A world with only ten books would seem to be a world without color, or at least without tones and nuances. That being said, imagining a world without ten certain books is impossible too. Here are ten books that have shaped the rest of my life, in one way or another!
1. Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart
This book is the pinnacle of deadpan, dry humor and wit, but it’s so much more than that. By its own byline, it’s “an ancient China that never was,” exploring twists on Chinese mythology, stereotypes, fantasy, romance, and tragedy. The book follows Number Ten Ox, an average boy with extraordinary strength, and Master Li, a scholar, to find a cure for a plague in Ox’s village. It reignited my love of reading in high school, when bogged down by angst and constant homework.
2. Room by Emma Donoghue
It is impossible to get through Room without feeling emotionally exhausted afterwards. It deals with such a difficult topic: Ma is confined to a small room for years, and tries to raise her child conceived by the rape of her captor in such horrible circumstances. Yet this book is such an important read: it raises awareness of the constant fear and oppression women face, the depravity of humanity, our stigma against mental health, but also hope for a better future. The book is told from the perspective of the child, Jacob, and his unique outlook on life is what gives Room its silver lining. Just make sure you have a tissue box handy – or two.
3. Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
Speaking of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, Cro-Magnon Ayla is found by a Clan of Neanderthals that look very different from us. Narrowly surviving a cave lion attack, Ayla is adopted and raised by the Clan. This novel is lauded for its historical accuracy despite the fact it takes place in prehistoric times, but more importantly, it focuses on the differences in culture, appearance, and personality. Ayla is considered “ugly” and “strange” by the Clan, for example, and their customs are very strange. Clan of the Cave Bear is both a historical and a cautionary tale, and will remain timeless because of these factors.
4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Known as a Gothic novel, Emily Bronte wrote the story of Wuthering Heights using stream of consciousness. As a result, the novel is fearless in portraying the dark side of characters, and covers the entire life of Catherine and Heathcliff, as well as their offspring and younger cousins. It’s hard to pinpoint why exactly this novel is so engaging, but this is a classic that was impossible to put down. It’s known as the pinnacle of romance novels, as well as characterization.
5. Sword of Truth Book 1: Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind
This book inspired the entire first draft of my novel. Wizard’s First Rule follows Richard through a fantasy world he knows nothing about, where he meets the love of his life, Kahlan. The trials they face are romantic, political, and borderline impossible in some circumstances. The character growth is astonishing, but the political views that Goodkind manages to weave inside make the book even more engaging. I don’t necessarily agree with all of them, for sure, but as a Political Science minor, Wizard’s First Rule is an attractive start to political fantasy.
6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I never knew a novel could be written so beautifully until this one. Just about everyone knows about The Great Gatsby, but it is so colorful that it has to be mentioned. It doesn’t read like poetry necessarily, but it shows the flapper era in astonishing detail, as well as the characterization of lovesick Mr. Gatsby and vain and shallow Daisy. For a classic, it reads so quickly, and teaches a lot about the power of detail in writing.
7. The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
The concept of The Jane Austen Book Club is so fascinating. It follows six characters who form a book club to discuss a Jane Austen novel once a month. At a first glance, the novel sounds like an English class, but the characters open up in their own lives, revealing how each book reflects their own lives, and how they weave together. The book club’s discussion cleverly reflects more on the characters than the books themselves, and it follows their lives through the months before their meetings. This book is a great introduction to Jane Austen, and it shows vividly how much influence she had as an author.
8. The Warriors series by Erin Hunter
This YA series opened a lot of paths for me as a writer. It follows Rusty, a fiery, orange, tabby house cat that ventures into the woods outside his home. It’s there that he joins one of the wild clans: ThunderClan. This series is so intricate: it follows themes like honor, loyalty, and bravery, as well as showing precise details about herbs and their medical purposes, different animals, and how cats see humans. The series holds a lot of inspiration for those who want to venture into its depths.
9. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling is well known for her Harry Potter series, and this novel is the first book she published afterwards. The Casual Vacancy is a huge departure from Harry Potter, showing a realistic world with a variety of points of view. When a politician in the town of Pagford dies, it cracks open the facade the town had been putting up for so long. Each character is affected differently, and as a result shows a combination of black comedy, tragedy, and suspense. It’s astonishing how effortlessly she weaves each character’s point of view and how they affect each other, especially with the consequences for their actions. After reading this, it proves that there isn’t much J.K. Rowling can’t do.
10. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
I remember having to read this in high school, and it turned out to be a book I couldn’t put down. In Cold Blood is the nonfiction tale of the gruesome murder of the Cutter family in Arkansas: all four members were shot inches from their faces. Truman Capote decided to write about the crime as soon as he heard about it, interviewing investigators and the local residents. What he didn’t expect was that the two killers would be caught six weeks after the crime, and that he would sympathize with one of them. In Cold Blood is original in so many ways: it shows the murderers in a gentler light than expected, while still respecting the deaths of the family. The suspense and writing is beautiful, and it definitely shows why Truman Capote is such an iconic writer.
What books would you bring on a desert island? Share below!
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