My Literary Wishlist: Theology & Humanity Edition

 

This is a list of books that I submitted for a contest; it consists of books in a specific category or with a specific theme that I want in order to build my book collection. These all have themes regarding good vs. evil and humanity, as well as religious, spiritual, or theological features. This is definitely not a list of every book I want (I’m an English major and the daughter of a freaking book dragon, so the limit does not exist). My full wishlist has hundreds of titles. Some of the books on this list are ones I have already read, some were recommended to me by friends or family, and some I have only heard of in passing and researched them later for myself. I would prefer to own hardcover copies of all of them, for durability’s sake. I have them listed in no particular order, though I did keep them somewhat grouped by author. I hope this gives someone an idea to build their book collection. 

 

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett 

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch is about an angel and a demon who have become attached to humanity (indeed, they have become rather human-like themselves) and work together to avert Armegedon and save the universe, with help from members of the Witchfinder Army, a descendant of a witch/prophet, and a group of children, one of whom is the Antichrist. I admit that I watched the Amazon series first, but that was only because a) I did not know about the book and b) I knew that David Tennant and Michael Sheen would be amazing in their roles, which they were. The idea of a demon and an angel being friends and working together to save humanity was and still is appealing because it goes against everything I have learned about angels and demons; however, their methods seem very accurate to what I have learned. I’ve been itching to read the book ever since I knew about its existence. I know it will be different from the series, although it was produced by one of the authors, but I am excited to know what was changed and learn about the original. 

 

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien 

The Hobbit is a fantasy story set in a world filled with dwarves who mine for precious metals, tall and slender elves possessing great wisdom, and hobbits who live quiet lives filled with food and gardens; it is about a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins who decides to become an honorable thief and has the first adventure of his life helping a group of dwarves and their wizard guide steal back a mountain full of treasure from a dragon. It is one of the first stories I remember learning. I cannot remember if I read it first or if my mother read it to me, but I have both read and heard it multiple times. My family celebrates Bilbo’s birthday every year with hobbit recipes and sometimes costumes; the story is a huge part of our lives. J.R.R. Tolkien is one of my mother’s favorite authors, and she introduced me to Hobbiton, Tolkien, and the Inklings, an informal literary group Tolkien was a part of, along with C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams, two more authors on my list. 

 

The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien 

The Lord of the Rings books is the sequel series, consisting of three books, to Tolkien’s The Hobbit. The series follows the One Ring, a ring with the power to turn its bearer invisible and to simultaneously corrupt them, and the people who are trying to destroy it for the protection of the entire land while also defending each other from the forces of the evil Sauron of Mordor. The series is a trilogy; the first book is called The Fellowship of the Ring, the second is The Two Towers, and the third is The Return of the King. The characters come from all regions of the fantasy land; there are elves, dwarves, hobbits (including Bilbo’s nephew, Frodo Baggins), wizards both good and bad, ents, and men. I am including this series for much the same reasons as I included The Hobbit; J.R.R. Tolkien wrote it and it is a very important series in my family. We quote from the books on an almost daily basis, and any collection that includes The Hobbit without the rest of the story is incomplete. 

 

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis 

The Chronicles of Narnia is a children’s fantasy series consisting of seven novels. They follow children from the real world to another world that has a kingdom called Narnia. In this kingdom live fantastical creatures, such as fawns, talking animals, dwarves, and witches. The religious themes in this are fairly obvious in the symbolism of the events and the characters; Aslan, for example, is a Lion whose story mirrors that of God, including the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I read this series as a child, and I read them to my younger siblings now. I have always wanted my own copies of the books. These are stories that I will read to my children one day, and I love rereading them and finding new connections to biblical stories. The author, C.S. Lewis, was an Inkling like Tolkien, and he converted to Christianity as an adult; this event influenced a lot of his literary work. 

 

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis 

The Screwtape Letters is a novel written in the form of letters from a high-ranking demon, Screwtape, in Hell to his nephew, Wormwood, in the field. He is advising on the best and most efficient methods to secure a “patient’s” soul for Hell. The methods described are not what I think most people think of when they think of demonic influence on earth and people. There are no big acts of evil or even big invitations to temptation; everything seems very small to us humans, things that we do not even think about as being things, especially not as bad things… unless we read it from a demon who is using it to corrupt us. This novel got in my head and creeped me out. It made me more aware of myself, of my actions and thoughts. It got me thinking, in the best possible way, and I want more. C.S. Lewis is a genius. 

 

The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis 

The Space Trilogy is a science fiction/fantasy series by C.S. Lewis that I have not read yet but that my mother recommended to me. I have been told that there are indeed themes of spirituality and morality, and I am very excited to read it. There are three books: Out of The Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. I know that the setting is both on earth and in space and that there are angelic and demonic forces at work in the novels. I want to read this series because my mother enjoys it and I want to see religious features in a science fiction novel; if anyone can do it, it is C.S. Lewis. 

 

Descent Into Hell by Charles Williams 

Descent Into Hell is about people who must overcome certain challenges, fears, and temptations when everyone in the world is either going to Heaven or Hell. I came across this book when I was researching the Inklings and discovered Charles Williams, one of the more prominent members of that unofficial group along with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. I read that the novel contains references to the Bible, mythology, and Shakespeare, among other things. I chose this book for my collection because I also read that Charles Williams writes stories that intersect the fantasy and religious fiction genres, and sometimes his novels are described as theological thrillers. This is what I expect from Good Omens and what I got from The Screwtape Letters. As the novel was written by an Inkling, I expect that the writing style will be distinctive and strong… and perhaps a little difficult to understand at first. 

                                 

War in Heaven by Charles Williams

War in Heaven is about the search for the Holy Grail in contemporary times. I am so excited to read this novel; it features magic, trinities both good and evil, and of course the Holy Grail. People want to use it for various noble and nefarious purposes. I love the description “theological thriller” used to describe Charles Williams’ books. It combines two of my favorite kinds of literature: adventure and theology/religion. It also sounds rather like a fantasy novel, which I also love. I discovered this book the same way that I discovered Descent Into Hell: by researching the Inklings. 

 

The Keep by F. Paul Wilson 

The Keep was recommended to me by a friend. I have not yet read it. To my understanding, it is a horror novel with religious undertones about a group of Nazis who staying in a keep are also being murdered, so they bring in an expert about folklore to help them solve the mystery, and the expert is Jewish. It is about good and evil, humanity, and spirituality. I put it on the list, despite my wariness of horror, for several reasons. First, it fit my criteria for themes; second, anything where Nazis and Jewish people have to work together is going to be good; and third, my friend did not describe it to me as horror. I found that out after the fact, but it still sounds like I will enjoy it.

 

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

The Harry Potter series consists of seven fantasy novels that follow a boy and his best friends as they learn to be witches and wizards while annually fighting (and sometimes beating) the evil Lord Voldemort. The religious undertones are relatively subtle (King’s Cross, seven horcruxes, etc), and they are very present and easy to find when you look for them. I have read the Harry Potter series, but I would like copies of my own. The seven novels are called Harry Potter and the: Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, Deathly Hallows. This is another series that is important to my family; we all sorted ourselves into the Hogwarts houses and we celebrate Harry’s Birthday in July. When my siblings turn 11, they are allowed to read the first novels, usually the first three. It is a sort of rite of initiation to mark growing up. 

If you are building a book collection, you might choose a specific theme to define it, or you might just want to expand your library. (My ultimate goal is to recreate the library from Beauty and the Beast, if not in style than in volume.) Whatever books you read, whatever books you collect, have fun! Books are some of our best friends, so cherish them.