Summer Reading

Owen Meany
by John Irving

This is by far the best fiction book I’ve ever read in my life. Nothing else I’ve read even comes close to how great this story is. If you have a little time left before the summer reading comes to a close, I highly recommend picking this book up! It is pretty long, but it is worth the investment of time for the payoff!

I’m bummed because my summer reading is already over and I still have a stack of books left. I just got the syllabus for my fall module class in Seminary – I can’t believe it’s time to start studying already. It started me thinking about how much I love to read and what books I’ve enjoyed in my lifetime. I’ve read everything Hemingway has ever written – I recommend getting a hold of hiscomplete works and just diving in. Same thing with John Irving, though I haven’t yet read his last one, I’ve read all of his others. You can’t go wrong with Buechner, Annie Dillard, Fitzgerald or Charles Dickens. I’m pretty lame in that I’ve never read much Tolstoy but he’s my next fiction foray if I ever get a life.

Top 5 fictions books I’ve ever read in order:

A Prayer For Owen Meany – John Irving
The Sun Also Rises – Earnest Hemingway
Son of Laughter – Frederick Buechner
The Beautiful & the Damned – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

Here’s hoping you’ll take a minute and post your favorite 5 books you’ve ever read. Fiction or non-fiction either one.

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  • Casey T’s friend who was told she “had to read your blog.”

    contemporary stuff and not in any order:
    1. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
    2. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
    3. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
    4. All Over but the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg
    5. any of Ranier Maria Rilke’s books of poems
    Agreed about John Irving.

  • I’d love to hear more of what you liked about blue like jazz. I’ve never read Salman Rushdie, what’s he like?

  • I’m limiting it to fiction, as I have a separate list of nonfiction books I love. In no particular order, my Top 5 are:

    The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
    By far, one of the most powerful books on death and dying–and the way we live our lives–that I’ve ever read.

    The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
    Fabulous book on the depravity of the human heart.

    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    That this lady wrote only one book–this masterpiece–only adds to its mystique. If cornered, I would probably name this as my all-time favorite.

    The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    I have always viewed this as both a stunning critique of religious hypocrisy, and a beautifully tragic love story.

    Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor
    Has anyone ever drawn more compelling, tragic characters than Ms. O’Connor?

  • Love Blue Like Jazz. That book freed me from the “guilt” of being both a Christian and a liberal.

  • Hard to pick a top five…Tomorrow it may be different
    1.Crime and Punishment-Dostoyevsky
    2.The Whole Shebang-Timothy Ferris
    3.The Christ Clone Trilogy-James BeauSeigneur
    4.Purity of the Heart is to Will One Thing-Kiekegaard
    5.Long Days Journey Into Night-Eugene O’Neill

    I had to throw in a play.

  • I don’t consider myself well-read enough to have a top 5 list…but I’ll give you 5 from my summer reading list:

    1. Real Money – Jim Cramer
    2. reUnderstanding Prayer – Kyle Lake
    3. Game of Shadows – Those two San Fran. reporters
    4. To Own a Dragon – Don Miller
    5. Seizing your Divine Moment – Erwin McManus (just started)

  • casey t’s friend

    Donald Miller is a writer–he knows how to use words and appreciates the beauty of them. Sometimes I’m discouraged by a lot of Christian literature’s lack of this. Miller isn’t trite, but isn’t afraid to be emotional, either. I appreciate the book’s honesty and the way it appeals to people who don’t like the idea of church. It has created dialogue for me with my friends who aren’t believers and it helps people see the beauty of Christianity when all they have previously seen was a means of manipulation. And it’s funny.
    Rushdie is absolutely beautiful. He’s complicated and occasionally vulgar. There are layers and layers and everything is connected. He’s distant enough from India that he can see both its beauty and ugliness, and the same with the religions of India. He creates interesting characters, people you’re intrigued by. He embraces Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s (sp?) “realismo magico,” a concept that really intrigues me. Rushdie is tough and throws a ton in there, almost too much, but I sort of liked that. You should try Rushdie sometime; it’s always fun to read a guy who’s had a death threat put on his head for his work, right? 🙂

  • casey t’s friend

    kevin, love four of your choices, and now I’ll have to try O’Connor.

  • I’m now officially ashamed I’ve never read O’Conner or Rushdie. What have I been thinking? Casey t’s friend: if you love Donald Miller for those reasons, you should read Annie Dillard, if you start with her short stuff, like “Holy The Firm” I think you’d like it. She has incredible economy of words but is profound on every page. Also, if you liked Donald Miller, “Travelling Mercies” by Anne LaMott is one of the best books I’ve read this decade. Have you ever read it?

  • Tim and Casey T.’s Friend-

    If you read O’Connor, prepare yourself. She’s brutal with her characters, and explores some sides of Christianity that some might choose to ignore. Still, I consider her one of the finest writers of the 20th century, especially in how she deals with spirituality.

  • BTW, call me a “book snob” or what have you, but I think that almost all truly great novels were written before 1970 or so.

  • Yeah, if that makes you a book snob I’m right there with you. I love the stuff from the “lost generation.”

    Your comments about O’Conner make me want to read her more. There’s not much about the dark underbelly of Christianity that I don’t willing explore and learn from. I’d like to have her influence.


  • I must confess that I’ve read little written by the lost generation. I’m a sucker for Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, as well as for a lot of pre-1900 fiction as well, but I’ve never really gotten into Hemingway as much as I should have. A couple of his short stories is the extent of it for me thus far. Maybe I’ll take a reading assignment for myself to read some of the authors from the LG.

    As for O’Connor, I think if more authors who are Christian would focus more on creating good art–as O’Connor does–and less on appealing to the mass of “Christianity” as defined by the major Christian publishing houses, the field of Christian literature would not be so bereft of good work.

    Well, I should stop for now. I have been procrastinating working on my novel all evening, and I should get to it now. Thanks for this thread and your blog. I’ve found more intellectual stimulation in my month or so in this little community than I’ve experienced in my 32 years of attending various churches combined.

  • Hard to pick 5 so, I went with a theme… top 5 books that influenced my life in some way. In order:

    Run Baby Run – Nicky Cruz
    I was an impressionable 15 at the time I read this. It would be another 10 years until I gave my heart to Christ but, I believe this set the foundation. Incredible piece of testimony.

    And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie
    Didn’t really read much until I read this book. Up to this point I didn’t understand that reading could be so engrossing.

    An Easy Thing – Paco Ignacio Taibo II
    Ditto for this one.

    Blue-Eyed Child of Fortune – Robert Gould Shaw
    Shaped alot of my own personal views of culture and race.

    Process, Inspiration and Practice – Hillman Curtis
    Not exactly a literary work but a manual for designers. I was able to meet the author several years ago. His work and passion has fueled my creative career ever since. I think you’d get a kick out of reading this being an artist yourself.

    I was going to pick “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” but, you mentioned reading all of his titles. Thought I’d throw in a few you may not have read yet.

    P.S. “To Kill a Mockingbird” Good pick Kevin.

  • Casey T’s friend

    I’ve been told to read Annie Dillard before, and the parts I’ve heard, I’ve loved. LaMott is in the stack….if only I was paid to read my books instead of work, I would get to it. I am officially excited about O’Connor.

  • who else thinks that every business should provide their employees with two hours a day of reading and reflection time for personal development and learning? It should not only be allowed, it should be required!

  • Tim-

    I’m all for it! Actually, since I run my own business, and am single, I give myself that kind of time every day, but for those still “working for the man”, I think that would be awesome! Good luck with that … 😉

    As for O’Connor, I’m glad that you all are getting excited about her. I’m anxious to hear if you guys love her as much as I do. I recommend Three by Flannery O’Connor, as it contains Wise Blood, as well as The Violent Bear It Away and Everything That Rises Must Converge, and it’s not expensive ($7.95 at B & N). Well, let me know what you all think of her stuff once you get a chance to read it.

  • BTW, if you want a REAL quick introduction to O’Connor, look up her short story “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” online and read it. It’s only maybe 15 pages long or so, and is quite good.

    Thanks for the kudos on TKAM. I’ve loved that book for many years now, as I first read it in junior high.

  • casey t’s friend

    Kevin, I read the short story and realized I read that story my senior year of high school in my English class and didn’t appreciate it… I feel like I have to reread everything from senior English, because I might have missed something else! That line is great at the end….”She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

  • CT’s Friend-

    Isn’t it powerful how she works in bits like that into her stories? I find myself going back and marking up her work, just so I don’t miss things. I would recommend reading Wise Blood next, as it’s excellent, and pretty short for a novel. More like a novella.

  • Is everyone just insanely busy, or did this blog just lose steam somehow? I imagine with Tim’s group finishing up their CD that it’s the former, but it’s just kind of sad that such a good community has went so quiet the last couple of weeks.

  • I’m insanely busy…I think about you guys, though, and I’ve got a couple of posts up my sleeve. I just need to get off the dime and write. I’ll blog a little about everything I’m working on right now and see if I can get some action going!


  • Let’s quit fighting about why Jesus came, and talk more about our favorite books, whadda ya say?

  • Or maybe we can just keep fighting about why Jesus came…

  • Too bad that this topic died. It was interesting to read others’ opinions on great books.