What is the sign of a good book? Is it the style and fluidity of the prose? Is it the author’s ability to engage the reader?
First, what makes a book worth reading, and second, worth recommending? Why do some books garner huge popularity and numerous accolades while others sit on shelves untouched, collecting dust over the years?
Obviously, the answers to these questions differ on a person-to-person basis. Some people simply love the classics: The Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, Frankenstein, The Scarlet Letter, Hamlet, The Grapes of Wrath — these are the books we are made to read in school because they are highly celebrated and will continue to be lauded for years to come.
Some people prefer to stick to Agatha Christie-esque murder mysteries and thrillers. Then there are those who simply like to curl up with the love stories of Nicholas Sparks or the heartfelt dramas of Jodi Picoult.
I don’t fall into any one of those categories; I can like any book as long as I feel engaged by the storyline and connected with the main characters.
No matter what you like, reading is a terrific thing to do in your free time. It stimulates your mind, opens up your imagination, and is a great way to pass the time. Here is a look into three of my favorite books that I have read in the past decade, listed in no particular order.
Though many more books could easily make it to my list of favorites, these are the three I am most likely to suggest to anyone willing to listen.
1. Misery by Stephen King
First, I should mention that I absolutely hate anything scary: scary movies, scary books, haunted houses. I hate them all. However, Misery completely took me by surprise and drew me in by creating a story that was more about the intimate wirings of the characters than the typical run-of-the-mill mechanisms that make up horror fiction.
Misery is a novel about what happens to famous author Paul Sheldon after he survives a car accident and is rescued by his “#1 fan.” Stephen King is a master at scaring the living daylights out of his readers, and he is capable of doing this in a multitude of ways. Misery is no exception, and he does so by creating the character of Annie Wilkes. Annie is what I would describe as a human being gone wrong. On the surface, she appears to be completely normal. Underneath her common exterior, she is many things: demented, sadistic, twisted, obsessive, and completely psychopathic. Unfortunately for Paul, her obsession falls squarely on his shoulders, and due to his extreme injuries, Paul is completely at Annie’s mercy.
This is one of those books that you can’t put down and the “finish the chapter then stop” method proves utterly useless. Because of this, Misery is a fairly quick read, and one that you will be so glad you picked up.
2. The Giver by Lois Lowry
Today, the post-apocalyptic young adult novel (and just as often, series) is all too common. Lois Lowry’s The Giver is one of the first in this genre, and in many cases is the book that today’s authors gain inspiration from.
Jonas, the book’s protagonist, lives in an idealistic society where everyone lives in a condition of “sameness.” Sameness is a state of being that has successfully eliminated pain and suffering, but has also taken with it joy and excitement. Each community member has his or her own designated role in society, which is bestowed upon children once they turn 12 years old during an annual ceremony.
When it’s his turn, Jonas is given the role of “Receiver of Memory.” In his training for this position, Jonas is required to receive memories of Earth’s past from the current “Receiver of Memory.” He learns about colors, laughter, and the thrill of sledding. But he also learns about murder, war, and destruction. Once he discovers the quality of life outside his community, Jonas has to decide whether he can continue living the suppressed life he knows.
After reading The Giver, you may have to pause and consider which life you would prefer: would you rather be blissfully unaware of the way things are beyond your borders, including both life’s excitements and life’s dangers? Or would you choose to throw yourself into the world we know today, taking both the highs and the lows? At only 179 pages, The Giver is a very quick read that packs a huge punch and is likely to stick with you long after you put it down.
3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
If ever a book will completely piss you off but make you continue reading despite your rage and disgust, this is it. It is a truly exhausting read that will take you on many ups and downs, all while depicting the human capacity for cruelty and deceit with incredible depth.
First and foremost, Gone Girl is about the disappearance of Nick Dunne’s wife, Amy, from their home in North Carthage, Missouri. As husbands usually are, Nick is the primary suspect, although he proclaims his innocence. Details emerge about their marriage through both the present tense (Nick’s current point of view) and the past tense (entries found in Amy’s diary). As it turns out, Nick does a really good job of incriminating himself both by his actions and his apparent lack of emotion during the investigation. Gillian Flynn does a great job of maintaining a high level of suspense throughout the novel.
There are so many twists, turns, and surprises that it’s difficult to say too much without giving anything away, so I will just say this: don’t count on anyone too much. Be careful what you choose to believe. Try not to hate Gillian Flynn when it’s all over. Now go read this book!
Thus concludes my list of my most recommended books — are there novels that you can read over and over, or books you could simply not put down? What three books would you recommend if you made a list? It sure is a tough task, but one that is a joy to tackle head on.
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