“Dad, what’s your favorite book?”
My third daughter asked this question last week and I couldn’t give a good answer. I have so many books that I love. Only book people will understand this, but books, both the physical copy and the story, are like old friends. Their presence brings comfort and joy.
So, I decided to make a list of my favorite books. At first it was going to be ten. Ten quickly became fifteen.
This list may surprise you. It did me. The books on this list are a mix of devotional, biography, and fiction. With the exception of the first, the books are listed randomly.
- Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
This book made me a reader. I finished it on my third attempt and have been reading steadily since. I connected to the story as a young boy by identifying with Jim Hawkins. My copy sits on our bookshelf today. I occasionally pick it up to remind myself that some things never change.
- D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Two Volumes by Iain Murray
I’m a great admirer of Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Lloyd-Jones served Westminster Chapel in London during WWII and into the 1960s. Before London, God used him to revive a dying church in his homeland of Wales. A trained physician, Lloyd-Jones left his profession to become a pastor. Murray’s two volumes should be read by every pastor.
- Grant – Jean Edward Smith
I’ve always read about the Civil War, but I’ve only been reading about Grant in last few years. I’ve come to admire him greatly. Smith’s biography paints the picture of a leader who, though flawed like all of us, understood the reality of war, respected all people, and lived with humility. This book inspired me to read further about Grant, including additional biographies and his Personal Memoirs.
- Lincoln – David Herbert Donald
The reason I read Smith’s Grant was because of Donald’s biography of Lincoln. Years ago I decided to stop reading leadership books and instead to focus on reading biographies of leaders. If you want to be inspired to do the difficult task, then read this book.
- The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
While Atlas Shrugged is Ayn Rand’s most famous novel, I think The Fountainhead is a superior story. Admittedly, if Howard Roark actually existed we would think that he was a massive jerk. But, the story of the individual struggle against powers-that-be is inspirational.
- Absalom, Absalom – William Faulkner
This story is visceral and complex. I had never read Faulkner before picking up this book. He’s not easy reading, but the journey is worth it. I plan to return to this story.
- The Postman – David Brin
You may be familiar with Kevin Costner’s movie adaptation. The movie was a flop, but the book is fantastic. Brin, who often criticizes negative post-apocalyptic science fiction, wrote an uplifting story set in a broken future.
- The Complete Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Okay, this isn’t exactly one book, but Holmes is my all-time favorite fictional character. Just last summer, sitting on our church bus to and from a mission trip, I reread The Hound of the Baskervilles. As much as I enjoy watching Jeremy Brett and Benedict Cumberbatch, those guys are no substitute for the real Sherlock.
- 1984/Animal Farm – George Orwell
These two books tell one story. Animal Farm shows how a totalitarian government comes into being, while 1984 details how that system remains in power. I originally read both as a teenager and revisited them in the past two years. They retained their power.
- The Fortunate Pilgrim – Mario Puzo
Most people know Mario Puzo for The Godfather. The Fortunate Pilgrim, which is more literary and written first, tells the story of early 20th century New Yorkers. I still think about the story’s characters, even though I read the novel at least four years ago. This book is on my reread list.
- Only One Life – John Phillips
I’m a great admirer of Dr. Stephen Olford. John Phillips, himself a well-known preacher and writer, wrote this biography about his friend and mentor. The scope of Dr. Olford’s ministry and his commitment to expository preaching continues to encourage me. The world could use another Stephen Olford.
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – J.R.R. Tolkien
Peter Jackson’s movies are great, but they lose much of the story’s charm in the adaptation. Tolkien created an entire world, taking the reader through a patient, yet harrowing, journey. I’ve read these twice and plan to take another trip through Middle Earth.
- The Hustler – Walter Tevis
As an avid pool player in my youth, the movie adaptation with Paul Newman was required viewing. The novel, of which the movie is a close adaptation, is equally exciting. Tevis’ writing is lucid and concise. You can see the balls roll into the pockets as he describes the showdowns between Fast Eddie Felson and Minnesota Fats.
- Mockingbird – Walter Tevis
The Hustler introduced me to Walter Tevis. I’ve since read all of his novels, and Mockingbird is the best. The idea that a science fiction novel could be set in a future in which people have forgotten how to read is brilliant.
- Knowing God – J.I. Packer
I want to be J.I. Packer when I grow up. His books are substantial, yet relatable. This volume, probably his best-known, explains the nature of God so that anyone can understand and draw closer to the Creator. It is one of the few books I’ll loan out. Read it if you haven’t.
Now that I’ve answered my daughter’s question, I’m interested to see how this list will change over time. Maybe in five years or so, I’ll put a new list together. I’m sure some books will change, but a few of these old friends will stick around.