I started my Bachelor’s degree as a callow 17-year-old listing my major as Communications. Married the following summer, I dropped out to work full time to support my husband. But for many years I felt the secret ache of that lost opportunity. Every visit to the campus filled me with yearning for learning.
I learned about the Bachelor of General Studies program from BYU just after my first book, The Angel’s Song was published and as my youngest went to school. By then, we were financially established enough that I could earn a degree with no definite earning potential. I had always been an avid reader and believing myself to have potential as an author, I decided to major in English and American Literature. I want to learn what makes great literature great. I wanted to truly communicate ideas with others.
It took me four years of home study to earn the 86 credits I needed to graduate. It was a four-year-revel, swilling in the sea of knowledge and gulping all I could. The most important thing I learned was that I have merely sipped from the ocean of knowledge. My thoughts on the BGS program are best described as reverent gratitude for the difference it made to me.
Part of the result of earning that degree was to develop my personal tests for important literature. I love a good romance, mystery or fantasy, but to make my “important” list, it must have some intriguing idea: a new way of understanding the world. It becomes a love letter from the author to me.
I don’t include the Holy Bible or the Book of Mormon because though they each have elements of great literature, their purpose transcends literature when cherished and studied. They become love letters from God.
This list below includes some titles I loved as a child. In many instances, the favorite title I list represents much of an author’s work.
I’d love for you to add your own titles to the list in the comment section! Or rank your top five or ten from the list. Are there any on my list that surprise you? I know there are some that could.
- Les Miserables (Hugo)
- Unbroken (Hillanbrand)
- The Fountainhead (Rand)
- The Shack (Young)
- The Secret Garden (Burnett)
- Huckleberry Finn (Twain)
- Gifted Hands (Carson)
- Christy (Marshall)
- Our Mutual Friend (Dickens)
- David Copperfield (Dickens)
- All Creatures Great and Small (Series by Herriot)
- The Help (Stockett)
- AnnE of Green Gables (Montgomery)
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Stowe)
- Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Jacobs)
- Tess of D’Ubervilles (Hardy)
- Pride and Prejudice (Austen)
- Sense and Sensibility (Austen)
- Centennial (Michener)
- My Antonia (Cather)
- Oh Pioneers (Cather)
- The Prince and the Pauper (Twain)
- Moby Dick (Melville)
- The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorn)
- To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee)
- My Name is Asher Lev (Potok)
- North and South (Gaskell)
- Wives and Daughters (Gaskell)
- The Pit (Norris)
- The Hiding Place (Ten Boom)
- East of Eden (Steinbeck)
- The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck)
- The Count of Monte Cristo (Dumas)
- Gone with the Wind (Mitchell)
- Ramona (Helen Hunt Jackson)
- Killer Angels (Shaara)
- Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Ford)
- John Adams (McCullough)
- The Lord of the Rings (Tolkein)
- Robin Hood (Pyle)
- Robinson Crusoe (Defoe)
- Little Women (Alcott)
- The Sea Wolf (London)
- The Diaries of Adam and Eve (longish short story by Mark Twain)
- The Scarlet Pimpernel (Baroness Orczy)