Novels Worth Reading

Dr. James Emery White

I know, it’s all you can do to keep up with what you want to binge on Netflix, but now is a time like never before to recapture the lost art of reading.

Last year, a survey was taken of English professors to recommend the 20 classics every American should read at least once in their lifetime. The list does not include novels written in languages other than English. The top 5 included Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

In case you want to know the other 15:

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
1984 by George Orwell
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Stoner by John Williams
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
“Whatever you’re interested in” (meaning, this is one is up to you)

I don’t have too much disagreement with the list. Were it to be broadened out, under its own parameters, I might add some newer titles such as Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro or Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. And nothing by the Brontes?

But it brought to mind the deeply spiritual novels that I would encourage every Christian to read at least once in their life that did not appear on the list (And I will most certainly free myself from confining them to the English language.). So as not to overwhelm you, particularly in light of the 20 or more already suggested, here are just five more to add into the mix:

Paradise Lost by John Milton
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

If you read any one of those books, it will help offset the negatives of the shelter-in-place restrictions that are giving you the time to do it. And if you aren’t able to hit the gym as you would like, it will at least give your mind – and soul – a much needed workout.

James Emery White


Hristina Byrnes, “20 Classics Every American Should Read, According to English Professors,” 24/7 Wall Street, January 15, 2020, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His newest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.