Only I haven't actually done a top 10 books post. I've done posts on my top 10 books to reread, top 10 fantasy books, top 10 non-fantasy/sci-fi books, and even top 100-ish books. So today I'm going to do a Top 10 Books post, with an emphasis on why these books have stayed with me. These are the books that I would choose if I had to choose only ten books to be able to read for the rest of my life.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
One of my perennial favorites, this novel is the perfect mixture of fantasy and so-called "literary" fiction. It blends the humor and social commentary of authors like Austen and Dickens with the magic of Tolkien. It has spiritual, moral, and emotional depth. It features creepy, dangerous fairies and magicians who have no idea what they're doing. It has copious amounts of footnotes that actually build on the story at hand.
The Sword in the Stone
Otherwise known as the best thing T.H. White ever wrote. This is the story that (very very loosely) inspired the Disney film (which I still love because of Merlin). Merlin tutors young Arthur (and sometimes Kay as well) in all manner of subjects, attempting to ready him for his eventual (and unknown to him) kingship. It's one of the first fantasy stories I can remember, and it sparked my lifelong love of that magus supreme, Merlin.
The Chronicles of Narnia
This is no surprise to anyone, and before you argue that it's seven books: I have an omnibus edition on my shelf. It's one book. So there.
Anyway, these books never cease to offer up something more when I come back to them. They have been an encouragement to me in low times and have helped shape my imagination.
This is a more recent addition to this list, but ever since I first read this book last year, I haven't been able to keep the story out of my mind. It has magic and folklore, romance and intrigue, and a plot that keeps you guessing the whole way through.
Till We Have Faces
Another fairy-tale story and one of Lewis's classics, Till We Have Faces may say more about a person's spiritual journey than almost anything else I've read by him. It also operates in many ways as a working out of some ideas Lewis puts forth in The Four Loves.
The Lord of the Rings
This book, like Narnia, is no surprise. (And yes, it is one novel; silly publishers and their need to break things up.) ((Though if someone could release an omnibus of this, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion, I would be most grateful.)) I have to go back and reread this every few years because it's just so dear to my heart and soul.
I first read Plenilune a couple of years ago. (I remember because I wanted to start reading it the day our nephew was born, but had forgotten to load it on my Kindle, and therefore wound up reading The Paper Magician first.) From the first chapters, I loved this world and the richness of the prose. If Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is the blending of Austen and Tolkien, then Plenilune is the blending of Austen and Edgar Rice Burroughs (without the questionable commentary on genetic superiority). It's filled with allusions to Shakespeare and Scripture and it doesn't mind letting the reader do some work filling in the gaps.
The Celtic Way of Prayer
What? A nonfiction book on this list? Well, at least it's Celtic.
I'm just kidding. This book was recommended to me a few years back and it left a strong impression. If ever I feel like I need to put more prayer and song in my life, this is the book I think of to help me do it.
The Four Loves
Yes, three C.S. Lewis books is a lot for a 10-book list. But the man shaped me as a writer and a reader. This book helped me understand love in a multi-faceted way, and seeing the expressions of the ideas contained here pop up in his fiction makes it that much more notable.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
No list like this would be complete without the other author who shaped me as a writer, Ray Bradbury. The man could write poetry in the form of a story, and he knew how to capture nostalgia in all its beautiful and terrible aspects. He may not have invented the creepy circus trope, but he certainly excelled at it.
What are some of your top books of all time? Tell me about them in the comments!