In honor of my twenty-something birthday today, I have created this list of my top ten favorite books. I was thinking of a “30 before 30″ type of list for books, but since that birthday is still a couple of years away, I don’t know that I have quite the insight into life necessary to write something like that. Or at least I like to think I’ve got a few more lessons coming my way between now and 30, and hopefully a few more life-changing books.
People don’t come to me for relationship, career or life advice, and rightfully so. My life does not read like a fairy tale, and could at times be considered a “what not to do” when it comes to career. Instead, friends come to me for advice about what to read. I’ve been noticing it more and more- to the point where some have a section on their i-Phone with lists of books to read as recommended by me. Books are something I love, and are probably the only topic of advice I’m even remotely qualified to give.
When I was a teacher, my advice came often unsolicited, but was appreciated (at least that’s how I imagine things, so don’t take that away from me!) There’s just something about getting the right book into the right hands that you know it can change someone’s life for the better. A book has the capacity to do that.
People often ask me what my favorite book is, and I usually freeze. I have no idea. I studied English in college, taught English to high school students, and I have no answer to that question. The answer is there is no answer (sorry, couldn’t resist quoting one of my favorites- Chuck Pahlaniuk) What I mean is that I can tell you my favorite book, but most likely it will not impact you in the same way it did me. When people ask me for recommendations, I usually try to give them something I think they’ll like based on their personality.
While I will always respond with, “Oh, I loved it you should read it right away!” when asked about these books, know that they are not for everyone. Without further ado, here is my ever-changing list of all-time favorites (in no particular order):
1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky- Thinking about this book reminds me of that scene in Almost Famous where the main character’s sister gives him a stack of records and says “One day you’ll be cool.” I would recommend this to anyone who was born in the 80′s, grew up in the 80′s or is currently in high school. It’s kind of like a The Catcher in the Rye minus the extreme depression and add an obsession with The Smiths. This might not be the best book you’ll ever read in your life, but it will stay with you forever, and if read at the right time will change your perspective.
2. A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor- A book of short stories by the master of the genre and my idol. The title story will stay with you no matter how much you want it to go away. These stories are haunting, and I don’t usually recommend them to people because they are not good for light reading. The reader has to take the time to read into them, or they just won’t make sense. In my humble opinion, symbolism at its finest.
3. Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby, Jr.- The title means a death of a dream (I had to look this one up because in high school I’d never heard of a requiem.) This is another one that I typically don’t rave about to people because I don’t want people to judge me for recommending a book that features drug addicts as the main characters. This book is so much more than a book about drugs. The writing style does not include quotations, so the reader has to rely on her understanding of the character’s dialect and verbiage to read it, but it is so completely worth it. This is also one of the few times where the movie is *almost* as good as the book.
4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck- Last summer I had the privilege of traveling around California and seeing Steinbeck’s old stomping grounds. I love everything about this novella and have read it at least five times. It’s a concise and beautiful reflection on friendship.
5. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien- I may be a little biased since I have the good fortune to meet the author himself, but this is a true classic. I wrote about this one in depth here.
6. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl- Forget the movies and read this book if you didn’t have someone hand it to you as a child. It’s magical. Dahl is one of my all-time favorite authors because he is entertaining and original. In this book alone he created the characters Willy Wonka, Charlie Bucket, Veruca Salt, and the Oompa Loompas. Come on, who can compete with that?
7. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls- I had Bret Eason Ellis’s book American Psycho here, but removed it because I knew that nobody would be able to relate to that one. This memoir, on the other hand, is something anyone would like. I read it with my Intensive Reading students and they say it’s the first book they’ve ever liked. That should tell you everything you need to know.
8. Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis- Another memoir, but not one of the kids. His life is so interesting, so even if you are not a fan of his band the Red Hot Chili Peppers, you will probably like this anyway.
9. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling- If you haven’t read this yet, shame on you. Perfection from beginning to end. I’m confident that there will never be another series in my lifetime that I will love as much as this one. It doesn’t even matter if you like magical elements in novels, this is so much more than that. I had a fantasy of going to Harry Potter World in Orlando and buying a wand for my birthday this year. Alas, that dream will have to wait for another you!
10. Choke by Chuck Pahlaniuk- Maybe read Fight Club before this one to get used to Pahlaniuk’s writing style. It’s unique and definitely not for everyone, but at least give it a try. I included this mainly because it opened up a new style of writing and reading for me when I read his books.
Well, now you have read my list of favorite books. I will probably revise this completely in a year, but for now here it is. I also want to include the honorable mention, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I feel like it will definitely make the cut over Choke, but I just finished it a few days ago, so it’s too early to tell if it will have a lasting effect on my life. We shall see!
Included below are a couple of birthday pics from my two favorite birthdays of my early 20′s… pretty funny…
Blowing out the candle on my 24th birthday cake… Just got home from a night out dancing with my coworkers from the spa, so I clearly did not feel like searching for anything but a tea light!
My 22nd birthday at my apartment pool in Athens, GA… Someone else was also having a party that day, hence all the people in the background… I am not that popular, but pictured are most of my close friends from that time!