Our Favorite Books

Our Favorite Books

Education, Technology, Teaching Reading, Language Arts, Culture, Etc, History, Novels, Children’s Books, Religion, Writing, Daily Life.

On Education Generally

Healy, Jane. Endangered Minds: Why Our Children Don’t Think and What We Can Do About It. New York: Touchstone, 1990. Healy suggests that computers and videos actually change the way the brain develops and functions.

Hicks, David. Norms and Nobility: A Treatise on Education. Just reissueed in paperback by University Press of America (1999). Hicks defines the classical education as one concerned, not with what is, but with what should be.

Postman, Neil. The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School. New York: Knopf, 1995. What’s the point of school? Postman will help you answer this question for yourself.

On Technology

Ellul, Jacques. The Technological Society. New York: Vintage Books, 1964. Tough going, but immensely worthwhile. Take the time to read Ellul, who will convince you that efficiency is not your friend.

Roszak, Theodore. The Cult of Information : A Neo-Luddite Treatise on High Tech, Artificial Intelligence, and the True Art of Thinking. University of California Press, 1994. Roszak isn’t anti-technology, but he’s cautious; this book contains the best explanation of the distinction between information and knowledge that I’ve ever seen.

Sale, Kirkpatrick. Rebels Against the Future: The Luddites and Their War on the Industrial Revolution — Lessons for the Computer Age. New York: Addison-Wesley, 1995. It’s an honor to be called a Luddite; read Sale to find out why. You’ll also find yourself viewing the technologies that make your life simple in a whole new way.

On Teaching Reading

Beechick, Ruth. A Strong Start in Language. Pollock Pines, CA: Arrow Press, 1993. A simple, easy-to-follow guide for teaching beginning language skills at home.

Bouldin, Ethel. An Acorn In My Hand. Thoburn Press, 1964. Jessie used this when she first began home schooling; it is still possible (although not easy) to find copies around.

Language Arts

Daly, Mary. The Complete Book of Diagrams. A great supplement for a grammar program that’s weak on diagramming. This is published by the Riggs Institute; you can view their catalog at Riggs Institute-Online Catalog , or contact them at 4185 S.W. 102nd Avenue, Beaverton, Oregon, 97005, (ph) 503-646-9459 (fax) 503-644-5191. This book was originally designed for classrooms; Daly also has another title, The First Whole Book of Diagrams, written especially for homeschoolers. For more information about both books, including excerpts, visit Resources for Diagramming.

On Culture, Etc.

Levine, Lawrence W. Highbrow, Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988. Do you feel guilty when you read bestsellers? Do you watch Shakespeare because you feel like you ought to? Do you hide comic books behind your paperback Euripedes? Levine will tell you why.


Boydston, Jeanne. Home & Work: Housework, Wages, and the Ideology of Labor in the Early Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990. A convincing and clear explanation of why housework “doesn’t count” in today’s economy.

Hatch, Nathan O. The Democratization of American Christianity. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989. Hatch explains the historical development of do-your-own-thing spirituality.

Raboteau, Albert J. Slave Religion: The “Invisible Institution” in the Antebellum South. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978. Raboteau’s classic work is essential for any understanding of African-American history.

Novels (Susan’s list)

Austen, Jane. Pride & Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma. There’s nobody like Jane. Read them all. (But you can skip Mansfield Park; Fanny Price is too annoying to live.)

Forester, C. S. Hornblower series. Little, Brown, various dates. History, romance, sea battles, suspense, and a brilliant portrayal of a complex character.

Howatch, Susan. The Church of England series: Glittering Images, Ultimate Prizes, Glamorous Powers, Scandalous Risks, Mystical Paths, Absolute Truths. New York: Crest, paperbacks, various dates. Howatch’s six Church of England novels present reality from six different perspectives, so that the same story changes slightly with each novel. Even though these novels annoy me (they’re a little heavy on the psychobabble), I’ve reread them several times because Howatch is dealing with a serious question: can you speak of faith in the languages of psychology, science, and mysticism without altering its nature? And they’re just plain fun. (Howatch also does some serious cribbing from Merton — see the “Religion” section below).

James, P. D. Original Sin. New York: Warner, 1996. This mystery novel tackles the big questions: the origins of evil, the purpose of revenge, and why editors insist on publishing bad fiction.

Miller, Walter. A Canticle for Leibowitz. New York: Lippincot, 1959. A cold war novel about nuclear apocalypse that begins in the future, after the “Great Deluge” of fire has turned twentieth century civilizations into deserts and ruins. Okay, this sounds like every apocalyptic novel or film you’ve ever encountered — but Miller is after something greater. The book (which chronicles the adventures of a Catholic order in the post-nuclear world) is really about science’s relationship to religion. He doesn’t conclude that science and religion are battling for control; rather, that religion and politics are battling for control, with science as their tool. And it’s a great, entertaining read.

Children’s Books

Of course, read C. S. Lewis, Frances Hodgson Burnett, J. R. R. Tolkein, and all the other children’s authors that show up on list after list … but here are a few books we don’t see mentioned often enough.

Cooper, Susan. The Dark Is Rising, Greenwitch, The Grey King, Over Sea, Under Stone, and Silver on the Tree. Aladdin paperbacks. An Arthurian series with a difference; beautifully written, complex. One of the few children’s series Susan rereads as an adult.

Dunlop, Eileen. Elizabeth, Elizabeth.  A fantastically spooky history-time-travel-mystery novel.

King-Smith, Dick. The Invisible Dog, Harry’s Mad, Martin’s Mice, The School Mouse, Three Terrible Trins, and more. All these novels (ranging from third to seventh grade reading level) are from the author of the novel Babe. Great reading.

Nesbit, Edith. The Railway Children, The Complete Book of Dragons, Five Children and It. Adventure, fantasy, color, sympathetic characters, great vocabulary. Read them all.

Taylor, Sydney. All-Of-A-Kind Family series. Susan just rediscovered these books, which she read in elementary school — wonderful portraits of the girls in a New York family just before World War I.

On Religion

Clapp, Rodney. A Peculiar People: The Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1996. Clapp contends that Christianity has to reject its present-day individualistic, consumeristic, technological orientation in order to recapture its character as a community of God. Great reading.

Hays, Richard B. The Moral Vision of the New Testament : Community, Cross, New Creation : A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics. San Francisco:Harper San Francisco, 1996. Hays’s book can change the way you view religion. His vision for the Christian community is radical and uncompromising and exciting.

Merton, Thomas. New Seeds of Contemplation. New York: W. W. Norton, 1976. If (like Susan) you tend to be a rationalist, Merton will give you an entirely new context for faith.

Moore, R. Laurence. Selling God: American Religion in the Marketplace of Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. Religion for sale: commercial culture has captured the church (along with everything else in America).

On Writing

McCormack, Thomas. The Fiction Editor, the Novel, and the Novelist: A Book for Writers, Teachers, Publishers, Editors, and Anyone Else Devoted to Fiction. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988. The single greatest book on constructing a novel that Susan has ever found.

Strunk, William and E. B. White. Elements of Style. New York: Allyn & Bacon, 1995. Read it! Read it! Read it!

Daily Life

Hendrick, Gladys West. My First 300 Babies. Mrs. West was a baby nurse who taught all of her charges to sleep through the night in the first two weeks of life. Even if you find her suggested schedule a bit rigid, this book is an invaluable tool to get your baby on a schedule. It saved Susan’s life! Order it from Hurst Publishing, 5881 Connor Lane, Goleta, CA 93117, phone – 805-967-3744, FAX – 805-681-9696, e-mail [email protected].

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