Best of Books for an Avid Reader
I like to think of myself as a 'great reader', or someone who purveys much literature, and attempts to find books outside the pop culture circle. Owning well over a thousand books, one could argue that maybe I've read enough to know what I'm talking about. While some books are fun to read quickly on a lazy summer day and are quickly forgotten, there are other books that leave you thinking about it for eons after. Books that tickle the mind, often leave you crying or upset at the end (maybe, simply because the book ended!), or you would read a thousand times and is always your answer to 'which book would you take if you were stranded on an island'. Over the years, this is a list of books that I consider to be a classic or worthy read, one that will engage you during and make you think about it after, and are for those that truly revel in the art of storytelling.
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
A book split between two different worlds; in one, a girl is sent to live with her father, dealing with a depression and the anger of the loss of her younger brother. Her absent father determined a trip is the answer and the break-through with the discovery of a heart that might be the heart of the Lost Dauphin from when Marie Antoinette and her family were sentenced to the guillotine set the stage for the novel. Dealing with the mystery of the boy that was never found again, the main protagonist Andi Alpers finds her father's place in Paris to be a mixture of ghosts and bad memories. But when she finds the old journal of a teenage girl named Alexandrine that is just as emotional as she, but lived during the French Revolution, soon Andi's world and Alexandrine's clash and Andi finds herself caught in a war centuries before her own time. The ending is chilling, and will leave you staring at the final words with the feeling of triumph at the connections made, but at the same time aghast at outcome. I still, years after reading, reply the final sentences of the novel through my head...a haunting mantra that relates to many things in life we cannot control.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
If you were like me, and found the Iliad tedious and a bit more than difficult to get through when you read it, the twist on the classic that Miller creates may be more up your alley. Miller masterfully weaves the tale of love between Patrocles and Achilles that the reader of the Iliad only sees for brief moments. It's a book that you read knowing will make you cry, as the ending for both heroes are clearly outlined by the original epic, but you can't help but fall in love with their story and the characters she breathes a new life into.
"Name one hero who was happy....you can't."
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
Although this is a book I read back in my 7th-grade English class, it's good to go back to some of the stories that although are read at a simpler level, seven years later still are floating around in the back of your mind. Set during the summit of 'Greasers', an curiously-named cast of young men try to survive in a violent world, between pressures and the elite class of men called the 'Socs'. After one night of murder, Ponyboy begins to figure out that pain is felt the same, whatever side you might call yourself.
Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
While there are many Jodi Picoult books, each as enchanting and as thought-provoking as the last, Leaving Time is one in particular that I am still dumbfounded and pained about months after reading it. A young and curious girl who has been raised by her grandmother has only ever wanted to find her mother- who was believed to have died after disappearing from a hospital after a bloody incident at an Elephant sanctuary. Her father has been unstable for years, so young Jenny teams up with a retired cop and a out-of-work medium to locate her mother. With a surprise twist at the end, you'll be going back to re-read the book to pick up on everything you missed the first time around!
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Another book that most children have read by the time they hit high-school, this dystopian society based book deals with a community so afraid of pain and the idea of living, that the very basic principals of what we consist around- love, family, fun- have essentially been taken away, leaving the world in black and white. They entrust one member of society to hold all the memories, good and bad, for the whole population. When young Jonas is chosen to be the next to hold those memories, his mentor 'the Giver' shows him a world of pain and grief and war, but also of love and happiness, leaving Jonas with an important choice of where to go from there.
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
This is a modern classic, and probably my favorite books of all times, even if it is a little clichéd. If you have never read these books, or heard of them, I might ask if you've been living under a rock! Regardless, it holds a fond place on any book-list of mine. When Harry discovers on his 11th birthday he is a wizard, he enters a world of magic and sorcery. But danger lurks around every corner, as an evil wizard named Voldemort returns...more dangerous than his first time around. These books go farther than any single thought; there are allegories to the bible and to Hitler, philosophical teachings, and thoughts on friendship and loyalty that even adults can find a reason for it to be worth reading.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
A haunting story about a young girl named Cadence who hails from 'old-world money' dealing with strange gaps in her memories. Every year, her family meets at her grandparent's house to spend the summer, but shockingly, this year, Cadence finds things to be much different than what she always recalled, although she can't figure out why. Even her four best friends- cousins and a love interest- seem different this year, and mixed in with her amnesia, Cadence is sure that whatever happened during her fifteenth summer at the house changed everything...but no one will tell her why. The truth behind one fateful summer night is a stunner that will leave you speechless right along with Cadence.
Night By Elie Wiesel
A true novel not for the faint of heart, written and translated into English by Elie- a brave soul who survived through the Holocaust. In the novel, you dive into the awfulness of Hitler's regime, following Elie through the loss of his family, the hardships of the concentration camps, and finally on the final march that led most Jewish prisoners to death. The triumph of Elie's survival is bittersweet, and is a worthwhile and highly recommended read for those that enjoy historical novels or anyone with enough heart to bear the tragedy that Elie withstood.
Gone Series by Michael Grant
An extremely long series- great if you're looking for a fun summer read, but something that will undoubtedly take up your whole summer- Michael Grant creates his own world within our own that is constantly changing.
One day, all the adults disappeared. Just vanish. Anyone over fourteen is spared, but it leaves the children in a placed called the FAYZ- or 'Fallout Alley Youth Zone', aptly named for a nuclear disaster that happened a few years ago. With a dome keeping the community of children in the town and dealing with mutations of animals and children with super-powers, Sam and Astrid must face the troubles of running a village, keeping people alive, and conquer a growing darkness that comes nearer everyday. Reminiscent of 'Lord of the Flies', the Gone Series is gory, disturbing, and yet leave you wanting more.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Set in the Roaring 20's, this timeless tale deals with the lavishness of the era, a mysterious character named Jay Gatsby, and his love- Daisy- and his plight to win her back and try to relive the past to change the future.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A curious tale of a man who returns to the city where a murder took place 27 years ago, determined to find out what really happened. The murder of Santiago Nasar, told throughout the town, for apparently dirtying the virginity of a bride might not be exactly what it seems to be. Told in a fashion of each chapter further in the past, the narrator begins to unravel the events leading up to his death and figure out if Santiago was truly guilty.
The Count of the Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
A long tale dealing with one of the most interesting (at least to me!) tropes in story-telling; a man who believes he needs to dole out karma himself, because God or a great being has not what he believes to be just, and through this plight, a descent into madness. A young man wrongfully imprisoned escapes and amasses a fortune, only to return to find his former wife married to another becomes obsessed with using his power and wealth to punish those that wronged him in his past life and winning back the love of the beautiful Mercedes.
Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba
The token book on the list that's not a 'book' for those that don't like to read, but are reading this list anyway. This manga series also deals with a young man who finds himself in the opinion he has been chosen to choose who is worthy to live and who to die. When Light discovers a mysterious black note-book on the ground, he soon learns that by writing the name of anyone in the lines, and with a cause of death (the default being heart-attack), he can kill people with the swipe of his pen. Meanwhile, the astute 'L' attempts to reveal who is behind the killings as the numbers of Light's victims grow and grow.
The Cirque Du Freak Series by Darren Shan
If you saw the move version of the first novel, The Vampire's Apprentice, you might be cringing at the thought of ever reading these books. Trust me, I know...the movie was awful. The books themselves, although intended for a younger crowd, deal with many philosophical questions and topics such as fate or destiny, the ability to change your role, karma, the afterlife, good vs. evil, and how one has to deal with the sins done to merely survive.
Darren Shan and Steve Leopold are best friends, and attend a freak-show together where Steve figures out one of the strange actors is in fact a vampire. After asking to be turned to one, and rejected, Darren makes a deal to make sure his friend is not killed for what he knows...by becoming a vampire himself. The book takes Darren away from his family and to the freak-show group, and he soon realizes that there's much more about vampires and the feud that now is placed upon his shoulders, all the while facing his best friend-turned enemy in the battle of century.
The Sun Also Rises Ernest Hemmingway
I can appreciate most books I don't like, as for this one, and this is one that although I did not like it, should not scare away anyone from trying to read it!
The novel is done in Hemmingway’s minimal writing style, and deals with the 'Lost Generation' or the artists and writers that after WW1 are left wandering around with the feeling that their prime was stolen from them. The protagonist follows his girl all over Europe, while trying to reconcile with the injuries he sustained from the war that leave him undesirable to his intended interest.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard
This is a novel, or play, once again for those that read Hamlet during their school days or on their own and found it only 'so-so'. Following and fleshing out two minor characters in Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is hilarious pair that, although instructed to follow Hamlet’s odd behavior and report back to his father, is always one step behind the action. Although a comedy, this play does have some heartfelt moments, some somber moments, and even depressing moments.
Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson
If you saw the move 'Memento' and were a fan, this book will certainly pique your interest. A psychological thriller, it deals with a young woman who can only remember up until the mid-20's in her life, and after an awful accident, looses the ability to create new memories. Waking up each morning and realizing she's now an older woman is difficult, so she beings to write a journal to figure out and remind herself of her life now and what has happened since. But, as she begin to write and piece things together each morning, she realizes that even with her problem, there are holes that are too big to be left unfilled and memories that don't exactly match up to reality, and it becomes a story of self-discovery, but more importantly, the discovery of who you cannot trust.
Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman
16-year-old Eon has been training all his life with his master with the hopes of being chosen as an apprentice by one of the wise dragons of good fortune. If so, he will be bonded to the animal and have power and magic and a force like no other human has, and there are those that would do nothing to use it for darker things.
And Eon has a secret...she's actually Eona, a girl pretending to be a boy, as only males are allowed to bond with the dragons. When Eon is picked by a dragon that has been missing for years, and is said to be the most powerful of all the dragons, her secret puts everyone in danger...including the heir to the Chinese Throne.
The Abandon Series by Meg Cabot
Out of all Meg Cabot's books, which is a nice read when I want something 'girly', but not too obnoxiously 'lovey-dovey' the Underworld Series is a great choice. Imbedded with Greek mythology, Cabot creates a love-story in the present with roots in the past, sure to please any historical-loving girl.
Pierce should have died. Or, she did, but now she's alive again. And it all happened on the very island she's forced back to live on. There, she meets the keeper of the Underworld, John Hayden, who will not forget how she escaped death once. Peirce is not so sure he'll let her escape again...a modern twist to the love story of Hades and Persephone.
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
A novel for a high-level reader, although difficult is a great novel with many different faucets of understanding and meaning. Set during European Imperialism, Charles Marlow sets about a steamer down into the deep jungles of Africa with the promise that by transitioning the 'local savages' to Christ, they are doing everyone a favor. As the journey begins, Marlow begins to hear of a curious fellow named Mister Kurtz, whose legends of triumphs over the indigenous people are almost too fantastical to believe. Marlow slowly becomes obsessed with meeting him, but at the same time, begins to see the truth behind the people that live in Africa and question the quest of colonialism and the ramifications behind it.
So, while I don't expect someone to love all the books on here (even I didn't like a book on there!) I hope that anyone whose been looking for a worthwhile book recently found one within my little list!