Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Books Like Whoa: Top Ten Books To Make You Think

Hey-ho, blogosphere! It's Tuesday, which means another great prompt from the folks at The Broke and The Bookish. Today's prompt was the top 10 books to make you think. Now, as a warning, I do read a lot of books in the philosophical/religious thread, so there will be some of that. But I tried to think about books that expanded my view of the world or prompted me to consider ideas or topics that I had never considered before.

1. Candide by Voltaire: Has philosophy ever been more fun? I think not. Thanks to our friend, Voltaire, we get to explore the Enlightenment and have a rollicking good time along the way. I read this in the original French - I will pause for you to be impressed.

2. Bad Religion by Ross Douthat: A review of this is to come, but OMG people, I wanted to kiss Ross Douthat on the mouth after I read his book. And since he's coming to a conference at my grad school soon, I very well may get this chance. A former op-ed columnist to the NYT, he has systematically reviewed and critiqued the last 60 years of history of Christianity in American cultural, religious, and political life. He puts into words what so many of my friends and I have often expressed frustration over. Seriously, if you have ever rolled your eyes at Christians, read this book. It explains so clearly where they are coming from and where things have gone astray.

3. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: I don't want to spoiler this book. Because it is really, really good. But please read it and tell me whether or not it challenged  your ideas about personhood and what the ethical boundaries of science are.

4. How Then Should We Live? by Francis Schaeffer: Another philosophy book, this is a systematic history of how religious thought has been stripped out of contemporary society and what the positive and negative effects of that have been. Schaeffer illuminated the role of art in culture more clearly than I've seen in many other's analysis.

5. The Quiet American by Graham Greene: Set in Vietnam, this is a thinker about the impact and ethics of colonization. This book has an especially prescient feeling in the wake of the Vietnam War of the 1960s.

6. The Big Short by Michael Lewis: If you have been scratching your head trying to figure out what the heck happened in 2008 that made everything go to hell in a hand basket, this is the book for you. Lewis manages to explain complex financial concepts in enviously simple terms that are easy to engage with, and by the end, I promise you will be both satisfied that you understand AAA bonds and righteously indignant at all the Wall Street cronies who took the economy for a ride.

7. An Experiment in Criticism by C.S. Lewis: Lewis is the single biggest influence on my thinking, but I confined myself to this master work on the art of literary criticism. He gave me SO many things to think about in this book, but I was particularly struck by his theories of "morbid castle-building." Read it, people.

8. Expecting Adam by Martha Beck: This is a really quiet memoir that asks the simple question, "What happens when you find yourself making a decision that goes against everything you and your community ever expected of you?" There are also some beautiful descriptions of motherhood and the world of parenting the disabled.

9. The Giver by Lois Lowry: Did The Giver not blow the mind hole of every middle schooler made to read this amazing YA novel? Talk about thinking! What an amazing parable of the value of knowledge and the value of perserving one's humanity even in the face of pain.

10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: You can't make a list of books that made you think without putting Harper on it. Please. This is such a wonderfully realized world that allows the reader to fully engage with the characters, their foibles, and the product of the society that they live in.

What books have made you think?


  1. I really liked The Giver too. The others I haven't read but Ishiguro is an author that I've been meaning to read for some time.

    1. Oh, yes, if you haven't read Ishiguro, you should definitely remedy that! I particularly love The Remains of the Day. Along with Jane Eyre, it's probably my favorite work of fiction.