As part of this blog, I’ve decided to do periodic “Favorite Things” posts. No, I don’t secretly think I’m Oprah and this is my annual favorite things episode (“You get a car… YOU get a car!”). I just really enjoy reviewing things and I think these sorts of posts are fun. Because I consider myself a writer, at least in some sense, what better way to start than by presenting by 5 of my favorite books?
Without further ado, and in no particular order, here we go…
Running Out of Time, by Margaret Peterson Haddix – This is the story of a young girl literally living in two different worlds, and having to come to terms with the fact that things aren’t always what they seem, and that sometimes we have to rise above our own personal limitations to be a beacon for others. This was probably the first book I read that actually kept me engaged, and in effect harvested my love for reading. I read it when I was in the fourth grade; I had a lot of friends who really enjoyed reading books and always talked about how much fun reading was, but I had never quite experienced that feeling. But then I started reading this book. I don’t even remember why I chose it – I imagine it was just a random library selection to fulfill the quarterly requirement set forth by my teacher. I started the book, not really expecting a whole lot, and before I knew it I was hooked. It was so well written – very complex for youth fiction – and I just couldn’t put it down. I could see it all playing out in my head like a movie. I was so proud of myself when I finished it, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on my next read.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling – This book is representative of an entire series which consumed most of my free time during my adolescent years. I was a little late to the HP bandwagon (I didn’t start the series until well after the first four installments had been released), but as soon as I jumped on, I was on for good. There are so many things I can say about this series…it was well-written, it was complex, it was intriguing, it was inspiring, it was morally guiding, the characters were so developed I felt like I knew each of them personally, each book left me thirsty for more of the story and I couldn’t wait to get a hold of the next one and begin tearing through the pages…but I think the best, most complimentary adjective I can give is that it was defining. All seven installments of the jigsaw puzzle that is Harry Potter are definitive of an entire generation of kids who begged their parents to take them to Barnes and Noble at unreasonable hours of the night, just so they could get an advanced copy of the next piece. The books will be timeless, sure, but I feel especially lucky to have been one of the original Gryffindors who had the chance to enjoy the books at their finest.
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury – I know, we have all had to read this book. And yes, I know, we all have the same things to say about the symbolism, the imagery, the foreshadowing into another generation not unlike our own presented by Bradbury. But that is precisely why it has made my list. What a genius Bradbury is! At the risk of sounding cliche, he was so ahead of his time (yes, I said it), and I appreciate this book so much for forcing me to think outside of the box and examine some of my own tendencies, beliefs, and practices. That’s just a model recipe for a great book – years, no decades later, this novel is still relevant, and it has withstood the test of time. In a world where technology advances literally everyday, this dated work is still being used to teach us lessons, and it really makes us think about ourselves and our decisions and the impact that our actions have not only on ourselves, but on our society.
Burned Alive, by Souad – As of the date of this posting, I have read this book twice. The first was out of curiosity, and the second was for academic purposes. Each time, I received the book from a different perspective and took away something new. This non-fiction, autobiographical work by the author (who writes under a pseudo-name) gives the reader a first-hand look into the life of a young girl living in a male-dominated, middle eastern culture. If nothing else, the book has overall made me appreciate the freedoms and liberties I take for granted everyday. It is an eye-opener to what it really means to be “discriminated” against, or treated differently based on sex. After just the first few pages I became lost in Souad’s story, and it was so intricate and thoughtful that I found myself second guessing its placement in the non-fiction genre. It is mind boggling that one person can go through everything recounted by Souad, and maintain a positive outlook on life and family.
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Yes, another great American classic (insert eye-roll here), but really, this story has everything: love, friendship, money, scandal, murder, fashion, and extravagant parties. I love this book, not because of its complexities or character development or plot lines (in all of which it is surprisingly lacking, in comparison with its counterparts in the same category), but because of the sheer glamour and elegance and poise that is Gatsby’s world. This story epitomizes the American Dream in such a way that, when we read it, we long to be apart of it. We cast aside the moral flaws and closed-mindedness of the central characters (save the narrator) and invite ourselves into their world, just to have a small taste of it. I love this book because the author succeeded in harnessing the deepest, most primal human desires – love, riches, popularity, lust, acceptance – and breaking them down and assigning them characters which we can all identify with, even decades later. Because of this, The Great Gatsby is timeless and will always be one of my top fives.
Bossypants, by Tina Fey – It is my firm belief that all women ages 22 – 29 should be issued a copy of this book and required to keep it on her person at all times. I’ve both read the novel and listened to the audio version of this book (which is an experience I *highly* recommend, as it is narrated by Ms. Fey herself) multiple times and, each time, I take away something new. There’s something very relatable and refreshing about the way Tina relays things, it makes me feel like maybe I’m not such an awkward, average-looking failure after all. I can’t say too much without giving away the fun, so just go read (or listen to) the book!