Wednesday, July 9, 2008

10 Books to Read Before You Die

This header came up this morning on my AOL Welcome screen, and of course I had to check out the list, based on results of a popular opinion poll conducted by Netscape. I agree with a good number of the books on the list with one, perhaps two exceptions. Before I discuss, however, let's see the list:

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The Stand by Stephen King
Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Holy Bible

I have NOT read Lord of the Rings (not anything else by Tolkien), The Stand, or Angels and Demons. I personally do not think that Dan Brown's books should be on the list of the most important books to read before one dies. I can only speak for the Da Vinci Code, however, which I found to be an entertaining thriller but totally messed up theologically and historically. I've spent the last few years studying church history, and his plot revolving around the events of Christ's life were preposterous at best. I hope that they were the result of shoddy research and not the deliberate misconstruing of history. It also bothered me that although Brown protested that the novel was a mere work of fiction, the foreword stated that much of his setting was real, including Opus Dei. The Catholic Church is portrayed throughout the novel as "the bad guy," evil to the core, which also offended me although I am not a Catholic myself.

Instead of Dan Brown's thrillers, I would place on the list instead the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis and perhaps Les Miserables by Victor Hugo although the latter would break the 20th century list (excepting the Bible, of course).

I'll admit that I was pleasantly surprised to see the Bible on the list, very pleasantly surprised. I studied it as literature in my public high school senior English class where we read part of Genesis, part of Job, several Psalms, and part of John's Gospel. Our teacher, a non-Christian, believed that in order to be culturally literate people, we needed a knowledge of the Bible as it so often pops up in other works via literary allusions. Agreed. I'm reading through the entire Bible right now on a three-year plan with the Bible Book Club; even though I am a couple of weeks behind, I'm working to catch up. (I always get bogged down in Deuteronomy and Numbers.)

I agree totally with LOTR and Harry Potter -- both are fantasy series with universal (as well as particularly Christian themes) that are well-worth one's time. I agree with Ayn Rand, GWTW, Mockingbird, Catcher, and even The Stand (which I've been planning to read for years, but it's a monstrosity in length).

So take this list with a grain of salt when it comes to Dan Brown's works, but, otherwise, I can recommend it wholeheartedly. I don't think Dan Brown's works are bad necessarily, as long as one keeps in mind that his historical background is wildly off base, but I wouldn't include them in a list of "10 Books to Read Before You Die." No way.

Speaking of reading, I've just started Life of Pi for our Logos reading and discussion group at Lake Murray, and so far it's rather slow but intriguing. I'll let you know how it goes....

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