Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is a Thanksgiving-themed freebie, meaning I can do whatever I want, so long as it’s Thanksgiving-inspired. I decided to go with the Top Ten Books I’m Thankful For. These are books that, in some way, changed my life or inspired me. If you’re in the US, I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving today, spent with family and friends and great food. And, if anyone asks, the Native Americans actually did play football at the First Thanksgiving (I’m not into football, but I did take a History of Plymouth class in college and that fact stuck with me for some reason).
Here are the top ten books that I am thankful for:
1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I’ve read these books countless times and will forever love them. I was pretty depressed as a pre-teen and teenager, and I honestly think these books helped me deal with it. It was just easier to face real life when I got to escape to Hogwarts a few times a year.
2. Red Rising by Pierce Brown. It may have just been that I read this book at the right time, but this was the book that made me decide to go to grad school and pursue what I really love doing. The story is amazing and the writing is brilliant. And when I turned to the author’s bio page and saw that he’s only a year older than me, I had a what-am-I-doing-with-my-life moment. I was settling for a life that was just okay – I wasn’t writing, wasn’t going to school (which I love), was still living with my parents, and working at a job I hated in a field I wanted nothing to do with. I’d just lost my aunt and my grandfather and was struggling with my dad’s cancer diagnosis. I was experiencing first hand how short life can be, and felt stuck and restless. I applied to grad school two days after reading Red Rising – not for business, which I was considering because of money and family pressure, but to study literature and actually do something I love. For the first time in years, I did something for me. Red Rising will forever be one of my favorite books because it gave me the courage to stop putting off the things I really want in life, and take risks on myself.
3. 1984 by George Orwell. It took me a while to get into this book, but I fell in love as soon as I finished it. This book reminded me what great literature is, and why I love it. And it reminded me that some things are worth risking everything. I have such great associations with this book, every time I think about it, I feel a little braver.
4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I’m not a big romance reader (don’t ask me why I’m currently taking a class in Romantic Literature), but I will always have a soft spot for Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. I love the romance, but even more than that, I love Lizzie’s audacity. This book helped me feel better about standing up for myself, especially when it comes to family expectations.
5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I read this book at the end of the hardest year of my life. Within months, I lost my aunt and my grandfather and my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I was having a hard time, because my grandfather and my dad were pretty much the only two people in my life that were really supportive of me. I had just started grad school and was still working full-time at an extremely stressful job. I finished The Book Thief at about two in the morning, and sobbed for almost an hour – the book started it, but I think I really just needed a release. And honestly, I felt pretty great afterwards. It was also a great reminder that not only can things always get worse, but that I need to be thankful for what I have.
6. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. When I was in junior high, I was pretty much the least popular kid in class. I was overweight and nerdy, with frizzy hair and braces. I was also stuck in a class of thirteen kids, so if one of them didn’t like you, none of them did. Obviously, I didn’t really have much to do in the summer, since I had no friends and I kind of hate going outside. So, one summer, I spent the entire three months reading the entire series. And I didn’t feel lonely at all.
7. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. This one’s not actually about the contents of the book, but what it represents. This book took me forever to finish (approximately nine months). It’s huge and pretty dry. But it’s also really good. And it made me want to tackle books like this more often. Every time I find myself getting intimidated by a giant book, I remind myself that I finished Anna Karenina and felt incredible afterwards. And even if it takes me a year, I can read those other huge classics. I’m planning on reading War and Peace and Moby Dick soon.
8. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. When I read this book, I’d just started grad school, and was starting to question whether or not I’d made the right decision. I’ve always imagined myself as a writer, but I wasn’t actually doing it. And I was beginning to wonder if I could. Neverwhere was the first Gaiman novel I ever read, and it completely inspired me. I still haven’t finished writing a novel, or even written much fiction. And I may not be proud of anything I’ve tried to write. But, for some reason, Neverwhere inspired me to keep writing, to think outside of the box, and to look at the world with an imaginative eye.
9. 11/22/63 by Stephen King. On 11/22/13, I walked into Barnes & Noble and bought this book. As a history nerd, I thought it would be cool to read this book on the fiftieth anniversary of JFK’s assassination, since that’s what the book is about. I don’t know how long it had been since I’d read a book. Probably a few months. I just wasn’t reading. I’d fallen out of love with books. Which was a problem, since I’ve been a reader for as long as I can remember. It’s a huge part of my identity, how people know me. I sat down and read 11/22/63 in two and a half days, and just kept on reading. Now, with grad school and this blog, reading is an even bigger part of who I am, and it’s the reason I’m a much happier person than I was two years ago.
10. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. I’ve been attempting to write a novel for the last ten years or so, but one of two things always happens: I spend hours upon hours planning and brainstorming and then stop when I hit a plot hole, or I start writing and decide the story is stupid after a few chapters. While reading Northanger, I realized it would make a really great modern adaptation, because Catherine could stand up for herself, rather than letting the Thorpes push her around. Its the novel I attempted to write this month for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). And though it didn’t exactly work out, I do plan on finishing it someday.
What book are you most thankful for this year?