“Knowing I loved my books, he furnish'd me From mine own library with volumes that I prize above my dukedom.” The Tempest.
Lost in his books Prospero neglected his duties as found himself cast adrift to die. You may remember how Don Quixote similarly lost in books lost touch with reality, if only where it pressed against knight-errantry.
If you are given to books, there are those drab souls who will never understand what you find in the volumes you prize. I have found that books of fiction are imagination only so far as time, and place. The circumstances have been played out on some stage and the message is the common story of humanity on trial.
What books do you love? Inspired by Prospero, I offer ten volumes of fiction that I prize above riches and position. These are presented in no particular order.
To Kill a Mockingbird.
I prize Harper Lee’s story not so much for its picture of the rural segregated South as for the character of Atticus Finch. Whatever she later wrote in criticism of the character, here was the man who did the necessary jobs in life that others refused to dirty their hands with. He did them because they were the right thing to do. We all need a touch of Atticus.
George Orwell is better known these days for 1984. I love that one too, but Animal Farm has an elemental lesson for all who would war to set things right—be careful not to become the evil that you are trying to change. Repeating/perpetuating wrongs will only change who is the oppressor. It will not free the oppressed.
The trials of life and Christianity told by John Bunyan from his prison cell. Lyric, heartbreaking and inspiring.
Come Nineveh, Come Tyre
Allen Drury’s story of the collapse of American and its peace at any price spirit that corrupts our institutions of freedom. Scariest book I have ever read.
Lord of the Flies
Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “The government that governs best governs not at all.” Ideally, I am in agreement with that sentiment. Ideally, but not practically. William Golding’s novel of boys stranded on a deserted isle illuminates the folly of that practice in the real world.
This is one of those stories that is labeled for children yet is deeper than a child can swim. At its heart is a discussion about what it means to be human and how human beings ought to treat one another. Mark Twain is a master at holding up our foolishness for us to see.
John Steinbeck’s look at the dark side of human nature.
Stephen King in this list of life influencing books? Yes. This book offers a look at death as a part of life. Adopting this essential truth can liberate us from the fearful grip death holds… sorry, not sorry, Kant.
Although I roundly disliked Miguel Cervantes's conclusion, the story is a delightful romp through the possibilities of a life lived without wavering from principle and the character of a person’s choosing.
The Screwtape Letters
The only work of fiction by my favorite author, C.S. Lewis. It is fiction only in characters and presentation. At its heart, this is a very real depiction of the reality of evil.
These are the great prizes of my life as a reader as told from my own perspective and experience. They are not the only works of fiction that shaped me, but they are my favorites and had the greatest impact.