Recommending books to read

As many know, I am a great book lover (some say addict given my weakness when it comes to adding to my collection). Reading books is one of my great pleasures in life and one I tell myself is important if I am to be that well rounded person that can talk sense into any situation. I often have several books on the go at any one time. At the present time I am reading biographies on C.S.Lewis and F.B.Meyer, two remarkable and influential Christians, and a book about the Puritan contribution to our culture.

While religion from a Christian perspective has long been an important subject, I read widely, including those who I disagree with. I find increasingly I dabble, helped by the Internet revolution that enables a huge range of reading material to be practically and freely accessible by the press of a button (or two). A year ago I wrote a blog titled “my ten best books” stating what these were about and why I chose them. I stand by these realizing there are many more books I rate highly and have impacted my life over the years.

I was asked a question the other day by an intelligent, already fairly well read, seventeen year old as to what books I would recommend to read that he might download onto his Kindle ahead of a forced holiday away from Internet access and other distractions. I realized this needed to be a personal choice and I got the impression that for him it would need to be fiction that is well written and with a social edge. One of his favorite authors these days is Jeffrey Archer who seems to fit this bill. Thinking back to when I was 17, I had gone from reading Enid Blyton and Rupert Bear books as a child, then onto Treasure Island, Just William and Billy Bunter and was then still into books where Biggles and Hornblower were the heroes.

I had by then discovered Dickens and some of the classics such as Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy and George Elliot. I also recall reading the works of Rider Haggard and Arthur Conan Doyle and dabbled a bit into Science Fiction, such as Isaac Asimov (later – A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy). I also recall reading slightly more racier stuff e.g. Ian Fleming and, dare I say it, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I was later to discover and be enthralled by Tolkein and Lewis and some of the great foreign authors such as the Russians: Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Leo Tolstoy, the French: Jules Verne and Victor Hugo and the Americans: Mark Twain and John Steinbeck. I should add there is a huge range of non fiction to choose from. I especially liked to read the biographies of great lives and good travel books, and on history, religion and philosophy.

Whichever way you look at it there is a treasure trove of great, readily accessible reading matter out there and it need not cost that much. While I would urge caution if substituting reading for interacting with the real world, I would recommend to any young person they read (fiction and non-fiction) for all sorts of worthy reasons (like readers make leaders and we read to know that we are not alone) and rather than be prescriptive on what they read suggest they read that which captures their imagination and to enjoy. But remember what the book of books says: “of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh“.

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