Last updated: May 2021

Franz Kafka once wrote: “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.”

In my podcast episode “Ice and Axes – What Makes a Favorite?”, I gave Kafka’s words some lengthy thought and concluded they make a lot of sense.  I’ve since abandoned having “favorites” and resolved to evaluate books in this new light.  When I read now, I see if a book a) gives me a new idea, b) causes me think about an old idea in a new way, or c) changes my life in some other way.  This is how I personally define an “axe” book.

The books below comprise a partial list of my fictional “axes.”  Some of them are carryovers from my old favorites list, while others – not quite fitting the “favorite” label – have still impacted me.

My “Axe” Novels – a non-exhaustive list in no precise order:

7 thoughts on “Axes”

  1. Til We Have Faces is on my list for someday. The Idiot is one Dostoevsky I haven't heard of — I have read only _Crime & Punishment_/_The Brothers Karamazov_/_Notes from Underground_. _Notes_ is the one I remember best probably because I have read it more recently than the others.Is there any chance you will revisit the ones that don't have reviews? I would be interested to see what you think.


  2. A wonderful list! I too appreciate Tolkien for the grandeur of his vision. I enjoy Sherlock Holmes who shall always be my favorite fictional detective (and it’s interesting to note Sherlock was largely based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s experiences as a physician and especially on one of his med school professors named Joseph Bell). Joseph Conrad, Franz Kafka and especially Fyodor Dostoyevsky speak to my existential angst, and the latter seeks to transcend it through his saint as a living sacrament of sorts. Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson are studies in thrilling boys’ adventure stories, at least for me. And I daresay few can hold a candle to my bright joy for all things CS Lewis. For what it’s worth, if anything, here’s a list of my favorite books. And you might enjoy this review of Christian literature penned by a dear friend of mine, “A twice-told tale” (Steve Hays).


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