Penguin’s lists and categories are (mostly) all about sin, degradation, and sadness. Because I am so ingenious and clever, I combined some categories (decadence and debauchery, subversion and rebellion) and freed two categories for which I can create my own topics. I’m not sure if the editors at Penguin classics are fond of conversion stories, but I am as long as they’re done well. In the following books the author tells a powerfully moving story of a character who is reborn in the Biblical sense, from death to life.
Confessions by St. Augustine. I’ve not actually read all of St. Augustine’s spiritual autobiograpy, but I have read excerpts. This book constitutes the most famous and most admired Christian conversion story.
The Brothers Karamazov by Feodor Doestoyevsky. Alyosha accepts the mercy of God in spite of the intellectual questioning and emotional temptations that he shares with his two brothers.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I was plannning to put this book, my favorite novel of all, in the Best Heroes category, but I decided that there is no better picture of redemption in literature than that of the bishop who forgives Valjean his theft and charges him to live for God. Still, Valjean is a slave to the Law, pursued by Javert. Valjean doesn’t truly become free until he forgives and frees Javert.
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. The devil Wormwood cannot keep his patient from receiving salvation; nor can seriously undermine the faith that in growing within the man to whom he is assigned. But he tries.
In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden. I recently rediscovered this book that follows the journey of Phillippa, who first becomes a faithful Catholic and then is led to a vocation as a nun in an enclosed order. It’s a beautiful story, rather matter of fact in some aspects, but deeply spiritual at the same time.