Some Reading Lists (for aspiring readers who think they don’t like to read)


I have some friends who have a son who didn’t like to read. That’s what they said, anyway. He said it, too. But every time I went to their house, he was reading. The parents and his siblings (who claimed that they liked to read) were always watching TV or surfing the web. Now, grant it, he wasn’t reading Dostoevsky or Camus; he was reading Sports Illustrated and books about baseball, but he was reading.

The fact is, he loved to read. He just had narrow tastes. I think this is true of most people who say they don’t like to read. They actually do — they just need better (broader, richer, deeper) tastes. They also need to be stronger tastes; strong enough to compete with youtube, the boob tube, and a darkened movie theater.

If you want to expand your intellectual horizons, you need to learn to love to read. To that end, I have prepared a short list of good books that I think you will love. Then, after you realize that you enjoy reading, you will need to start reading well. And so there is a second list designed to help you choose well.

I tried to pick great books, but I probably should define that. I mean a mix of three kinds of greatness; great because the topics are really important, great because lots of people would agree that these books are really great, and great to me. Don’t be surprised if your favorite book isn’t here. But I also tried to pick books that are engaging. The entire list was motivated by a college senior who claimed she hated reading, but who wanted to change — I didn’t want to discourage her with choices like “War and Peace” and “Finnigan’s Wake” which are really great books, but usually an acquired taste. Too many people are driven away from reading because they went straight from “Harry Potter,” to “Moby Dick.” My apologies to the Nietzsche and Derrida fans, too.


List #1 The “Can’t Miss” List

Read from this list until you’re convinced that I’m right — that you really do enjoy reading. These are books about which I often hear people saying, “I don’t like to read, but I loved _______.” If you don’t know where to start, I would recommend Gary Paulsen’s, The Winter Room.

  •  Animal Farm
  • Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl
  • The Chosen
  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • The Hobbit
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • The Princess Bride
  • The Winter Room
  • A Wrinkle in Time

List #2 The “Some Books You Probably Ought to have Read” List

Read this and you’ll just be scratching the surface, but by the time you finish you should be ready to start making your own reading choices. I hope you will be less interested in reading badly (or watching most everything on TV, etc.).

  •  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn/Tom Sawyer
  • All Quiet on the Western Front
  • Amusing Ourselves to Death
  • The Brother’s Karamazov
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Dandelion Wine
  • A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich
  • Great Expectations
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Hiroshima
  • The Iliad/The Odyssey
  • Jane Eyre
  • Man’s Search for Meaning
  • Of Mice and Men
  • My Name is Asher Lev
  • Narrative of the Life of a Slave
  • Night
  • Oliver Twist
  • Screwtape Letters
  • 1984
  • Tess d’Urbervilles
  • The Old Man and the Sea
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • When Bad Things Happen to Good People

(and because I teach at Christian college)

  • The Bible (the whole thing)
  • The Confessions of Augustine
  • The Cost of Discipleship
  • Eternity in their Hearts
  • Mere Christianity
  • Pilgrims Progress
  • The Hiding Place
  • The Subversion of Christianity
  • Till We Have Faces
  • Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith
  • Your God is Too Small

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