I recently posted a list of my top ten works of fiction. Many of them I have read multiple times. They are books that lose nothing over time or frequent visitation, enriching me with each reading.
I am a fiction writer and love to indulge my imagination in both the things I write and those I read. This has been true since, as a boy, I picked up a copy of Mr. Popper’s Penguins at the school library. However, my love of reading began before then with a work of nonfiction and a misunderstanding on my part.
Just before I started kindergarten, my parents invested in a set of encyclopedias. Kids today probably know as much about encyclopedias as I did then… well, maybe not. I just knew they were books and were meant to be read. So, I started reading them, choosing the articles by the pictures that intrigued me.
The resultant pool of relatively useless information that clutters my head is the outcome. This is not to say that any of it is wasted. Plato said we, as humans, come ready-made with a desire to know. So, I cannot claim those books inspired a thirst for knowledge. They did serve to fire a desire to read—which is much the same thing.
Here are my all-time top ten works of nonfiction.
I am hard-pressed to think of it as only a book, but without intimate acquaintance with the author, it is just that. I have read only the King James version cover to cover. This is not because I value it over the others, but because I am too lazy to learn Greek and Hebrew and I love the beauty of the language.
C.S. Lewis’ masterpiece of reasoned thinking about the experience of Christian faith and the message of Jesus.
The Abolition of Man
This book is a reconstruction of humanity dissected by modern thinking and the failure of that narrow construction of science so beloved today.
Aristotle’s thoughts on how to live a good life.
The Federalist Papers
The combined efforts of James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay to explain and promote the ratification of the American Constitution. It is still the best description of what America and our form of representative government are meant to be.
Henry David Thoreau’s discourse on a citizen’s duty when government strays from its main function of protecting the rights of the people.
The four-volume biography by Douglas Southall Freeman of the famous general. I include it because Lee was more than a general. He is a model for any man who values principle, duty, and honor.
The Longest Day
Cornelius Ryan’s account of the greatest amphibious assault of all time and the brave men who carried it out.
The Forgotten War
Max Hastings history of the Korean War. His recounting of the running battle around the Chosin Reservoir is at once heartbreaking and inspiring.
Attack and Die
Dr. Grady McWhiney’s analysis of Confederate strategy/tactics in the War Between the States. I could have included any number of books in this spot. I chose this one because it should be required reading for American patriots in the 21st Century.