Clearly, I haven’t posted in quite a while. I’m going to start trying harder to update more often than every 5 months. Maybe I’ll put ideas in a hat.
Anyway, it’s summer (well it’s summer on Guam all the time) and everyone who works at/goes to school has been mostly nothin’ doin’ for the last two months. Now, I never had the kind of teachers who gave me summer reading. But with a nerd like me, they wouldn’t have gotten a complaint. I like books. I like people who like books. I like people who like people who like books. I wish I take more time to read books. But if you know me, I try to bring reading material with me everywhere I go. It used to be a messed up novel stuffed at the bottom of my backpack but since I’ve gotten a kindle (and the app on my phone), it’s a little easier to take a library with me.
So, if you’re reading this and you’re anything like me and are hungering for some material, here’s a list of some of my personal favorites. Or maybe you don’t like reading and you want to enhance your literary skills — that works too! Or maybe you hate reading but you keep getting nagged by your parents about how “reading makes you smart”…well…I don’t know what to tell you but I hope this helps?
1. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
“In order to learn how to live, you must learn how to die.”
This is probably my go-to book. I keep it on my nightstand, I make sure to take it when I travel, and I read it at leaset twice a year. If you’ve never read Tuesdays, it’s about an elderly former college professor who’s on his death bed being visited by one of his former students. Essentially, this is one of those “the greatest lesson” kind of books. It sounds cheesy, I know, and I can say it does bring a tear to my eye but this book has given me the most profound advice I have ever received. It’s sweet, nicely written and it really envelopes your senses the way a book should. It’s certainly worth picking up.
I honestly wish I had a copy with me.
2. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
“Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.”
Now, I don’t want to drown you in a list of Mitch Albom novels, though he still reigns as my favorite author. However, I think this book is important to me because at a time when I was struggling to, I learned to forgive not only others but also myself. It’s such a tough lesson and it’s quite a skill to really be able to forgive fully and completely. I like to read this when I need a bit of a reality check. The reminder that nothing is permanent and that we are all connected. “…the world is full of stories but the stories are all one.”
3. Wasteland by Francesca Lia Block
“You were just a boy on a bed in a room, like a kaleidoscope is a tube full of bits of broken glass. But the way I saw you was pieces refracting the light, shifting into an infinite universe of flowers and rainbows and insects and planets, magical dividing cells, pictures no one else knew”
This novel tells the story of two people, their relationship and a journey after tragedy. The reason I like this book so much is because of the writing. It’s not an extraordinarily unique story but the way the author dictates the story is nothing short of beautiful. With metaphor, allegory, and a little bit of magic this is a book I like to turn to when I’m trying to inspire myself to write.
4. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
“What I have since realized is that if people expect you to be brave, sometimes you pretend that you are, even when you are frightened down to your very bones. ”
The first time I read this was in a literature class in the 7th grade. While the rest of the school was forced into Direct Instruction, I was fortunate to have been so well read that I and those like me could not be placed in one of those classes. We read it aloud and I still think about this one on and off. You’ll notice as you go through this list that I like books that accurately portray the roller coaster that is life every day; in Walk Two Moons you’ll experience it all – happiness, laughter, fear, sadness. I think this a perfect balance of “real” for a young adult reader and the characters have so much…character. To this day, I hope that when I get older I’ll be something akin to the grandmother of Salamanca Tree Hiddle.
5. Where She Went by Gayle Foreman
“I’ve become to realize there’s a world of difference between knowing something happened, even knowing why it happened, and believing it.”
The Sequel to If I Stay, the novel in the which movie counterpart starred Chloe Grace Moretz. I don’t know what it was, but I took to this book more than its predecessor, though most people I know who were fans of the first didn’t care a whole lot for the second. Perhaps it’s because I grew up at a time when teens were probably the most outwardly angsty – the millenial’s version of “emo” – and the novel is ridden with angst. (I find it hilarious that we’re all now attempting to be adults) But honestly, I like the way Foreman wrote this much more than If I Stay. I personally found it to be a lot more engaging and developed, and overall felt more relatable. I’m getting choked up thinking about it.
6. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
“Not everything has to have a point. Some things just are.”
When I began reading this book back in high school I found it kind of bizarre. It’s just that I’d grown up reading to Judy Blume’s books like the Fudge series or Deenie so I didn’t quite expect it to be the way it was. The book follows the friendship of two girls, from when they are children to when they are fully grown adults trying to navigate their way through life. It talks about things like sex and disease and death and friendship and relationships and parenting and love overall. It’s not a hunky dory story about how two girls overcome obstacles in their friendship. It’s a story about experiences and themes that are just as real to me as it is to them. That level of realism really resonated with me, and I can’t quite capture it in words.
7. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
“Be sure thy sin will find thee out.”
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a detective. Be it from Clue, the Box Car Children, Carmen Sandiego or the Barbie Detective game for PC; there was something about solving a mystery that really lit up my day – probably my innate thirst for knowledge. Even after an adult told me that it was stupid (at 8 years old, mind you) which prompted me to find a new dream, I still couldn’t help but feel drawn to any kind of whodunnit I could find. Enter Agatha Christie. I remember staying up until 2 in the morning, with a combination of too much fear and curiosity to go to sleep. In a way, it was me holding onto something I was certain I couldn’t have. Though, I eventually found that a mystery can be found anywhere if you look hard enough.
8. Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen
“The historian must have no country. —JOHN QUINCY ADAMS”
I read this book as a part of my Advanced Placement History Class in my junior year of high school. This was our textbook and whatever McGraw-Hill text we had in our classroom was used as reference. It was my formal introduction to the idea that nothing is black and white —not even historical events. It reminded me that there’s always more to something than what you read and heard, that there’s always something deeper beneath the surface…or at least in many cases of anything. It’s the reason I make sure to create well-rounded arguments when I respond and the reason I’m not so quick to speak on sensitive or controversial topics. If you’re trying to set the mood for an oncoming school year or just love knowing things as much as I do, this might be the direction to go.
9. Little Girl Fly Away by Gene Stone
‘Hickory, Dickory, Dock
The hands fell off the clock
Run from the man, and get away
My legs are gone, so I have to stay’
I vaguely recall picking this book at a used book sale, the spine coming apart and the front cover looking like someone had bitten it. It’s a retelling of the story of Ruth Finley, a woman who was struck by a dissociative disorder (after a series of childhood trauma) and had the entire world following her case with her stalker referred to as “The Poet”. In the end, the pain both emotionally and physically that had been inflicted on her had been caused by herself. It’s more a story than a textbook and it’s not particularly well written but she existed as did her story. There’s a lot of mixed reviews on this book – from people who were captivated by her story to people who believe that she was just super self involved and that there was nothing wrong with her. The latter is quite bothersome to me because the topic of mental health is almost never dealt with properly, and historically has never been which is a disservice to our fellow humans. Nevertheless, I found it haunting and a testament to the possibilities of what the mind is capable of.
10. 1984 by George Orwell
“Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.”
As I got older and found myself on more liberal ground (not a development but rather a realization), I began taking sincere interest in Marxist theory. So naturally, when I began my expedition on it, Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 were the first places I hit. Now, I know in modern day America the words “communism” or “socialism” are generally taboo and being classified as one hurts your patriotism; however, I spent a great deal of my late high school and early college years researching and…it turns out that communism ≠ dystopia. I was intrigued. I wanted to know more so when I was 18, I read the Communist Manifesto (I’m pretty sure I have a copy somewhere) and I subsequently dove into more research into this misunderstood system. But I’m veering a bit off track and I think I’ll have to get into it on a different post. I think Big Brother is watching.
Side note: The Giver by Lois Lowry explores similar themes so I would consider reading that as well.
As you can see, I don’t necessarily have a particular taste or preference in genre. I just like something coherent and engaging enough that I’d read it again. There’s an added bonus if I find it quotable. Anyway, the summer only has a few weeks left so you might as well start get used to reading pages-worth of words again.
And no, watching the movie doesn’t count. Teach yourself some discipline and pick up a book.