Some Books I Like (or Liked)

Ok you guys, I’ve been trudging through the same book for like a YEAR, so it’s gonna be a while before I post a new “Book Report!”. So in the meantime, I’d like to document some of the books that I like, have liked in the past (when I was young and stupid…er), and/or think everyone should read.

The GiverOhhh man, what a good book. This was the first dystopian story I had ever read (I was in maybe 4th or 5th grade), and it blew my mind. If you haven’t read it (who are you??) it’s about a boy in an alternate/future-type society who discovers that there is a dark side to his idyllic world. I’m the kind of person who finds utopian societies desirable (They ride bikes everywhere! It’s always San Diego-style climate! Everything is clean and in order! What could be wrong with that?), so once in a while I need people to spell out for me exactly why removing people’s freedom miiiight be a bad thing. Also, fun fact, I have read this book exactly twice: Once, when I was in elementary school, and once about two years ago. Reading it as an adult, I learned that I had previously NOT AT ALL understood the ending, and had foolishly thought that it ended MUCH more optimistically than it really did. Ahhh childhood naivete, how sweet.

Charlotte's WebI already have a tendency to anthropomorphize animals, so maybe this book was just kindling the flame. I really do find, though, that the more I learn about animals (I mean facts, data, research), the more similar to humans they seem to be. They learn, think, communicate, share, comfort, despair, fear, envy, protect, fight, make peace, etc. What separates us from them? Not much, I think. Mostly, this book made it so that I feel guilty and apologize (out loud) when I kill a spider. I do still kill them though. Charlotte was great and all, but she doesn’t need to be hanging out in my shower.

Harold and the Purple CrayonI love this kid. I’ve always liked to draw, but I never felt like I was very imaginative or creative, so the way that Harold thinks is so inspiring. He invented thinking outside the box. I also like the idea of creating the world that you want live in (in a broader sense, i.e. don’t litter if you want to live in a world with no litter on the ground), and Harold was totally in control of how his world turned out. If he got into a jam, he had the presence of mind and creativity to draw himself an escape route. What a great role model.
Catcher in the RyeI am just such the little emo kid. I read this in middle school, of course, and thought that it was speaking directly to my black little soul, of  course, and I was all, ooo now I have permission to be brood-y and mad at the world. If you haven’t read it (again, who are you?), it’s about a teenager dude who meanders aimlessly through New York, having various interactions with people that all validate his sense that people are “phony”, disappointing, and generally beyond his grasp and/or beneath him. It’s nice, as an adolescent, to see someone acknowledge that sometimes people really are inane/self-centered/moronic/etc. But when you gain a little maturity, it’s just like ughh…yes, sometimes it rains, but must we spend an entire 200 pages discussing just how unpleasant the rain is?

StiffI LOVE this book. I love Mary Roach as a nonfiction writer; she could make any topic interesting, engaging, and easy to understand. In this book, she explores all of the common things that we do to a person’s body after death (e.g. embalming, burial, cremation, scientific studies, etc.).

Hitchiker's Guide to the GalaxyI love anything that intelligently presents our social world to us through the lens of an outsider. We humans are so silly. And this book is so entertaining. Read it!

Pride PrejudiceI am a female, yes? Two words: Mr. Darcy.

FreakonomicsThis book quickly teaches you not to trust any assumptions, opinions, or assertions made by yourself or anyone else. Ever. Data is your friend. And the more valid the data the better, though it’s best to just, ya know, keep gathering as much data as possible on every topic ever because you’ll never know the one right answer to anything. And apparently our world is built entirely on disproved assumptions that people have chosen to ignore.

Alias GraceHey, weird! Margaret Atwood is on this list, who’da thunk? This was like the book version of The Sixth Sense- not that it’s the same story-line at all, but it had a surprise twist ending. I love stuff like that!! It had the kind of ending that makes you see the entire rest of the book in a completely different way.

Sylvia PlathI read this simultaneously with a friend while we were in college (the perfect time and experience for reading this). I can’t really explain what about this book was so great, but she was just a really good writer (no duh). Whenever I think of this book, I think of this one line that she wrote when she was nannying for a family one summer, and she ladled ice cream into bowls for them after dinner. I’m not going to attempt to recreate the line, but just that some random line about ice cream has stuck with me for so long is what I liked about the book. The simple but beautiful way that she described little things like that just delighted me. And the book really  showed how hard she worked to be good and to be recognized as good (in the male-dominated world of writing). Writing is something we can all “do” in the sense that we can all sing (physically, we can), so you don’t always realize what it takes to be really good at it.


5 thoughts on “Some Books I Like (or Liked)

  1. When I was young(er), I too favored utopian stories and probably would have run from dystopian ones. Only after my high school experience did I start looking at the world as a deceiving place. Before then, I thought Scrooge was just being a greedy meanie. And, Hitler was just a monster. Now, I see things a little differently. I can see both sides and hate when only one side is presented sometimes.

    I will try to remember/put “The Giver” on my library list as it sounds mildly interesting. I know what you mean about misunderstanding/misreading the ending/story. When I went back not too long ago (maybe three to thirteen years ago) to reread “The Hero and the Crown”, I was astonished how many details I either forgot or looked at differently in my youth. Just like cartoons/movies, we see things differently with eyes of different ages.

    As for animals and humans relating, I think about that so often myself. ‘Not them acting alike so much. But, I consider how people forget they ARE animals and capable of going through what other species do. It’s just the clothes on our backs and our obsession with money that changes everything. We’ve been distanced from our primal natures…except when people trample each other for supplies during a disaster or holiday rush.

    I only kill spiders (and other creepy bugs) when they get too close, now or I have to do my “spring cleaning”. I tolerate the webs only so long. And, some years, it feels like the spiders are gearing up for war. So, I remain on guard:P hehe But, I find spiders more intriguing now than I did as a kid. When I first heard of “Charlotte’s Web”, I was not a big fan. I was reflecting my mother’s fear of bugs. In terms of personality, yes, Charlotte is wonderful.

    I too favor the boy with the purple crayon…but some of that story is batty. Points for creativity, though. I favor “The Giving Tree” more.

    “The Catcher in the Rye” felt/feels a bit overrated to me. It’s one of those books students are told/made to read and get some grand lesson from whether or not it makes sense. I like rebels. But, Holden felt a bit dated–even back when I read it in high school–like some “Grease” extra with a greasy comb and a leather jacket, telling kids, “beat it!” Years later, I find out more about the author (which is both shocking and not shocking) and find myself seeing a bit of Holden in me. But, I didn’t love the book when I read it. I have never been big on cussing, regardless. I don’t know how to feel about Salinger’s hidden works being published after his death. And, I had no idea he wrote more than two books.

    Why do I want to read about corpses with wit? Bleh. Just stop at “this person is dead and in a morgue”. I don’t want to look beneath the skin. Which is why I hate that Body Works exhibit going through museums. How messed up is that? Peeling skins off people and freezing them in whatever poses the artist likes. The audacity and disrespect of a human life. What if you hated ballet and had your dead body frozen in a tutu?

    I saw the “Hitchhiker” movie…it was okay. I didn’t rave about it. But, I do enjoy Sam Rockwell and adore Zooey Deshannel (hoping I spelled that right). It kinda reminds me of an old Monty Python sketch/film without the spam or bloody knight.

    Why do so many “olde English” books feature a Mr. Darcy? It seems to be a popular character name. I doze off with “period” stories unless someone can prove they break ground for me:P

    Soooo…”Freakonomics” would just add to my already flaming paranoia. I don’t think that’s a good thing:P My siblings already complain about my conspiracy theories. But, yes, it’s good to get both sides of a story and the “facts” if you can identify them. One lesson I’ve learned in life: Don’t ever buy/believe the “sales pitch”. It’s more often than not a lie (or half-truth). Women who rave over sale prices are a good example of fools in this case.

    I too love twist endings. Can’t say I’ve even heard of Alias Grace (which sounds like a phony name or alias:P). I strive to write twists and surprises–as well as little jokes–into my stories. Straight forward is a little dull. But, practical people–like my mother–can’t process twists or humor well.


    1. Yeah I liked The Giving Tree a lot, until I read an article in college about it being anti-feminist. I’ll never see it the same way again.

      Hitchhiker’s Guide, the movie, was terrible (though I do like the actors as well). The book is much better of course, and very different.

      I’m not aware of any other books (other than sequels to P&P written by authors in the modern era) with characters named Mr. Darcy. And yeah, if you’re not a female, you’re not expected to like these books.


  2. Oh, but one more thing about Salinger, I like how (from what they said in the PBS special, at least) he fought to keep his “Catcher” pure. He didn’t want people changing the text or any part of it. If a publisher wanted to make changes, he left them in the dust. One publisher supposedly freaked him out by saying Holden and Salinger are the same person and both mental. Luckily, Salinger had an enduring friend who went to all these publishers with him (and drove him around). Otherwise, I don’t think he would have been published. He definitely would have preferred modern self-publishing, I think. The special painted him to be quite the paranoid, bitter person who kept curling up tighter and tighter as people disappointed him. I can relate. But, I don’t want to ever be that bitter. Nor do I want someone else profiting from my work when/if it brought me no happiness/success in my living days.


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