Sometimes homeschooling parents get so busy choosing the best books for our kids that we forget to do the same for ourselves. One of my favorite ways to unwind is a hot bath with a favorite book. This doesn’t always work out well; poor At Home in Mitford has taken at least two dips in the tub.
I walk by my bookshelves and see some of my best friends: the books whose worn covers I touch as I walk by, the ones that bring a smile and demand to be read every year or so. My favorites are all tame and clean. Most are Christian with a moral and open discussion of God and His plans, books in which you learn something new every time you read them. Here, in order, are some of my absolute favorites. Sorry, dads, I’m afraid most of these books will appeal more to the ladies. I’d like to hear which books everyone else enjoys, if you care to comment. What gems am I missing?
(Additional great books by the same author are in parenthesis in the order I rank them.)
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Persuasion) (Don’t waste your time reading Northanger Abbey.) P & P is my absolute favorite book of all time –Elizabeth and Darcy, Mr. and Mrs. Bennett, Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine, Lydia –some of the best characters ever written, plus clever banter and satire, not to mention romance.
- David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol) A little hard to get started, but this is a must read for every high school senior. The messages about making choices and living with them will open discussions. The sarcasm and commentary on English society at the time are biting, funny, and leave you thinking.
- All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot (All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Wise and Wonderful, and The Lord God Made Them All) I don’t use the words “excellent” and “love” lightly when describing a book, but I absolutely love James Herriot’s excellent, excellent books. Each chapter is a separate story, yet all connect on a common thread. They are sweet, taking you back to a simpler time of small town characters you wish you might have known. The story of Tricky Woo makes me laugh to tears every time. The story of Jim’s friend who has to quit farming and move to the city to work at a factory tears my heart.
- The Obsession of Victoria Gracen by Grace Livingston Hill. This book is unlike any of her other works. It lacks the syrupy sweet element so common in books from the beginning of the last century. Victoria Gracen takes in an errant teenage nephew and changes life forever for him and the other “trouble makers” he attracts.
- Christy by Catherine Marshall. The story of a young school teacher at a mission in Appalachia. She faces struggles, strange superstitions, and finds love in an unexpected place. I love, love, love this book.
- Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (These Happy Golden Years) I started reading Laura books in first grade and never stopped.
- Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John (Rainbow Garden, Star of Light, The Tanglewood’s Secret) A story of sin, redemption, and forgiveness with a nice twist at the end. It’s really written for kids, so I read it to mine and then assign them to read it a few years later.
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Who doesn’t love a tale of pirates and treasure, mutiny and courage? I mean, skeletons pointing the way? Creepy and cool.
- At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon. Father Tim and Cynthia, Barnabas and Dooley, Miss Sadie and Absalom Greer. This book has characters you wish you could meet, a good plot line, and inspires you in your relationship with God.
- Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. For whatever reason this is the Shakespeare that I laugh over and read again and again. I’m always amazed by how many of Shakespeare’s phrases have slipped into common usage in our society.
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I like that doing what is right at any cost is a given for Jane. Authors rarely write like that today. (I can’t believe Charlotte’s sister wrote Wuthering Heights, which I hate.)
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery (Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island) As a kid I skimmed over Anne’s flowery speeches and descriptions. Now I love those parts. Then there’s her deep friendships, her love of Marilla and Matthew, her crazy yet oddly understandable escapades, and of course Gilbert.
- Little Women Louisa May Alcott (The Inheritance) Who doesn’t cry when Beth dies?
- Pollyanna by Eleanor Hodgman Porter. This book always makes me smile, so much better than the Disney version of the story.
- A Daughter of the Land by Gene Stratton Porter (Girl of the Limberlost and Laddie) She lives, learns and grows with the decisions she makes. She relies on God and herself and becomes strong and fiercely independent.
- Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. An excellent book, this doesn’t make the top list because it is too gripping and violent, which doesn’t lead to relaxation. But, it is a powerful story with a great message.
- Home to Harmony by Philip Gulley (I don’t like the sequel) This is the touching and sweet story of a pastor who loses his faith and the family and congregation who help him to find it.
- Remember Me by Mary Higgins Clark (Weep No More My Lady, All Around the Town) I’ve read all of her books and can’t put them down until I’ve finished, or sneaked a peek at the last few pages. These mysteries aren’t Christian, but Clark is a Catholic, so her books often feature mass or priests, and don’t have racy scenes.
- The Client by John Grisham (The litigator, The Runaway Jury, The Last Juror) I like his books. He writes an entertaining, gripping story. He’s a believer, which isn’t blatant in his writing, but I appreciate that he keeps things clean.
- The Enchanted Barn by Grace Livingston Hill. ( Lo Michael) These both have a bit of Hill’s more sappy elements, but are still interesting and worth reading. I like the pictures they paint of society at the time.
- Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin (Hidden Places) This book features the entwined lives of three generations of women. It deals with making the right choices, even when it’s not what your heart wants. I like that the main character doesn’t have a romance in her story.
- Escape by Barbara Delinsky (Coast Road) (Careful with her books. She seems to have begun her career writing trashy romance novels. I was pretty disappointed in her when I stumbled across a plotless book of trashy love scenes and shallow characters.) Escape is the story of a woman who steps out of her life to reevaluate what is really important.