Key: Books that helped me grow, Books that I loved
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Though I am currently reading this book and nearly halfway done, I have grown as reader in the short amount of time I have been reading it. Half of a Yellow Sun challenges me to “live” in war torn Africa for a while. When we, Americans, hear something bad is happening in another part of the world, we may take note of it, feel bad for a second, and move on to hearing gossip about the Kardashian’s. Truly, that bad thing that is happening is a reality for someone else. This book is giving me insight into a war in Africa that is a reality for the main characters of the book. It is scary, confusing, traumatic, and intense for those witnessing the war. While reading, I try to imagine being put in such a situation and I can never quite figure out how I would react. I read about how the character’s react to war and can rarely decide who I would hope to act like in such a stressful situation. I hope to learn and grow more as I finish up this book.
Read (from most recently read to least recently):
The Circle by Dave Eggers
I was assigned The Circle for a dystopian novel assignment. My whole family had read this book, or was reading the book at the time, and were all raving about it, so I was really excited to read the book. Thankfully, The Circle lived up to my high expectations while helping me grow as a person, reader, and social media user. The story was enticing, the main character annoying, but the book had me reading at every chance I got. When my sister had read it and described the story as “creepy” I hadn’t been able to imagine how a story about a major technological company, that reminded me of Google or Apple, could be called “creepy.” But as I was reading, I most definitely agreed. The Circle introduces the idea of transparency, cameras everywhere, and so many new technologies that are proposed as safety features, but in the large scheme of things, completely invade privacy and could be easily used harmfully.
Before reading this book, I hadn’t read a dystopian novel since sixth grade. Dystopian novels were my favorite genre at the time, but I had yet to read a non-young adult dystopian novel since, something I didn’t really realize existed until recently. I was grown from the new ideas and genre introduced while reading.
What is the What by Dave Eggers
My Traitor’s Heart by Rian Malan
This year, my class was assigned African novels, each English class having about five groups of people reading different books. I honestly chose the book from the very short synopsis on the cover because I thought it sounded interesting. Shortly after choosing the book I wanted to read, I realized it said South Africa, not just Africa, and somehow that made a big difference in my head. “Oh, wonderful,” I thought, “I get to read about white people. Can’t I read about them in just about any book in America?” When I got this book, we had yet to cover the topic of South African history in world history class. I was in for a big surprise while reading. I had very little background knowledge of South Africa going into it, so this book was incredibly intriguing–I felt like I learned so much while reading, and almost had an insiders view into South African history just from reading the book. My initial thoughts of My Traitor’s Heart were not good ones. The introduction was long and, to be quite honest, boring. But as the story progressed and Rian Malan told his story, as well as other African’s stories, of South Africa, the book drew me in and I never wanted to stop reading.
The book helped me grow as a reader by teaching me to give a book a chance. I started off truly wanting to quit this book, but as soon as I got past the introduction and the first few chapters, I was hooked. My Traitor’s Heart was a tough read, but not so far out of my comfort zone that I didn’t like it, making it the perfect broccoli book. This seems very elementary, but the vocabulary was tough at times because the author was from another part of the world. I was introduced to new ideas, cultures, and how horrible humans can be to others just because they are different from one another. It truly amazes me. This book was eye-opening and an incredible read.
The Cider House Rules by John Irving
One of my mom’s favorite author’s is John Irving, and last year at around the same time I read the book A Prayer for Owen Meany. I had thoroughly enjoyed the book and the way Irving wrote, which was in an incredibly detailed way. The Cider House Rules followed an orphan’s, Homer Wells’, life. It was interesting to read about an orphan, who was the orphanage staff’s favorite, grow up. He had lived in the orphanage most of his life, but had to move out one day and face the real world. He didn’t know about basic things like drive-in movies or what it was truly like to have a traditional family, though the family he built was quite strange compared to a traditional family. I really enjoyed reading this book because it gave me a look into a 1940s orphans life–the dilemmas, the need for a family, and so much more.
I noticed from the beginning of the book that women have faced a lot of the same problems for many years. The Cider House Rules speaks heavily about abortion, because the owner of the orphanage is secretly an abortion doctor. The book was written in 1985, proving that women’s rights have been debated for decades. Before reading, I had never really thought about how long women have been fighting for their rights to do what they want with their body. Since I have only begun to learn about women’s rights over the past few years as I’ve been maturing, abortion had seemed like such a new topic of concern. But I have now realized that women have had to fight for years, and are still fighting.
Malinche by Laura Esquivel
Malinche is a very different genre from what I am used to reading, and I probably would not have chosen this book if it had not been assigned. Though this wasn’t necessarily my favorite book in the world, I definitely grew from it as a reader. Malinche challenged me to put myself in someone else’s shoes. When people hear the name “Malinche” they turn up their nose and say, “traitor.” At first, while reading, I agreed with them. How could one person, Malinche, betray their entire civilization so heavily when they know what they are doing is wrong? But I had to put myself in Malinalli’s shoes. I had to understand that if I were put in her situation, I would have to choose between my freedom or my people’s freedom. I would hope that I would choose wisely, and I also hope I am never put in such a situation. This book opened my eyes to a new culture and legendary story.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
The Joy Luck Club was a Chinese-American novel about Chinese immigrants to the United States. I don’t usually read books about Chinese culture, but this book definitely helped me grow in multiple ways. Reading about different cultures is always interesting because it opens me up to different ways of living and being. I got to learn so much about the Chinese-American culture and I was reading a genre that I was not used to, so the entire experience helped me view the world differently, and introduced me to an entire new group of books.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
As you will read below, Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer is one of my favorite books, so of course, I had to read another one of Krakauer’s books. This book was very interesting in that Krakauer told the true story of an 18 year-old boy, Christopher McCandless, that hitchhiked into the barren parts of Alaska by himself and lived in a bus for many months, ended up getting stuck out there, and tragically died. Krakauer also told his story of climbing a mountain in Alaska, the Devil’s Thumb, and managed to relate his story to McCandless’. He wanted to prove to the people back home that he could climb that mountain, as he assumed McCandless wanted to prove to his family that he could live in the wild.
While reading this book, I loved Krakauer’s connection between his story and McCandless’, as well as learning about people that have a need to prove themselves to others and themselves. We all have that feeling in our gut. When someone tells us we can’t or won’t be able to do something, we want to prove them wrong. There is also part of us that wants to prove to ourselves that we can do it. Some people have an incredible amount of that feeling built up inside them that can only be released in the most extreme ways. Into the Wild challenged me to learn about new people and read a book that speculated and analyzed a person’s life rather than giving facts about the person or their biography.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Into Thin Air was one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year and it has helped me grow as a reader. When I was very young, around four or so, I watched the 1998 IMAX film, Everest. At the time, I didn’t truly comprehend the true story the movie was telling, which included a tragedy that happened atop Mount Everest in 1996. Since I had watched the movie, multiple times in fact, I had always known that something bad had happened, but I never really knew or remembered the entire story. When my other family members had mentioned they read this book that told the whole story, I knew I had to read it. Finally, I read Into Thin Air, one of the best decisions I’ve made as a reader. The story captivated me from the beginning. There was the element of knowing that it was non-fiction that truly enticed me. While reading, I felt like I really knew everyone on the expedition, it almost felt like I was there- except without the danger, the cold, the elevation, and actually climbing Everest. When the incredible tragedy actually occurs where everything that could go wrong, does, it was completely devastating since I could really connect with the people on the trip.
For over a year, I was in an intense book slump. Everything I read was a dud of a book, and I ended up not really caring how the story ended. This book truly brought me out of that slump and helped me grow as a reader. I got to read about something I was interested in and I got to learn about it in the process. Into Thin Air helped me realize what genre I enjoy and what I find interesting. Because of this book, I now know that I am never going to climb Everest (I didn’t have any intentions to previously), I added “EverestNoFilter” (National Geographic photographers that are climbing Mt. Everest without oxygen) on Snapchat recently because I find the subject, and the people that are willing to climb Everest so interesting, and I know how to find books that I enjoy, but will also challenge me easily.
Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard
Antigone by Sophocles
I almost never read plays, and can’t say I ever have in my free time. Antigone was definitely a step outside my comfort zone that grew me as a reader. I had a lot of trouble with the old English wording, and many lines that were spoken did not present the right message to me, but luckily I had good group members that clarified any of my questions. Most of the challenge did revolve around the language, though I was surprised to realize that the such a drama was written so long ago. It opened my eyes to notice that what seems like it could’ve been written is Shakespearean time was written nearly 2000 years before.
The Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
I ended up abandoning The Angle of Repose a little ways into it, which was an aspect to the book that helped me grow as a reader. The book itself didn’t necessarily help me grow, but the fact that I was able to decide when I shouldn’t be reading a book did. During this time, I was still in my book slump (which I have now decided to name The Great Book Slump of 2015™) so I wasn’t very interested in reading in general. Most books I came across, I didn’t really care how they ended. I was having trouble picking out a book that fit me. It’s important to know when to quit a book–it’s usually about 50-100 pages in and your just not feeling it. This book was one that I thought I was very interested in at first, but as I kept reading, my interest kept lowering. I’m pretty sure I read much more than 100 pages, but I had to abandon. I was glad that I realized the book just wasn’t for me.
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Siddhartha was an interesting book because it didn’t necessarily tell the true story about how the Buddha was formed, though it was very similar. This wasn’t my favorite book, but it did help me grow as a reader. Siddhartha gave me a new insight into what makes a great leader. When Buddha became the Buddha, he had the idea that he had found himself, that he had reached nirvana. He gave people something to believe in, and he led with that belief. I learned about the creation of a religion I had very little previous experience and knowledge of. Siddhartha challenged me to open my eyes to different leaders and how they influenced other people.
Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
I cannot say that I enjoyed Sophie’s World, at least not until the end, but this book definitely grew me as a reader and as a person. While reading, since the book mentions many different philosophers, I learned how to think in new ways. Before reading Sophie’s World I was not very open to thinking in new ways about the world. While reading about how other philosophers viewed the way the world worked, my imagination got flowing and I began thinking about how others, people from the past and the present, might view how the earth was created, religion, and explanations for why different earthly functions happen. I’m not a very religious person myself, but I was able to have a better understanding for why people believe in so many different religions. Overall, Sophie’s World helped me grow by giving me a chance to philosophically view the world differently than from what I was used to.
Books to read:
- Jane Eyre
- The Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao
- The Goldenfinch
- The Great Gatsby
- The Call of the Wild