By Natalie Issa
Has anyone asked you what your favorite book is, and you found yourself in a most distressing predicament? Because how can you just name one favorite book? You have like 50 million-- all books you've gotten wonderfully lost in.
I found myself in a similar situation last week. Someone asked what my favorite book is, and I stared off into the distance, dying inside at the thought of narrowing down my list of favorite books to just one.
So why narrow it down? Why not just provide innocent bystanders asking for book recommendations with a whole list of books?
That’s what I’m doing now, dearest readers. Here is my list of my favorite books.
1) The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: This book was originally written in Spanish, but the English translation is absolutely beautiful. If I was basing my obsession with this book simply on imagery, dialogue and other literary devices, I would give it a 50 million out of ten. But the plot of this book is so intricately woven, it’s like a beautiful spider web. The characters are spectacular and interesting. The setting is gorgeously described (it takes place in Spain). Also, it’s a book about books. The plot is basically impossible to describe without giving too much away, so you're just going to have to read it yourself.
2) People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks: This book surrounds the Sarajevo Haggadah, a gorgeously illustrated Hebrew manuscript from 15th century Spain. It follows the different people who were in possession of the book, dating all the way back to it’s original creator in the 15th century, and how they contributed to the little details found in the book. Because of Brooks's experience as a journalist, she's clearly got a knack for digging up historical facts. It’s packed with fascinating historical details, and it’s one of those books you have to read twice to get the full picture.
3) The Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen: If you like sweet, fluffy tales with a hint of magic realism, this is definitely your type of book. This sugary sweet story follows Josey Cirrini, a southern belle in her late twenties, doomed to care for her spoiled mother in a big ol’ fancy house. Hopelessly in love with her dreamy mailman, Josey wakes up one day to find a most unexpected visitor in her closet. Whenever I read this book (and I have read it many times) I feel like I’m take a cloud to fairyland.
4) The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt: This book is both hilarious and heartfelt—my favorite genre. It takes place during the Vietnam War on Long Island, New York, and it’s from the hilarious point of view of twelve-year-old Holling Hoodhood. This book kind of reminded me of Hey Arnold– goofy bullies, lovable kids, inspirational teachers, and adults who don’t always know best.
5) Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys: Not to be confused with the horrendous Fifty Shades of Grey. This book takes place around the 1950s in Lithuania, and follows the story of fifteen-year-old Lina. Everything’s fine and dandy until Soviet soldiers appear at her family’s doorstep at night, take her, her mother, and her brother away to a Siberian work camp. This book is interesting because it focuses more on Stalinist oppressions, which is a point of view that we normally don’t get around World War 2. But this book is painfully and heartbreakingly realistic. Get ready for tears.
6) Circle of Friends, by Maeve Binchy: This is an oldie, but a goodie. And by oldie I mean that it was written in 1990. Anyways, this book takes place in the beautiful countryside of Ireland during the 1950s, which is probably one of the reasons why I love it so much. It’s a classic coming of age tale, following Benny Hogan as she sets off to college in Dublin. Full of quirky characters, lovely language, and first loves, it’s a story that I’ve always really related with.
7) Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro: Confession—this book also made me cry. It takes place in a dystopian society where people are cloned, and those clones (called “donors”) only have one purpose in life: to “donate” their organs. Therefore, their life expectancy isn’t too long. A thirty-ish year old Kathy narrates the story, reflecting on her life and the people she’s known. The cool thing about this book is that while the main characters are donors, it's not the focus of the story. It’s just a side detail. The focus of this book is their relationships, and how their lives are tragically cut short due to different operations. You’ll probably cry during this one, too.
So there you have it. A very narrowed down list of my favorite books to get lost in. Now go forth, and read with reckless abandon.