Reading books wasn’t a hobby of mine until I started High School, I wasn’t one of those kids who adore books from a very young age. Back in high school, I was only limited to books available in our school library or to my friends’ book shelves since neither did I nor my parents have extra money to buy our own. Biography of Adolf Hitler, George Eliot’s Silas Marner and Animal Farm by George Orwell were some of the first few books I’ve remembered reading. But it was Harry Potter that has got me into loving books. Harry Potter books have paved the way for my introduction to a whole lot of books of different genre and I have to attribute this interest to JK Rowling who had brought me to a different world through my imagination of her writings. In college, I discovered Grisham, John Grisham’s books are my comfort books, even with my sporadic moods his books are my go-to-books any time, any day and any circumstance. Books in general have the power to move me, to influence me, to inspire me, to make me ponder on things, and to bring me to places I’ve only dreamt of going. That is why Martin, Rowling, Tolkien, Grisham, Larsson, King, just to name a few are those I considered heroes.
I am definitely no book expert, I know I still have a lot of books to read and my standard of a good book cannot be equated with book critics standard. But this will not hinder me from having my own list of the best and my most favorite books of all time. What makes a book good for me? Books that I cannot put down; books that even I can’t relate to, yet can still make me emotionally vulnerable; books that after I put it down I take a moment of silence and look blankly at nothing and contemplate on its impact; and books that I would love to read over and over again. So without further ado, here’s my list of my most favorite books that have somewhat influenced me one way or another.
*I deliberately didn’t include any book from any book series such as Harry Potter, A Song of Ice and Fire, Lord of the Rings, and the like.*
1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect of their opinions…but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
The book tells the story of Atticus Finch, everybody’s hero, and his two kids Jem and Scout Finch and the ultimate test of honesty, racism, conviction, integrity, and compassion. Atticus Finch is a lawyer defending a black man accused of a crime he didn’t commit by a white woman and on that age when discrimination and racism were rampant, Atticus Finch as a white man stood for what he believes in; that everyone is equal and that he should fight for what is right. I like that the book was presented from the daughter’s point of view and the way the son admires his father is inspiring and heartwarming. The theme of the book is universal and has stood the test of time and is now considered as one of the best books of all time.
2. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
This is one book that shouldn’t be read only once, because as you grow older the meaning of the book changes as your understanding of life matures. The book tells a story of a little boy who leaves his own tiny planet to travel the universe and on his journey he encounters “adults” that prove rudimentary for learning and growing. The meaning of the book is so deep that it’s hard for me to digest and fathom, but once understood, it overwhelms me with truths about life and adulthood. I will do myself a favor now and read it again, I sure know that another realization is about to be unearthed.
3. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
“The Mark of immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”
Before I read the book I was skeptical about the story, it really didn’t entice me. But after everything I’ve read and curious to find out what the fuss about the book is all about I decided to give it a go and I am lucky that I did. We may not relate to Holden Caulfield all the time but we have to agree about some of his views of society in general. Holden is a protagonist that you do not want to be like but deep inside of all of us there is a little “Holden” hidden, bursting with frustrations, shouting for normalcy and shaken by reality that we try hard to remain hidden.
4. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
“War doesn’t negate decency. It demands it, even more than in times of peace.”
The story about Amir, the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant and Hassan, his servant and their unlikely bond that found its demise after “that one tragic afternoon.”. The setting is set in Afghanistan and like me, many readers are unaware of the country’s history especially during its tumultuous years and the author is successful in presenting the country as vividly as possible in our minds. This is the story of genuine friendship, father-son relationship, betrayal, disappointment and redemption. We may be unfamiliar with the Afghan world and its people but with its universal theme and with how the story is presented, it will hit you right in the feels. Amazing book!
5. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
“All human wisdom is contained in these two words – Wait and Hope.”
This is my most favorite classic novel about suffering and retribution. The main protagonist is Edmond Dantes who is incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit, suffers inside the prison, finds the truth about hidden treasure and then plan his escape. Upon his escape he promises to seek vengeance to the people responsible for his imprisonment. This is the perfect reflection of reality that no matter how good a person you are, there will still be people who will wish you ill. This book has inspired and continue to inspire a lot of revenge novels. Published more than a century ago, the book has proven to still be relevant nowadays.
6. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
“Where there’s life there’s hope.”
The first book that introduces us to the now-immortal world of Middle-Earth and the prequel to the masterpiece Lord of the Rings trilogy. The book tells the story of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins as he was sought by the wizard Gandalf to help the dwarves led by Thorin reclaim the treasures they claimed to be rightfully theirs which is now guarded by the shrewd dragon Smaug. Along the way the reluctant hero faces threats from Goblins, other creatures, and the infamous Gollum. This book that is meant for kids is loved by adults alike and has charmed everyone since its initial publication in 1937. I just have one big regret and that is I put it off for a long time, I should’ve read it long time ago.
7. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
This is a story about a shepherd boy named Santiago who hails from Spain and his journey to Egyptian desert to search for hidden treasure in the pyramids. Along the way he meets people including the alchemist that help him find his way to the treasure he wants to find. It is a short book that can be finished in one sitting and teaches you to follow your dreams and the triumph of taking risks.
8. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”
The story is presented through the child protagonist Christopher John Francis Boone’s point of view who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome but is incredibly intelligent and who likes prime numbers, Sherlock Holmes, and despise having unnecessary conversations. The book starts with Christopher’s investigation of a dead dog that has resulted into the discovery of a lie that will shake his already unstable life. The book helps us to understand how one mind with Asperger thinks. After reading the book, you couldn’t help but sympathize with Christopher and what he’s gone through.
9. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
“This is part of what a family is about, not just love. It’s knowing that your family will be there watching out for you. Nothing else will give you that. Not money. Not fame. Not work.”
This is the story of Mitch reconnecting with his old professor Morrie Schwartz after the latter was diagnosed of ALS and during Morrie’s final days. The story tells us that there is at least one person who gives us one sound advice that helps us get through our life. For Mitch it was Morrie, and every Tuesday they have session or rather “class lessons” that proves as pivotal now as Morrie’s earlier pieces of advice. The lessons that Morrie gives Mitch proves to be valuable not only to Mitch but to the readers as well. It was one of those books that can get you very emotional and can give you a different perspective on how to look at life and how to value.
10. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
“Of all the hardships a person had to face, none was more punishing than the simple act of waiting.”
The sophomore book from writer Khaled Hosseini brings us back to Afghanistan and shares with us another side of his world. This time we meet Mariam and Laila, two girls with polar opposite views about love, passion, and family, who are forced to live together under difficult circumstance. But living together brings them closer together and forms a bond that is ultimately tested by fate. Same with The Kite Runner, this book is riveting and at the same time emotional.
In these age of smartphones, social media applications and computer games, people reading books has begun to dwindle and the interest for purchasing new books has gradually diminished over time as all the attention was snatched by technology. That is why it gives me great joy seeing someone reading a book especially in unlikely places, for it proves that reading books would never ever be a thing of the past.
Oh, and by the way, I have to admit that I love sniffing books, whether old or new, it gives me a different kind of pleasure.