Christmas Book List Symposium

Hugh has issued a topic for discussion among the blogosphere:

A modern novel worth reading twice is very hard to come by, at least for a reader like me, pressed for time and inclined to history and current events…. But it seems to me to be a good sign that a serious reader would have reread a modern novel twice, and if any in the blogging community would like to offer those novels they have been through at least twice, I will link those posts here as a handy guide to Christmas book giving and getting.

My first reaction to this was ‘why read a novel twice?’

There aren’t many modern fictional works that I’ve taken the time to re-read. Like Hugh and Bob, I’ve perused the fabulous Lord of the Rings trilogy twice.

Then there’s Michael Shaara’s Killer Angels, at 30 years old almost a grand-daddy of Civil War fiction, having inspired the epic motion picture Gettysburg.

All that said, I’ve found very little of modern fiction worth two reads (though some of the suggestions posted by other symposium participants have intrigued me). The classics are worth many looks – most anything by Shakespeare, Dickens, or Dostoevsky, not to mention Dante’s Divine Comedy.

My greater love is in reading a great historical monograph or work of political philosophy. At the risk of having to hang up on myself, here are some worth investing time and energy in:

Undaunted Courage and Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose
The Creators and The Discoverers by Daniel Boorstin
The Army of the Potomac trilogy by Bruce Catton (Mr. Lincoln’s Army, Glory Road, and A Stillness at Appomattox)
Roll, Jordan, Roll by Eugene Genovese
Albion’s Seed by David Hackett Fischer
Carnage and Culture by Victor Davis Hanson
The Democratization of American Christianity by Nathan Hatch
A New Birth of Freedom by Harry Jaffa
Modern Times by Paul Johnson
Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert Massie
The Guns of August and The Proud Tower by Barbara Tuchman

This is just an assortment and a sampling of good, quality historical literature. Some make the list for their page-turning prose, others for their expansive vision, still others for the power of profound paradigm. But maybe, just maybe, I’m a bit weird. I have considered it, you know.

Update: Ditto to Hugh on Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. How did so many forget that one? Do Soviet Communism and the tensions of the Cold War seem that distant in the past? Hmmm.