As I’m sure most of you know by now, reading is one of my absolute favorite hobbies. 80% of the time, I have a novel in my bag with bent-down pages stashed between school assignments. It’s a great way for me to focus my energy, relax, and take a break from the regular strife from life.

Today I want to take a chance to reflect on some of my favorite books that I enjoyed in middle school, high school, and even college. No matter what your age is, I’m sure you’ll love some (if not all) of these books!


Matched Trilogy | Ally Condie | Dystopian Fiction

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When I first started writing this article, the Matched Trilogy was the first book series to pop into my mind. I first read this novel when I was in sixth grade, which was around the same time I began to think more critically about the dystopian reflections and problems in our own society. This book in particular was a spectacular wake up call to these issues, while still remaining intertwined with a beautiful life story. To sum it up, this book has a little of everything: romance, dystopian drama, and even a little hint of mystery. Even though it’s been a few years since I’ve read the book, I’m sure I’d love it just as much today as I did when I was younger. 


Sammy Keyes | Wendelin Van Draanen | Mystery

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Without a doubt, the Sammy Keyes mystery series was my absolute favorite treasure in middle school and high school. Even as a senior in college, I think these books are phenomenal and such a joy to read. Sammy is quirky, brash, and extremely smart- three traits that I believe make her a great role model for young girls (and all readers in general). Take note that there are eighteen books in the series, so you’re an adamant reader, this is the series for you. Even just writing this, I’m already welling up with nostalgia and thinking about starting up the series again. It’s an action-packed, deliciously well-written collection of tales, and I truly think there’s a place in everybody’s heart of Sammy Keyes. 


Little Women | Louisa May Alcott | Fiction

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I’m a big fan of the classics, particularly novels that center around strong (yet sensitive) female leads. Additionally, the release of the Little Women movie this past year, the story is getting even more attention and love than usual. Although a fictional story about four young women in the mid-1800s may not sound too exciting, it’s actually extremely interesting and endearing. As an ambitious young writer myself, I felt a particular love and appreciation for the feisty Jo March. 


Anne of Green Gables | L.M. Montgomery | Fiction

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Similarly to Little Women, Anne of Green Gables is considered a classic example of literature, particularly with feminist notes. I truly believe that everyone should read this book at some point in their lives, regardless of age and gender. Anne Shirley is a spunky, strong, and entertaining female lead, and I immediately felt inspired by her after reading the series (yes, there are seven more subsequent books!). I would also recommend checking out Anne with an E on Netflix, if reading just isn’t quite your thing. The story is amazing in both print and on the screen.


Where the Crawdads Sing | Delia Owens | Mystery

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Where the Crawdads Sing is actually a book I read last year in a book club, but the story has always stuck around with me. This novel is a breathtaking example of a true coming-of-age story, and I enjoy that it curates both a male and female perspective. Although a large portion of the book is the mystery aspect, it also incorporates elements of romance, family, and even environmentalism. Although it’s heartbreaking at times, it’s a fantastic read and I highly recommend it to everybody who loves books. 


Memoirs of a Geisha | Arthur Golden | Historical Fiction

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Lastly but certainly not least, I have a very special place in my heart for this book. The first time I read it, I was in high school, and it absolutely changed my life. Have you ever read a book that destroyed you in the most beautiful way possible? That’s precisely how I feel about Arthur Golden’s gorgeous writing and fictional recount of Nitta Sayuri. Sayuri is a celebration of highly sensitive people, of beauty and grace, and notably, the celebration of womanity. It’s truly a vibrant look into a fascinating chapter of Japanese history, told through the voice of a genius storyteller.

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For Pretty Much Anyone

All the Light We Cannot See | Anthony Doerr | Historical Fiction/War Novel

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is my absolute favorite novel at the moment. I’m reading it for my book club, and can safely say it’s one of my favorite books to date. One of my favorite things about the book is how effortlessly Doerr sets the scenery for readers- it’s so easy to visualize this book, and that’s important for me when I’m trying to stay engaged with a book. I suppose this book could also be categorized as a love story, but the true romance of the book is the romance of humanity. In the midst of World War II, in Paris, love and tragedy go hand in hand in this impeccable story. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to read, and especially history buffs or friends with romantic personalities. Although the book is detailed and vibrant, it’s also easy to read and comprehend. I’m so excited that a multi-part television series is coming out in the future based on this book; a review will definitely have to ensue!


For the Anti-Book Friend

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America | Linda Tirado | Nonfiction, Poverty

This is a book I was required to read for my multi-disciplinary poverty class last year, and it has still stuck with me in my mind. Similarly to All the Light We Cannot See, this book is easy to read and fast to get through. However, it’s certainly not a dreamy novel- it details a real woman’s story growing up in unbearable poverty in the United States. I recommend this book to everybody, especially my friends who don’t like to read so much. In a lot of ways, it’s more so a collection of essays instead of a book with a beginning, middle, and end. This is a book that requires you to think critically, and really sparks insight over the broken class system in the USA. You may agree or disagree with that, but nonetheless, I believe everyone will have a strong takeaway from Linda Tirado’s story. If anything, I believe reading this book will make anyone a more empathetic person. 


For the Science Buff

Rocket Boys / October Sky  | Homer H. Hickam, Jr | Memoir, Biography

Before I read the book, I watched the movie October Sky in my 7th-grade class. I remember this movie having such a strong, lasting impact on me, hence why I subsequently decided to read the book. To this day, the book (and the movie) is my favorite comfort story. Rocket Boys, sometimes printed as October Sky in later additions, details Homer Hickam Jr.’s unique upbringing in a small mining town in the 1950s. Although the odds were stacked against him, Homer relentlessly pursued amateur rocketry with the hopes of getting out of Coalwood and going to college. Not only did he get to go to college, he even went on to become a NASA engineer, training astronauts for space. While rocketry and science does play a large role in the book, Homer Hickam has the soul of a storyteller and winds a vibrant, poetic memoir. Even if you’re not into rocketry, I promise you’ll adore this book. And if you are, all the better!


For the Creative Friend

The Me Journal | Shane Windham | Self-questionnaire

I guess this could also be considered a great gift for the anti-book friend, because it’s not really a novel- it’s the story of you. The Me Journal is a self-questionnaire that asks extremely deep, thoughtful questions- many of which I never thought to ask before. It’s also a great conversation starter for meeting new people; I love to flip open to a random page and ask my friends the questions. Interestingly, I’ve never actually filled it out because I know my answers are subject to change over time. I’d rather leave it blank and answer it in my head, than permanently put down a temporary answer, you know? Nonetheless, this is a great book for friends who hate to read, or friends who have an interesting story to tell. Or, it can just be an awesome gift for yourself.   


For the Friend Who Loves Politics

Sisters in Law | Linda Hirshman | Biography

In case you couldn’t tell, I’ve been really into historical nonfiction lately. I love to read about American history, because I feel like the best way to change the world is to understand it. I want to have a detailed, thorough, objective understanding of what my country is built on -the good and the bad- so that I may be better informed in how to pave a better future. Sisters in Law is a beautiful biography of two diverse women, Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Sandra was a republican Christian, Ruth a democratic Jew, but together, they stormed the Supreme Court and worked together as a team to demand equality. Even to this day, their impact is visible in society; these two women helped pave the way of justice for abortion, sexual harassment, and discrimination. It’s a fascinating read, and offers a powerful woman’s viewpoint of American politics. 10/10!

Coming up next: Reviewing the Fall 2019 Fab Fit Fun Box: My HONEST Thoughts

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I don’t think I have officially announced this on my blog yet, but since March, I have been hosting my own book club with some of my friends and family. Joining a book club is something I’ve always wanted to do, so being able to moderate one myself is a dream come true! 

The first couple of books we chose to read in my book club were selected through a Facebook poll, and the last two were hand-picked by other members in my club. I have absolutely loved every book I’ve read so far, and am looking forward to telling you about the other books we cover in the future!

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The first book we read in April was The Joy Luck Club, a timeless novel by Amy Tan. The Joy Luck Club is a fantastic, tear-jerking novel centered around themes of family, love, and loss. Four Chinese daughters reflect on their relationships with their individual mothers, and how the somehow strict upbringings they endured shaped them into the women they became. This book also has a movie adaption, which is even more of a tear-jerker than the book. This novel deals with difficult themes of death and loss, as I said, so keep that in mind if those topics are sensitive to you. All in all, this is an absolutely incredible novel, and I would recommend it to all book lovers. 


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Where the Crawdads Sing is the second book selected in our club, and to date, it’s actually one of my favorite novels of all time. This book was actually picked up by Reese Witherspoon for her book club, and currently, she is helping with the production of the movie adaption. This book is an exciting combination of romance, murder mystery, and adventure, and I also love it because the storyline has a heavy emphasis on nature and wildlife. I love stories that center around a strong female lead, and Kya is certainly no exception. In regards to awards, Where the Crawdads Sing topped The New York Times Fiction Bestsellers List of 2019 for 18 non-consecutive weeks, and has sold 1.5 million copies worldwide. 


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The Glass Castle was the most recent book we completed in my book club, and if you haven’t already heard of it, I highly recommend it. Based on a true story, The Glass Castle centers around a young woman named Jeannette Walls and her dysfunctional, singular upbringing in poverty. Jeannette’s parents made me furious at some points, especially her father, but the unique he has for his children is undeniable. This book was exciting, rich, and raw, and I was glued to it from beginning to end. There is also a movie adaption starring Brie Larson and Naomi Watts, and I’m highly looking forward to checking that out too!


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The current book we are reading is A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron, and it was actually my mother who selected this book for us. You probably know by now that I absolutely adore animals, especially dogs, so this book is going to be perfect for me. The novel essentially follows a dog named Toby and his journeys through reincarnation, all while looking for his purpose as a dog. This kind of content makes me super mushy, so I can already guarantee I’m going to cry at least five times while reading it. This book also has amazing reviews, and was a New York Times bestseller for forty-nine weeks!


Photo credits: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7763.The_Joy_Luck_Club

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Glass_Castle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Dog%27s_Purpose_(film)

https://www.aier.org/article/another-stack-books-you-should-read

Coming up next: A Tour of my Bedroom

I’ve always been a bookworm, so during my winter break, I spent dozens of nights pouring over new books. Some of them were books I’ve had on my bookshelf for years and wanted to pick up again, but most were brand-new books I purchased just last month. They’re all extremely different, from both the publication date to the overall content, but I’ve fallen in love with everything I’m reading so far. And maybe, you will too!


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First and foremost, I’ve been weirdly interested in American history lately. I never enjoyed history in class in high school, which I mainly attribute to having boring teachers combating my flaming ADHD. I feel like history class should feel like storytelling, not a dull lecture, and that’s exactly why history class turned me off. Now that I’ve graduated from high school and started to pursue my own interests, I realize that I actually am interested in knowing about history and what turned our country into what it is now. I picked up this book, America: The Last Best Hope. I’m not really a big fan of the author or his politics, but his book is really interesting. Like I said, I’m interested in history presented as storytelling, and that’s exactly what this book does. Because of this book, I’m now super into the American Revolution, the Boston Tea Party, and all that jazz. It’s kind of nostalgic, too, because I remember being interested in American history when I was very young. Overall, I give this book an 8/10- the only thing I don’t like is William J. Bennett himself.


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Another book I’ve been glued to lately is The Witch Elm by Tana French. I’ve read another one of her books before- In The Woods, to be exact, and was absolutely obsessed with it. There’s something so unique and tangible about her writing; you feel like you’re in the middle of a real crime television show. You end up getting emotionally attached and involved with the characters, which makes the actual plot twists all the more devastating. If you enjoy Stephen King, you’re bound to love her novels (King himself enjoys her books, too!). I’m only about a third of the way through the book, but so far, I’m giving it a 9/10.


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The Woman in White is a book I’ve owned for about three years, but never really gotten into. I’m giving it another shot, and it seems to be going along well this time! I think the biggest problem I had with this book when I got first tried reading it is its slow-paced nature. The book was published in 1860, which explains the complex language and objectively “boring” plot, but once you get into it, the book is actually quite interesting. The Woman in White is widely regarded as being the first mystery novel, even before Sherlock Holmes. It’s a nice, spooky book to read on a rainy night, and I’d have to give it an 8/10 so far. I’m only about a third of the way through, so we’ll see how the book progresses…


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Speaking of spooky books, I’m also currently reading Ghostly Tales: Spine-Chilling Stories of the Victorian Age. You might recognize the title from another article I wrote, where I recommended this book as a Christmas gift. The book is a compilation of a handful of stories, and includes works from Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I wouldn’t say all of the short stories are necessarily scary, but they are definitely mysterious and compelling. The book also inspired me to do some additional research on the authors- that’s how interested I got in the stories. I’m so close to being finished with the entire book, and at this point, I feel certified to give it a 10/10.


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On a happier, more light-hearted note, I recently started reading one of the more adorable books of all time. It’s called Pilgrim of Tinker Creek, and essentially, it’s just an observation on nature/life/theology by Annie Dillard. I’ve actually just recently become interested in nonfiction work, like history, philosophy, psychology, and…The Bermuda Triangle? I don’t know what category that falls under. Conspiracy theories? Pilgrim of Tinker Creek is narrated like a personal journal, and essentially contemplates the shifts of life as the seasons change. It’s a really beautiful book, and I’m so happy I decided to pick it up. 10/10 from me!


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Like I just said, I’m getting increasingly interested in books about philosophy and sociology. If you’ve seen Ever After, the 1998 film starring Drew Barrymore, you might recognize Utopia as the book Danielle cherishes. That’s honestly the primary reason I started reading Utopia– I loved Ever After growing up, and wanted to understand Danielle’s love for the book. It’s definitely challenging to read, considering it originally written in Latin and translated to English in the early 1500s, but I do genuinely enjoy reading it. It’s fascinating how the morals and notions in the book are still relevant in society- crime, punishment, power dynamics, etc. I might not fully understand every sentence of every page, but I’m getting the basic idea, and I do feel like I’m learning a lot about societal issues from the book. 8/10; I’m deducting 2 points for not being an annotated text. The only modern print publication I could find of Utopia is kind of shoddy and poorly arranged, so just keep that in mind if you want to buy a copy yourself. You might be able to find it easier as a PDF, because the entire publication is only about eighty pages. 


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I, like many others, had to read Macbeth as a part of my high school curriculum (and yes, like many others, I despised it at the time). However, as I looked back on that experience, I realized that I actually did really enjoy the book. Yeah, it’s about the gruesome murder of King Duncan, but it’s also absolutely hilarious and satirical. Most versions of the book are also annotated, so you can translate the Shakespearean language as you read along. Side note: I recently became aware of a conspiracy theory that Shakespeare didn’t write any of his own work, and it’s REALLY compelling. Look it up!! Also, the book gets 9/10. 1 point deducted for being difficult to read, but hey, that’s what you have to expect when you pick up a Shakespeare play.


Anyway, that’s everything I’m simultaneously reading right now. I usually read one chapter of each book every night, which takes about 1.5-2 hours total. People are amazed when I tell them this, and can’t believe I don’t get the stories confused, but it genuinely really relaxes me to read multiple books at once. Does anybody else do this? Let me know below!

Coming up next: What’s in Season for the Month of February?

 

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If you know me personally, then you probably know these three crucial things: I own copious amounts of fun socks, my dog is my best friend, and I’m a total book fanatic. Needless to say, I love cozying up on the couch with my dog, some socks, and a good book in my lap. Some people just can’t read the same book twice, but for me, I have no problem reading my favorite books again and again and again. The magic of being transported to another magical world just never gets old for me.

Throughout my life, dozens of books have entered and exited my bookshelf- the latter usually ending up in yard sales or in the hands of friends and family. Although my tastes have matured and changed, there are still a handful of books on my shelf that have stayed (and will stay) for the years to come. Sometimes, a story just never gets old, no matter how many years pass! Throughout my life thus far, these are some of my favorite books I’ve kept very close to my heart.

Of all the books I’ve read in my nineteen years, one of my all-time favorites is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Although the novel was published more than one hundred years ago (150, to be exact), the emotions and themes are still relevant and powerful. Little Women is a beautiful story about family, love, sisterhood, and dealing with the natural changes that come with life. I’ve always felt a very strong connection to the main heroine, Jo March; we are both ambitious writers struggling to make names for ourselves in a rapidly-changing world. It is a book, in my opinion, that every young girl should be given the opportunity to read. It was also made into a fantastic movie in 1994, which I highly recommend you watch if you haven’t already.

Another book I remember fondly from my childhood is the classic 1999 novel by Christopher Paul Curtis, Bud Not Buddy. I still remember the day I got this book in Barnes and Noble; I was about eleven years old, and my mom was very adamant about purchasing it for me. Obviously, it was a good suggestion, because that book still sits proudly on my shelf. I’ll crack it open every couple years or so, and usually finish reading it within a day or so. I love novels that revolve around the idea of a journey, both physical and emotional. Bud’s journey is nothing short of unique- somehow, we start in a garden shack infested with bats, and end surrounded my jazz musicians in Grand Rapids. It’s a book filled with humor, emotion, and rich details, and it’s guaranteed to pull at your heartstrings all the while.

Speaking of books about journeys, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is a book I still buzz about to this day. If you enjoyed Because of Winn Dixie or The Tale of Despereaux, you’re bound to enjoy The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (they are, after all, written by the same author, Kate DiCamillo). It’s written beautifully, yet simple enough that even younger children can understand the story. Revolving around the life and times of an arrogant china rabbit who goes on an imperious journey around the country (world?), it’s impossible not to be enthralled in Edward’s journey and emotional development. I know it sounds strange to care so much about a china rabbit, but I guarantee you’ll feel the same way if you read the book, too. I actually started reading the book to one of my friends aloud, and according to him, he thoroughly enjoyed it.

If you lived through a public school 9th grade English class, there’s a fairly high chance you had to read The Giver. That, or you’ve almost definitely heard of the 2014 film adaption. I’m usually not interested in dystopian society novels, because I think a lot of them are either overdone or rehashed, but this one really stuck with me. The story is so singular and unusual, especially the aspects of diversity and humanity that “The Community” mercilessly destroys in the novel. It’s not something I could really sit down and read in one day- it requires quite a bit of philosophical thinking and digesting to really understand. That being said, I did really enjoy the novel. I still have it on my bookshelf, and think about the story constantly.

Anne of Green Gables, hands down, is one of my favorite novels of all time. I’ve probably mentioned it quite a few times on here, but that’s because the book has had such a substantial impact on my life. The first version of the book I owned was an illustrated young reader’s edition, and my mom used to read it to me frequently. The book’s encompassing theme is the tale of Anne’s adoption into the Cuthbert family, and her metamorphosis into a young woman. Beyond that, however, the book is filled with detailed anecdotes and stories of Anne’s beautiful, iconic life in rural Canada. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve purchased the entire Anne of Green Gables series, which is eight books in total! I also have a reprinted version of the first edition book with the original manuscript- something my mom bought me as a gift when we visited the Anne of Green Gables museum in Prince Edward Island. If you’re a fan of Anne as well, I highly recommend visiting the island and checking out all of the wonderful Anne-themed activities and places. She truly has a monopoly on the entire eastern side of Canada.

When You Reach Me is another story I’ve mentioned before in my book tag. It’d a book that I, admittedly, have quite destroyed with love and adoration. The cover sleeve is missing, the pages are ripped and dog-eared, and the inner cover has a pencil doodle in it that I’m pretty sure I made in middle school. Funnily enough, the main heroine of the story, Miranda, has a similar relationship with her favorite book (A Wrinkle in Time). One of the most unique things about this novel is that it’s written in second-person point of view; more specifically, in the form of letters to someone that’s not really revealed until the last few pages. The book also isn’t written in chapters- instead, it’s written in very short anecdote- blurbs about the events in Miranda’s life in the late 1970s. Everything about this book is interesting: the time period, the characters, and especially the writing style. I love this book just as much as I did when I was twelve, and almost eight years later, I still love it just as much.

Happy holidays, everyone! Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a beautiful, relaxing day, surrounded by your friends and family. I’ll be posting on Wednesday all about my holiday and how I spent it with my family, and I’m very excited to share!

Coming up next: All about my Christmas!