Sunday, November 18, 2012

Recommending Book Part II

So yesterday's post inspired me to see if there are other authors who have published lists of their favourite books.  What I did find is a page that had 40 famous people name their favourite books.
Of course the question of what is your favourite book is really difficult, at least for people who don't like lying.  Because as we all know, the real question is, "what book do you like that will win you respect for liking?"  It's a safe bet that someone will be tempted to answer Ulysses, by James Joyce and that same person will be lying.

Confession time.  Writing my list yesterday made me think of a book that challenged what I thought about nuclear weapons.  That book did not make the list because it's The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy.  Not much respect earned for reading that book.  Or John Grisham's The Chamber which challenged what I think about capital punishment.  I'd like to include the caveat that I read both these books when I was considerably younger, but that's disingenuous because I still like books that are almost certainly merely escape fiction.

So I've thought of a more objective criterion for measuring my favourite books.  It has its own flaws, but adds a different perspective.  I should mention that my list yesterday was specifically not a list of my favourite books, but ones that have influenced me the most.  This blog is more a list of books that I've enjoyed the most, sort of.

Here's a list of books that I've read multiple times.

I would guess I've read each of these at least four times:

Flint, Louis L'amour
Blue Like Jazz, Don Miller
Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton
Reaching for the Invisible God, Philip Yancey
Yeager: an autobiography, Chuck Yeager
Treasure Island, R.L. Stevenson
A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
In a Sunburnt Country, Bill Bryson
The Lost World, Michael Crichton
The Dog Who Wouldn't Be, Farley Mowatt
The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, Adrian Plass
and perhaps some of the Harry Potter novels.

If I include at least three times read there's a bunch more Bryson, Mowatt, Yancey, Crichton and some Clive Cussler I believe.  I've probably read a couple of Terry Pratchett novels three times, certainly twice.  The Godfather would be on the list and probably some Lee Strobel books.  If I were to guess, there are at least a dozen Louis L'amour novels that I've read at least three times.  Also the Hobbit.

A list of books that I've read at least twice would include a few dozen Louis L'amour, most Crichton books, several Grisham books, several Clive Cussler and a fewTom Clancy.  It would have some Sherlock Holmes stories, several James Herriot stories, maybe some Ken Follet.  It would include both  Brave New World and 1984, all the Harry Potter books except the last one, some Leon Uris and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.

So what are my favourite books?  Tough question.  I can tell you that I'd happy to read many of the books I've listed above again; I don't know if that's true of The Brothers Karamazov!  When asked my favourite book though, many of those listed above would not be mentioned, they're just too shameful!

Recommending Books

I recently took a trip to and saw a list of the "best christian books" as voted by users.  I looked up good christian nonfiction because I'm tempted to think that good christian fiction is an oxymoron.  (The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass being a shining counterexample)  The first book was Mere Christianity, which I have no problem with.  Second was a book by Francis Chan that I haven't read, but I'm certainly sceptical about its position in the number two spot.  Third was one of the Lee Strobel apologetics books.

I'll forgo a in depth critique of the list.  Let it just suffice as another damning example of the ills of democracy.  It's a nice idea to give everyone a voice into choosing what are the best books, but the end result is an uninspiring list.

In contrast to the goodreads list, I went over to Philip Yancey's website where he has a list of his favourite books.  Now I understand that I'm pretty biased towards Yancey, and his individual point of view cannot offer the breadth of opinion that a democratic list would, but regardless his list is far superior.

In many of his books, Yancey describes how these authors and books have shaped him and consequently I've chosen to read many of them.  It's interesting to find what influences people, especially when it's a person you admire.

It made me think about what I'd include if I had a list of books that had most shaped me, if only by challenging my way of thinking.  Upon short reflection, here's my list.  I've spent little to no time ordering it.  Books with asterisks are those I read because Phil recommended them.

1. *Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton
2. Reaching for the Invisible God, Philip Yancey
3. What's So Amazing About Grace, Philip Yancey
4. Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder
5. Shake Hands with the Devil, Roméo Dallaire
6. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, John LeCarré
7. Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
8. *Becoming Human, Jean Vanier
9. The Practicing Mind, Thomas M. Sterner
10. Lullabies for Little Criminals, Heather O'Neill

I think that I should read more of the books that Yancey recommended.

A question for my either of my readers.  If you could choose one person, whose list of book recommendations would you pick?