C. S. Lewis helped me to realize that I need to read books that appeal to my reason as well as books that appeal to my imagination. In fact, Lewis was highly skilled at writing both types of books. So I naturally like to read nonfiction books on such topics as history, philosophy, and science, but I have learned the value of also reading fictional and aesthetically oriented works.
Because historic Christianity is a religion that appeals to the whole person, it has produced authors that have written both rational and imaginative works. Following my biographical recommendations from part one of this series, let me now recommend five books in a different literary category for your Christian reading pleasure and to grow and challenge you in your faith. In succeeding parts of this series, I’ll introduce books in other categories.
Part 2: Fiction and Poetry Classics
God has made human beings with the unique capacity to recognize and appreciate beauty and art. And much of the world’s greatest music, art, and literature has come from the hands of Christian artists. Here are five Christian classics in the broad category of fiction and poetry:
1. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
Dante was an influential Italian poet and prose writer of the late Middle Ages. His work The Divine Comedy is written as a long narrative in poetic form. Considered one of the great works of Italian and world literature, Dante provides an imaginative vision of the afterlife by journeying through hell, purgatory, and heaven. Dante draws upon medieval Christian theology and philosophy in his writings.
2. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Fyodor Dostoyevsky was a great Russian novelist and short-story writer of the nineteenth century. In his work The Brothers Karamazov, he presents the dramatic story of a tragic family that raises profound philosophical questions about human nature, morality, the meaning of life, and God’s existence. Many consider this novel one of the greatest in all of literature.
3. The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne
John Donne was an English poet and minister in the Anglican Church of the seventeenth century. Considered the greatest of the English metaphysical poets (highly intellectualized poetry), his work is well known for its complex metaphor. His early writings reflect more of his secular work, whereas his later writings express a Christian orientation.
4. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien was an English novelist and University of Oxford scholar of literature in the twentieth century. His epic trilogy of The Lord of the Rings sets forth the mythical story of a struggle between good and evil kingdoms, each vying to possess the magic ring that controls the ultimate power in the world. Tolkien’s series is among the best-selling books of all time.
5. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis was an “Oxbridge” scholar of English literature and a Christian thinker and writer in the twentieth century. His series of seven fantasy novels entitled The Chronicles of Narnia initially tells the story of four children who enter the magical world of Narnia where the great lion Aslan does battle with the White Witch. The other books in the series develop further themes. Lewis’s series, which reflects Christian imagery, has sold in excess of 100 million copies worldwide.
And that is my recommended list of fictional and poetic Christian classics. I hope you’ll pick them up and read them. Next week, look for part three of this series in which we’ll look at another category of Christian classics.
Reflections: Your Turn
Which of these classics have you read? Which one are you looking forward to reading?