Fr Tim has tagged me: it doesn't often happen, so I'll make the most of it. I've gone beyond the list in some cases, because I can't limit myself to three, and I've added a couple of categories.
If Fr Michael Brown can absent himself from the murmurings of the forest for a bit, I'd love to see his choices.
Three fiction books everyone should read:
1) Lord of the Rings J.R.R.Tolkien
2) The Sword of Honour Trilogy, Evelyn Waugh
3) All Glorious Within, by Bruce Marshall
I have been an enthusiast for LOTR since the 1970s; this is not a bandwagon choice. Having read English (and Music) at University, I have quite lost my taste for a lot of ‘good’ literature—at least, that written before the 20th century. From this I honourably except Geoffrey Chaucer, Wm Shakespeare, Kit Marlowe and the Brontës. There is a great deal of 20th century stuff I like, however. My choice of three above is no suggestion that they were better than Shakespeare &co; simply that they had an influence on me one way or another.
Three non-fiction books everyone should read:
1) The Stripping of the Altars, Eamon Duffy
2) From the Holy Mountain, William Dalrymple
3) Dean Farrar’s Lives of the Fathers
4) Goodbye to All That, Robert Graves
5) Ackroyd’s life of Thomas More
Farrar may well seem a strange choice. He was a 19th Century Dean of Westminster Abbey, I think, but he writes wonderfully vividly about these great figures of the distant past. What is rather amusing is his utterly prejudiced Anglicanism: he really believes that all those Fathers were Prayerbook-Anglicans. Writing of Ignatius of Antioch (d.c.112) he might say 'and here we see the beginnings of that terrible Roman perversion of the true apostolic doctrine', without a blush or a hesitation. And you could almost imagine Athanasius kissing his wife and children before going off to Alexandria Cathedral for Evensong, where the choir sang Sumsion in A. But Farrar is a really good read if you want to get to know the fathers. Long out of print, of course; you'd need to scour Abebooks.com.
Three authors everyone should read:
2) Ronald Knox
3) Evelyn Waugh
4) John Henry Newman
5) Fr Faber
6) Arthur Ransome
No, don't rub your eyes. I did put Fr Faber on the list. His writing has been much reviled, and this has prejudiced people against him. Try Spiritual Conferences or Growth in Holiness. They are wonderful; though his prose is dated, he has an intelligent knowledge of human nature coupled with holiness and a great lucidity of expression. Oh, and I still read Arthur Ransome.
Three authors that I can’t get on with (but would like to be able to).
1) Oscar Wilde
3) Hilaire Belloc
4) Jane Austen
With Wilde and Chesterton, it’s the constant parade of paradoxes. I feel something is being slipped past me because it sounds clever but actually isn’t true at all, except I’m not bright enough to spot it. It is a terrible admission about GKC: I feel I’m not really a Catholic!
Three films everyone should see
1) Babette’s Feast
2) A Man for all Seasons
3) Branagh’s film of Much Ado about Nothing