September 20, 2011

The Canon

I've decided to create The Canon (according to Rebecca). Briefly, it's a list of books that I would purchase for my (hypothetical, future) child. Books I think are worthwhile for one reason or another. Books that make me laugh and make me cry. Books that changed (or will change) the world. And I need your help!

I've read too many books in my life to remember them all, even some of the good ones, so I'm enlisting you all, my fellow readers and book lovers. What book(s) would you purchase for your children, and why? All books are welcome, from picture books to classic literature to young adult. They just need to have one thing in common: They need to be worthy.

If you nominate a book that makes it into The Canon, you will be recognized for your contribution.


  1. The first thing that comes to mind, weirdly enough, is Anne of Green Gables. Pretty quickly followed by Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia, Jane Eyre, and Pride and Prejudice (though certainly not in that order!). I would say Lord of the Rings but I haven't actually read them... Ender's Game even though Orson Scott Card is a colossal bigot and I never want to give him any money ever.

    Last but not least: Goodnight Moon!

  2. The Nazarene, The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, Shadow of the Wind, The Lorax, The Poisonwood Bible, The Baroque Cycle, The Giving Tree, The Bible (regardless of religion or lack thereof, simply some of the greatest stories ever told and a foundation of Western thought), Don Quixote, The Odyssey, Tale of Genji, Hamlet, Oedipus Rex, The Road, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Les Miserables, Gilgamesh, Horton Hatches the Egg, Winnie the Pooh, Huckleberry Finn, The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, The Trial, The Bear Snores On.

  3. My kids will have the Harry Potter series. Mister Popper's Penguins. Fig Pudding (I seriously read this book once a month at a certain point). Cheaper by the Dozen (and the sequel Belles on Their Toes). I'll Love you Forever. The Dangerous Book for Boys (even if they're girls). Where the Red Fern Grows. The Boxcar Children series. One or more excellent collections of Fairy Tales. The Phantom Tollbooth. The Westing Game. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (and subsequent books by C.S. Lewis). The Rainbow Fish. I'm sure there are many more I can't think of, but I hope this helps a little. I also really like Eric's list.

  4. @Candace Cunard

    I think Anne of Green Gables is apropos mostly because Anne is us. (Or at least, the part of us that is unabashedly dreamy and writerly.) I have a feeling she wouldn't appeal quite as much to people with no Anne-ish love of literature or aspirations.

    Thanks for the books! You're right -- they're pretty much all going on my list. I'm thinking of making it a feature here, but first I have to reread them all! (A big project in the making...)

  5. @Eric Richards

    Thanks for the list! I haven't read all of these, but of the ones I've read I completely agree with you! Quick question: which version of the Bible would you recommend? King James?

    And I have to say, I love any list that has both Les Miserables and Calvin and Hobbes. :)

  6. @Rebekah

    Which collections of fairy tales would you pick? There are billions and billions out there!

    I like Eric's list too. (And yours!) The great thing about these sorts of things is that there are so many familiar books, but also a lot I haven't read/have forgotten about. I'm going to have to reread (and read for the first time!) a lot of these.

  7. King James is unmatched for sheer majesty and cadence of language. It is poetry on a massive scale, but unfortunately some accuracy is lost in translation, and it lacks accessibility for those who lack patience for Shakespearean English.

    The New International Version (NIV) is probably the most read English Bible today. It completely lacks the beauty, majesty and poetry of King James, but what it lacks there it makes up for in much improved accuracy and much more literal translation. It is simple in language and syntax, so very accessible, but not to my taste as all the poetry has been stripped out.

    A good compromise for me is The New Oxford Annotated Bible, based on the New Revised Standard Version. This Bible tries to incorporate the literal translations and accuracy of the NIV while retaining as much of the poetry and cadence of King James as possible. It also includes lots of historical info to add context to the text, lots of maps to give a sense of where stuff happened, background essays, biblical criticism, etc.

    I think it strikes a good balance between beauty and accuracy.

    I know, short question, long answer. Sorry if your eyes glazed over midway through.

  8. I almost forgot, The Elements of Style (Strunk & White). A writer's must have.

  9. "Ender's Game" but ditto Candace, "The Hobbit", "Flatland", "This Perfect Day", "A Thousand Words for Stranger", "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", "Gödel, Escher, Bach", "Stranger in a Strange Land", "I, Robot", "Grimm's Fairy Tales", "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman", and "Math Curse". And I'll second "Calvin & Hobbes", "Winnie the Pooh", "The Boxcar Children", and "Phantom Tollbooth".

    Dang, Eric...I never made it through Genji-Monogatari. Will have to try again some time.

  10. I love this idea! I second Winnie the Pooh. Also Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Is Your Mama a Llama is one of my favorite picture books. Also The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig. Shel Silverstein's books. All of them. I also second Mr. Popper's Penguins and The Phantom Tollbooth. Little Women. The Little House books were the first chapter books I remember reading. The Series of Unfortunate Events - epic series. Second HP and Chronicles of Narnia. The Hobbit. Okay I will stop now :)

    Oh, one more thing. My preferred Bible version is either New King James or New American Standard. I grew up on the New American Standard and it's a more literal translation than the NIV, but maintains more of the modern language than some of the others. :)

  11. @Rebecca T.

    The plan is to compile a list, read/re-read all the books on the list, and then blog about all of them (why they're on the list). But it's going to take FOREVER, especially since I'm spending more of my time writing these days... :)