Facebook challenges are sweeping the nation, including the book challenge. I was nominated to list ten books that have stayed with me in some way. Don’t spend a lot of time, and don’t think too hard, the challenge dictates.
Waxing on the Difficulty of the Assignment
I’ve been reading ever since I can remember, and my parents have been reading to me since before that. I’ve been keeping a list of every single book I’ve ever read, including title, author, and the date I finished it, since the summer of 2003. Needless to say, choosing just ten, or the ten most important or influential, was impossible. This was a similar sentiment, I noticed, expressed by most of the folks who took the challenge.
I was also an English major in college – called myself the worst English major ever, because I hadn’t read most of the classics that my peers seemed to know backwards and forwards. Still, I spent most of college reading books, and skipping class (ah, the life of a liberal arts student), so that makes this exercise even more difficult. In fact, most of the books listed (at least half) below are the result of my vast absorption of literature in college.
Other People’s Assignments
This article gives some details about the responses other Facebook users had to this challenge. The stats are amazing, and in some ways not surprising. The most surprising of all is that millenials still actually do read. Books – actual books. Not magazines, online glamour tips, or their friends’ blog posts.
The Actual List
So here it is, my list of ten influential (okay, waaayyy more than ten – but a series counts as one book, right? So not too many more) books (and a short summary/comment, because I can’t just make a simple list):
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
An ordinary boy discovers he is actually a wizard, and attends wizard boarding school, where he learns that it takes more than just spells to defeat dark magic.
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series (including fifth book) by Ann Brashares
Four friends weather their last teenage years together and apart, unified by a pair of pants that somehow fits each one of their varying sizes and shapes.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
A guide to simplifying, and how to set the tone for a happy, clutter-free life, starting in your home.
A Handful of Time by Kit Pearson
The ache of her parents’ divorce is numbed by the closeness of Patricia’s family, modern and in the past (discoverable by a watch that transports this 12-year-old back in time).
Free At Last: The Sudbury Valley School by Daniel Greenberg
While the instructor was much too fru-fru (think: the closest to wearing a colander on your head that you can get, without actually doing so) for me, my Holistic Education class in college was incredibly interesting, and this book, out of all of the stories of alternative education, caught my attention and made me long for freedom in education.
Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The autobiography of a sturdy frontierswoman, and the stories of her childhood – a glimpse into history and what it means to be a sister, a friend, a wife, a mother, and a woman in early America.
The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis
Children play a major role in the history of a magical world; a fantasy story that hints at a greater Truth.
Betty Crocker’s Guide to Easy Entertaining, published 1959
Disgusting recipe ideas, but clues about how to hostess a party and still enjoy it – with some funny cultural/time warp comments thrown in for good measure.
Miracles Happen by Mary Kay Ash
The amazing story of a bombshell who retired, started a company as a two-day-fresh widow, and found a way to stop men from earning the promotions she trained them for, all the while providing a life-changing opportunity for women around the world. Who knew a company could be founded on traditional values and thrive for more than fifty years?
Paper Moon by Joe David Brown
A rowdy comedy mixed up in ethical dilemmas, and a journey with a main character compelled by the chutzpah that only comes from being raised in the Depression era.
The Hidden Hand, or Capitola the Madcap by E.D.E.N. Southworth
Fiction from the American Romantic period, and full of fast-pace, unbelievable stories of a strong, capable young woman.
James Bond series by Ian Fleming
Scallawag and scoundrel are too endearing to describe the character of the true James Bond, far-removed from his Hollywood self. Cold, cruel, and misogynist are more accurate, yet somehow I couldn’t put these down, and even grew to like this imperfect hero.
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Laugh-out-loud funny, John Green guides us through an adolescent, angsty boy’s summer of experiences to move on from his unlikely, but true, multiple breakups with girls named Katherine.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
More a time capsule to the Roaring 20s than anything else, this classic made my list of essays-yet-to-be-written: Why Jay Gatsby Had To Die.
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Even as a teen, my mom and I continued to read each other children’s books, and this one helped me through the first month of freshman year of college.
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Even adults can enjoy this lengthy children’s novel about rabbits, who have strangely human-like political, social, and cultural issues. A longer version of Animal Farm, without the dark thundercloud of doom hanging overhead.
Obviously, my leanings are young adult fiction. If I had to get my MA, it would probably have a YA focus. But look closer and you’ll find the same commentary of mores, the same philosophical and ethical issues, and the same romantic prose that made Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, Romeo and Juliet, Pride and Prejudice, and The Three Musketeers all classic literary works.
Passing It On
If anyone got to the end of this, I nominate my dad, my brother, my uncle Philip, and my brother Zach to do the same challenge in the comments below.