Of the reading of books there is no end…

I’ve been sorting through my “to-read shelf” (OK, shelves) of unread books. I have a bad habit of buying more books than I read: even after thinning some out which I’m never going to get round to, the remaining books on the shelf are as follows. I’d appreciate any suggestions as to (a) which books I should focus on reading first, and (b) which I should add to the pile going to the charity shop:

Novels/humour: The Heart of the Matter (Greene), Last Orders (Graham Swift), Flaubert’s Parrot (Julian Barnes), Lake Wobegon Summer 1956 (Keillor), Brick Lane (Monica Ali), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Kundera), The Man in the High Castle (Philip K. Dick), The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (Conan Doyle), The Bone People (Keri Hulme), A Long Way Down (Nick Hornby), The Other Side of You (Salley Vickers), A Handful of Dust (Evelyn Waugh), True History of the Kelly Gang (Peter Carey), Suite Francaise (Irene Nemirovsky), A Farewell to Arms (Hemingway), Penguins Stopped Play (Harry Thompson).

Non-fiction: Six Not-So-Easy Pieces (Feynman), How to Fossilise Your Hamster (Mick O’Hare), The Nothing That Is (Robert Kaplan), God’s Englishman (Christopher Hill), Byzantium Vol. I (John Julius Norwich), Selling Hitler (Robert Harris), The Dinosaur Hunters (Deborah Cadbury), It Must Be Beautiful (ed. Graham Farmelo), Four Colours Suffice (Robin Wilson), Untold Stories (Alan Bennett), The Counter-Reformation (A.G. Dickens), The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction, Capitalism: A Very Short Introduction, The Now Habit* (Neil Fiore), The Age of Revolution (Hobsbawn), Going Sane (Adam Phillips), A Beautiful Mind (Sylvia Nasar), Dr Euler’s Fabulous Formula (Paul J. Nahin), A Brief History of Almost Everything (Bill Bryson), Shakespeare (Bill Bryson).

* Yes, I am aware of the irony of having a book about procrastination festering on my unread shelf, thank you for pointing that out…

Christian: The Ethics of Freedom (Ellul), The Essence of Psychology (Kirsten Birkett), The Gospel from Outer Space (Robert L. Short), The Gospel According to Dr Seuss (Robert L. Short), Real Presence (Leanne Payne), The Evangelical Universalist (Gregory MacDonald), The Everlasting Man (Chesterton), St Thomas Aquinas (Chesterton), Life Together (Bonhoeffer), Islam in Our Backyard (Tony Payne), Fatherhood (Tony Payne), The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (Pelikan), Whose Bible Is It? (Pelikan), Creation and Fall (Bonhoeffer), How Should We Then Live? (Schaeffer), The Mystery of Marriage (Mike Mason), Theology of Hope (Moltmann), The Barth Lectures (Colin Gunton), Luther: Man Between God and the Devil (Heiko A. Oberman).

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11 Responses to Of the reading of books there is no end…

  1. Wm Voelker says:


    Novels/humour: Of those I’ve read, I’d recommend Barnes, Kundera, and Dick (Old Horselover Fat rarely goes wrong). And don’t bother with A Farewell to Arms as it is filled with whining characters you hope don’t make it through the novel. Pick up H’s short stories instead. Much, much better.

    Christian: Life Together is quite good, as is Creation and Fall. And Chesterton is always interesting.

    Happy reading!

  2. Jeremy says:

    The Evangelical Universalist is worth a read simply because it’s a unique book. Though it makes some solid arguments it’s not entirely convincing. But it’s one of the few books on the subject written by a “Bible-believing Christian.”

    Pelikan’s Whose Bible Is It? was very useful to me because I had never read anything on the history of the Bible before. If you already know quite a bit about the subject it may be redundant.

  3. Chris Jones says:

    Whose Bible Is It? is excellent. I have not read The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, but if it is anything like the other volumes of his “History of Christian Doctrine,” then it is indispensible. It is certainly on my short list of titles to buy when I can afford them.

    As you may know, Dr Pelikan was a cradle Lutheran who converted to Eastern Orthodoxy in his later years. The joke among Orthodox is “Why did Prof Pelikan become Orthodox? Answer: After all those years he finally got around to reading his own books, and they convinced him to become Orthodox.”

  4. Jeremy says:

    Just to clarify what could be seriously misunderstood – I didn’t mean to imply that no Bible-believing Christian ever believed in universalism. A fair number of Eastern Orthodox Christians have and do, for example. I only meant that phrase as code for “conservative evangelical.” I didn’t want my statement to be misunderstood and divert this comment thread from its purpose. Now, back to talking about books.

  5. Rick Ritchie says:

    I like the fact that I’m not the only one who reads like this. I keep adding books I’ve started to my Facebook Visual Bookshelf, but am not so quickly ticking off finished books.

    If you read like this, then when you finish a book, we know that it was probably a worthy read.

    “A Beautiful Mind” was a quick read for me. So were the two Chesterton choices.

  6. Phil Walker says:

    Ha! I’m about to start Six Not-So-Easy Pieces; I’ve been hoping it may help me explain what I’m doing in my PhD to me mum.

  7. Jeremy says:

    Bryson’s Brief History is also worth your time.

    I don’t think I could handle having a to-read shelf. All of my books have to be in their assigned places unless they are currently being read: alphabetically by author and then by title within authors. Only reference books are excepted. I am genuinely shocked at how many people do not use this arrangement, which seems the only logical one to me. Even when I get new books I have to move all the books on my shelves in order to put them exactly where they need to go.

    The voices insist on this.

  8. John H says:

    Jeremy: My wife and I have too many books for that to be feasible. Any unread books would be hopelessly lost. (Though our books are in alphabetical order by author – except for theology, which I’ve still not sorted out since we moved house.)

  9. Jeremy says:

    I do have a relatively small library. Reports of personal collections numbering in the thousands boggle my mind. Someday, though, someday.

  10. Have you fossilized your Hamster yet? If not do so before giving the book away. I want that book. I don’t have a hamster but I will get one if it is required for the book.

  11. A. J. Nolte says:

    Luther: Man between God and the Devil is a really interesting read. I think Oberman may have studied either with or under Roland Bainton at Yale.

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