My Favorite Books by Madeleine L’Engle
ERB Playlist #5
Compiled by Chris Smith
This is the fifth in an on-going series of “playlists,” in which we recommend books around a particular theme.
“Making a mixtape (or playlist) is the opposite of indifferent. It’s heartfelt, purposeful — often a subtle form of flirtation. … [The playlist] is a way of making yourself known, an interpersonal form of show business, of making news, of replicating sounds and words you find important. It’s like poetry, because poetry is what you can’t say in any other way.”
– David Dark, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything
(Our 2009 Book of the Year. Read our Review…)
*** A Recent essay I wrote on a theology of the playlist…
[ Previous Playlist – # 4 Top Ten Books on Cultivating Gratitude]
*** Watch for more ERB playlists in the coming weeks and months…
In Honor of Madeleine’s birthday today, November 29th…
Madeleine L’Engle has been one of the most significant writers in my formation. Part of that can be attributed to the breadth of her work, and encountering different works in different phases of life and finding that they all moved and challenged me: reading Wrinkle in Time in second grade and the other Time novels, A Ring of Endless Light, and other YA novels over the next couple of years of elementary school; finding comfort in the warmth and grace of her theological reflections during my college years, which eased me into the transition out of the fundamentalism that I had grown up with; and finally turning to her poetry and other novels in the years after college.
Here are my favorite of her works, in order from my very favorite downward. I do offer the caveat that beyond the Time Quintet, and the couple of other novels here, I am not a huge fan of her fiction…
1) Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art [ Buy now: Amazon ]
As a writer, this book is one that I keep coming back to and being challenged by; it is arguably the best reflection on what it means to be both a follower of Christ and an artist.
2) The Time Quintet – [ New Hardcover Box Set – Amazon ]
- A Wrinkle in Time (1963 Newbery Award Winner) – Buy now: [ Amazon // Kindle ]
- A Wind in the Door – Buy now: [ Amazon // Kindle ]
- A Swiftly Tilting Planet – Buy now: [ Amazon // Kindle ]
- Many Waters – Buy now: [ Amazon // Kindle ]
- An Acceptable Time – Buy now: [ Amazon // Kindle ]
This is where most people first connect with L’Engle’s work. I’m still partial to the original three novels, but the latter two are very good as well.
3) The Rock that is Higher: Story As Truth – Buy now: [ Amazon ]
This was my introduction to the possibility of narrative theology. Again, this was one book that particularly resonated with me as I was seeking a faith beyond fundamentalism.
4) The Genesis Trilogy
- And it was Good– Buy now: [ Amazon ]
- A Stone for A Pillow – Buy now: [ Amazon ]
- Sold Into Egypt – Buy now: [ Amazon ]
Again, these books and especially A Stone for a Pillow, were very formational in how I read scripture and laid the foundation for some key changes in my theology.
My favorite novel outside the Time Quintet (and actually probably preferred to the last two books of that series). Ever since I read it for the first time in elementary school, I have loved the dolphins in this story, and how L’Engle explores the relationship between humans and dolphins.
6) A Cry Like A Bell: Poems – Buy now: [ Amazon ]
My favorite volume of Madeleine’s poetry (except perhaps The Ordering of Love, a retrospective anthology, which doesn’t really count).
7) Penguins and Golden Calves: Icons and Idols – Buy now: [ Amazon ]
Another non-fiction work that reflects on the images we use as artists and in everyday life and their theological significance
8) Weather of the Heart: Poems – Buy now: [ Amazon ]
Another excellent collection of poems, many of which are on biblical themes.
9) The Crosswicks Journals
- A Circle of Quiet – Buy now: [ Amazon ]
- The Summer of the Great-Grandmother – Buy now: [ Amazon ]
- The Irrational Season – Buy now: [ Amazon ]
- Two-Part Invention – Buy now: [ Amazon ]
Named for her family’s home in Connecticut, this series offers Madeleine’s rich wisdom about inter-generational family life. The final volume is the story of her marriage to the actor Hugh Franklin.
10) A Live Coal in the Sea: A Novel – Buy now: [ Amazon ]
My favorite of Madeleine’s novels intended for adults.
*** How About You, What are your favorite Madeleine L’Engle Books? ***
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com