Choose one of these novels to read in your own time over the course of the unit. As you read, reflect on…
- How this book engages with the topic of faith.
- How the understanding you gain from this book might be different from the kind of knowledge you could acquire in other ways (e.g. by reading a history book, by watching a movie, by talking to people).
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho (1988)
translated from Portuguese by Alan R. Clarke
Paulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest.
The Book of Strange New Things – Michel Faber (2014)
It begins with Peter, a devoted man of faith, as he is called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him galaxies away from his wife, Bea. Peter becomes immersed in the mysteries of an astonishing new environment, overseen by an enigmatic corporation known only as USIC. His work introduces him to a seemingly friendly native population struggling with a dangerous illness and hungry for Peter’s teachings—his Bible is their “book of strange new things.” But Peter is rattled when Bea’s letters from home become increasingly desperate: typhoons and earthquakes are devastating whole countries, and governments are crumbling.
The Heart of the Matter – Graham Greene (1948)
Scobie is a highly principled officer in a war-torn West African state. When he is passed over for promotion he is forced to borrow money to send his despairing wife away on a holiday.
In her absence he falls hopelessly in love with Helen, a young widow, and his life is transformed by the experience. With a duty to repay his debts and an inability to distinguish between love, pity, and responsibilty to others and to God, Scobie moves inexorably to his final damnation.
The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene (1940)
In a poor, remote section of Southern Mexico, the paramilitary group, the Red Shirts have taken control. God has been outlawed, and the priests have been systematically hunted down and killed. Now, the last priest is on the run. Too human for heroism, too humble for martyrdom, the nameless little worldly “whiskey priest” is nevertheless impelled toward his squalid Calvary as much by his own compassion for humanity as by the efforts of his pursuers.
Siddhartha – Herman Hesse (1922)
translated from German by Hilda Rosner
In the novel, Siddhartha, a young man, leaves his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound. This sound signals the true beginning of his life—the beginning of suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom.
Life of Pi – Yann Martel (2001)
Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. The protagonist, Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, a Tamil boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
At once a fiendishly devious mystery, a beguiling love story, and a brilliant symposium on the power of art, My Name Is Red is a transporting tale set amid the splendor and religious intrigue of sixteenth-century Istanbul, from one of the most prominent contemporary Turkish writers.
(book summaries from Goodreads)