Caroline Gordon

10. Collected Stories, William Faulkner

11. The Wizzard of Oz, L.Frank Baum

12. Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

13. Scaramouche, Rafael Sabatini

14. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco

15. Kristen Lavransdatter, Sigrid Undset

16. Love in the Ruins, Walker Percy

17. The Velvet Horn, Andrew Lytle

18. The Footsteps at the Lock, Ronald Knox

19. The Weekend Wodehouse, P.G. Wodehouse

20. Falling, Colin Thubron

21. Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingles Wilder

22. The Anubis Gates, Tim Powers

23. Song of the Lark, Willa Cather

24. Possession, A.S. Byatt

25. At Home in Mitford, Jan Karon

26. George Orwell, 1984 

27. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

28. The Descent into Hell, Charles Williams

29. The Moviegoer, Walker Percy

30. All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren

31. The Golden Apples, Eudora Welty

32. Look Homeward Angel, Thomas Wolfe

33. The Violent Bear It Away, Flannery O’Connor

34. The Second Coming, Walker Percy

35. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

36. The Yearling, Marjorie Rawlings

37. Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry

38. A Good Man Is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor

39. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner

40. Absalom, Absalom, William Faulkner

 

Classic Theology List

Anthony Trollope once asserted that, “A good catalog of the best books is a world of wisdom and adventure, virtue and valor, insight and experience all but for the asking.  A young man who prefers other pursuits to the neglect of this goodly catalog may well be akin to the sloth; to be sure he is akin to the fool.” 

Though the greatest ideas, the most influential concepts, and the most inspiring prose can hardly be reduced to a short list like this, it is a helpful exercise nevertheless.

1. City of God, St. Augustine

2. Confessions, St. Augustine

3. Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis and Gerhard Groote

4. Institutes of Christian Religion, John Calvin

5. Bondage of the Will, Martin Luther

6. Westminster Confession of Faith

7. On the Incarnation, St. Athanasius

8. Merle D’Aubigne, The History of the Reformation

9. Treasury of David, Charles Haddon Spurgeon

10. Revolution and Unbelief, William Groen van Prinsterer

11. John Knox, The History of the Reformation in Scotland

12. Book of Martyrs, John Foxe

13. Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards

14. The Death of Death, John Owen

15. Christie Magnalia Americana, Cotton Mather

16. Practical Christianity, William Wilberforce

17. Collected Sermons, Thomas Chalmers

18 Journals, George Whitefield

19. Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan

20. Scots Worthies, John Howie

21. A Crook in the Lot, Thomas Boston

22. The Bruised Reed, Richard Sibbes

23. The Life of God in the Soul of Man, Henry Scougal 

24. The Covenant of Grace, Matthew Henry

25. The Reformed Pastor, Richard Baxter

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