We learn to cling to our dreams and push to make them a reality.
“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.” -Louisa May Alcott
Fun fact about me: I will endorse the books that move me like my life depends on it. I am always looking for my new favorite book, one that speaks to my soul long after the story is over. I don’t discriminate based on genre or topic. I treat reading books like trying new food: I will try anything at least once!
So here are 12 books I can’t shut up about:
1. Chaos Walking Series, by Patrick Ness
This series is a beautiful, brilliant kind of chaos that has left me awestruck and has left my heart in pieces. These books are so filled with life and meaning, a perfect mixture of pain and heartache, love and hopefulness. Hope in the general goodness of man and the power of peace in the midst of destruction. That love can triumph over war and darkness. That though war makes monsters out of men, you cannot measure the potential impact of a heart that is purely good. Not to mention, it’s an incredible, fast-paced ride that creates the perfect mixture of sci-fi, dystopian, fantasy, and action/adventure within an eerie, otherworldly setting that is unlike any other.
PSA: Please everyone, read these books! They are nothing like the 2021 movie adaptation.
2. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
This book is about overcoming obstacles and barriers, both visible and invisible: barriers of culture, language, social class, and politics to name a few. Can these barriers be broken by love, music, compassion or empathy? Can music create a greater connection between two people than language itself? Are we mere products of the environment in which we have been born? It somehow manages to be equally beautiful, tragic, romantic and devastating. It’s an amazing literary experience for anyone who is looking for strong, meaningful prose.
3. Malagash, by Joey Comeau
This book is a hidden gem. What’s so beautiful about this book is how quiet the plot is: it’s about those quiet moments of life that we take for granted, the power of our words and the way we cling to them for comfort in time of need, and how the simplest of interactions between loved ones can sometimes capture their essence perfectly, and how a person can live on through our memories. It’s a story of triumph over grief blended with wittiness and irony, it’s subtly heart-wrenching in a way that sneaks up and pulls you into the story, speaking to some of life’s most quietly identifiable and universal moments that prove that when it comes to life and death, we are all one in the same.
4. A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness
This book reminds us of those fragile human moments when we lie down to sleep at night, those moments when our fears finally begin creeping in, the ones we often ignore, the ones we spend the whole day pushing aside and covering up with business and routine and activities. It put into words that feeling of helplessness when it comes to fear, and just how crippling the fear of losing a loved one can be. It is a heartache-inducing, blinking-back-tears kind of book. But don’t go into it expecting something eerie and action-packed. This book is less about monsters and more about self-reflection and learning to understand the emotional roller coaster of grief.
5. Sadie, by Courtney Summers
I was lucky enough to have received an Advanced Reader’s copy of this book prior to its release date, and it managed to exceed my expectations. Summers’ writing is so wonderfully harsh and bold; she is never afraid to shed light on those dark pieces of us that make us human, the pieces we often keep hidden out of fear of what others might think. She is also completely unafraid to write about dark, unsettling topics such as rape and sexual abuse, and represents them in a real, relentless, painful, yet beautiful way. This story is mysterious and unsettling, and left me guessing until the end. It speaks to the immensity of grief after tragedy, featuring a girl driven by that grief to act out in vengeance. But most of all, this is a story about the power of love as a driving force, one that can make us just as easily as it breaks us.
Side note: Anything you pick up by Courtney Summers will be phenomenal. I’m wholeheartedly convinced that she is one of the greatest contemporary YA authors.
6. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, by Tim Keller
This book is a great reminder of the saving grace of the Creator of the Universe. It’s short and to the point, one that I can read in one sitting in moments of quiet desperation when those feelings of inadequacy and insecurities begin creeping in to consume me. It is a great reminder that I am still a work in progress, but also that I’m confident in the gospel of Jesus that has saved me from condemnation, and that I have chosen to believe the words of my Father who says, “You are my beloved child in whom I am well pleased.” It’s a great reminder of what is truly good and right in this life, and a push to continue striving to live my life worthy of the gospel that has saved me.
7. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, by Leslye Watson
This book has the whimsical qualities of a fairytale, yet it’s so much more than that. This is a book about love and loss, heartbreak, sorrows, friendship, and so much more. It’s about life and the simplest, rawest, harshest moments that make us who we are. It’s about imperfections and oddities and loving yourself and others in spite of all the things that are different or hard to love. Every sentence in this story is intricately constructed. Every word is valuable. The author is someone who cherishes words and language for what they are and understands the true art of writing. She knows how to make me feel. This book reminded me that words can be so beautiful. It reminded me that feelings are beautiful. It’s whimsical. It’s hopeful. It’s human. It’s amazing.
8. Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk
I know I’m not supposed to talk about Fight Club, but all I want to do is talk about Fight Club. Because it explores so many layers of the insanity and madness that lies within all of us that we often hide. It shows what can happen to a society when those layers become slowly stripped away, when someone comes along and challenges all the rules and the unspoken regulations and routines. When someone comes along and says “I want you to hit me as hard as you can.” Because this book is about all the things we are capable of that we often suppress, and what happens to a person when they are no longer in control of that piece of them that keeps them living helplessly within the boundaries of the rules and routines.
Disclaimer: Do not read this book unless you enjoy a healthy dose of chaos and insanity. It’s madness, but in the best possible way!
9. I’m Thinking of Ending Things, by Iain Reid
Down to the tiniest, seemingly insignificant details of this book, I was scared. This book is full of minuscule details, ones that don’t make sense and they’re just plain weird and feel off, but you don’t know why. It’s brilliant. It’s wonderfully odd and confusing. This book is creepy as heck and I don’t know why. But that’s why I love it so much. It’s also wonderfully introspective and intellectual, dragging you through a series of twists and turns and warped thoughts of brutal honesty in relation to people, relationships, dependence, habits, and life in general. The book succeeds to do just as it claims, because “you will be scared, and you won’t know why.” It’s up to you to decide whether that’s good or bad.
Disclaimer: This book is chaos and confusion. But it’s a heck of a ride. Be warned!
10. Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid
This is a book of quiet tragedy, somehow offering up a setting of political unrest and upheaval in an unnamed country with a brilliantly gentle touch. It follows the lives of two migrants fleeing the chaos and turmoil of their homeland to other places, two people who are barely more than strangers that fall into a relationship based on security and comfort at a time where they need it most. It’s whimsical, with faint touches of magical realism and a real, honest look at a relationship of equal give and take. It addresses those fleeting moments in time where a door is open at just the right time, and how bittersweet it can be when those moments also come to an end.
11. Blindness, by Jose’ Saramago
While the premise of this book is already frightening–a rapid outbreak of white blindness strikes an entire city–what is even more frightening is the way it portrays the fragility of morality. Is a society’s ability to uphold morality dependent on its ability to identify and understand morality? When life is being threatened, how quickly does the need for survival outweigh the need for morality? In desperate situations where survival is vital, how quickly do we begin making exceptions to the things we once once thought were unacceptable? Chaos strikes hard in a world of mutual blindness, but does the chaos really matter if no one is around to witness it?
12. Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire
This book is art in the purest sense, a dark retelling of a common nursery rhyme, the perfect mix of fantasy, fairy tale, and fright. Not only that, but this author’s prose is perfection. I find myself clinging to every word, reflecting on not only the meaning of her perfectly crafted sentences, but also the deep messages that were tucked away in the pages of this story about life, about self-worth and identity and understanding one’s place in the world. She has an innate ability to express the feelings of disconnect and aimlessness that come with being different. She reminds us that there is no right or wrong way to be human. We are all just doing our best with what we have. Life is quite the dangerous adventure, and there are many ways to make the journey.
Disclaimer: This book is high fantasy. Approach accordingly.