September 15, 2014 by Devin
There is this thing going around on Facebook where people post what 10 books stuck with them the most. I was tagged by this, several times, and after finally writing the stupid status, I realized that I wrote enough to fill a blog post. So here it is in blog form with cool hyperlinks to places where you can check out all the books (though, for the record, chances are these can be found at your local library).
1. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard
Technically it’s a play, but it’s not going to be the only one on this list so you’ll have to deal with it. It’s incredibly funny once you get in the mood for it. I could not really explain why it is funny or recreate any of the funny moments, so I’ll just have to say you’ll just have to read it to get it. That, or watch the movie, which is an excellent adaptation.
2. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Going with the theme of absurd humor that’s hard to explain, this was a book that I originally read in high school and didn’t really get. It was a tough read and I didn’t see the humor in it. Rereading it in college was a completely different experience. There are so many great little moments of general wackiness (yes that’s a pun) that, even though it’s a long book, I was disappointed when it ended.
Also, when Joseph Heller was told by an interviewer that he had never written anything as good as Catch-22, he responded, “Who has?”
3. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
This book was my first introduction to Kurt Vonnegut, and I came to really like his style of writing and his sense of humor (This seems to be a trend). Like Catch-22, it looks at truly horrific events and realizes that the only response one can have is to laugh at them. I think Vonnegut really understood that people laugh to keep sane, and the more insane life gets, the harder one needs to laugh.
4. All Quiet on the Western Front by Enrich Maria Remarque
Since the last two books have been about war, why not this one as well? Definitely a more somber book, and it’s probably one I need to reread sometime soon, but the image I love most from the book is when the main character, a German soldier, takes leave and goes to a bar where an older gentleman is telling him that Germany is winning the war. When the main character protests, the man tells him that he doesn’t really know anything about the war, that he doesn’t get it. This is coming from a man who has never and probably will never see the horrors of war that detailed the rest of the book.
5. Ender’s Game by Orscon Scott Card
This is a book essentially about tactics. It is about how people manipulate and use every resource at their disposable, including other people, to get what they want. And seeing Ender, the main character, develop and use his own tactics while being a part of other people’s tactics is a tight and enthralling experience. The sequels offer interesting takes and developments, but are not as tightly written and can drag on. Nothing I’m going to wholeheartedly recommend, but not terrible reads either. It is too bad the author is such a terrible person.
6. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
This book is the quintessential coming of age story, and for good reason. When I read this book, I was amazed because it felt like something I could have written. It spoke in my language. I have heard people say it is a book about nothing, but I think that is true only if you consider growing up largely nothing. In the book, Holden Caulfield does not do much beyond walk around, but in that process he struggles with understanding growing up and where his place in the world is. There is a reason this book speaks to so many people.
7. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
I read this book as a little kid, and have since then revisited it several times, and so far each time has proved to be a more enjoyable experience than the last. When I recently reread it in college, I realized that, as a story, it was incredibly paced and filled with imagination and symbolism. For example, the dæmons seemed like cool companions when I was a kid, but as I grew older I realized what they said about human nature and how constructs like the church affect that nature. It is a really well-written book and one I heartily recommend to everyone.
8. Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare
I feel like this play has an unfair reputation. People who do not normally read Shakespeare love the forbidden love aspect and people who like to read Shakespeare usually like to talk about other plays besides this one. But in reality, this play has a really complex and mature understanding of the effects of passion, which is really what it is about. It is about how hot-headedness leads to dangerous and sometimes violent situations. Romeo and Juliet’s relationship is portrayed beautifully, but make no mistake: their relationship is clearly a mistake. Whether or not that mistake is any worse than the numerous other passionate mistakes in the play is up to judgment, but I love the way this play balances the beauty and danger of passion, a subtlety lost on many.
9. SCREENWRITING 101 by Film Crit HULK
Film Crit Hulk is one of my favorite critics to read online, and he always gives way more insight than you would guess for someone writing in all caps. In his book debut, he delves not only gives practical advice for how to make screenwriting work, but he also spends considerable time (more than half the book) going into why techniques work. As someone who has read several books on screenwriting and story that spend time going, “Use this technique all the time,” I loved Hulk’s approach because it allowed for a more developed conversation. If you are at all interested in creating or talking about story in any medium, whether that be movies, plays, video games, or something else, this book is an absolute must-read (He also wrote a book-length series of articles on James Bond that are also worth checking out).
10. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Look, almost everyone says Harry Potter because almost everyone read Harry Potter because almost everyone loves Harry Potter. Harry Potter is awesome, and it would be dishonest of me to leave it off this list. But instead of going over why like I did with the other books, I’m just going to tell the story of how I got the first book.
It was my birthday party. I was turning 9 (or something close to that), and my best friend in the whole wide world (Rob or something like that) got me a book.
I was so disappointed.
It was not until 9 months later when I actually read the thing that I appreciated his gift.