By Sofia Cuddeback

After a lot of back and forth in my mind about how to approach compiling a reading list, I have decided to compile a list author by author and then include a list of that author’s books in order of preference. I decided on this method because all of these books are like personal friends of mine that I love and I want you to love them too (or in any case get to know and appreciate them)! I am hoping that by my eventually adding in a little information about the author, the context in which they are writing, perhaps something about their style and a brief description of the books listed, I will be improving the chances of you not missing a wonderful friend hidden between the covers because its not dressed familiarly. 🙂

I want to also preface this list by saying that often the degree to which we enjoy an author, his style, and his books is very much a matter of personal preference. Obviously, my list will lean toward my personal preference. But I am including books that I believe have value beyond my personal preference and so, hoping that some of these will overlap with yours, I am also convinced that all of them will be enriching. And of course, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list but only a beginning. I’ll be adding more books and descriptions over time, so come back to check for new additions!

For a list of our family’s much-loved books to read aloud to children, see Our Favorite Books to Read-Aloud with Children.


Jane Austen:

I list Jane first because, the more I think about it, I really think that everyone should read and appreciate Jane Austen, even if they don’t love her (although in her case, appreciation can’t help but breed affection!). In the interest of my success in convincing you and in your enjoyment of the novels, you can download free reflection questions you might like to think about as you read the novels at the LifeCraft membership section. I would recommend her novels in this order:

  • Pride and Prejudice: A masterpiece of  characters, plot and language. An intellectually stimulating delightful social drama. Beautiful in every way.
  • Emma: A little more challenging than Pride and Prejudice in that the title character is definitely a character in need of growth.  Some people love Emma in spite of herself, others find her a bit off-putting until she makes the requisite changes. Lots to think about but still playful and fun.
  • Persuasion: Shorter than the two preceding and a little more mature and subdued in theme and pace.
  • Mansfield Park: This one keeps encroaching on Pride and Prejudice’s spot as my favorite every time I read it. It is a little bit like one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays” in that everyone does not end up happy in the end, although everyone gets what they deserve.  Raises very relevant questions about the role of family in development of character, free will and ability for conversion, religion and love and marriage. Also more challenging because the characters are more complex and not so straightforwardly loveable.
  • Sense and Sensibility: Entertaining and engaging, but the inner tension is not as good as the previous (seems preposterous to say this and it can only be said in comparison with Jane’s other novels). 
  • Northanger Abbey: I read this one last as it is generally said to be a “spoof” on the Gothic novel genre, neither of which genres (“spoof” and “Gothic novel”) I care for.  However, I think that in this one you get a glimpse into the magnitude of Jane’s intellectual powers.  Her parody is charming yet unbelievably incisive and to-the-point not so much as regards the literary genre, which it is, but matters such as morality, cultural mores, and virtue among other things, in the social context. An absolute tour de force of language and wit. It really helped me to listen to an audio recording to appreciate this novel. 


Willa Cather:

  • Shadows on the Rock
  • Death Comes to the Archbishop
  • Song of the Lark
  • “My Neighbor Rosicky”


Walter Macken:

  • “God Made Sunday” and Other Short Stories


Leo Tolstoy:

  •  Anna Karenina


Charles Dickens:

  • Our Mutual Friend
  • David Copperfield


Ivan Turgenev: 

  • Father’s and Sons


Anton Chekov: 

  • “The Cherry Orchard” (play)


T.S. Eliot:

  • “The Cocktail Party”
  • “The Family Reunion”


Brian Friel:

  • “Translations” (play)

Walter Scott:

  • Old Mortality

Rafael Sabatini: 

  • Scaramouche

Sarah Orne-Jewett:

  • Country of the Pointed Firs

Harper Lee:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird

Evelyn Waugh:

  • Brideshead Revisited
  • Edmund Campion


C. S. Lewis:

  • Til We Have Faces
  • The Screwtape Letters
  • The Chronicles of Narnia

J. R. R. Tolkien:

  • Lord of the Rings trilogy 
  • The Hobbit
  • “Leaf by Niggle” found in the book Tree and Leaf (this book also contains the interesting essay “On Fairy Stories”)

Anthony Trollope:

  • Barchester Towers


  • The Odyssey



  • The Aeneid



Ray Bradbury:

  • Fahrenheit 451

William Shakespeare:

  • The Tempest
  • King Lear
  • Macbeth
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Taming of the Shrew

More Reading Resources at LifeCraft

Choose Reading Aloud Over Watching That TV Show

by John Cuddeback

Most entertainment today is technology-based. It’s often shallow and, while it can have a place, many of us are spending too much time on it. We feel the lack of richness in our lives. Reading aloud allows for a different way of experiencing one another and growing closer together…

Read-Alouds for Children

Reading Aloud and Renewing Life in the Home

by John Cuddeback

Experience shows that changes that happen slowly can go almost unnoticed, even when they have significant negative consequences. Perhaps the most striking instance of this in modern times—maybe ever—is the evisceration of our home life…

Read-Alouds for Children

Picture Books to Read Aloud with Children

by Sofia Cuddeback

My experience is that when I hear a book out loud, it’s almost like I am reading it for the first time. So many different textures and details stand out to me that I never notice when the words are bounced around in my head…

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