Books Krista and I Agree Are Good: and if we agree they are good, then you will like them. Or else!
disclaimer: K is going to add more books to the list for the ladies in the near future. She saw my list and assured me it was "incomplete".
Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold. I tried to convince K for months to read this book, and she wouldn't. Something about not wanting to read a book about the devil. But it's not about the devil, you see. It's about Carter the Great, magician, and the book is full of lions, blind girls, borax, motorcycles, Houdini, pirates and more. You really just can't beat it. K agrees that this is a great, great novel.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Here's one K forced me to read. I wouldn't try it because it reminded me of Faulkner (who you will notice did not make my list in any way, shape or form). This has become one of my favorite novels of all time. It's a retelling, of sorts, of the Cain and Able story, and the central question of the novel is, "How do we deal with sin?" I've probably read it six times in the last three years. I guarantee you will like it. If you don't, call me and I will explain to you why you should!
Lord of the Flies by William Golding. You must read this book, if someone didn't force you to do so already. Some boys get stranded on an island and must form their own society. C.S. Lewis said he found the book to be "hallucinogenic". He found it almost frightening how clearly Golding puts the scenes in your mind. It really is like reading a movie, if that makes any sense.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Classic. You should be forced to read it in school. But if, like me, no one ever forced you to read it, you can enjoy it yourself now.
The Good German by Joseph Kanon. Set soon after the fall of Berlin, this morally complex novel tries to find an answer to the question, "What would a 'good person' have done while living in Germany during WWII?' But it's still a thriller, well-written and engaging.
The Once and Future King by T.H. White. The definitive (yes, better than Mallory) take on King Arthur. This is a book you can give to literally anyone and they will enjoy it. Assuming they can read english.
Books That Are Really Good But Don't Necessarily Get Full Endorsement As "Must Reads" From Krista:
Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I can't believe you if you haven't read this. Set in a future dystopia, the main character's job is to burn books. It's about, um, censorship, I guess.
A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor. Some of the greatest stories in the english language, including the title story which is just about as good as a short story can get.
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. It's about growing up, more or less. Which was a surprise for me, since I thought it was a horror book. I had it confused with "Children of the Corn." Yup, this was much, much better than that. For my younger readers, you should know that this book has been banned before because of the language and so on. I suppose that has completely dissuaded you from reading it.
1984 by George Orwell. Big Brother, dystopia, sad communist ending, blah blah blah. It's good.
Watership Down by Richard Adams. It's a novel about rabbits. No, really. A heroic epic about rabbits. And wouldn't you know it, it turned out just fine.
Great Books That I Heartily Endorse But That Krista Hasn't Read:
Big Picture by Percival Everett. This is a great collection of short stories. There's fly fishing, bull riding, painters, a severed boar's head and pretty much everything else you would want a book of short stories to contain. And don't listen to the whiny little review that the Amazon people have up on their site. "Cerrulean" is an excellent story.
Napoleon of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton. I love Chesterton, his fiction and his non-fiction. But I've read this book about five times. It's one of the few books I've ever read that perfectly balances humor and tragedy in the same narrative. It basically explores why war takes perfectly ordinary things (hills, flags, men) and turns them into glorious objects of patriotical interest. This one should be a movie but isn't.
Glamorous Powers by Susan Howatch. Howatch's novel is about a priest in the Church of England who has a vision from God and then has to figure out what God is trying to say to him. It's slow in places, but I often had the creepy feeling that Howatch had been reading the secret journal I keep in my head.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. A mythical autobigraphical novel/experiment that is hard to explain but easy to enjoy. Eggers walks us through the bizarre events his siblings faced when their parents die and they are suddenly "on their own." Funny, charming, sad, et cetera.
Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. My favorite C.S. Lewis novel.
Books I Am Not Sure Krista Would Like, But That's Not Going to Stop Me:
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. I never cared about mystery stories at all until I read the Big Sleep. Then you will have to read all of the other Chandler novels. He writes beautifully about Philip Marlowe, a detective in 1940's Los Angeles.
the Harry Bosch novels by Michael Connelly. Meanwhile Michael Connelly writes about Harry Bosch, a 90's cop in Los Angeles who has the unfortunate defect of caring about justice, integrity, and human beings. A little bit difficult to read sometimes because of the "real life" situations Harry finds himself embroiled in (i.e. sexual situations, violence), but the Bosch novels tackle real problems in our society and makes you ask how to right wrongs in our current world.
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. Our narrator leaves for San Lorenzo where he falls in love, finds religion (Bokonism), becomes president and then things really get interesting. It's funny, bizarre and pure Vonnegut.
Plato Papers by Peter Ackroyd. I don't know what to say about this other than the fact that it is weird. Weird and funny. Short. I don't know if it should even be on this list but there's one thing I can say for it: it sure is weird.
Oddville by Jay Stephens. I have no illusions that anyone is going to listen to me and read this book. But let me just say: crazy flying yellow baby, undead grunge band, evil scientists, gargantuan monkeys, giant radio controlled robots and bad alley cats make this a must-read.
Simply Christian by N.T. Wright. Carolyn "I don't have a blog" Culbertson gave me this book to read and it is spectacular. I'm not finished with it yet, but I can heartily endorse it already. Anyone interested in Chritianity could read this and find it insightful and valuable, from an athiest to a priest.
Prayer by Richard Foster. My favorite book on prayer. It's challenging in places, but overall I found it accessible, interesting and extremely helpful.
Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard. Don't read this when you are tired or the big hardback will smack you in the face. If you have the patience, however, this spells out how God changes people's lives in the clearest, most succinct way I have ever seen.
There Are Plenty of Others
There are lots of other authors I love who I haven't included on the list. Gene Wolfe, for instance, is a favorite, but I think a pretty narrow sliver of people who read this blog would like him. I would put pretty much every Steinbeck novel on this list, as well as "Wise Blood" by Flannery O'Connor. I would put a couple of Percival Everett's novels on the list, but not all of them. The way I read books is, I find a novel I like and then I read everything they have ever written: their novels, short stories, essays, grocery lists. So if you like one of these drop me a note and I'll tell you which novels to check out next by the same authors.