Reading Lists

I try to alternate between fiction and non-fiction. My fiction tends toward literary works, and my non-fiction toward history, theology and biography. Of late, I have focused on antebellum studies and American biographies.

Below are my reading lists for the past several years, with notes. I have marked in bold those works that I read every year. You will never be able to read everything, so why not mine more deeply the works that have truly spoken to you? This quote of a quote summarizes my feelings well:

A list of books that your reread is like a clearing in the forest: a level, clean, well-lighted place where you set down your burdens and set up your home, your identity, your concerns, your continuity in a world that is at best indifferent, at worst malign.  Since you, the reader, are the hero of modern literature, the existential loner, the smallest denominator of moral force, it behooves you to take counsel, sustenance, and solace from the writers who have been writing about you these hundred or five hundred years, to sequester yourself with their books and read and reread them to get a fix on yourself and a purchase on the world that will, with luck, like the house in the clearing, last you for life.

On “Rereading Books” from The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, by Alan Jacobs, p. 130, Quoting poet L.E. Sissman (d.1976).

2021:

  1. Absalom, Absalom!, William Faulkner (still the greatest American novel, after at least a dozen readings)
  2. On Augustine, Rowan Williams (dense but profound in many respects)
  3. Living Wisely With the Church Fathers, Christopher Hall
  4. Summoned to Glory, The Audacious Life of Abraham Lincoln, Richard Striner (author is audacious, too)
  5. The Tender Bar, JR Moehringer (a pinnacle of the memoir genre for American writers)
  6. Without Precedent, The Life of John Marshall, Joel Richard Paul (predictably admiring of Marshall, and surprisingly critical of Jefferson, but Paul makes a compelling case for both opinions.)
  7. Apostles of Disunion, Charles Dew (eye-opening historical record)
  8. The Mansion, William Faulkner (my favorite of the Snopes trilogy)
  9. Fish Out of Water, A Search for the Meaning of Life, Eric Metaxas (I met and spent time with the author a few years ago at a conference; his is a very important voice in America today, but I am not yet sure what to think of this work.)
  10. The Morning Watch, James Agee (a nearly perfect novella, in my opinion; I am grateful to Patrick Gahan for introducing me to this work.)
  11. A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway (still trying to decide about Hemingway’s true place in literature’, but this work is a good sample for one wanting to understand his approach to the craft of writing)
  12. Calhoun, American Heretic, Robert Elder
  13. The War Before the War, Andrew Delbanco
  14. Our Man in Havana, Graham Greene
  15. Lincoln on the Verge, Ted Widmer
  16. Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey
  17. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, Mark Noll
  18. The Saddest Words, William Faulkner’s Civil War, Michael Gorra
  19. History of the Lost State of Franklin,
  20. My Reading Life, Pat Conroy
  21. Decision in Philadelphia, J. Collier and S. Collier
  22. A Potter’s Vessel, Riddle (pre-publication review)
  23. The Coming Fury, Bruce Catton
  24. Light in August, William Faulkner
  25. Polk, The Man who Transformed the Presidency and America, Walter Borneman

2020:

  1. The Bible (I try to read/listen through it every year)
  2. Absalom, Absalom!, Faulkner (first book I read every year)
  3. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Stowe (better than I remembered)
  4. The Tender Bar, Moehringer (just added to my annuals)
  5. Caffeine, Pollan
  6. David & Goliath, Gladwell
  7. These Truths, LePore
  8. The Impending Crisis, Potter
  9. Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney, Simons
  10. Lincoln and the Decision for War, McLintock
  11. Robert E. Lee, Blount, Jr.
  12. The Road to Disunion, Freehling (best work on the topic)
  13. Law and Gospel, Zahl (grace always wins)
  14. Ratification, Maier (very informative)
  15. We the States, VA Comm (would like to know the history behind this publication)
  16. The Morning Watch, Agee (read each year during Lent)
  17. Lady First – Sarah Childress Polk, Bumgarner (interesting ladies – subject and author)
  18. History of the Supreme Court, Irons
  19. The Soul of Baseball, Posnanski (Hard not to be romantic about Buck O’Neal)
  20. Born Blind, Riddle (about 5x, preparing for publication)
  21. Beloved, Morrison
  22. The Real Lincoln, DiLorenzo (I like his counter-thinking)
  23. When we are older, Part 1, Riddle
  24. The Givenness of Things, Robinson (dense but interesting)
  25. A Pitcher’s Storý, Angell
  26. Sweet taste of Liberty, McDaniel
  27. Tracer, Barthelme
  28. Worst. President. Ever., Strauss (irreverent, but mostly accurate based on my own research of the 15th president)
  29. Midnight Rising, Horowitz (we will miss Tony Horowitz)
  30. Travels with Charly, Steinbeck (I always learn from it, although Steinbeck goes up and down in my estimation)
  31. Presidents of War, Beschloss
  32. Riddle in the Sand, Riddle (preparing for re-publication)
  33. Camino Winds, Grisham
  34. In the Garden of Beasts, Larson
  35. Disease of the Public Mind, Fleming
  36. The Vast Southern Empire, Karp
  37. “Precepts of Men,” Riddle (preparing play script for publication)
  38. The Life of William Faulkner, Vol. 2, Rollyson
  39. The Saddest Words, Gorra

2019:

  1. Bible
  2. Absalom, Absalom!, Faulkner
  3. Reckless Daughter, Yaffe
  4. Riddle in the Sand, Riddle
  5. The Tender Bar, Moehringer
  6. Hillbilly Elegy, Vance
  7. Precepts of Men, Riddle
  8. Kierkegaard – A single life, Backhouse
  9. Farewell to Mars, Zahnd
  10. There There, Orange
  11. Abraham, Feiler
  12. The Road Back to You, Cron
  13. To the Hilt, Francis
  14. Travels with Charly, Steinbeck
  15. Wait Till Next Year!, Goodwin
  16. Unconditional, Zahnd
  17. A Fable, Faulkner
  18. Garden of Eden, Hemingway
  19. Educated, Westover
  20. Our Man in Havana, Greene
  21. All the Little Live Things, Stegner
  22. Confederates in the Attic, Horowitz
  23. The Right Stuff, Wolfe
  24. Spying on the South, Horowitz
  25. The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Dickens
  26. Even Tree Nymphs Get the Blues, Harper
  27. Working, Caro
  28. Envy on 30A, Rine
  29. Ballpark, Goldberger (I was enamored, I wrote a collective review of these next 3 books: https://babesbaseball.wordpress.com/2019/08/02/reading-my-future-through-mlbs-past/)
  30. The Universal Baseball Association, Coover
  31. For the Good of the Game, Selig
  32. The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald
  33. Cemetery Road, Isles
  34. Treasure Island, Stevenson
  35. Draft #4, McPhee
  36. We Have The War Upon Us, Cooper
  37. Natchez Burning, Isles
  38. The Impending Conflict, Potter
  39. Lady First, Greenberg
  40. The Unvanquished, Faulkner
  41. Secession on Trial, Nicoletti
  42. Gone with the Wind, Mitchell
  43. The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner
  44. The Bondwoman’s Narrative, Crafts
  45. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, Chiaverini
  46. Top 100 Constitutional Law cases
  47. We Hold These Truths, Adler
  48. San Antonio Tricentennial, Miller
  49. Steely Dan FAQ, Robustelli
  50. A Christmas Carol, Dickens
  51. Matchmaking for Beginnners, Dawson
  52. Autobiography of Frederick Douglass

2018:

1. Absalom, Absalom!,Faulkner (the greatest American novel)

2. The Town, Faulkner (Faulkner’ trilogy is underappreciated in his canon)

3. Scalia Speaks!, Antonio Scalia (even RBG listened to him)

4. Riddle in the Sand, Riddle

5. The Tender Bar, Moehringer (a very skilled writer, with an interesting story)

6. Moving on, McMurtry (the anti-epic, but I can’t stop reading it)

7.  Travels with Charly, Steinbeck

8. Treating People Well, Berman/Bernard

9. Shoeless Joe, Kinsella

10. Late Night, Early Morning, Weir

11. Tennis and the Meaning of Life, Jennings (painfully insightful, every time I read it)

12. Soul of the World, Scruton

13. Two Stories of Everything, Miller

14. Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me, Cron

15. Shoe Dog, Knight (well-told story, with the aid of JR Mohringer)

16. The Girl on 30A, Rine

17. A Moveable Feast, Hemingway

18. The Judiciary’s Class War, Reynolds

19. Paul, A Biography, Wright

20. Around the World in 80 Days, Verne

21. Etymylogicon, Hagen

22. Tennis and the Meaning of Life, Jennings (so true)

23. Hemingway’s Boat, Hendrickson (brought me new appreciation for Hemingway)

24. Reflex, Francis

25. The Art of the Con, Amore

25. The Morning Watch, Agee (a nearly perfect story)

26. A Whole Different Ballgame, Miller (a fascinating guy about whom I found much to say:

https://babesbaseball.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/love-your-enemies-part-2-marvin-miller-and-bud-selig/)

27. The Mansion, Faulkner (better than I remembered it)

28. The Second McPhee Reader, McPhee (just read his sentences and forget about the topic)

29. Hardball, Kuhn (he brought lawyers a bad name, if that is possible)

30. We, the Corporations, Winkler

31. The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald (still not sure it deserves its reputation and endurance)

32. From Bauhaus to Our House, Wolfe

33. When We Are Older, Riddle

34. The Soul of America, Meachem

35. A Pirate Looks at Fifty, Buffett (the guy can write, period)

36. The Big Short, Lewis

37. The End of the Affair, Greene

38. West with the Night, Markham

39. The Nick Adams Stories, Hemingway

40. Giovanni’s Room, Baldwin

41. The Tender Bar, Moehringer (2d time)

42. Grammar Boot Camp, Curzan

43. History of the Christian Church, Jesus to Constantin, Ehrman

44. Proof, Francis

45. What the Dog Saw, Gladwell

46. Collected Stories, Faulkner

47. On Writing, King

48. The Mayor of Castorbridge, Hardy

49. Islands in the Stream, Hemingway

50. The Long Season, Brosnan

51. Failure is an Option, Benjamin

52. Unconditional, Zahnd (a life-changing book if you are holding any grudges)

53. Beauty Will Save the World, Zahnd

54. Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut

55. Unvanquished, Faulkner

56. Rabbit, Run, Updike

57. The Reckoning, Grisham

58. Admiral of the Ocean Sea, Morison

59. Becoming Faulkner, Weinstein

60. Them, Sasse

2017:

1.  Absalom, Absalom!, Faulkner

2.  Who Am I?, McKnight

3.  Reading Faulkner, Marius (written by my old Western Civ. prof., very interesting guy)

4.  RARE Leadership,

5.  The Undoing Project, Lewis

6.  A Sacred Silence, Kinsell

7.  Washington, Chernow

8.  News of the World, Pauelette Jiles

9.  The Morning Watch, Agee

10. Into Thin Air, Krakauer

11. The One Inside, Sam Shepherd

12.  The Son, Philipp Meyer

13.  Falling Upward, Richard Rohr

14. Team of Rivals, Kearns Goodwin

15. Capture, Kessler

16. Lube Jobs, McLeods

17.  Intruder in the Dust, Faulkner

18.  A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bryson

19. A Good Life All the Way, Ryan White

20. The Vanishing American Adult, Sasse

21. The Spectator Bird, Stegner (still trying to decide about Stegner – this one really puzzles)

22. Heart of Darkness, Conrad

23. Wallace Stegner and the American West, Fradkin

24. Camino Island, Grisham

25. Beyond the Hundredth Meridian, Stegner

26. Between the World and Me, Coates

27. On the Road, Kerouac

28. All the Light We Cannot See, Doerr

29. Shoe Dog, Knight

30. A Moveable Feast, Hemingway

31. A Truck Full of Money, Kidder

32. The Education of Henry Adams, Adams

33. Coal Black Horse, Olmstead

34. Open, Agassi (profound in such a way that you can’t believe Andre wrote it; did he? or was it JR Mohringer? Either way, very much worth reading)

35. Precepts of Men, Rose

36. Travels with Charly, Steinbeck

37. Return of the Native, Hardy

38. Catcher in the Rye, Salinger

39. The Tempest, Shakespeare

40. A Street Cat Named Bob, Bowen

41. The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner

42. The Tender Bar, Moehringer

43. The Road Back To You, Cron

44. Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me, Cron

45. Willie, Moehringer

46. Constellations, Nick Payne

47. Disgraced, Ayad Akhtar

48. Martin Luther, Metaxas

49. Etymologicon, Forsyth

50. The Hamlet, Faulkner

51. The Bear, Faulkner

52.  The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, McCullors

53. A Christmas Carol, Dickens

54. Windows to the Soul, Gahan

55. The Rooster Bar, Grisham (I have been involved in legal matters similar to this plot)

2016:

1.            Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis

2.            Rebel Yell, S. C. Gwynne

3.            America, America, Ethan Canin

4.            Wild Palms, Wm. Faulkner

5.            Travels with Charley, Steinbeck

6.            David’s Sling, the History of Democracy in Ten Works of Art, Coates

7.            The Morning Watch, Agee

8.            Go Set A Watchman, Lee

9.      A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway

10.    “As you like it,” Shakespeare

11.    Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy

12.      Hamilton, Ron Chernow

13.   Confessions of an Original Sinner, John Lukacs

14.   Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky (partial)

15.      100 Years of Solitude, Marquez

16.      Moving On, McMurtry (partial)

17.     To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee

18.    The Last Tycoon, Fitzgerald

19.   “The Tempest,” Shakespeare 

20.   Everyday by the Sun, D.F. Wells

21.   Goodbye to a River, Graves

22.   Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Doyle

23.   Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

24.   The Art of Fielding, Harbach

25.   Myself and the World, Hamblin

26.   Late to the Ball, Marzorati

27.   Cannery Row, Steinbeck

28.  Shoeless Joe, Kinsella

29.  If you can keep it, Metaxis

30.  Absalom, Absalom!, Faulkner

31.  Sanctuary, Faulkner,

32.  Morning Watch, Agee (2d time)

33.  Riddle in the Sand, Rose

34.  “Precepts of Men,” Rose

35.  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Rowling

36.  Light in August, Faulkner

37.  A First Rate Madness, Ghaemi

38.  Impossible People, Guiness

39. Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck

40. Democracy in America, de Toqueville

41.  Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

42. Hillbilly Elegy, Vance

2006:  (bold: recommended; bold italics: highly recommended) (“aloud” indicates that I read them aloud to my children)

1.         Light in August, Faulkner (476 pages)

2.         Knowing God, Packer (279 pages)

3.         Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, Packer (126 pages)

4.         Salvation, Radmacher (250 pages)

5.         The Adventures of King Arthur and His Knights, Pyle (259 pages)(aloud)

6.         Palace Thief, Canin (206 pages)

7.         The Raven, A Biography of Sam Houston; James (457 pages)

8.         Walking the Bible, Feiler (406 pages)

9.         The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway (257 pages)

10.       Faulkner: The Story Teller, Labatt (185 pages)

11.       Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, Greenblatt                             (409 pages)

12.       Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Rowling (309 pages)(aloud)

13.       “Part I, Henry IV”, Shakespeare

14.       Dragons of Eden, Sagan (248 pages)

15.       Soldier’s Pay, Faulkner (319 pages)

16.       Revolution, Barna (140 pages)

17.       A Pirate Looks at Fifty, Buffett (458 pages)

18.       History of the English People, Johnson (partial, 300 pages)

19.       Robert E. Lee, Thomas (404 pages)

20.       At Home in Mitford, Karon (416 pages) (aloud)

21.       Behold the King, Toussaint (partial)

22.       The Sermon on the Mount, Stott (partial)

23.       Rhoda: A life in stories, Gilchrist (300 pages)

24.       The Unvanquished, Wm. Faulkner (246 pages)

25.       A Little Princess, Burnett (201 pages) (aloud)

26.       A Confederacy of Dunces, Toole (partial)

27.       Sailing Alone Around the Room, Collins (100 pages)

28.       A Serious Way of Wondering, Price (146 pages)

29)       A Man in Full, Wolfe (742 pages)

30)       The Penderwicks, Birdsall (247 pages)(aloud)

31)       Reading Faulkner, Marius (185 pages)

32)       A Promise to Catie, Holt (253 pages)(aloud)

33)       The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald (221 pages)

34)       A Separate Peace, Knowles (195 pages)

35)       The Boy Who Saved Baseball, Ritter (219 pages)(aloud)

36)       Architecture, Anyone?, Huxley (partial)

37)       Wrestling with God, Marius (146 pages)

2005:

1)         One Matchless Time – Biography of William Faulkner, Parini (457 pages)

2)         Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift (partial, 166 pages) (aloud)

3)         Sound and the Fury – Faulkner (257 pages)

4)         The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (275 pages) (aloud)

5)         The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Friedman (465 pages)

6)         The Known World, Jones (450 pages)

7)         Collected Stories, Stegner (partial, 175 pages)

8)         Following the Equator, Twain (partial, 400 pages)

9)         Dating Dead Men, Kozak (350 pages)

10)       Dating is Murder, Kozak (338 pages)

11)       The John McPhee Reader (377 pages)

12)       The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck (partial)

13)       National Velvet, (partial)(aloud)

14)       Buried Treasure, Schroder

15)       Basin and Range, McPhee (216 pages)

16)       All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers, McMurtry (286 pages)

17)       Crossing to Safety, Stegner (341 pages)

18)       How to Stay Christian in College, Bouzweski (185 pages)

19)       Lord of the Flies, Golding, (248 pages)

20)       Don’t Waste Your Life, Piper

21)       Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang, Fleming (124 pages) (aloud)

22)       Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Rowling (652 pages)

23)       Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh, Milne (162 pages) (aloud)

24)       Personal Memoirs, U.S. Grant (590 pages)

25)       Mountains Beyond Mountains, Kidder (304 pages)

26)       LIVING through Crisis, Taliaferro (currently reading)

27)       “Taming of the Shrew,” Shakespeare

2004:

1)         Sartoris, William Faulkner (430 pages)

2)         The Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling (440 pages) (aloud)

3)         “Julius Caesar”, William Shakespeare

4)         Living in Christ’s Church, Clowny (112 pages)

5)         American Girl – Felicity (90 pages) (aloud)

6)         The Old Man and The Sea, Hemingway (127 pages)

7)         In the Tennessee Country, Peter Taylor (225 pages)

8)         Abraham: Journey to the Heart of 3 Faiths, Feiler (227 pages)

9)         Atonement, Ian McEwan (349 pages)

10)       Little Town on the Prairie, Ingalls Wilder (256 pages)(aloud)

11)       Isaac’s Storm, Erik Larsen (325 pages)

12)       Jimmy Buffett, The Man from Margaritaville Revealed; Eng (322 pp)

13)       A Shropshire Lad; A. E. Housman (64 pages)

14)       Visions of Jazz, The First 100 Years; Giddons (selected sections)

15)       The Goblet of Fire; Rowling (735 pages)(aloud)

16)       In Patagonia; Chatwin (120 pages)

17)       Moneyball; Lewis (304 pages)

18)       Moving On, McMurtry (794 pages)

19)       Roger’s Version; Updike (329 pages)

20)       Great Expectations; Dickens (aloud, partial)

21)       West With The Night, Markham (297 pages)

22)       On the Banks of Plum Creek, Wilder (279 pages) (aloud)

23)       Good Poems, Keillor, editor (400 pages)

24)       Inward Light, Schroder (180 pages)

25)       Dating Dead Men, Kozak (326 pages)

26)       All Creatures Great and Small, Herriott (395 pages) (aloud)

27)       Men At Work, Will (400 pages)

28)       Absalom, Absalom! Faulkner (440 pages)

29)       The Order of the Phoenix, Rowling(842 pages) (aloud)

30)       A Christmas Carol, Dickens (142 pages)

31)       A Salty Piece of Land, Buffett (462 pages)

2003:

1)         From Beirut to Jerusalem, Thomas Friedman (575 pages)

2)         Paris to the Moon, Adam Gopnik (470 pages)

3)         Walking the Bible, Bruce Feiler (450 pages)

4)         Peace Like a River, Leif Enger (315 pages)

5)         Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery (320 pages) (aloud)

6)         Rabbit, Run, John Updike (400 pages)

7)         Sailing Alone Around the Room, Billy Collins (175 pages)

8)         The Bible Jesus Read, Yancey (175 pages, partial)

9)         Ernie Pyle’s War, Tobin (360 pages)

10)       The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Wilder (235 pages)

11)       Black Beauty, Sewell (300 pages)(aloud)

12)       The Return of the King, Tolkein (330 pages)

13)       Lonesome Dove, McMurtry (843 pages)

14)       Life of Pi, Martel (319 pages)

15)       John Adams, McCullough (650 pages)

16)       History of Christianity in North America, Noll (currently reading)

17)       Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Rowling (315 pages) (aloud)

18)       Philokalia, Cairns (currently reading)

19)       The Education of Henry Adams, Adams (currently reading)

20)       For the Union of Evangelical Christendom, Guelzo (404 pages)

21)       A History of the Jews, Paul Johnson (partial)

22)       One Palestine, Complete; Tom Segev (250 pages)

23)       The Trumpet of the Swan; E.B. White (200 pages, aloud)

24)       Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes (235 pages, aloud)

25)       Tom Sawyer; Mark Twain (partial, aloud)

26)       Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Rowling (600 pages)

2002:

1)         Fair Ball, Costas

2)         To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee

3)         The Hobbit, Tolkein

4)         Art of the Novel, Kundera

5)         Franny & Zooey, Salinger

6)         Cat Stories, Herriot (aloud)

7)         For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway

8)         Oxford – City of the Imagination, Horan

9)         The Bears Upstairs, (aloud)

10)       Encounters With the Archdruid, McPhee

11)       A Pirate Looks at 50, Buffett

12)       Tarpon Quest, Coles

13)       The Last Navigator, Thomas

14)       Chronicles of Narnia (entire Books I-VII) (aloud)

15)       Coming into the Country, McPhee

16)       A Life of John Calvin, McGrath

17)       Reign of the Servant Kings, Dillow (partial)

18)       As I Lay Dying, Faulkner

19)       Constantine’s Sword, Carroll (partial)

20)       The Secret Garden, Burnett (aloud)

21)       The Two Towers, Tolkein

22)       From Beirut to Jerusalem, Freidman (partial)

23)       A Fable, Faulkner (partial)

24)       Wild at Heart, Eldredge