I wasn't always fond of reading. Before I was nine, reading was a chore. When I moved out west with my mother and sister, I was torn from my friends and any life that made sense to me. I became quite the loner, preferring to have no friends if I could not have my friends.
Reading filled the hole in my life. I read everything. Some things took me by surprise. I remember reading a science fiction book about satellites in orbit that had electric propulsion systems. After reading it, I discovered it wasn't a fiction book!
The written word became a doorway to EVERYTHING! Knowledge, wisdom, romance, excitement and humor. It is a discovery and a passion that I try to instill in my children.
- The Stainless Steal Rat (Harry Harrison). I don't remember what the first books where that really captured my interest in reading. However, this series is a great primer for getting young minds into reading. It is the hilarious adventure of Slippery Jim set far in the future.
- Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card). Another great book for teens because the hero is a boy himself. An exciting story with a surprising twist. The whole series is pretty decent and sometimes thought provoking.
- The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley). A book I could not put down until I finished it! The well known tale of King Arthur told from the perspective of the women. The first book I remember reading that told a familiar tale from a different perspective.
- Iron Tower Trilogy, The Silver Call Duology (Dennis McKiernan). McKiernan, an engineer by trade, lay in a full body cast after an accident. To wile away the time, he wrote some of the best fantasy based on Tolkien's Middle Earth ever! Not as deep as Tolkien's own work, it was full of action and (for a fantasy) believable world. If you find Tolkien too slow, try these books for a wild fantasy romp. McKiernan originally wrote these books to be in the Middle Earth world, but the Tolkien Estate does not allow anyone to impose on their franchise so he changed names to make it different enough to publish.
- The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (Stephen Donaldson). This series will seriously twist you up inside. The main character is not a hero, he is an anti-hero. The book does not make you feel good. It makes you feel! Sad, angry, lonely...just about everything but good. You miss characters, because you like them and they are gone! It makes you miss places because you becom attached to them and then they are destroyed! You won't like Thomas Covenant, but you will not put down the books. You will wish you were there, to slap him. To appreciate what he didn't. To be in his place.
- Watchmen (Alan Moore). A captivating story about gritty 'realistic' super heroes. My favorite super hero used to be Spiderman until I discovered Rorschach. A hero who accepts no rationalization. Right and wrong is all black and white. If in doubt, ask "What would Rorschach do?" Probably break a nose.
- The Mote in God's Eye (Larry Niven and Jerry Pournell). Excellent story about first contact with an alien species. Unlike much science fiction that treats aliens as just another character, this story is an exploration of aliens. Exploration and discovery that make you think and wonder.
- Wealth (Aristophanes). Much of Aristophanes works are good reading. Not only was he good at his craft, it is amazing how much life in ancient Athens mirrors modern day life. In this play, he explores wealth and poverty in the world's oldest democracy and he could be writing about modern America.
- The Message (Eugene Petterson). For centuries, the Catholic church fought amateur interpretations of The Bible. The demand for irrefutable proof before changing established belief that most of the western world relied on led to conflicts against individuals (like Galileo), other branches of Christianity to whole countries and cultures. Now, it is seen as more important to get the message to people than corral them into a specific church. Whether you are religious or not, The Message is a good read for what it is. It is not the Bible. If you are strict in your interpretations of the Bible, don't read this without your Bible near by to bump it against. It might draw your kids into a good mind set, but you might balk at some of the rewording.
- The Dictionary (Any). There is no book that sees more attention in our house than the dictionary. No home should be without one. Specially if you have kids. I often look up meanings online now. It was quite a surprise that, although my children could find the meaning of a word online, they had a lot of trouble finding words, meanings, pronunciations in the dictionary. Now it is a routine exercise.
Not making it to my list but deserving mention is C.S. Lewis' The Problem of Pain. I wouldn't expect non-Christians to really understand Christianity. The only thing they want to know about it is what they can use against it. But it is surprising that so many Christians don't understand their own religion. A read through this book should help.