Ask RC: What are ten books your teenagers read as part of their homeschool education?
One of the weaknesses of the school model of education is that it squeezes out great books that don’t fit neatly into one or another of those artificial divisions of learning we call “subjects.” We don’t start with, “What books have had a deep impact in shaping what I am?” But with “What subjects am I supposed to be teaching, and which books will help me teach them?” I don’t teach my children subjects—I seek to instill in them wisdom. Which means I have them read the books that gave me wisdom.
10. All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes: The Christian and Pop Culture by Ken Myers. This book was a genuine wake up call to me, alerting me to the more subtle ways the broader culture has influenced not just what I think, but how I think. It was for me the beginning of seeking to live a more deliberate life.
9. The Abolition of Man by CS Lewis. A thoughtful yet accessible prophetic exposition of the then coming post-modernism.
8. The Holiness of God. We often, as parents, struggle with fear that our children are more eager to please us than their heavenly Father, that they see their faith as a familial thing, but that they don’t quite own it personally. This classic exploration of the character of God is deeply helpful. It reminds my children that God is for real, and that they must deal with Him, one at a time.
7. Monsters from the Id by E. Michael Jones. Jones, editor of Culture Wars magazine, traces the history of horror fiction from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to Aliens. Why would I want my teens to read that? Because Jones, as is his habit, masterfully weaves the private lives of the creators of these stories with their ideologies and the stories themselves. Reading Jones is like reading Romans 1 unfold before your very eyes as you watch minds given over to depravity bear bitter fruit.
6. Tearing Down Strongholds by the present writer. This has been, by far, my worst selling book. I’m sure it has a plethora of weaknesses, given its author. But it remains among my favorites. The bulk of the book is a bird’s eye look at varying unbelieving epistemologies, systems by which unbelievers build their worldviews. It tests these epistemologies against themselves, and lo, they collapse into absurdity. Good preparation for tangling with the wisdom of this world.
5. The Confessions of Saint Augustine. Part autobiography of likely the most influential Christian since Paul, part exploration of key theological issues, this is the classic of all classics.
4. The Great Divorce by CS Lewis. My favorite book by my favorite writer. Lewis’ great strength is his ability to get us to look into that mirror that exposes what we really are. And then to show us how Jesus is the answer.
3. Biblical Economics by the present writer. Embarrassed to make my own list not once but twice. Not suggesting mine is the best book on economics, but it is, I hope, a good introduction. It lays the groundwork for fruitful future reading, which would include David Chilton’s masterful Productive Christians and Bastiat’s The Law.
2. Evangelicalism Divided by Ian Murray. Why have my teens read a history of evangelicalism in England in the second half of the 20th century? Two reasons. First, to show how movements rise and fall on the character of their leaders, or lack thereof. Second, Ian Murray.
1. Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton. Why would a rabidly anti-Romanism Calvinist insist his teens read a rabidly anti-Calvinism Romanist? Why for all the biblical wisdom of course. That, and the writing. Chesterton was Lewis before Lewis, and clearly Lewis to Lewis. This book, rightly handled, is gold for the soul.
That’s my list. But it need not be yours. I would have no objection if you leave me off your list. A few others may not mean as much to you as they have to me. What these books have in common (save mine which merely aspire to this) was that they opened my eyes to vast new horizons, and dark depths. They showed me how big and brilliant God’s world is, and how small sniveling my heart is. I pray they have and will do the same for all the children God has blessed me with.