Five Favorite Books

A simple little post, talking about my five favorite books of all time. Admittedly, some titles on this list are flexible, but these are definitely in the upper echelon at a constant rate.

5.) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
“COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.”
I am admittedly due for a reread of this book, as I’ve only read it once, but I remember reading it my senior year of high school and absolutely loving it. For those of you unfamiliar, Brave New World is a science-fiction novel set in the distant future which plays with several different ideas involving human nature, love and desire, and conformity versus nonconformity. It’s definitely the book that made me really fall in love with the sci-fi genre, with its details of a dangerous futuristic world known as the “World State,” where Henry Ford is considered a god, and individual freedom and thought are spurned and repressed in favor of the collective. Not the most cheerful of topics, and the content itself is quite dark, but it is an important novel nonetheless and well worth a read if you’ve never read it.


4.) Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
“I want to put my hand out and touch you. I want to do for you and care for you. I want to be there when you’re sick and when you’re lonesome.”
I was that girl in high school. You know…the one who liked all of the books in English Class that everyone else hated – and Ethan Frome was one of the big ones. The book is about a man named Ethan Frome whose wife, Zeena, is ill – and so, her relative Mattie comes to help care for her. But it’s not a traditional love triangle – it’s extraordinarily sad, but very compelling. I don’t know what it is about novels like this – short, depressing, and ‘simple,’ with powerful, haunting themes that stay with you. It’s a very real novel – it requires some reading in-between the lines, but I think it sends a very unique message about feeling trapped, and the potential costs of freedom. That said, it’s really not a book for everyone…though I still recommend it.


3.) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
For me, Jane Eyre was the first female literary character that I truly considered to be a badass with an independent will and a very brave, admirable outlook on life. By today’s standards, she might not be considered to be as badass as Katniss Everdeen or Hermione Granger, but the time period needs to be considered – for the era in which it was written, Jane Eyre was pretty daring, and she certainly was a breakout character. Following the life of mousy, average, but very intelligent Jane, the novel, set in 1800’s England, is about freedom and independence and Jane’s journey toward discovering who she is and what she wants out of life, and she doesn’t let no one stand in her way. If you like strong female characters and classic literature, this novel should be on your ‘to-read’ list. And the 2006 miniseries starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens is incredible!


2.) The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
“All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.”
A staple for all fantasy and sci-fi readers, and, in my opinion, one of the best series of all time. I read both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as a child, and then again as an adult, and love it just as much now as I did when I was 11. Tolkien, in my opinion, is the penultimate master of this genre. He created languages, worlds, and characters that are unforgettable. From Bilbo’s journey with Thorin and Company to reclaim their lost gold from Smaug the dragon, to Frodo and Sam making the hike up Mount Doom to end the tyranny of Sauron and the One Ring, Tolkien weaves amazing stories and characters together for some truly brilliant adventures. As an aspiring author, he’s a big inspiration to me, and these novels never fail to entertain, even if you’ve read them more than once.


1.) Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
“To die would be an awfully big adventure.”
I have never been drawn to the idea of growing up – so Peter Pan has been a personal anthem to me, more than any other novel. Following Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn’t grow up, and his interaction with the Darling children, the Lost Boys, and Captain Hook, the novel takes the reader to the magical world of Neverland, and explores the theme of what it means to ‘grow up,’ and touches on ideas concerning what happens when the magic of childhood begins to fade. I think, at a point in time, a lot of girls feel like Wendy – you want to be whisked away by a charming boy and play games and have fun forever, but then, the realization eventually sinks in; such things are only suited for dreams. As I got older, I realized the tale of Peter Pan is not just a novel about not wanting to grow up – it’s a novel about how one must grow up, something I would have never realized as a child. But I think this book sends that message in a very appealing way, and while it holds very compelling themes, it’s also a fun novel, though a bit ‘darker’ than the Disney film.

Five Life-Changing Reads

Every avid reader has a favorite book or two… or seventy-six. But some of those notable or obscure titles can be life-changing. So, here’s a list of some of the books that have changed my life – not only as a reader, but as a person!

1.) Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie – Most folks probably think of the classic Disney movie when they hear the name ‘Peter Pan,’  but my first thought is always the book. This book was my first foray into a magical, multi-faceted fantasy world that explores joy and sorrow, light and shadow, happiness and fear. It captures both the wonder – and terror – of eternal childhood, of being terrified of losing something, and the bittersweet nature of fleeting youth against the inevitability of growing up. I realized, the first time reading this book, that the “never” in “Neverland” can be interpreted either as wondrous and whimsical, or grim and dour – or maybe a mix of both. I love a fairytale-esque story with a twist of something dark, and Peter Pan was the gateway book for me. The dual-nature of this book is encompassed in one of its most iconic lines, as said by the titular character himself: “To die would be an awfully big adventure.”

20190121_104043.jpg2.) Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman – I’ve never been a poetry person… rather, I wasn’t until I took a Major Authors course on Walt Whitman my second year of college. I immediately connected with his poems, especially the titular “Leaves of Grass,” “O Captain! My Captain!,” and “Great are the Myths.” Whitman’s poetry, though written in the mid-late 1800’s, has a universality to it, a timeless quality that can be applied to scenarios and events throughout history and around the world, not only those that occurred in his lifetime.. His poems and the themes he presents are personal and profound, passionate and playful, perceptive and piercing. His poems make me think and feel, to apply his words to my own experiences, and I could pore over this book for hours pondering the meanings of his poems and imagining what his life was like. I recently bought a beautiful copy of this collection (pictured) and it’s got a place of honor on my shelf.

3.) The Jungle by Upton Sinclair – I’ve mentioned this one before, but I’m going more in-depth this time around. This is the first book I ever read (followed a few years later by Native Son by Richard Wright) that made me realize why people were drawn to communism/socialism/unions during the Industrial Revolution in America. It was jarring to read about what conditions were like for workers, especially immigrant workers, in the meatpacking industry in the early 20th century, as researched by muckraker author Sinclair. If you have a rosy view of what America was like during that time, building itself up from fields to cities and growing into the capital giant we are today, prepare to have your image shattered by The Jungle. I was assigned to read it for a class and put it off until the last minute, then plowed through the whole thing in one sitting because I was so engrossed. This was my first real wake-up call that American History wasn’t always blue skies and valiant victories… there are plenty of dark clouds and shameful secrets that, though hard to acknowledge, are important to our nation’s identity.

4.) Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid – I read this book for my senior seminar class in college, which focused on Caribbean literature. The entire class was an eye-opening experience, but I had to do a presentation on this novel, so I got to dive a bit deeper into it than the others we read. This book was my first time reading a coming-of-age novel about a girl from a background/life/place so completely different from my own. Growing up on Antigua is nothing like growing up in a rural town in Pennsylvania. And yet, it’s still possible to find universal threads woven into the unique, deftly-told narrative. At times, my heart swelled for Annie – and, at times, my heart shattered for her. Themes of depression, separation, mother/daughter relationships, growing up, and colonization are all expressed in a timeless and powerful fashion, centered around Annie, a complex and beautiful character. If you’ve never read a book like this, I HIGHLY recommend it.

5.) The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – I mean… this book/series has probably changed every fantasy writer’s life, right? It’s THE pinnacle of high fantasy, and will never be topped. It’s just so, so… brilliant. Sure, the language and descriptions can be burdensome, at times… but it’s worth the journey, all the way from Bilbo’s first fateful meeting with Gollum in the bowels of the Misty Mountain to Galdalf’s epic “You cannot pass,” to Sam’s final line of “Well, I’m back,” as he greets his daughter and wife. LotR is the reason I want to write fantasy, and so, it has changed my life for the better.