Ever since I was in kindergarten, I’ve been an avid reader. I was one of only two students who could read long chapter books in my kindergarten class. I tested 22+ on the first grade reading test, meaning there was no level for how high I fell as a skilled reader. Comprehension is my skill, and enjoyment has always came along for the ride. I adore reading, and at any given time can find myself turning the pages of a new book and letting the story engulf me and let me discover something else about the world. I take themes very deeply, so I usually enjoy classic novels most. Choosing my top ten favorite, out of the thousands I have read my entire life, was difficult. I can’t even begin to cover the amount of remarkable works I have let mold my mind and touch my heart, but I’ve tried my hardest. I’d just love to express my appreciation for the hardworking writers who have poured their heart and soul into these works for mine and many other readers’ enjoyment. One day I hope to join you in the act of letting my mind run rampant upon the pages of my own work of literature, published, and enjoyed. So here I go, in no particular order, my top ten novels for intellect and recreation. Enjoy.
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut is one of my absolute favorite writers for his satirical wit and complicated trains of thought which seem to make sense for once at end. This novel is one of his most precious. A man named Jonah sets out to write a book about the day the atomic bomb was created, but instead finds himself on a small island named San Lorenzo, surrounded by poverty and devotion to an outlawed religion, Bokononism. A mysterious substance called ice-nine is discovered to have been created years ago and split up between the kooky children of its creator, who Jonah becomes tied to. The misusage of the substance has catastrophic affects for everyone, and in the end, Jonah realizes his purpose was completely different from what he thought it was. The more I talked and thought about this novel after finishing it, the more the thoughts and speech came. This book has loads and loads of messages and morals that I can fairly say I probably haven’t even touched on half of them. Fate, devotion, truth, love, and relationships are all brought into question with this smart book about the end of the world, and well, how to prevent the end for yourself. Through it all, Vonnegut loyally lets you discover how to be a strong individual that knows his or her way through even the toughest terrain. This book has many, many levels just waiting to be discovered. You’ll feel like you’ve learned a lot– about life and yourself.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Must I even explain this one anymore after my book-long post before?
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
This book I chose for a summer reading assignment, but it ended up turning into one of the most revolutionary, lifechanging, beautiful, and heartwrenching works of literature I would ever read. Now it’s a really long book, but it’s worth it. You’ll find yourself turning the pages so quickly with suspense that by the end, you’ll wish it wasn’t over. It’s the 1940’s in Brooklyn and Sammy’s cousin Joe uses his magician skills to escape the Holocaust in Europe to come live with Sammy. They become great friends and start a comic book together. They face great greed from their publishers and eventually their work fails. Sammy falls in love with a handsome actor, and faces the obstacles of admitting his homosexuality. Joe falls in love with a mysterious young artist. Their relationships with their lovers, each other, their dreams, and the city grow more and more complicated. Then Joe decides to go off to war as his form of escapism. Back home, things crumble as Sam and Joe’s lover are left with broken, lonely hearts. I won’t spoil this ending for you, but wow. I’ll say this repeatedly, I’m not a crier. As I finished the last pages of this book, I cried. My. Eyes. Out. You’ll feel like you just traveled on the World’s Craziest Roller-coaster once the book ends and you’ll feel a great sadness in leaving behind the characters, who you’ve come to feel as your friends. Chabon weaves a beautifully tragic but fatefully so story that all seems to work out (not flawlessly) but realistically right in the end. If you thought this was a simple little comic story, think again.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This novel transcends time. The classic story of Southern innocence shattered has torn at the heartstrings of readers for decades. In the Jim Crow South, a black man is accused of raping a white woman, an act he obviously did not commit. Adventurous little Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, is called in to defend him, and even though the case faces obstacles that simply cannot be gotten over for the time, the town and the participants will never be the same. Morality is shown for the truth, and to not abide by any racist or hateful beliefs. I will always be an advocate for equal rights and I find this book absolutely revolutionary for its time. In recent years, this novel was voted to actually beat out The Bible in most influential book of the twenty-first century. Atticus Finch is one of the most beloved fictional characters of all time and this story of right and wrong through the eyes of a purely honest child is simply precious.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Sadly, I saw the movie before reading the book, which totally goes against my Code, but I didn’t know there was a book before. This story is very near and dear to my heart, and I absolutely adore Skeeter to this day! It’s the 1960’s in the South and young, white Skeeter moves back home to try her hand at writing. She gets a job writing a housekeeping article and uses her black maid’s advice to help. But she soon starts to notice the kind of treatment her and her friends’ black maids receive, even being the ones who wholly raise the white families’ children. Skeeter doesn’t agree with this, and so comes up with the idea to have each maid in the area write their side of working life in one large book, and then send that to a publishing company for approval. The task proves tougher than she thought when one of her most cruel friends smells a conspiracy, and Skeeter has to start meeting with the maids secretly. Their hesitation grows and the stakes grow higher, as Skeeter’s boyfriend, mom, and friends all count on her to do one thing, while her heart begs for another. The maids encounter their own personal struggles and show their various personalities and wonderful hearts in the face of immoral treatment. The novel ends with each character finally being loyal to what their soul wanted, and indeed, needed. I beamed with soul at the ending, despite some tragic events throughout. Stockett does amazingly well at remaining historically accurate and lovingly artistic for both the black and white side of a part of the nation’s toughest history. I only wish I could jump right in to support Skeeter and encourage the hardworking maids.
Dr. Franklin’s Island by Ann Halam
Before reading this, I had never heard of such a plot. After, the case is still the same. This is one book that will have your eyes jumping out of your head! Three young friends,Miranda, Semi, and Arnie are on their way to a lovely tropical vacation, when their plane tragically crashes. They are the only survivors, and shocked, scared, and alone, end up on an isolated island, which seems to not be so bad. They meet a man, who they are first wary around, but soon grow to trust. It turns out, though, that he is exactly the opposite. He turns out to be a crazy doctor who has been waiting for patients to test his pills and concoctions on. His goal is to turn humans into animals. He succeeds, and each friend is turned into a different animal. This sounds really disturbing and it is. I felt the characters’ physical and emotional pain as one by one, they lost each trait that made them proudly human. They discover there is an antidote, and set out to find it. I won’t reveal if they succeed or not, but ,wow, this story is a mind-blower. It proves riveting from beginning to end and tears at your heartstrings. You’ll never again take for granted the simple abilities of being human, I can assure that.
The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy
I read this book several years ago, so the plot is foggy, but I do remember how touching the story was. Two young friends meet after one moves in to town and quickly befriends her and her father, who live in a pretty dumpy house, but are happy enough without a care. The friends start writing together, and place highly in a statewide contest. They discover that giving something up isn’t as easy as it sounds and greatly express their attachment and admiration for their own work, and for each other. Sticking together in the face of doubt is such a precious thing. While others may doubt the power of a union, it’s empowering effects are undeniable. Murphy tells a sweet, cherishable, and relatable story that’ll make you love your best friend just a little more.
Turnabout by Margaret Haddix
This book tests human limits, physically and emotionally. It is a futuristic story of a group of women dying in a nursing home who agree unknowingly to take part in an experimental drug trial, to reverse the process of aging. Sounds better than death, right? The situation proves quite the opposite, as the women start to forget what happened in their older years, and grow more and more dependent on others as they become younger and younger. This book will frighten you and cause you to think about what you desire in life, truly.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
I’ll admit I was hesitant to include this in the list..It doesn’t exactly sound right to name one of your favorite books the last account of a young girl who was eventually found and killed in one of the world’s most horrifying events in history, the Holocaust. But I include it to honor her and to support the fact that this is really an eye-opening book. First of all, I find the history surrounding this time very fascinating, despite being so tragic. I think it’s important to not remain hush about any part of history, and to honor and acknowledge the horrors these brave people went through, for both the survivors and the unfortunate not. Anne Frank was truly a remarkable young girl, with wit, intelligence, optimism, and a heart of gold well beyond her years. While I did not enjoy knowing how the story ends, I did enjoy having a glimpse into what was her world for those intense months and being able to salute her for her brave outlook on the grave situation. Her diary is a must-read for all ages and ethnicities, because Anne’s thoughts and feelings apply well beyond her life, and can be used as inspiration and adoration even today. May I say Rest in Peace to one spectacular young girl, whose life was taken far, far too soon.
My Story by Marilyn Monroe
Let me say, I love Marilyn Monroe. Adore her, am obsessed with her, one hundred and ten percent appreciative of the life and the legacy. The fact of the matter is it was not until I read her autobiography that I felt so strongly. Wow. She tells the story of her life from sad beginnings, with a mom who wasn’t right in the head, ending up an orphan, and being taken advantage of by older men at a very young age. She soon received tremendous attention by powerful people in the business, but who only saw her as an attractive piece of meat. She struggled in the business with feeling welcomed, appreciated, and valuable. She had troubles with her marriages, and didn’t ever really learn to love herself like she should have. Her words in this book prove just how smart, scholarly, weathered, knowledgeable, and strong of a woman she was. Sadly, the book was not finished before her tragic death at only 36 years old. I cried at the end, and wished with everything in me the icon would still be alive to finish her tale. The truth is, most people still don’t understand her. They don’t get that she was handed very little in life, wasn’t valued as anything really, and that all she ever truly wanted was to be loved for her heart. I will always defend her as an American legend and a woman who was the true example of beauty inside and out. Another one gone too soon. Rest in peace, precious.
Honorable Mentions: Because I Ran Out of Spots
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry