I have read thousands of books throughout my life. If I compare my personal library catalog to my Outlook files, I liken each book to the type of people listed in my address book, some are friends, some, associates and others acquaintances.

Nearly 500 volumes grace the shelves of the sealed bookcase downstairs and the four bookcases in my humble office upstairs from which I pretend to ‘work.’ While the remotest of possibilities exists that I may move on from the house which I currently occupy, the unlikelihood of that happening encourages me to take stock of the hundreds of pounds of books that live with me. It may be time to lighten the load. I will keep the friends and bid an amicable farewell to associates and acquaintances. As I glance to my left, I see a book I have carried with me since college, Swords Into Plowshares: The Problems and Progress of International Organization by Inis L. Claude, Jr. It is a third edition, published in 1964 and a textbook used in one of my classes at the Air Force Academy. I majored in International Affairs. The original owner inscribed his name and squadron on the inside cover, “Seevers 08.” I purchased it from the surplus book sales that preceded every semester. I suspect Cadet Seevers did the underlining when he owned the book and I added the highlighting.

Something clearly appealed to me about the book for me not to sell it for quick cash to the next guy who would take the course and haul it with me around the United States for 50 years. I will keep it though the world has changed so much that the premises within that volume have long since outlived their original intentions and usefulness.

A year ago, I logged all of my books in an Excel file but have been remiss to enter the new books I acquired during 2018, which include three books by Wendell Berry, a pair by Andrew Krivak and a handful of others.

110, Maybe More… No Fewer

I reviewed my list of 500 and identified those that have had a measurable impact on my life; they are my friends. I include 110 books on the final list, 110 books that my life would not have been as full and complete had I not read them. Three-quarters of the books are fiction, and nearly three-quarters were originally published prior to the 21st century. I include the six novels I wrote on the list; they have made my life more complete.

At the top of my list is Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel by Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis. That is the one book I would recommend to every person on the planet. The number two book and the top fiction book is The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis. First published in 1952, I read the controversial book in 1972 when fewer than 200,000 copies had entered the United States. I acquired my copy at a bookstore on 4th Avenue in Anchorage.

The final book on the list is The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux originally published in 1909. The last non-fiction book – The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living by John C. Marshall III published in 2001 – occupies the 97th position.


The Berkshire Athenaeum

I can tell a personal story about each book that I will retain. The first book I read that appears on my list, I read in 1966. I spent many hours at the Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield’s public library. It was cavernous and beautiful, academic and spiritual, intimidating yet welcoming… One rainy afternoon as I slowly walked the narrow aisles surrounded by books, I happened to pull Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl from a shelf. I can never explain why a high school senior killing time as he waited for basketball practice would have taken that book from that shelf, much less be in a library in the first place.

Each of us has our personal taste in reading. With the exception of the first book on my list – which is mandatory reading for all creatures great and small – I will not say, “You should read this…” You will read whatever calls you to read it. That said, I offer my list as a curious collection of books that have impacted my life, books that offer value to all who enter their pages.

1The Joy of the GospelPope Francis2013
2The Last Temptation of ChristKazantzakis, Nikos1952
3Winter's TaleHelprin, Mark1983
4Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee:Brown, Dee1970
5Water Sounds:Fritsch, Albert J.2010
6The Ragamuffin GospelManning, Brennan1990
7BarabbasLagerkvist, Par1950
8Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of ThermopylaePressfield, Steven1998
9The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection PileLukeman, Noah2000
10The Memory of RunningMcLarty, Ron2004
11Once An EagleMyrer, Anton1968
12Travels with Charley: In Search of AmericaSteinbeck, John1962
13Jesus and the DisinheritedThurman, Howard1949
14Jesus, A PilgrimageMartin, James2014
15The Book ThiefZusak, Markus2005
16NightWiesel, Elie1960
17The EgyptianWaltari, Mika1945
18Last of the AmazonsPressfield, Steven2002
19Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic WisdomO'Donohue, John1996
20Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to BelongO'Donohue, John1998
21The Wisdom of the Native AmericansNerburn, Kent1994
22Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace: Nerburn, Kent1999
23The Polar ExpressAllsburg, Chris Van1985
24Holy BibleAnonymous, Anonymous-
25Jonathan Livingston SeagullBach, Richard1970
26The Gift of Years: Growing Older GracefullyChittister, Joan D.2008
27Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don'tCollins, James C.2001
28All the Light We Cannot SeeDoerr, Anthony2014
29SilenceEndo, Shusako1966
30Man's Search for MeaningFrankl, Viktor E.1946
31Memoir from Antproof CaseHelprin, Mark1995
32Les MiserablesHugo, Victor1862
33The Dead ZoneKing, Stephen1979
34A Book of HoursMerton, Thomas2007
35Befriending the StrangerVanier, Jean2005
36Armageddon: A Novel of BerlinUris, Leon1964
37The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative BattlePressfield, Steven2002
38A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and IslamArmstrong, Karen1975
39SymposiumKinney, Kuiper, Bloom1969
40The Discoverers: A History of Man's Search Boorstin, Daniel J.1983
41Looking ... Seeing: Poems and Song LyricsChapin, Harry1975
42Timeless Wisdom: Passages for Meditation from the World's Saints and SagesEaswaran, Eknath2008
43Peace Like a RiverEnger, Leif2001
44The Way of the CrossHouselander, Caryll1955
45Good Poems: American PlacesKeillor, Garrison2010
46The StandKing, Stephen1978
47The HamsaKraay, E.S.2010
48Tobit and the Hoodoo Man: A Mystical Tale from the Civil War SouthKraay, E.S.2011
49Arctic DreamsLopez, Barry1986
50The SourceMichener, James A.1965
51The Hobbit (Middle-Earth Universe)Tolkien, J.R.R.1937
52TravelerMcLarty, Ron2007
53A Soldier of the Great WarHelprin, Mark1991
54SpartacusFast, Howard1951
55The CrusaderEisner, Michael Alexander1999
56So Very Much the Best of Us: Songs of Praise in ProseDoyle, Brian2015
57The HajUris, Leon1984
58The DropperMcLarty, Ron2009
59The Book of GuysKeillor, Garrison1993
60Arthur Rex: A Legendary NovelBerger, Thomas1978
61The VoyageCaputo, Philip1999
62Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific WarManchester, William1980
63Wuthering HeightsBronte, Emily1847
64The Theological Implications of Climate ControlErickson, Brian2005
65Fall of Kings (Troy, #3)Gemmell, David2007
66SiddharthaHesse, Hermann1922
67Hearts in AtlantisKing, Stephen1999
68Carry Me HomeKring, Sandra2004
69The Wolf at Twilight: Nerburn, Kent2009
70Neither Wolf nor Dog: Nerburn, Kent1994
71The Girl Who Sang to the BuffaloNerburn, Kent2013
72Killing RommelPressfield, Steven2008
73Walk in a Relaxed Manner: Life Lessons from the CaminoRupp, Joyce2005
74Uncle Tom's CabinStowe, Harriet Beecher1852
75The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood Pyle, Howard1883
76The Voyage of the NarwhalBarrett, Andrea1998
77Cold MountainFrazier, Charles1997
78The Reed of GodHouselander, Caryll1944
79A Prayer for Owen MeanyIrving, John1989
80The Olympian: A Tale of Ancient HellasKraay, E.S.2008
81My Life with the SaintsMartin, James2006
82Flashman Fraser, George MacDonald1969
83Lord of the Silver Bow (Troy, #1)Gemmell, David2005
84The Sixth Day: A 17,175-Word Novella About Creation and PrizefightingKraay, E.S.2012
85Gaspar: Another Tale of the ChristKraay, E.S.2014
86Dwi: Dying While IntoxicatedKraay, E. S.2012
87The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the GreatPressfield, Steven2004
88The Adventures of Don QuixoteSaavedra, Miguel de Cervantes1605
89The Adventures of Tom SawyerTwain, Mark1876
90Look Homeward, AngelWolfe, Thomas1929
91Lake Wobegon DaysKeillor, Garrison1985
92Chronicle of the 20th CenturyDaniel, Clifton1987
93Shield of Thunder (Troy, #2)Gemmell, David2006
94Works of James Fenimore CooperCooper, James Fenimore1892
95Last of the MohicansCooper, James Fenimore1826
96Tides of WarPressfield, Steven2000
97The Legend of Bagger Vance: A Novel of Golf and the Game of LifePressfield, Steven1995
98Keep Going: The Art of PerseveranceIII, Joseph M. Marshall2006
99The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for LivingIII, Joseph M. Marshall2001
100Hotel New HampshireIrving, John1981
101The Odyssey of HomerHomer, Homer-720
102The Call of the WildLondon, Jack1903
103The RoadMcCarthy, Cormac2006
104Paradise AlleyStallone, Sylvester1977
105Works Of Robert Louis StevensonStevenson, Robert Louis1926
106ChesapeakeMichener, James A.1978
107Journey to the Center of the EarthVerne, Jules1864
108Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the SeaVerne, Jules1869
109CaribbeanMichener, James A.1989
110The Phantom Of The OperaLeroux, Gaston1909

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  1. As my grandson’s Confirmation sponsor several years ago, I searched my list of favorite books to give one to him for this special occasion. I selected Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. This has remained a favorite since reading it during my college days- a long time ago.

    I have read many on your list, Gene. On several occasions, ( moves) I have been forced to give up some of my collection to book sales. I hope you don’t have to.

  2. Dear Gene:
    From the list you compiled from your personal library, I have read some of them, of course in my language. They are, from your listing, the numbered: 17, 24, 32, 71, 88 (The Spanish Masterpiece), 89, 96, 101, 107 and 108.
    As you remark, those books have left something in my life.
    My best regards to you and family

    1. I find it interesting, Arturo that although we are separated by 77-degrees of latitude we share similar tastes in reading. You have read 10% of the books on my list. I would be interested to know what you consider the best ten books you have read in any language.