The Virtus Summer Reading List

In 1727, Benjamin Franklin established the first Junto club for the purpose of getting people together to discuss morals, politics, philosophy, and business. They liked to swap books and share ideas. So, in the spirit of the Junto and with a respectful nod to Laura who e-mailed me with the idea of creating a summer reading list based on my favorite Virtus-themed characters (both fantasy and not), I present the following. These are my favorite clean books and most I have read more than once. By way of clarification, a Virtus character doesn’t have to always start out that way. Sometimes the best characters show a personal journey to Virtus.

The Elfstones of Shannara


Virtus characters: Will Ohmsford (a healer who gives up his life goal to help protect an Elven girl who must save the world), Amberle Elessedil (the girl needing protection), Ander Elessedil (the Elven prince who rallies the homeland against a Demon horde), and Allanon (mystic Druid who sacrifices much to save the Four Lands). The first three Shannara books all have strong Virtus themes, but this is my favorite.

Lord of the Rings


Virtus characters: Frodo and Sam (two Hobbits who give up the Shire to help save the world), Aragorn (studly guy…Viggo nailed him), Faramir of Gondor. The films have become my all-time favorites. The books are good too.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia)


Virtus characters: Lucy (already one) & Edmund (who becomes one). Most people know this story…it’s pretty clear it’s a favorite of mine too. Aslan, of course, rocks as the best kind of Virtus character as he sacrifices himself to save Edmund.

The Black Cauldron (The Chronicles of Prydain)


Virtus characters: Gwydion (the hero everyone admires), Ellidyr (who becomes one). The story-arc of the five Prydain  books is one of my favorites, especially the love story between Taran and Eilonwy and how they become Virtus characters themselves by the decisions they make in the last book. Disney ruined The Black Cauldron with their animated film. Don’t bother with it. The first book in the series is The Book of Three and it’s my least favorite, but important to read in order to understand the plot and the main characters. The Cauldron Born are just terrifying!



Virtus characters: Kendra Sorenson (one of the lead characters), Grandpa Sorenson (great man…he’s a gem), Patton Burgess and Lena (love their story!). I love Brandon Mull’s villains. This is a series that kept me guessing and turning the pages late into the night. Has a strong Virtus theme. Even Seth (Kendra’s younger brother who gets into trouble throughout) eventually gets a bit of Virtus by the end, though it takes five books to get him there.

The Ill-Made Mute (Bitterbynde Trilogy)


Virtus characters: Imrhien (who goes by many names throughout the trilogy) is a great Virtus character, despite the amnesia. Thorn (a Dainnan ranger), definitely. I also liked some of the cast, like Sianadh, as a Virtus character despite being somewhat of a pirate. Great love story in this series, which I won’t spoil, and a great Virtus theme. Cecilia Dart-Thornton’s writing may not be for everyone (I needed a dictionary as I read it!), but it will expand your vocabulary and her world is incredibly inventive and interesting.

Peter and the Starcatchers


Virtus characters: Peter and Molly (the main characters) are wonderful together. Lord Aster (Molly’s dad) is also a great Virtus character. Great re-imagination of the Peter Pan mythology and an awesomely chilling villain starting in book 2.

Harry Potter Series


Virtus characters: Harry’s parents, of course. Harry, Ron, and Hermione too. Professor Dumbledore, naturally. There are many in this series and the entire plot was a Virtus theme. One of my all-time favorites as well.

The Belgariad


Virtus characters: Most of the main cast of characters have Virtus elements, especially Garion, Polgara, and Belgarath. This band of fun (and funny) characters try to save the world from an evil god. I was entranced by this series, but did not enjoy the sequel (The Malloreon) or follow-ons as much. It was too repetitive with the original material.

Non-Fantasy Books

Jane Austen’s books


Virtus characters: I find Virtus themes throughout Austen’s books and in my opinion it is what makes her characters so memorable. My favorites are P&P, Emma, Sense & Sensibility, Persuasion, and Mansfield Park. Darcy, Jane Bennett, Colonel Brandon, Elinor Dashwood, Mr Knightly, so many great Virtus characters! Love watching these on DVD as well and I have most of her books from Librivox on my iPod.


Jane Eyre


Virtus characters: Jane (a quintessential Virtus character). Diana and Mary Rivers also. This is one of my favorite books. Jane’s strength and refusal to give in to Edward Rochester makes this a classic in my mind. The Timothy Dalton version is the best film version I’ve seen.


The Ladies’ Paradise


Virtus characters: Denise Baudu (the lead character). I read this book in college and fell in love with the plot and story. It reminds me a bit of Jane Eyre, where Denise is incorruptible and eventually influences Mr Mouret and changes him.

The Secret Garden


Virtus characters: Mary Lennox becomes one. So does Colin. Great book.

A Little Princess


Virtus characters: Sara Crewe is one from the start and remains one. This book always makes me cry. I’m a big fan of Francis Hodgson Burnett.

Seven Little Australians


Virtus characters: Judy (who becomes one). Great little story with amazing character development. Judy is a pistol at first, but by the end, she is an amazing character. Learned about this book from Librivox as well.

Great Expectations


Virtus characters: Dickens’ characters are more subtle. Joe the blacksmith is a great Virtus character. So is Magwitch. Pip slowly, very slowly, becomes one. A favorite of mine since high school. I’m also really fond of Dickens’ Bleak House though I’ve only seen the miniseries and haven’t found time to read it yet. Great film with plenty of Virtus themes in it (Esther Summerson and John Jarndyce are great Virtus characters).

North and South


Virtus characters: Margaret Hale and John Thornton, the two main characters. The book is great, the miniseries is even better. Love the chemistry between Richard Armitage (Thornton) and Daniela Denby-Ashe (Margaret). There are Virtus themes throughout the book. It’s Pride & Prejudice meets Les Miserables.

To Kill a Mockingbird


Virtus characters: Atticus Finch. This one comes from my wife and this is her all-time favorite book. I don’t even know how many copies we’ve owned, she keeps reading them to death. Atticus is the personification of Virtus.

This was my list of clean Virtus-themed books. In the spirit of Franklin’s Junto, please add a ‘comment’ and include your favorites too and why you think the characters are so!

Have a great summer!

A Manifesto on Virtue: Read Here!

Jeff Wheeler

Jeff Wheeler

Wall Street Journal bestselling author of over forty epic fantasy novels.

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1 Comment

  • sally hooley demicke says:

    It’s funny I have read 95% of those books. The first was the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe wwhen I was in 9th grade. The next was The Hobbit. But as a child my favorite book was The Secret Garden. I. Also love the movie with Liz Taylor. Same with Jane Eyre. But one series you should read is The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant by Steven Donaldson. As. Good as Tolkein or Lewis. I escaped into it between college semesters in the early 80’s. Anyway I loved this trilogy. I like a strong independent heroine great job Jeff! I couldn’t stop reading I tore through all three in five days and actually stayed up all night last night to finish the last book. Can’t wait to read more from you Jeff. 5*. Sally

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