Our book club just finished its long, weary journey through The Sound and the Fury which, we concluded, signified nothing. So now Janet and I get to pick the next book, and the pressureâ€™s one to find a good one: not too long, completely accessibly, and not too blatantly serving of our own interests. I consciously decided not to pick anything that was explicitly spiritual, which wipes out three-quarters of my library.
Which leads me to announce The Top Books That A Book Club Could Handle:
Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis. Ok, itâ€™s a novel by the most famous Christian apologist of all time, so perhaps itâ€™s a little too partisan to get a fair reading. But itâ€™s a strong story, very well written and equally given to its art as well as its ideas. And Lewis is bold enough to delve deep into pagan roots of religion, with no apologies, much as Tolkein did in his Middle Earth. The story is a loose retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, with a lot more psychological insight than youâ€™d ever get from Bulfinchâ€™s.
Emperor of the Air, by Ethan Canin. The first collection of the (IMHO) greatest contemporary short-fiction writer. Canin can write â€œin voiceâ€ as well as Carl Sandberg, and with an equal ear to the music of the language. Beautiful without being baroque, every story hinges on an epiphany, a new way of seeing the world that perpetually borders on the spiritual without tipping over the edge. Canin is especially good at writing convincingly from many different ages: his stories of old people ring as true as his coming-of-age teenagers.
Grace and Grit, by Ken Wilber. The icon of integral spirituality relates the tragic tale of his wifeâ€™s battle with cancer. No matter how many brilliant books Wilber turns out with galactic theories of everything, this is the book that everyone remembers and everyone loves, because it is his most honest, personal, and human book.
A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin. With the unbounded success of Peter Jacksonâ€™s production of Tolkeinâ€™s The Lord of the Rings, the popular culture has stopped sneering at fantasy long enough to see the real literature buried amongst the pulp. So maybe now is a good time to introduce people to A Wizard of Earthsea, a beautiful novel which, along with Rings or Narnia, has been the gold standard of high fantasy for four decades. A boy becomes a wizard, but he must gain wisdom as well as power in order to defeat a shadow he has unwittingly released into the world.
Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. Why do our first impressions often turn out to be more correct than prolonged analysis? Gladwell examines the phenomena of unconscious cognition and split-second assessments from a variety of different disciplines. Fascinating stories, immanently readable, and chock-full of material for discussion.