After spending much of last week reflecting on The Hunger Games — which ended up producing a trilogy of blog posts (read parts 1, 2, and 3) — I thought today I might direct readers of this blog toward some fiction that I really like!
Of course, there are many GREAT pieces of literature that could go on a list like this, but, outside of the first couple I’ll list, I’m going to try to concentrate on some more recent fiction (though I personally prefer older books most of the time) that are wonderful despite being less familiar. Please do not take this as a list of things you should read in place of classics like Moby Dick or Huckleberry Finn. Think of this as more of a summer supplemental reading list for teens and preteens who want to read a good story with a “contemporary” feel.
Also, though most of the authors listed here are Christians, almost none of the content of the books is explicitly Christian, or even allegorically “Christian”. They are simply good stories, which are perfectly able to come from non-Christians as well.
Without further ado, here are some authors I love, and some of their fiction you and your kids will enjoy:
If you don’t know about The Chronicles of Narnia, it’s time to crawl out from the rock you’ve been living under your whole life. But if your kids haven’t read it, get it in their hands immediately! I read the set for the first time in (I think) fourth grade, but have probably read them at least six times since then. They get better each time! This is my favorite illustrated edition, though the first picture displayed is not the correct cover (the “customer images” are correct). Deeper thinkers may also enjoy Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Michael Ward, and What I Learned in Narnia by Douglas Wilson.
Less familiar is Lewis’ “Space Trilogy”. They aren’t as “kid-friendly” as the Narnia books, but I still enjoyed them. Check out Out of the Silent Planet (my review), Perelandra(my review), and That Hideous Strength (my review).
Another good piece of fiction by Lewis is Til We Have Faces, his retelling of the story of Cupid and Psyche from classical Greek mythology.
The other series that everyone knows but which I consider an absolute “must read” (which I also tackled for the first time in 4th grade) is The Lord of the Rings (including the prequel, The Hobbit). As with Narnia, there are dozens of books about LOTR, though many are not that good. My favorite (so far) is The Philosophy of Tolkien by Peter Kreeft (my review). Fans of the series should also check out The Silmarillion and Tolkien’s translations of three epic poems including Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Chesterton was a turn-of-the-century (the 20th, that is) author who wrote a lot of great non-fiction, but what I love best are his mystery books. My personal favorites are The Man Who Was Thursday (my review) and the Father Brown Mysteries.
Peterson has long been one of my favorite songwriters, but now he has also become one of my favorite novelists. His first fiction series is a work-in-progress, with the final book of the “Wingfeather Saga” due out later this year. Until then, get caught up by reading On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (my review), North! Or Be Eaten (my review), and The Monster in the Hollows (my review).
Here’s an author whose fiction I’ve only recently discovered (though I’ve been hearing of its greatness for some time). I should have expected nothing less than great writing from the son of Douglas Wilson (whose new satirical novel Evangellyfish is on my to-read list). The younger Wilson has authored the “100 Cupboards” trilogy, which consists of 100 Cupboards, Dandelion Fire, and The Chestnut King. My review of this trilogy will be coming soon.
It’s rare that I’ve enjoyed the act of reading as much as I do reading Wangerin’s books. I just love the way he uses words… it’s like the sentences and phrases themselves produce some kind of tangible sensation that is addicting. My favorite is The Book of the Dun Cow (my review), which somehow makes the life of a rooster really exciting… seriously! He’s also done some really interesting novelizations of the Bible, including The Book of God, Jesus: A Novel, and Paul: A Novel (my review).
Another master of the “beast fable”, Adams has written a modern classic called Watership Down (my review). It’s one of my favorites, and I’ve recently converted my wife and her sister to Watership fandom as well. Adams wrote a sequel called Tales From Watership Down, but it’s not nearly as good as the original. The Plague Dogs (review coming) is much better, and often called “the true sequel to Watership Down“.
I thought I’d round out this list by re-affirming my love for the Harry Potter series. I don’t place them on the same level as the books at the top of this list, but I really do think they are great stories. Rather than going into detail about why, I’ll refer you to this article by Andrew Peterson (the same Andrew Peterson mentioned above), whose thoughts mirror my own. For deeper thinking about the HP books, check out John Granger (no relation to Hermione), the Hogwarts Professor. Whether you like the movies or (like me) hate them, I also recommend The Harry Potter Bible Study (my review), which gives a good blueprint for how to watch movies critically.
Obviously, this list could go on and on. These are just some highlights of things I’ve read and enjoyed in the last couple years. What are some of your favorites?
P.S. — If, like me, you enjoy reading about reading, you should definitely get Tony Reinke’s Lit! A Christian’s Guide to Reading Books. I’ve only just gotten it, but already can tell it’s going to be awesome! I’ll have a review published when I finish.