Summer Reading List:
I recently came across a very pretentious recommended summer reading list of ponderous classics in the op-ed pages of the Wall St. Journal. It prompted me to recommend my own list of personal favorites. All are easy to read and not of great length, but sometimes great things come in small packages.
C.S. Lewis: Out of the Silent Planet.
Most readers are very familiar with the Narnia stories of this famous author. However, In addition to being a great scholar, Christian apologist, and author of so-called children’s stories, Lewis was also a big fan of science fiction. Out of the Silent Planet is the first in his great sci-fi trilogy. It was followed by Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. When I was in college many years ago, I picked up this slim paperback by chance. It was a great read but also my introduction to Lewis. The sci-fi technology may be dated but his knowledge of human nature was not.
J.R.R. Tolkien: Tree and Leaf.
Because of film adaptations Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are even more popular than the Narnia stories of his friend, C.S. Lewis. Like Lewis, Tolkien was a great scholar and Christian apologist. Tree and Leaf contains a brilliant essay on fairy stories as well as Tolkien’s own little creation, “Leaf by Niggle.” Of all the stories I have ever read, “Leaf by Niggle” has made the greatest impression.
Eric Hoffer: The True Believer.
Eric Hoffer made his living as a longshoreman working in California seaport towns during the nineteen forties and fifties. As a result of early childhood blindness he never attended elementary school. Miraculously, he recovered his sight in his teens but too late for any formal schooling. Nevertheless, he became a voracious reader and was a constant patron at the libraries in the towns where he worked as a longshoreman. His reading combined with his life experience on the docks made him a skeptic about ideologists who were far removed from actual experience. I first came across this little wisdom-packed paperback in college. I was a history major but few historians had the political acumen of Hoffer. I still remember this one of his many aphorisms: "when your own business is not worth minding, you’ll mind someone else’s."
Alexander Solzhenitsyn: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.
Solzhenitsyn had spent years in a Soviet concentration camp (GULAG) before this little book came to light. Its publication in the West preceded all the great works that would come later and make him the greatest writer of the twentieth century. But “One Day…” introduced me to the horrors of Communism in Russia. It also marked the beginning of the end of the rotten Soviet Empire.
Maud Hart Lovelace: Emily of Deep Valley.
On one level this is a light novel for teen-age girls. On another level it provides and insight into the life of a small mid-western town that few histories can match. On a third level it explores the psychology of an individual whose life seems to be going nowhere until she finds a way to pull herself up with her own bootstraps. One Amazon reviewer put it this way.
"This book was my introduction to Maud Hart Lovelace around 20 years ago, and although I loved reading about Betsy and Tacy, Emily is the character I always identified with most. Shy, intellectual, hindered socially by her dignity and her inability to banter, yet full of fun and lightning quick in a debate, she went straight to my heart as a character I could relate to and love."
I love this book not because I have a wife, four daughters and six granddaughters but because it is a book that every man should read if he wants to learn how to be a man.
All of these books are still available on places like amazon and ebay.