At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald. A poor but happy boy is visited by the North Wind and taken on a journey. Through this fantasy, MacDonald helps readers to make sense of pain and suffering.
Smokescreen, by Dick Francis. The narrator is an actor, Edward Lincoln, who is kidnapped and left to die in a gruesome manner. Besides the physical discomfort, Francis also allows readers to see the mental suffering Lincoln endures. Francis’s stories usually include horses, villains, a hero, and a family. Francis’s mysteries never glorify the cruelty of man; the hero, while battered and bruised, always wins; and while sometimes broken, the family is cherished.
The Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, by Sigrid Undset. Set in medieval Norway, this trilogy is about a woman coming to terms with passion and betrayal, and finding happiness and grace through faith in Christ.
While We Still Live, by Helen MacInnes. Set in Poland during Nazi invasion, it tells of the terror of evil and the heroic acts of the underground resistance movement. The intrigue centers on a young English woman and her involvement with friends and her new love. I’d also recommend reading MacInness’s other novels, which are also centered on a fight against tyranny.
The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton. An exciting novel about a small town whose inhabitants are infected with a deadly extraterrestrial microbe. Medical and scientific experts scramble to kill the microbe before the military has to wipe out the town. I’d also recommend other books by Crichcton because through his novels, he warns about manipulating life through biotechnology without considering the consequences.
Coma, by Robin Cook. Set in a hospital, this is a chilling look at what happens when we start denying the sanctity of human life for gain. Some people who go in for minor surgical procedures aren’t waking up from anesthesia.
Hamlet, by William Shakespeare. Claudius has had his brother killed so that he could take the throne and his wife. Prince Hamlet finds out about the adultery and murder and seeks revenge. It’s a tale about sin and its tragic consequences.
The Moon-Spinners, by Mary Stewart. This suspense novel also includes a touch of romance. Stewart writes vividly about the Greek isles, particularly Agios Georgios, in this story about a young woman who stumbles upon an attempted murder. Stewart told stories about ordinary people who would fight for what is right.
The Merlin Trilogy: The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment, by Mary Stewart. Since then, so many other Arthurian works have been produced, but back in those days, only these and T.H. White's The Once and Future King (also good) were really prominent.
Mary Stewart's trilogy was particularly good because it didn't rely on a lot of bells and whistles or even hocus pocus to present the narrator, Merlin. Stewart did a lot of research into the original legends and came up with a Merlin who was not that much older than Arthur, more like an older brother than an aging sorcerer. This Merlin was more of a counselor to the king, who
used his wits to outfox Arthur's enemies.
As a result, the whole trilogy seemed more realistic, and Stewart's flow as a writer, her descriptions, and her command of a compelling plot made these books places you wanted to get back to right away.
I loved anything by Edgar Allan Poe.
The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, was a favorite.
The Anne of Green Gables series, by L. M. Montgomery. Before I caught Dickens fever, these were my favorite books. Anne still holds a very special place in my heart.
A Tale of Two Cities/Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. And then I caught Dickens fever, thanks to these two books. (Now conveniently packaged in one volume! Or you can buy them separately here and here.)
An Old-Fashioned Girl, by Louisa May Alcott. As heroine Polly Milton learns to be true to herself and her convictions, she’s a great role model for girls who feel that they don't quite fit in with the crowd. I prefer this book to Alcott’s Little Women (though the latter is good in its own way).
Now it's your turn! Tell us about the books that you and/or your kids loved when you were teens.