By Madeleine J. Post, Staff Writer

I like reading... a lot. And as a lover of all things literary, I've made a list of books that have changed my life. The list is by no means exhaustive, but does draw on several lists of great books. 

1. The Iliad of Homer

I read the Iliad in 8th grade and hated it, partly because it was boring and partly because my family's cool teenaged babysitter told me it was her least favorite book. As a college student, I just finished rereading the Iliad last week, and let me tell you: not for one moment did this epic bore me. The Iliad is all about birth, death, and the pursuit of glory that comes in between.

...seeing that the spirits of death stand close about us in their thousands, no man can turn aside or escape them, let us go on and win glory for ourselves, or yield it to others.
— Homer

2. The Bible

The Bible is a collection of ancient historical, allegorical, and literary texts all serious lovers of literature should appreciate. Number 6 on BBC's Top 100 Books to Read Before You Die list, the Bible is available in various versions and translations; I prefer the Douay-Rheims, the Vulgate, and the Ignatius Bible.

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
— Jeremiah 29:11

3. The Nicomachean Ethics

Just the sound of Aristotle's name is often enough to scare people away. He is allegedly dry, dense, and difficult. If you are looking for an entertaining read, do not read the Ethics; however, if you wish to fall in love with brilliant writing on happiness, virtue, vice, friendship, and beauty, become a disciple of Aristotle. 

Virtue lies in our power, and similarly so does vice; because where it is in our power to act, it is also in our power not to act...
— Aristotle

4. The Divine Comedy

Everyone reacts differently to Dante's Divine Comedy. I was disgusted at Inferno, in tears by the time I finished Purgatorio, and unsatisfied with Paradiso. The type of reaction you will have is not the point; the point is that you will have a reaction. Dante's loaded writing, not to mention the possibility of an afterlife, touches the whole of the reader's soul: will, intellect, and emotion. Anthony Esolen's translation is the best.

Thus you may understand that love alone
is the true seed of every merit in you,
and of all acts for which you must atone.
— Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio

5. Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost is an inverted epic. Readers do not care about the roles Adam, God, or Michael have to play in Milton's great work. Rather we are obsessed with Satan. Milton anticipated this, I think, and did so for a purpose: to show his readers that humanity is twisted. Something is fallen in us. But this is just my own amateur literary analysis, and reading Paradise Lost will force you to develop yours.

Abashed the devil stood and felt how awful goodness is and saw Virtue in her shape how lovely: and pined his loss.
— John Milton

6. Fahrenheit 451

I read Fahrenheit 451 in one sitting. It shocked me how similar this dystopian world of Ray Bradbury's was to our own world. Fahrenheit 451 is a classic science fiction novel and a powerful commentary on humankind's urge to suppress what it doesn't understand. Fahrenheit 451 shocked me, disturbed me. It reminded me how much is wrong with our world.

We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?
— Ray Bradbury

7. War and Peace

Here it is...the grandaddy of classic novels, the epic tale that many have called the greatest and influential book of all time. But don't be put off by its reputation, because this is an epic feast you're going to enjoy.

Taking place in the early time of the 19th Century, Leo Tolstoy's masterpiece, War and Peace, follows a cluster of Russian aristocrats as they face an invasion by Napoleon's army. Sure many battle scenes are vivid and suitably gory, the book really excels when it comes to the conflict in human relationships. War and Peace is one of those books you live rather than simply read. Make time for it, and you'll see what all the ruckus is about it.

If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason, then all possibility of life is destroyed.
— Leo Tolstoy

8. The Man Who Was Thursday

Now I have to admit I have not read this book... I listened to it on Librivox. But I think I am not alone in saying that G.K. Chesterton is the greatest English writer, and his genius, hilarious adventure novel draws on good humor and philosophical undertones to convey its brilliance. 

9. The Lord of the Rings

Everyone has seen the movies. But has everyone read the books? They can make you laugh and will make you cry. They comprise the epic of the modern age, an elaborately spun tale of little heroes deterring the end of the world. Not a bad plot, and J.R.R. Tolkien crafts it well. 

Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.
— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Of coarse there are many other classics, but these are the ones that have changed my life. Can't wait to hear which ones change yours. So, go forward and read!

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AuthorMadeleine Post