"So That I May Not Appear As Uneducated Compared To Jane Fairfax"

My husband and I were talking last night about a list he had read of books which have been written in and heavily influenced the Western world, and which the list-maker suggested every man ought to have in his personal library.
The writer also suggested that every man have a personal library, which threw me wildly for I took it for granted that everyone would have a home library.
A few of the books mentioned, we have here at home (Plato's Republic, The Divine Comedy), and a few of the books I proposed to be on the list turned out to be there (Augustine, Summa Theologica) which of course plumped my feathers. 

Naturally it got us thinking about "books that are worth reading," and while I probably could put together a list of a hundred and one titles of books that I would like to read, and feel are really worth reading, I thought I could speak better to the books I have already read - and I don't know that I could form a list of a hundred and one titles that I have read that I feel are really worth reading.  They span from childhood to adulthood, but these are the ones I feel are really worth the time spent reading them and give a return for time invested.
"Let us be exclusive," said Charles Wallace.   "That's my new word for the day."
1.  Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
2.  The Inferno by Dante Alighieri
3.  The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
4.  John Ploughman's Talk by C.H. Spurgeon
5.  Horatius by T.B. Macaulay
6.  The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers
7.  The Ballad of the White Horse by G.K. Chesterton
8.  Letters of Marque by Rudyard Kipling
9.  The Discarded Image by C.S. Lewis
10.  Oliver Cromwell by Theodore Roosevelt
11.  Cur Deus Homo (Why [Did] God [Become a] Man) by Anselm
12.  Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
13.  The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
14.  The Immortality of the Soul by Augustine
15.  Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace
16.  On Christian Truth by Harry Blamires

It is a subjective list in some ways, because some of these books have simply impacted me greatly, and I have a notion that they would impact others as well.  It is also a mixed list: I have various kinds of poetry alongside children's historical fiction, travel, anthropology, biography, and theology.  But I think these sorts of things ought to be mixed.  It is also a very short list, because I was being ruthless: there are many books in my library which I have read and loved and have shaped me (Puck of Pook's Hill, Simon, The Worm Ouroboros), but even those I felt might be too subjective, and I wanted this list to be as universally edifying as possible.
How about you?  Have you read any of these books, and do you have a list of titles which you have read, which you feel are really worth the time you spent reading them?  Do tell!

6 ripostes:

  1. I've read 15, 13, 12, 9, 7, 3, 2, and 1. To add to this list, I would include the Holy War, Hind's Feet on High Places, The Joyful Christian, and A Wrinkle in Time.

  2. I almost included The Holy War in the list, because I have read it, but at the last moment I decided not to. Not sure why: just a gut feeling, I suppose. It is an excellent piece of allegory and I loved it. I was surprised that it was not mentioned more, but I suppose Pilgrim's Progress has had a more lasting impact. Odd; but I do agree: The Holy War is absolutely a book worth reading, and I would recommend it in a heartbeat.

  3. You're the first person I know who has read it besides me! Whoo! ^.^

  4. See? Few people seem to have heard of it. It is really quite good: a bit different from Pilgrim's Progress, but in some ways actually easier reader, and just as worth while.

    "I wonder that he has not read The Romance of the Forest!"

  5. This is such a solid list, Jenny; and while I've read only a few of the listed titles (Pilgrims Progress I've yet to read the full version of, but I've enjoyed several shortened versions) I can firmly say almost all of them are on my book lists.

    I can't hide the fact that I've read a good handful if books that were not worth the time I've spent on them - but how do you really know you'll dislike a book till you've tried it? Especially the titles surrounded with largely varied opinions, I find I want to read them for myself and decide my own opinion. I don't tend to follow general opinions anyway. XD And while my book standards are high in most cases, there are the occasional books that break all the rules and somehow still hold my heart. (I don't know how they do it.)

    I would add The Great Divorce to this list - or at least mine. That one changed me.

  6. I think I must have read The Great Divorce half a dozen times. I wouldn't gamble on it being universally impacting (it's always hard to guess how people will take "visionary" literature) but I know I love it, and it had a great impact on me as well.

    I wouldn't make too much apology for the books one reads that turn out to not be worth the time. Of course you don't know until you've tried! Nothing wrong with that. At least you try: if I'm not hooked I'll toss the book aside like a girl tossing aside a chilled flame. I have better things to do. XD