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Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Ed Peters

Carl wrote: "...if the poll had been taken in 1938 or 1968 or 1998, it would have been quite difference."

Indeed, all the books would have actually been READ by those listing them, as opposed simply having heard of them and skimmed some others.

Augustine II

1. Bible
2. Republic, Dialogues, Plato
3. Notes from Underground, Dostoevsky
4. Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky
5. The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky
6. Introduction to Christianity, Ratzinger
7. Parochial & Plain Sermons, Newman
8. Transformation in Christ, von Hildebrand
9. Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses, Dalrymple
10. Another Sort of Learning, Schall

Paul H

My favorite, just completely off the top of my head, would be Huckleberry Finn. My answer might change though if I had more time to think about it.

(I'm not counting the Bible, because that's in an entirely different category from any other book.)

Augustine II

Also, Huxley's Brave New World! And Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death.

Nick Milne

What on earth is The Stand? I've certainly never read it, and even if I've heard of it I have no memory of it. I guess I could just Google it or something, but still...

Anyway, thanks, Carl, for providing another opportunity to write a list. I like lists! They're good fun. In the spirit of fun, and because it's simply too difficult to choose only ten, here are ten lists of ten. If it came down to it, I suppose you could take the first entry of each list as being constituents of the top ten overall, but I won't insist upon it.

Favourites - Novels

1. G.K. Chesterton - The Napoleon of Notting Hill
2. Gustave Flaubert - Bouvard & Pecuchet
3. Alejo Carpentier - The Kingdom of This World
4. Giuseppe di Lampedusa - The Leopard
5. Georges Perec - Life: A User's Manual
6. Thomas B. Costain - Son of a Hundred Kings
7. Fyodor Dostoevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
8. C.S. Forester - Brown on Resolution
9. C.S. Lewis - Till We Have Faces
10. Max Beerbohm - Zuleika Dobson

Favourites - Mindless (But Not Entirely Mindless) Fun

1. H.P. Lovecraft - At the Mountains of Madness
2. Orson Scott Card - Ender's Game
3. Max Brooks - World War Z
4. Donald Jack - The Bandy Papers (all of 'em)
5. Michael Flynn - Eifelheim
6. Richard Matheson - I Am Legend
7. Fred Hoyle - October the First is Too Late
8. Tim Powers - The Drawing of the Dark
9. J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
10. Gustave Flaubert - Salammbo

Favourites - Graphic Novels and Trade Paperback Collections

1. Neil Gaiman - Sandman, entire run (particularly the first trade paperback, Preludes & Nocturnes, and the individual issues #8, "The Sound of Her Wings," and #50, "Ramadan")
2. Will Eisner - A Contract With God
3. Art Spiegelman - Maus
4. Frank Miller - Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
5. Chester Brown - Louis Riel
6. Dave Sim - Cerebus vol. 2: High Society
7. Kurt Busiek - Astro City Vol. 2: Confession (particularly notable for featuring a superhero who is also a Catholic priest)
8. Paul Chadwick - Concrete, entire run
9. Alan Moore - Watchmen
10. Bill Willingham - Fables, entire run

Favourites - Poetry (long poems and/or collections)

1. G.K. Chesterton - Ballad of the White Horse
2. Homer - The Odyssey
3. Anon. - Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
4. Robert Browning - The Poems (Yale edition)
5. John Milton - Paradise Lost
6. Edmund Spenser - The Faerie Queene
7. H.P. Lovecraft - Fungi from Yuggoth
8. Charles Baudelaire - Flowers of Evil
9. Robert Frost - North of Boston
10. Torquato Tasso - Jerusalem Delivered

Favourites - Philosophy

1. G.K. Chesterton - Orthodoxy
2. E.F. Schumacher - A Guide for the Perplexed
3. Richard M. Weaver - Ideas Have Consequences
4. Will Durant - The Story of Philosophy
5. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - The Harvard Address
6. C.S. Lewis - The Abolition of Man
7. Plato - Phaedo
8. Joseph Pieper - Leisure: The Basis of Culture
9. Ezra Pound - The ABC of Reading
10. Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy

Favourites - Religion

1. G.K. Chesterton - The Everlasting Man
2. Lucy Beckett - In the Light of Christ
3. C.S. Lewis - The Screwtape Letters
4. C.S. Lewis - The Great Divorce
5. St. Augustine - Confessions
6. St. Josemaria Escriva - The Way
7. Blaise Pascal - Pensées
8. Anon. - The Heliand
9. Albino Luciani - Illustrissimi
10. Pope Benedict XVI - Jesus of Nazareth

Favourites - Short Stories

1. Jorge Luis Borges - Labyrinths (particularly "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote")
2. Stephen Leacock - Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (part. "The Marine Excursion of the Knights of Pythias")
3. H.H. Munro - The Complete Works of Saki (part. "The Toys of Peace")
4. Flannery O'Connor - The Complete Stories (part. "The Enduring Chill")
5. Giovanni Boccaccio - The Decameron
6. G.K. Chesterton - The Innocence of Father Brown (part. "The Sign of the Broken Sword")
7. H.P. Lovecraft - The collected weird stories (Penguin, 3 vols.; part. "Nyarlathotep" and "The Doom that Came to Sarnath")
8. Franz Kafka - Metamorphosis and Other Stories
9. Duncan Campbell Scott - In the Village of Viger
10. Jan Potocki - The Manuscript Found in Saragossa

Favourites - Essays

1. Jorge Luis Borges - Collected Non-Fictions
2. Flannery O'Connor - Mystery and Manners
3. G.K. Chesterton - The Common Man
4. Mark Twain - The Complete Humorous Sketches and Tales
5. Stephen Leacock - The Social Criticism
6. Ralph Waldo Emerson - The Collected Essays (more of a case of prose style over insight)
7. James V. Schall - Another Sort of Learning
8. Samuel Johnson - Selected Writings
9. C.S. Lewis - Literature, Philosophy and Short Stories
10. Sir Basil Liddell Hart - The Sword and the Pen

Favourites - History/Literature/Biography/Politics

1. James Boswell - Life of Johnson
2. Theodore Roosevelt - Diaries of Boyhood and Youth
3. Bede - A History of the English Church and People
4. R.W. Chambers - Man's Unconquerable Mind
5. Johan Huizinga - The Autumn of the Middle Ages
6. William L. Riordon - Plunkitt of Tammany Hall
7. Samuel Johnson - Life of Savage
8. Thomas Kuhn - The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
9. Alan Bloom - The Closing of the American Mind
10. Michael Shaara - The Killer Angels (and yes, I know it's a novel)

Favourites - Plays

1. William Shakespeare - Measure for Measure
2. Tom Stoppard - Arcadia
3. William Shakespeare - King Lear
4. William Shakespeare - Hamlet
5. Oliver Goldsmith - She Stoops to Conquer
6. John Gay - The Beggar's Opera
7. Jean Anouilh - Becket
8. George Farquhar - The Recruiting Officer
9. Aeschylus - The Oresteia
10. Robert Bolt - A Man For All Seasons

So, there you go.

And the Bible is in a class by itself.


I'm leaving the Bible off for the simple reason that it's more than simply "a book."

1. Introduction to Christianity - Ratzinger
2. Confederacy of Dunces - Toole
3. Brothers Karamazov - Dostoevski
4. The Five Books of Moses - Alter
5. Systematic Theology 1 & 2 - Robert Jenson
6. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - Gibbon
7. Joseph and His Brothers - Mann
8. The Wheat Springeth Green - J.F. Power
9. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again - David Foster Wallace
10. Phoenix, vol 4 - Osamu Tezuka
11. In Search of Lost Time vol 1 - Proust

No real order.


1. Bible
2. Will Catholics Be Left Behind?
3. Any time Fr. Groeschel puts pen to paper
4. Any time Peter Kreeft puts pen to paper
5. Intro to Christianity by B16
6/ The Spiritual Life by Tanquerey
7. Fund. of Cath. Dogma by Ott
8. 3 Ages of Int Life by Garrigou-Lagrange
9. Jesus of Nazareth by B16
10. Hunt for Red October by Clancy

MMajor Fan

My brother was a teenager in the late 1950's. As a child I remember looking at the list of required reading he brought home from high school one year. It had at least 25-30 books of the classics of American and English literature listed and ALL of them had to be read! He would sit in the living room most evenings and had to plough through those books, and his school was a very ordinary blue collar small town school without academic distinction. People of all walks of life loved literature. (Even when required in school).

I take comfort in the continuing presence of To Kill A Mockingbird. That book is a national treasure and touches the American psyche in a way that no other book has repeated.

The Bible is in a class of its own, I agree. I also enjoyed reading the Complete Works of Shakespeare, which I worked through the first time in total during High School. The Count of Monte Cristo. Kirsten Lavransdatter (interupted in the reading of this great trilogy). LOTR of course. I have just bought to reread The Arabian Nights: Tales from A Thousand and One Nights, which I loved from long ago. Books by Somerset Maugham and Joseph Conrad. LOVED the Horatio Hornblower books, and had a complete set. Agatha Christie's Poirot and Marple mysteries. Edna Ferber's Show Boat. I totally loved CP Snow's novels, my enjoyment of which drove an erudite Brit friend of mine crazy with scorn ha ha.

Nick Milne

MMajor Fan, if you loved the Hornblower books, you should look into some of Forester's other works. Death to the French and Brown on Resolution are both marvelous, as are The Ship, The Good Shepherd and The African Queen. The first two are especially great.

Of course, you might already know all of this, in which case... carry on. :)


I am a list person too. You people stimulate the movement of letters thus. And, library, here I come. Now we can do library loans!!! $-saved. I wish I had lotto money to buy the Ignatius books I want. I even want the parish to start an Ignatius Library-praying for this.

I have read the Bible cover to cover first, when I was 8 and when I was 66. When I was 8, I was bored with animal stories, etc.; and the librarian took me to the adult floor. Even then I was amazed by the junk. The first book I read was Nathaniel Hawthorne's, "The House of Seven Gables": I thought he was crazy, and had some sort of hang-up. I wanted information, and to learn something. Life was never the same. I even could not get enough from the small town library back then, so I read the complete encyclopedia. No cars-so after school I went there, and then walked home seven miles. I have never told anyone these things before. I am bringing it up here today, because like all of you-there is a serious problem in the education system. I was on my own and so are others. The Holy Spirit must have guided us-no one else did. I even think He is responsible for the Internet because I am have a wonderful time in my old age. Reading-a subject for the writers, the educators, the politicians, and parents-if only they would care! I see people read often-they read-but it is junk. I love you people-I love readers.

P.S. Want some fun: Download: "The Ruin of Great Britain by St. Giles". Like the Old Testament this is applicable today, especially in that country. He is noteworthy to quote.

Sheryl D.

Famous marketing study done years ago asked people what magazines they read and came up with more highbrow type answers (e.g. Scientific American, Smithsonian, etc.) Then they went door to door claiming to be collecting old magazines and gathered in reams of True Romance, Soap Opera Digest, etc. So I'm inclined to agree that this survey has the Bible at the top of the list because they thought it was the "right" answer.

Eric Thomason

1. Bible
2. Catechism
3. Brideshead Revisited by Waugh
4. The Power and the Glory by Greene
5. Orthodoxy by GKC
6. Path to Rome by Belloc
7. Story of a Soul by St. Therese
8. Witness to Hope by Weigel
9. Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck
10. Strangers and Sojourners by O'brien

A fun road trip discussion is to eliminate the Bible and then pare down your list to the one book you cannot do without.


It is pleasing to me to see recognition by others of J. Ratzinger's "Introduction to Christianity" and DiLampedusa's "The Leopard." Those are among the two best books of the 20th Century in my opinion and are at the top of my personal "top ten" list of favorite 20th Century books. Ten more outstanding 20th Century books:

1. The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
2. A Guide for the Perplexed, E.F. Schumacher
3. The Habit of Being, Flannery O'Connor (particularly the letters to "A.")
4. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
5. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn
6. The Varieties of Religious Experience, Henry James
7. Miracles, C.S. Lewis
8. Silence, Shusaku Endo
9. The End of the Modern World, Romano Guardini
10. The Gospel of Life (not really a "book" obviously)


1. The Iliad - Homer

2. The Odyssey - Homer

3. Antigone - Sophocles

4. Three Reformers - Jaques Maritain

5. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

6. Teaching a Stone to Talk - Annie

7. Housekeeping - Marylinne Robinson

8. The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien

9. Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe

10. The Making of the Modern Mind -
John H. Randall

Augustine II

Rose, many thanks for sharing. Wonderful!

MMajor Fan

Nick, sticking true to course the only other Forester I read was "The Captain from Connecticut," which I loved. I wanted to check out his less known works such as "Love Lies Dreaming," "The Shadow of the Hawk," and "The Wonderful Week," but did not have a chance. And who would want to read "The African Queen" when I've seen the movie sooooo many times?!

Augustine II

The new Prefect for the CDF also loves Introduction to Christianity. He speaks of it, briefly, here:

Kyle R. Cupp

In no particular order -

A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin, The Lord of the Rings, The Power and the Glory, History and Truth by Paul Ricoeur, Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke, Prospects for Conservatives by Russell Kirk, Mystery and Manners by Flannery O'Connor, Ressentiment by Max Scheler, Radical Hermeneutics by John D. Caputo, and A Humane Economy by Wilhelm Röpke.

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