Imagine that a local philanthropist is hosting an event for local high school students and has asked you to pick out five to ten books to hand out as door prizes. At least one book should be funny and at least one book should provide some history of Western Civilization and at least one book should have some regional connection. The philanthropist doesn't like foul language (but will allow some four-letter words in context, such as expressed during battle by soldiers). Otherwise things are pretty wide open. What do you pick?
No restrictions on whether I actually own the book, or whether it's in print?
All right. Since we're giving these books to high school students, I'd give them some books to help them use their brains. Richard Mitchell's Graves of Academe to help them sniff out verbal and educational garbage; Terry Glaspey's Great Books of the Christian Tradition (or the newer version that has a different title) so that they'll know what other books they're missing; Mathsemantics: Making Numbers Talk Sense, by Edward MacNeal (or some other similar book, but I do have Mathsemantics and I'm slowly working my way through it); and Lee Strobel's The Case for a Creator, to help them ask good questions in science classes.
For Western culture, I'd hand out Philip Yancey's Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church. Not so much for the church issue, but for the excellent essays on people like G.K. Chesterton, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and John Donne (written in the context of a funeral for an AIDS victim).
To get their priorities in order, I'd give them Edith Schaeffer's What is a Family? Also I'd give out a copy of Material World, by Peter Menzel; that's the one where families all over the world put their belongings on their front lawns and let Menzel's crew take a picture of them with their stuff. I know it's ten years old but it's still what people would call an eye-opener. He has a new book coming out called What the World Eats. [Update: the title has been changed to Hungry Planet; it still hasn't been released, but you can read about it on Amazon here.]
For humour, something by Chesterton–-maybe The Man Who Was Thursday, since I just finished reading it and I think my own just-turned-teenager should read it too.
For regional interest, I'd choose a book on Canadian culture and literature by Northrop Frye--either The Modern Century or The Bush Garden (a book of essays and reviews on Canadian poetry). Or maybe a biography by John English--he has written several important books about former Prime Ministers of Canada.
And for all-purpose education and entertainment, a volume of Shakespeare’s plays.
Who's next to be tagged? Mama Squirrel picks Coffeemamma at Our Blue Castle.