Quincy Wheeler’s Top 100 Novels (80-71)

This is our third in a ten-part series in which Quincy reveals his top 100 novels and offers summaries and analysis that help point Christians to the timeless truths contained in these stories. Check out the previous posts part 1 here and part 2 here. (The two intro paragraphs below are the same for each new addition to the list, but reviews will be new, each time).

Why Christians Should Read Novels: I believe it is significant that one of the primary ways that God has chosen to communicate Godself to us is through story. From the first page of Scripture, we are brought to the realization that God wants us to see Who He is by inviting us into the narrative that He is creating in the world we know. In the Bible there is poetry, there is history, there is storytelling – and in many cases – there is fantastical imagery inviting us into a world that is far greater than what we can see with our physical eyes. Notably, when God Himself comes to earth as a human being in Jesus, He chooses – most often – to communicate what He wants people to know in parables – stories He makes up to convey timeless truths about Himself and about ourselves. I believe that all great stories give us insights into our existence in a way that mirrors the storytelling that God Himself does. We are, after all, made in God’s image, as sub-creators in this universe of wonders He has placed us in as His representatives. So, it should be no surprise to Christians to find human beings – even those who are not believers in Jesus – creating stories that display truth about life, the world, humanity, love, God, and everything in between; all of this can bring us closer to our Lord Jesus if we bring it to Him, with minds taken captive to Him and thoughts made obedient to His Will.

In this series, I will be going through my current list of top 100 novels I have read. I fully expect this list to grow and change over the course of my life, and I hope you, friend reader, will help me grow it by recommending books I have overlooked to me after you read my selections. I have tried, especially over the past decade of my life, to diversify my novel catalog, looking for books written by folks who are not white men of European descent, but I’m sure my list as it currently exists still slants that way. Fortunately, my reading of great literature has HELPED to show me the need to seek culturally and ethnically diverse stories. To qualify for my list, a book has to be either a continuous fictional narrative or a series of short-story form fictional narratives. Additionally, each author can only have one entry on my list (other books written by an author that I’ve read will be listed in parentheses following my favorite title from each writer).

80. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
: Turbulent family relationships among the landed gentry in England challenge societal conceptions of what is moral and right.
Analysis: Part romance, part ghost story, part social commentary, Emily Bronte produced a clear work of genius in Wuthering Heights. I don’t know that I will ever re-read this book, but once was enough for me to conclude that Bronte is a master of handling multiple narrators and complex narratives. The exposing of darkness within Victorian society reveals that all ages and generations contain their “white-washed tombs” as Jesus describes in the case of the Pharisees.

79. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
An orphan boy discovers his hidden destiny to attend a magical school and become a wizard and fight against an evil that threatens to dominate the world.
Analysis: Christians should always be careful to emphasize that REAL magic in our world is not to be trifled with or explored. I believe that Rowling makes clear that the magic in her books is a different animal – a literary device similar to the Force in Star Wars (only even less connected to religious overtones). The stories revolve around the idea of self-sacrifice and love being the most powerful forces in the world. Rowling builds a wonderful world and creates some excellent and memorable characters. She cuts some corners here and there, but I particularly love her use of 1 Corinthians 15 in the Deathly Hallows.

78. The Time Quintet by Madeline L’Engle
A group of children including a socially misfit sister and her precocious younger brother adventure through time, space, and spiritual realms to confront and defeat evil.
Analysis: My favorite of these books is the Wrinkle in Time, but all of theme except An Acceptable Time are excellent (Acceptable Time is merely ok). I love how L’Engle uses imagination, science, literature and Scripture to paint a picture of how every person – no matter how seemingly insignificant – is called to join in the fight against evil and to stand up for love. Her portrayal of the devil in the Wrinkle in Time is one of the most memorable, and accurate to what I see about Satan in Scripture, in all of literature. And the stories are just plain fun reading, with some elements of thriller, comedy and romance included.

77. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
: A delightful tale of a little girl who enters a world filled with the stuff of dreams and whimsy.
Analysis: You have probably seen an adaptation or two of Carroll’s work, but the book is worth the read. The writing is clever, humorous, and imaginative. The story is part fairy tale, part moral fable, part psychedelic exercise in absurdity. The characters are memorable and worthy of note. And, the silliness reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously.

76. Right Ho, Jeeves! by P.G. Wodehouse. (Also read: All Jeeves and Wooster and Mulliner Short Stories and Novels)
: Bertie Wooster gets into numerous scrapes with his family and friends, only to be rescued (or further entangled) by his imminently admirable and intelligent valet, Jeeves.
Analysis: If you don’t enjoy British humor, you won’t enjoy these books. But, if you know how to appreciate ridiculous, off-the-wall, light-hearted humor, these books are guaranteed to make you laugh, and Right Ho, Jeeves! is the best of the bunch. Besides humor, the books also teach the lesson (with a light touch) of the importance of not overlooking someone based on their position in society. Bertie Wooster may be the employer here, but he is in no way the man in charge. I have spent many hours smiling and laughing over the genius of P.G. Wodehouse, and it is all clean, good-hearted humor.

75. A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters (Also read: All Brother Cadfael mysteries and Inspector George Felse Mysteries) [Some adult situations, nothing explicit].
: A retired, Welsh crusader-turned Benedictine monk becomes an amateur detective in 12th century England.
Analysis: I cannot recommend in strong enough language that if you are a Christian and enjoy mystery novels, you should be reading Ellis Peter’s Brother Cadfael series! Every story has a murder, a romance, and a lesson about the grace of God. There are ongoing story-lines that carry the series, but each individual novel also stands on its own. Every Christian bookstore should carry the Brother Cadfael series, but, considering that Christian bookstores are all but gone, you’re going to need to find them elsewhere, anyway. They’re worth the search: teaching timeless lessons about compassion, forgiveness and nobility.

74. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy (Also read: The Road, Blood Meridian) [Adult language and graphic violence described]
: An aging sheriff attempts to protect a young lawman while bringing a heartless killer to justice in the Texas back country in 1980.
Analysis: McCarthy is a genius, but this story was originally written as a screenplay, so it reads a little differently than some of his other novels. I love the way he deals with violence, death, and hope in a post-modern world where the concepts of right and wrong seem to have disappeared and the only law governing some men seems to be their own ruthless desires. If you’ve seen the movie, the novel is still well-worth the read and will stay with you for days, as you ponder the heartless world we humans have made for ourselves and what kind of people we should choose to be in light of this terrifying realization.

73. A Canticle for Lebowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
After a nuclear holocaust, a remnant of Christian monks seek to preserve the truths that science and faith both hold in common in a world that has rejected its God-given purpose.
Analysis: I’m not sure I’ve ever read a more ambitious piece of science-fiction. I find it largely successful, though a bit garbled in spots. There are memorable characters in all three parts of the novel, led by Brother Francis, the Old Jewish Wanderer, the Poet, Brother Joseph, Abbot Zerchi and one of only two female characters, the mysterious and two-headed Mrs. Grales. At its heart, the novel examines the enduring value of human life and the costs of protecting that value, born both by us humans and our creator God.

72. True Grit by Charles Portis (Also read: Norwood)
An aging U.S. Marshall with an alcohol problem and a self-important Texas ranger attempt to capture an outlaw while accompanied by a precocious young girl whose father the outlaw killed.
Analysis: You may have seen the movie starring John Wayne or the (better) film by the Coen Brothers adapting the same novel, but Portis’s western stands on its own, asking questions about revenge, redemption and grace. There is something intriguing about the period from which American westerns emerged, although it has too often been shamefully romanticized. I believe this book does a decent job at presenting its story without glamorizing that time in history.

71. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
: A rising political star in the Depression-Era American South negotiates the sacrifices being asked of him to gain power, while a political reporter finds parallels between the life of the politician he covers and his own.
Analysis: This novel does an excellent job examining the flaws in the United States’ system of government through focusing on a very human story. As we learn to despise the moral compromises made by characters in the book, a magnifying glass is held up to our own lives and we’re left to calculate the inestimable value of personal integrity.

Quincy’s List So Far:
71.         All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
72.         True Grit (Also read: Norwood) by Charles Portis
73.         A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
74.         No Country for Old Men (Also read: The Road, Blood Meridian) by Cormac McCarthy
75.         A Morbid Taste for Bones (Also Read: All Brother Cadfael Mysteries) by Ellis Peters
76.         Right Ho, Jeeves! (Also Read: All Jeeves and Wooster and Mulliner Short Stories and Novels) By P.G. Wodehouse
77.         Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
78.         The Time Quintet by Madeline Le’Engle
79.         The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
80.         Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
81.         The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (All Flavia de Luce novels) by Alan Bradley
82.         Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
83.         Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
84.         Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
85.         Moby Dick by Herman Melville
86.         Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
87.         On the Road by Jack Kerouac
88.         Three-Fifths by John Vercher
89.         The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
90.         Americanah by Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie
91.         What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (Short Stories) by Raymond Carver
92.         Before the Fall (The Good Father) by Noah Hawley
93.         Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Marukami
94.         Everything is Illuminated (Here I Am, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) – Jonathan Safran Foer
95.         Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
96.         There, There by Tommy Orange
97.         Fathers and Sons (Home of the Gentry) by Ivan Turgenev
98.         In His Steps by Charles Sheldon
99.         Track Series by Jason Reynolds
100.       The End of Baseball by Peter Schilling, Jr.

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