Moby Dick, by Herman Melville: A vast and sprawling narrative with a tightly wound core. As fine a cautionary tale as I’ve ever read.
Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: The author Jim Harrison remarked to me that he was told once to read this book so he might never be lonely, for he would always have much to think on.
An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser: Despite it’s significant shortcomings in style, prose, and intent, this work heaves with pride, envy, anger, and the issues of the day–abortion, capital punishment, and immorality. Truly proof that in 1900 as well as today, there is nothing new under the sun.
The Black Arrow, by Robert Louis Stevenson: I could have chosen Kidnapped, David Balfour, or Treasure Island. The imagination Stevenson can fire in a child may well last a lifetime.
The Old Testament book of Isaiah: Throughout the rich imagery and solemn pronouncements the Redeemer shines forth.
Remembered Past, by John Lukacs: In the world of academic writing, this book is a most welcome reprieve, devoid of fantastical theories and dangerous ideologies.
Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo: Skip the movie, read the book. Find the story of grace within.
Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan.
The Brave Cowboy, by Edward Abbey.
Elements of Style, by Strunk and White: Language is a gift with an order. The ability to create great beauty springs from that order.
Short stories: Breece DJ Pancake, Raymond Carver, and Ernest Hemingway–abrupt, brutal, and desperate glances into the world of shadows. Mark Helprin, Flannery O’Connor, and Annie Dillard–the search for the sublime amidst the sadness of a fallen world.
Books mentioned in this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.
Matthew White is a native of Detroit but makes his home in the Rocky Mountain West, where his heart resides. He is a graduate of Hillsdale College and holds a Master’s degree in history from Montana State University.