I was going to say that these are 15 good reads for 2015, but then I realized that would be a pretty ambitious time frame. If you can get through all of these in a year, then I don’t know whether to be impressed by your determination or concerned for your social well-being.
Also, these are literary classics, not necessarily spiritual ones.
Although, I like to think it’s hard to tell the difference. The great works of literature have so much to say to our souls. They teach us what it means to be human.
And more and more, I’m finding that it’s in these stories of the ordinary, the broken, and the obscure where I learn the most profound truths about who God is and who I am.
Lastly, this list is not exhaustive—there’s just no way I could even try. So I probed some of the most avid readers I know, and here’s what won out:
1. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.”
“The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.”
2. The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
“All human wisdom is contained in these two words—Wait and Hope.
3. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
“He soon felt that the fulfillment of his desires gave him only one grain of the mountain of happiness he had expected. This fulfillment showed him the eternal error men make in imagining that their happiness depends on the realization of their desires.”
4. Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis
“Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them. Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.”
5. The Aeneid, Virgil
“Duty bound, Aeneas, though he struggled with desire to calm and comfort her in all her pain, to speak to her and turn her mind from grief, and though he sighed his heart out, shaken still with love of her, yet took the course heaven gave him and turned back to the fleet.”
6. The Confessions, Saint Augustine of Hippo
“And men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, yet pass over the mystery of themselves without a thought.”
7. The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri
“Thus you may understand that love alone
is the true seed of every merit in you,
and of all acts for which you must atone.” (Purgatorio)
8. The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
“Yes,” said the Lord Digory. “Its inside is bigger than its outside.” “Yes,” said Queen Lucy. “In our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.” (The Last Battle)
9. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”
10. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
“I’ve always been bad. Probably I shall be bad again, punished again. But the worse I am, the more I need God. I can’t shut myself out from His mercy. … Or it may be a private bargain between me and God, that if I give up this one thing I want so much, however bad I am, He won’t quite despair of me in the end.”
11. King Lear, William Shakespeare
“The prince of darkness is a gentleman!”
12. Les Miserablés, Victor Hugo
“He who does not weep does not see.”
13. Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather
“Men travel faster now, but I do not know if they go to better things.”
14. Hannah Coulter, Wendell Berry
“Most people now are looking for ‘a better place,’ which means that a lot of them will end up in a worse one…There is no ‘better place’ than this, not in this world. And it is by the place we’ve got, and our love for it and our keeping of it, that this world is joined to Heaven.”
15. The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene
“It was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful, for home or children or a civilization – it needed a God to die for the half-hearted and the corrupt.”