BY LINDSEY HANNAH
I will always cherish “Frankenstein” as the book that ruined the word “countenance” forever. Sluggish plot, unlikeable characters and convoluted storytelling abound in this novel, which is at once depressing and disgusting. It is undeniably cool that it is the first ever sci-fi book and Mary Shelley finished it when she was just 19 years old, but reading this book as a summer assignment was almost as painful as being stitched together from different corpses. Sorry, too soon?
11. “Of Mice and Men”
Objectively speaking, “Of Mice and Men” is one of the great American novels detailing life during the Great Depression. Subjectively speaking, however, this is a slow paced novella that spends a significant number of words describing nothing (which is actually quite impressive, considering how short it is). While it is wholly unmemorable in my experience, I will concede that my genre of choice at the time was young adult dystopian, so maybe a re-read is in order.
10. “Life of Pi”
I was fascinated by this book’s take on religion, however, the graphic nature of some of the scenes (especially those related to the suffering of animals) lands “Life of Pi” at number ten on my list. The book’s obvious use of symbolism, however, makes it the perfect training wheels for someone trying to get the hang of understanding authors who write everything but what they mean.
9. “How to Read Literature like a Professor”
Okay, so this isn’t a novel, but I was still technically required to read it. It doesn’t top my list for obvious reasons, however I still found my reading experience to be generally enjoyable. My only caveat is the level of spoiler content within the book. Plot may not be the point of great literature, but I still would like to have the option of surprise, thank you very much.
Though this is not the kind of book anyone wants to reread, it is important that it is read nonetheless. Much like other books on this list, it details historical atrocities, specifically, the Holocaust. The fact that it is a true story written by a survivor makes the tale all-the-more poignant.
7. “Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Both exceedingly funny and surprisingly easy to read, “Midsummer Night’s Dream” has stood the test of time as one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies. The sarcastic, deprecating and at times outlandish humor is not relegated to spectators of the 16th century, but rather has the capacity to be appreciated even by students of today. It isn’t higher on my list, however, due to the absence of powerful, emotion-evoking elements as well as it’s not-so-subtle digs at womankind throughout (yes, I know “Hamlet” does this too. Shhh).
6. “The Sixth Extinction”
Yet another important book that a person can only handle reading once, “The Sixth Extinction” details the increasingly harmful impacts humans are having on the environment. Although this topic is inherently depressing, the book manages to convey it in a specific, understandable and hopeful way that makes it both a memorable and impactful read.
The second work of Shakespeare to make it on the list, “Hamlet” is often called his best play. It directly opposed the traditional main character of the time by making Hamlet overthinking, emotional and indecisive. Despite the fact that it was written over four centuries ago, Hamlet’s themes of death, duality and descent into madness have helped it to stand the test of time.
4. “To Kill a Mockingbird”
Although it has been a whopping four years since I’ve read this book, it still manages to maintain its place in my heart (though it has had to scoot over a bit for new arrivals). While some might find it slow or detail-heavy, I recall enjoying these aspects most; without them, Harper Lee could not have created such vivid imagery of the Depression-era South. The book also serves as a harrowing reminder of historical abuses committed against African Americans.
3. “Brave New World”
A very close second-place, this book is at once hysterical and chilling, intuitive and shocking, foreign and relatable. Despite being written as a commentary of the materialism and industrialism of the early part of the 20th century, the observations made in “Brave New World” are just as relevant, if not more, when read in the context of today.
2. “Catcher in the Rye”
Call me basic, like every other teen who relates to the ever-angsty Holden Caulfield, but what can I say? The reason so many choose this as their favorite book is that it connects with people on a level that is as universal as it is intimate. Potent with symbolism and unforgettable characters, “Catcher in the Rye” is not just one of my favorite books assigned in class, but of all time.
1. “Devil in the Grove”
“Devil in the Grove” is another book that recounts the crimes committed against African Americans in the 20th century, however, unlike “To Kill a Mockingbird,” it is nonfiction. The book follows legendary civil rights lawyer and Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall during the years before he won the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, effectively ending racial segregation in public schools. Although the events of this book actually happened, “Devil in the Grove” still reads like fiction, painting history in a whole new light. At times it is hard to believe that anyone could actually really commit some of the atrocities described, which only increases its chilling effect. Ultimately, “Devil in the Grove” is number one on my list because of the deeply engaging and candid story it tells.
Photo courtesy of Devil in the Grove