A couple of weeks ago, I listed 20 favorite works of fiction. I thought that I would list (in no particular order), the works of non-fiction that have had the most sustained meaning for me over time:
1. A History of Rome by Michael Grant. A comprehensive and easily-read history of the Romans that I always keep close at hand.
2. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. An imminently useful book. Even if you find Machiavelli's methods or advice loathsome, be aware that those around you are using them.
3. The Art of War by Sun-Tzu. As with The Prince, Sun-Tzu offers us practical advice about how to deal with real world conflict, such as "There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare."
4. The Confessions by Saint Augustine. Even in translation, Augustine's skills as a wordsmith who cut at the heart of the human experience. One of my favorite lines: "One day, I was called upon to give a speech in praise of the emperor. In it I told many a lie and for my lies I was praised by men who knew that I was lying."
5. The Bible. For obvious reasons.
6. The Lost Art of Listening by Michael Nichols. This has been, to me, the single-most influential in seminary. Nichols explains how it is so easy to not listen to others. This book has made me a better pastor, friend, and husband.
7. The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius. Lady Philosophia is (usually) a welcome visitor in the midst of our sorrows, I have found, as she was for the imprisoned Boethius.
8. Webster's New World Thesaurus. A good thesaurus is a critical tool for any writer, and this one, I found, was organized properly and provided very sound choices. A great reference book.
9. The Human Adventure by Cappalluti and Grossman. This was my older brother's 8th grade world history textbook, and what a gem of textbook it was: chronologically and geographically balanced, well-chosen topics, clearly-written, but intellectually challenging.
10. The Fondue Book by Ed Callahan. My favorite type of food to make is fondue, and this book was my introduction to the craft.