Top Five Best Books of All Time
In the author/writer/reader community, I end up getting a lot of questions like... What's your favorite book? What's your favorite series? What do I read next after I finish (book/series)? What book/series do you recommend for this fantasy nerd who enjoyed (book/series)? As a result, I've recommend the books below so often that it just felt right to make a list of my personal Top Five favorite books.
Furthermore—since we all know that a good book and a bad book are completely subjective descriptions—I hereby declare the following, my...
Top Five Best Books of All Time (according to me)!
One quick disclaimer: Also according to me, The Bible is the best book of all time, hands down, no questions asked, but if you agree, you already know that, and if you don't, I won't be influencing you with a simple top five list, so I'm sticking with extra-biblical titles for the purposes of this list.
5. Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
Series: The Stormlight Archives
The second installment in Brandon Sanderson's highly-acclaimed Stormlight Archives series, Words of Radiance really stood out as my favorite of the series so far. To be fair, I'm about 90% finished with the third book, Oathbringer. While I'm enjoying it, and the ending could certainly change my opinion, I have a strong feeling that Words of Radiance will remain my favorite so far. I've also heard others refer to WoR as the best book of the series.
Without spoiling anything, the scenes that really stood out to me were the last scene that Jasnah and Shallan had together on the ship, Adolin's final duel, and the entire sequence of Kaladin and Shallan in the chasms.
The Stormlight Archives are a must-read for anyone who enjoys fantasy, sci-fi, fleshed out fantastical worlds, and some really cool and unique magic systems.
4. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
As the Amazon book description states, In this classic, C.S. Lewis, the most important writer of the 20th century, explores the common ground upon which all of those of Christian faith stand together. Bringing together Lewis’ legendary broadcast talks during World War Two from his three previous books The Case for Christianity, Christian Behavior, and Beyond Personality, Mere Christianity provides an unequaled opportunity for believers and nonbelievers alike to hear this powerful apologetic for the Christian faith.
This is the only non-fiction book on my list, and I must say, it's been a while since I've read it. I've read it multiple times, and I'm probably overdue for a re-read. That being the case, I'm not going to be able to expand very much on what I loved about this book, and why. It's one of those cases where the feeling I had when I read it, the amount of "mind-blown" moments, and the sheer level of inspiration has stayed with me far longer than the details of any particular argument.
3. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Of every book I've ever read, this book is probably the closest book to my heart. East of Eden is the masterpiece that I almost didn't read because the beginning was so painfully slow to me at the time. If it weren't for the fact that I was on tour and stuck in a van, traveling across the United States with eight other people for an entire summer, I almost certainly would not have pushed through—but I'm so glad I did. I read this one in 2008, and it remains at the top of my list of all-time favorites, and depending on the day, you might hear me say that it is in fact my favorite book of all time. It is hard to explain just how important this book was in shaping the way I think and the way I write.
There is far too much to say about this book, so I will simply say that the nobel prize-winning author has an incredible way of storytelling that moves in ever expanding cycles, much like our Father in heaven. Reading East of Eden felt a lot like reading the Bible—not only in the use of progressive parallelism underlying the book's structure, but in the symbolism; and in the types and motifs that are firmly and flagrantly rooted in the Bible. The heartache and struggles of the Trask family are the trials of each and every one of us, and the dire question at the heart of it all, along with its proposed answer (presented as the very last word of the novel) have brought so much hope to those struggling with their own faith. Without spoiling anything, I will say that the famous last word of this novel is one that I have told myself repeatedly over the years as a reminder to be strong and do what is right in the face of temptation, and as a reminder in the darkest of times, and in my greatest failures, that hope is never completely lost.
2. Perelandra by C.S. Lewis
Series: The Space Trilogy
Oh, Perelandra... What can I say about this book. It's almost better to say nothing at all except for "read it—you won't regret it."
The first book in the series, "Out of the Silent Planet" absolutely blew my mind and shattered my idea of what fiction was, and could be, and should be. The second book of the series, Perelandra, raised all of the bars higher still. That Hideous Strength finishes up the series as one of the most insightful and perpetually relevant books to have ever been written. If you are a reader of Christian fantasy and science fiction, these books are must-reads. In fact, I would venture to say that if you can read, this entire series is an absolute must-read. I will say that this will be a struggle for still developing readers, and should be read as an adult, or high school for strong readers. If read too early, much of the implication and relevance of these works may be lost even on the brightest readers. A good amount of real life experience and observation is necessary to fully appreciate and comprehend Lewis' genius.
As a young Christian, this wonderful series—Perelandra in particular—shaped who I am, shaped how I think, shaped how I write, and shaped my goals during my time on this earth. This series is the reason I am an author. The themes in this book continue to echo within my soul some 20 years later, so strongly in fact that you will find the same themes at the very heart of my own novel, The Withering. Out of any novel I've ever read, this one stands out as the one which has had the most influence on my life, on my imagination, and on my writing.
1. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Series: Kingkiller Chronicles
Okay, I'm not sure this book belongs at the top, especially after describing how meaningful and powerful the last two books were, and how much they impacted my life.
That being said, The Name of the Wind is at the top for a very different set of reasons that have nothing to do with truth and relevance, and everything to do with prose and craft—not to mention the all-important "cool factor".
The Name of the Wind is the first installment of the Kingkiller Chronicles. Its sequel is The Wise Man's Fear, and in my mind, they are one book. I honestly can't remember where book one ends and book two begins, as they are simply one continuing story that has easily become my favorite story of all time.
I read this one after I had finished the first draft of my novel The Withering, so I can't rightfully say that it has influenced my writing, but there is no question in my mind that it will shape the way I write moving forward.
If you want to be completely sucked into a fantasy world, to really live inside that world, and to experience some of the most incredible things you can imagine through the pages of a book, then this is the read for you. I must add a warning with this one however: This series is for adults only—teens, wait til you're all the way grown up before reading this one. There are moments in this book that made me hesitant to recommend it, and it will undoubtedly chase off some readers. I do not endorse everything that goes on in these books, but overall, I have never read a series I have loved so much. This is by far the most entertaining story I've ever read.
There are a handful of books that I highly recommend in no particular order, that didn't quite make the list. I'm not going to dive into them like I did above, but they deserve to be listed. In the case of a series I loved, I will list my favorite book of the series.
The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (Series: Mistborn [era one])
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Series: Harry Potter) *note: I never did get past book four of the Harry Potter series, and I know that the later books are even more beloved. In my defense, I read the first four in real time as they were released, and there was a very, very, very long wait between Book Four and Book Five, and by the time it finally did come out, I had grown a lot, and was on to other books*
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia)
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Wizard and Glass by Stephen King (Series: The Dark Tower) * note: Overall, I did not like this series and don't recommend. I read these when I was a young man with a higher tolerance for filth, and even then, I questioned whether or not I should be reading it. These books are absolutely not for kids, and probably not for self-respecting adults either. That being said, King's voice was very inspirational to me, particularly in the first half of the series. The tale of Wizard and Glass will haunt me forever, for better or worse, and is one of my favorite stories of all time. The Gunslinger, The Waste Lands, and The Wind Through the Keyhole were also fantastic if you can get past the unnecessary grossness that King always has to throw in. In fact, the feeling I had as I finished The Gunslinger was the spark that inspired me to begin writing The Withering (I expand more on that in this interview). The Drawing of the Three and Wolves of the Calla were also interesting and fun. The last two books, Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower were incredibly disappointing, and just gross. While there were some moments of inspiration that indeed found their way into my own novel, The Withering, I simply can't recommend this series in good conscience.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
If you and I have similar taste in books, then there's a good chance you'll fall in love with my end-of-the-world fantasy adventure The Withering.
Here's a short cover reveal video to give you a little taste of what to expect!