1. Till We Have Faces (CS Lewis)
“There is a love that is nine-tenths hate and still calls itself love.” This is an adventure story of a barbarian warrior queen and her dealings with the ravenous gods that will not leave her (or hers) alone. It is also a very painful exploration into a heart that feels like your own, but it’s seriously worth it.
2. The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoevsky)
This is a soap opera about dysfunctional families in a screwed up world…and Something Else inexplicable–uncreated light. You’ve got to read it. Don’t let it’s reputation as a ‘deep snooty’ book put you off. It’s not. It was literally a nineteenth-century TV show.
3. Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)
The epic. I love this so much. Yes I was brainwashed at age 7 to love this. But you should’ve been too, and we still have time to brainwash the next generation.
4. Cry, the Beloved Country (Alan Paton)
This is a very good book. A very, very good book. It is about all the underlying issues that get lumped under “racism” today. And it was written decades ago. It is a story about one family caught in the middle of it all. I can’t recommend this enough.
5. Sophia House (Michael D. O’Brien)
This book isn’t perfect. Several of the characters collapse into caricature by the end. But it is still a good book. It’s not Dostoevsky-level, but it is good. It is about fatherhood, homosexuality, art, and the meaning of life.
6. The Ballad of the White Horse (G.K.Chesterton)
A glorious, rollicking, ahistorical epic poem about King Alfred battling Vikings, “those green devils out of the sea…” Yes, its all projection, yes it smacks of over-the-top nineteenth century fiction, yes, it’s blatantly Romantic and blatanty Christian. This is kinda my guilty pleasure. I have way too much of this ballad memorized.
7. Strangers and Sojourners (Michael D. O’Brien)
I read this book once, at sixteen years old. It moved me so intensely I haven’t read it since. I found it an incredibly painful book to read, though nothing that dreadful happens in it. It is about marriage and its problems. Something about it (as a sixteen year old) stuck with me, I found it oddly haunting. I don’t know if it will mean the same to me now. But it was the right book at the right time. If you are sixteen, do read it now.
8. Death Comes for the Archbishop (Willa Cather)
A sprawling ramble of vignettes about a French missionary bishop in New Mexico and the eccentrics he meets. Parts of it are ghastly, parts of it are hilarious, and some of it is haunting. I don’t even know why I love this book so much.
9. Fahrenheit 451
Probably a little over-hyped by some, it’s more like a subconscious data-dump by Ray Bradbury (and his best, too). But it is still very much worth reading at least once, it’s kinda prophetic.
10. The Little Prince
A sentimental French story. But it’s good. Read it when you are young, sleep-deprived, or drunk. Then your soul might be open enough to get it.
AUTOBIOGRAPHIES (true stories)
1. The Hiding Place (Corrie Ten Boom)
Dutch spinster hiding Jews from Nazis in WWII.
2. Cross and the Switchblade (David Wilkerson)
Country pastor trying to help teen gangsters in 1950s NYC reclaim their innocence.
3. Through the Valley of the Kwai / To End All Wars (Ernest Gordon)
Scottish POW discovering what it is to be truly human in a WWII Japanese prison camp.
4. Babunia/ Escape From Terror (Bill Basansky)
WILD tale of a patricidal Ukrainian kid, his abusive father, starving family, all caught in the crossfire of Nazis and Communists during WWII. Hard to believe this is a true story, but it is worth a read even if it were fiction.
5. In God’s Underground (Richard Wurmbrand)
Cheeky Romanian-Jew-turned-Lutheran-Pastor thrown into Communist prisons with theives, gypsies, fascists, and monks…
6. The Pastor’s Wife (Sabina Wurmbrand)
A woman who ran afoul of the Romanian government, trying to feed her kids and the misfits that show up at her door. She’s a true heroine, all of five feet tall, real strength.
7. A Severe Mercy (Sheldon Vanauken)
An idolizing romantic who finds and loses love, trying to make sense of the universe. Incredibly moving.
8. Diary of Anne Frank
9. Story of a Soul (Therese of Lisieux)
10. Yoneko: Daughter of Happiness (Yoneko Tahara)
1. Bless You, Prison (Romanian, 2002)
A transformative film about suffering, faith, and spirit.
2. Treasure Planet (Disney, 2002)
Yes, I know it was a massive flop. But it is also the best Disney film I’ve ever seen. 🙂
3. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (German, 2005)
This is two hours of talking heads (one a Gestapo agent, the other an undergrad girl). But it is so good.
4. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
I LOVE THIS MOVIE SO MUCH. The symbolism just works, there are so many layers, and also–its nice to see a film where the guy learns to be a man, and the woman is pure awesomeness.
5. Crime and Punishment (Gorky Studios, 1969)
By far and beyond the only film adaptation that captures the spirit of the book.
6. The Cranes are Flying (Russian, 1950s)
A girl becomes a woman during WWII Russia.
7. Shenandoah (1965)
The best film Jimmy Stewart ever did. It’s a war film about being a libertarian and war and trauma and forgiving God for it all.
8. Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
This movie understands conservative, traditional religion. It understands its humor, its suffering, and when it is cruel. It just gets it.
9. Deep Impact (1998)
I love this movie. It’s splendidly done, well-crafted, and incredibly truly human. It’s the kind of film with 20 main characters and you are in love with each and every one of them. The jokes are also pretty funny if you grew up as a NASA brat like I did. 🙂
10. A Man for All Seasons (1966)
“Haven’t you done all God can reasonably ask?” “Meg, that isn’t all. There is love.”
11. For Greater Glory (2012)
This is a heavily Catholic film. It’s also (for me) an American Tragedy. It’s about America and American ideals, inasmuch as it is about Mexico and Catholicism. So even if you aren’t Catholic, you should watch it.
12. Battle: Los Angeles (2011)
um…yeah. Don’t listen to the critics. Trust me, it’s good. I rewatch this every Fourth of July, or when I’m feeling low.
13. Bella (2006).
This is way better than a chick flick, and it makes you want to love people.
14. Crossing (Korean, 2008)…about a North Korean soccer star and his pregnant wife and their son….
Honorable Mentions: High Noon (with Gary Cooper), A Cruel Romance (Russian “Zhestoiky Romans”), Mulan (Disney), Tangled (Disney), BBC Narnia (1980s), Sense and Sensibility (1995, Emma Thompson’s one), Emma (2009, with Romola Garai), Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), Hera Pheri (2000), Amazing Grace (2006 with Romola Garai), Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Marvel’s Daredevil Season One (2015), While You Were Sleeping (Sandra Bullock), Mr Smith Goes to Washington (Jimmy Stewart), Taken (2008), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1961)
1. Handel’s Messiah
2. Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude
3. Rachmaninoff’s Vespers
4. Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor
5. Palestrina’s Pope Marcellus Mass
6. Thomas Tallis’ Lamentations of Jeremiah