This will be one of a series of book lists I will post. I don’t think I have made it clear but I love books. Lately though I have been on a movie kick and haven’t had the brain capacity to read because of my college classes. Today though I want to pay tribute to all the books that have changed my life. I won’t go into vivid detail but each of these books have changed me. I like a good story…. but I love great stories. In my opinion I think all of these stories are great in their own way, even if I hated reading some of them.
“100 Cupboards” N.D. Wilson, 2007
There is something so intriguing about a room with many doors leading to different worlds to me. Perhaps it is the inquisitive side of me that used to run off and explore everything around my house or the one that made up adventure stories about elves and evil trolls. I read it two summers ago on a very hot day and I didn’t leave the coach until I was done.
“You can’t buy history new.”
― N.D. Wilson, 100 Cupboards
“1984” by George Orwell, 1949
To be honest, I hated this book when I read it. In fact I STILL hate it. However, I can’t deny that it had a incredible impact on my life and it changed my perspective on everything I thought about people and government. Would I read it again? Perhaps when I am a little older.
“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”
― George Orwell, 1984
“A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness, 2011
This is one of the most incredible, life changing stories I have ever read. I finished it within a few hours last Halloween and was blown away by how gorgeously it showed the healing of a little boy . Perhaps because of Lord of the Rings I have thought about what it would be like if a tree were to come to life and speak to us. Oh the stories they could probably tell. The art was engaging and beautiful. This story is in a word POWERFUL.
“Because humans are complicated beasts, the monster said. How can a queen be both a good witch and a bad witch? How can a prince be a murderer and a saviour? How can an apothecary be evil-tempered but right-thinking? How can a parson be wrong-thinking but good-hearted? How can invisible men make themselves more lonely by being seen?
“I don’t know,” Connor shrugged, exhausted. “Your stories never made any sense to me.”
The answer is that it does not matter what you think, the monster said, because your mind will contradict itself a hundred times each day. You wanted her to go at the same time you were desperate for me to save her. Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.”
― Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls
“A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket,1999-2006
This series twisted my brain for YEARS. I loved it. I loved the mystery behind it and I loved his quirky sense of humor. Hated the ending though… all its fans with a lick of sense did. This is a must read for all children.
“They didn’t understand it, but like so many unfortunate events in life, just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t so.”
― Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning
“A Single Shard” by Linda Sue Park, 2002
I read this book in my fifth grade class. I still remember parts of it, specifically the scene where the food bowl he was given was refilled everyday by the potter’s wife. The loneliness he felt without a real family and the life he was later given thanks to a single shard and a chance… it has stayed with me to this day.
“Why was it that pride and foolishness were so often close companions?”
― Linda Sue Park, A Single Shard
“Abarat Series” by Clive Barker, 2002-?
This is one of my favorite series. I read it when I was fourteen, at my mother’s recommendation. I love its unique story and the impressive art throughout. I have followed it for almost ten years, though it is painful waiting for all the books to come out. To be clear, I waited up to six or seven years for the third book to come out.
“Witch, do this for me,
Find me a moon
made of longing.
Then cut it sliver thin,
and having cut it,
hang it high
above my beloved’s house,
so that she may look up
and see it,
and seeing it, sigh for me
as I sigh for her,
moon or no moon.”
― Clive Barker
“Abhorsen Series” Garth Nix, 1999-2003
The dark themes that incorporated the use of music with necromancy actually worked well together. I think about this book often, possibly because I have somewhat of a German soul, with my love for dark corners and the monsters that go bump in the night. It showed that there is evil out there but that there are also those who are willing to fight against it.
“Fear and realization of ignorance, strong medicines against stupid pride.”
― Garth Nix, Sabriel
“And Then there were None” by Agatha Christie, 1939
Creepy. This story is creepy. But brilliant. I think I actually watched the movie staring Vincent Price first. However, the book is better. How? It is suspense and mystery at its best. I haven’t read her other books, but sometimes I get this craving for creepy dramas done right and I turn to this story.
“Crime is terribly revealing. Try and vary your methods as you will, your tastes, your habits, your attitude of mind, and your soul is revealed by your actions.”
― Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None
“Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll, 1865
I love the concept of Alice in Wonderland. Again, the idea of running off to different worlds is very appealing to me. To be honest I latch on to every remake of the book I can find. I think this story is enchanting in its own way but at the same time it isn’t afraid to latch on to its crazy side.
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, 1931
Again, I read this book and I hated it. However, a few years after I read it in high school I started thinking about it more and more and I realized the messages inside held irreplaceable truths and reflections of the future. Everyone should read this book. Even though it is awful…..
“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin.’
‘In fact,’ said Mustapha Mond, ‘you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.’
‘All right then,’ said the Savage defiantly, ‘I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.’
‘Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.’ There was a long silence.
‘I claim them all,’ said the Savage at last.
Mustapha Mond shrugged his shoulders. ‘You’re welcome,” he said.”
― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
“Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer, 14th Century
This is another book that I hated but this time it was for all the wrong reasons. It wasn’t until I went to Europe and I stood outside a church in Chartes, France that I realized the true meaning behind each of the character’s pilgrimage. A lot of people might find it boring but it is actually really engaging and funny.
“Love will not be constrain’d by mastery.
When mast’ry comes, the god of love anon
Beateth his wings, and, farewell, he is gone.
Love is a thing as any spirit free.”
― Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
“Castaways of the Flying Dutchman Series” by Brian Jacques, 2001-2006
I read this series after his Redwall series but in a way I love it more. Almost like the old books by Robert Louis Stevenson with old sea captains and strange encounters I enjoy the idea of the wonderful good the boy and his dog were able to do for those they met and the many historical places they go to near the sea. His writing style actually reminds me of J.R.R. Tolkien.
“Death comes to us all sooner or later. We cannot escape it.”
― Brian Jacques
Ahhhh Candide… I don’t think enough people have read this and understand it. Being a history major I have the wonderful privilege of knowing what all of his jokes and sarcastic remarks mean. If anything, don’t take this book seriously. Satires have a way of telling us the truth very cryptically and sarcastically while still giving the characters time to enjoy tea time in the sun.
“I should like to know which is worse: to be ravished a hundred times by pirates, and have a buttock cut off, and run the gauntlet of the Bulgarians, and be flogged and hanged in an auto-da-fe, and be dissected, and have to row in a galley — in short, to undergo all the miseries we have each of us suffered — or simply to sit here and do nothing?’
That is a hard question,’ said Candide.”
― Voltaire, Candide
“Charlie Bone Series” by Jenny Nimmo, 2002-2009
I didn’t want to read this series. I thought it would be a Harry Potter remake. Oh how I was wrong. I actually think I love it more because of the many references to the arts and the strong family morals and themes. Good always wins in the end. I appreciate that.
“He found himself in a room not unlike the shop. All books again, packed tight on shelves or laying in piles on every surface. It was a cozy room, for all that ; it smelled of warm, rich words and very deep thoughts.”
― Jenny Nimmo, Midnight for Charlie Bone
“Chronicles of Narnia” by CS Lewis, 1950-1956
We come to the same theme again: gallivanting into other worlds and meeting amazing creatures and people. Like Tolkien, C.S. Lewis had a way of incorporating gospel themes into the indescribable world of fantasy. I can help but admire the idea that God would have a love for fantasy, beautiful worlds and imagination.
“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are -are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
“Coraline” by Neil Gailman, 2003
Same theme, except this time what was behind the door was something altogether terrifying and dangerous. It was the other mother who loved her very dearly (don’t you know?). But what I like about this story is that Coraline fought back and won against that evil power. Brings new meaning to monsters in the closet doesn’t it? This time they have sewing needles and steal your soul through games, treats and fun.
“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
― Neil Gaiman, Coraline
“Count of Monte Cristo” – Alexandre Dumas, 1844
The movie made a few years ago in 2002 doesn’t do this book justice. Revenge always seems to have such a bitter taste but it took a poisonous turn in Dante’s case. So much potential gone to waste over such a long grudge, but then again I have never been locked in such a horrid prison and lost the love of my life for something I never did.
“Hatred is blind; rage carries you away; and he who pours out vengeance runs the risk of tasting a bitter draught.”
― Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
“Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1866
Haunting. This story is haunting. I didn’t understand why he killed that old woman. In fact it didn’t matter. But he learned the greatest lesson he ever could because he confronted his fears and the great mistakes he made. I don’t remember the details but this story is one of the greatest examples of human suffering and the essence of man’s existence that I have ever read.
“The darker the night, the brighter the stars,
The deeper the grief, the closer is God!”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment
“Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes, 1605-1615
Oh the beauty of adventure and the foolishness of chasing windmills. Don’t we wish we all could do it? Sometimes when I think about this story I wonder about how happy he was chasing his fantasies and I realize he probably was better off then most of us. I love this story because of the raw and exciting adventure, even though such fantasies were part of his delusion.
Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote
“Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886
I actually read this story for the first time after I ditched an awful movie my class was watching in the theater. Stevenson had a wonderful taste for horror to be sure and he was a master storyteller. My somewhat German spirit loves this story and its ominous message. I think what horrified me the most was the Jekyll awoke that monster himself because he enjoyed the thrill but such wiles have a way of catching up with you.
“With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson, L’estrany Cas Del Dr. Jekyll I Mr. Hyde