Everyone has that one book that changed their life forever. I have eight. Not ten, not five. Eight. This only because I was planning on doing the top ten, but couldn't decide on the last two.
These eight books are brilliant. I love these books to death and have read them numerous times, and each time I read them, they change my life all the more. Oh gosh, that's very dramatic.
I guess I just really like books.
8. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Henry travels through his life's timeline uncontrollably. Claire is in love with him. Their love defies time. Sounds cheesy, right? Well the cheese is shredded away when you read this book because it is so beautifully written. I'm really not into romance, let alone science fiction romance (yet my WIP Fate's Advocate is exactly that genre, hmmm) but I love this book. It's beautiful. That's really the only word I can think of to describe it. Even if you absolutely despise romance, you should read this book. It'll get your heart pumping.
7. Chu-Ju's House by Gloria Whelan
This is a young adult book about a Chinese girl who runs away from home to save the life of her newborn sister, since China had (has?) the one child law. I first read this when I was a kid, maybe about twelve, and honestly, I'm not sure why it grabbed my attention so much. I've reread it multiple times, and still can't figure out why I love it. It might be the self-sacrifice that Chu-Ju made to save a life. It might be because the story had somewhat of a happy ending. Who knows. But man is this a great book for any twelve-year-old girl to read. It really made me feel lucky to live in the US and to have a healthy, happy little sister, even if she is a really annoying pest who splays her laundry all over our room and never pays for gas when I drive her all over town and grinds her teeth really loudly in her sleep and doesn't like my cooking.
6. A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man by James Joyce
This novel follows Stephen Dedalus through his childhood until the time he leaves home. Of all the characters in literature, I think Stephen is the one I can relate to the most. He struggled in connecting with his family, he struggled in identifying with a religion, and he struggled in deciding what to do with his life. In the end, he decided to let it all go and just be himself, not letting anyone try to control his creativity and his spirituality. All around, this is a great book.
5. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Let me tell you a story. I was in ninth grade, and my English teacher had us listen to this book on tape while we followed along with the novel in our hands. The tape was narrated by Gary Sinise. George and Lenny, the vagrant worker characters in the story, fell into pace with each other, George as the leader and Lenny as somewhat of a little brother to him, the mentally handicapped burden of a little brother. Somewhere in the middle of the novel, someone shot and killed an old man's old and smelly dog because, well, it was old and smelly. Then Lenny did some bad stuff and was on the run from the law, so George went after him and *SPOILER ALERT* shot and killed him. Immediately after the tape ended, my hand shot up, and I said that George killing Lenny was just like the guy shooting the old dog. The old man, after his dog was dead, felt bad, saying that it was he who should have shot his own dog. George killed Lenny because Lenny was his responsibility, and he wanted him to be comfortable and feel loved in death rather than have the angry townspeople rip him to shreds. Everyone in my class went "Oooooooh." That was a cool moment. I felt smart. But that's not why I love this book. I love this book because of the dynamic that George and Lenny had. Their relationship was so complicated, yet so simple at the same time. They were the protector and the protectee, the big brother and the little brother, the nurse and the patient. George gave Lenny hope, even when he didn't see any for himself, and that, my friends, is real love. Even though he shot him. Sorry I gave away the ending. Well maybe you should have read this book already. I mean, it is a classic.
4. The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
Oh boy. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Well not really. Well sort of. This book is less about taboos in the 1950s than it is about avoiding consumerism and politics and conformism and just living your own life for yourself, finding your own meaning in life, feeling connected to nature and the world, and letting go of your worries because life is short and the good die young. Including Jack Kerouac. Rumor has it that Jack absolutely hated his beatnik lifestyle, and that says even more about it. He hated hitchhiking and camping and poverty. He wanted stability in his life. He wanted what everyone else had, but he just couldn't get himself to understand why everyone subjected themselves to the kind of life spent making and spending money and hurting people and nature. It's somewhat of a Catch-22 (another great book, by the way) which is probably why Jack Kerouac was probably so nuts. And probably why I am too.
3. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
"Listen. Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time." I don't know how else to describe the plot of this novel. All Vonnegut's books are great: funny, insightful, weird. This one, in my opinion, is his best. By taking Billy to different times in his life (maybe Audrey Niffenegger was channeling Vonnegut with Henry) beyond his control, and even to a planet where free will does not exist, Vonnegut inspires readers to stop focusing on the bad parts of life and to just enjoy the good. Love it.
2. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
A teenage boy obsessed with religion is stranded in the middle of the ocean on a boat with a tiger. This novel is inspirational. Martel teaches readers that no matter your religion (or species, for that matter) everyone deserves to be loved and treated with respect. Oh man, I love this book.
1. The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
I've posted about this one before (here). Set on the Congo River, this book takes on you a journey through uncharted territory with Marlow Pilgrim who is searching for the powerful Mr. Kurtz. There are so many layers in this novella, I've had to read it many times in order to figure out what it's even about. I think what Conrad was trying to say in this book is that people should stop worrying about money and power and possessions and just be nice to people because life is short and guilt is a bitch. I'm pretty sure you don't want to be saying "The horror, the horror!" about yourself on your deathbed. Seriously. Great book. Conrad's masterpiece. My favorite book of all time.
I hope you enjoyed this! I know I did. What is your favorite book?