Now, I already have a reading recommendations page on here, but there’s this silly thing going around Facebook that I was tagged in, challenging me to list the top ten books that have affected me in one way or another. All of these are on my reading recommendations list, but I thought I would spend some time here to elaborate on what those top ten are and why they have meant so much to me. So here we go!
- Harry Potter (JK Rowling). Yes, it is not a book, but rather a series. I’m going to do that a lot with this list, because I don’t like to pick favorite books in series. Harry Potter was the first series I really became obsessed with. I read the first four when I was only nine years old in just a matter of months, and with each release of a new one I was known to disappear for five days while I devoured it. Not only are these books known to be great pieces of literary work, but they are the story of my generation. It was Harry Potter that got me on fansites and on YouTube (fan videos). I wrote letters to the cast (thank goodness I never sent them) and once tried to come up with an infallible argument as to why I should be allowed to audition for the part of Luna Lovegood, despite being three years younger than the character and American. The first novel was published when I was four years old, and the last movie came out the summer before my last year of high school. They were my childhood. What’s more, they got me reading. Even today when I read I look for novels that will hopefully grab my attention the way Harry Potter did, that will inspire the same kind passions. And that is why this series will always top every favorable literary list of mine.
- The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins). There were many books I read and loved between reading Harry Potter at age nine and the Hunger Games at age eighteen, but none stand out so much. I may be a stereotype of my age, but these books were the first to really inspire me since Harry Potter, and they did so in such a different way that it astounded me. Whereas Harry Potter is about love and magic and bravery, the Hunger Games trilogy is much darker. It really made me feel that though the world is screwed up and doing what’s right is rarely easy, it is important to be brave, because humans can endure just about anything.
- The Mortal Instruments (Cassandra Clare). This is a fairly new love, though one I’ve written about quite a lot on here. They’re not the best books I’ve ever read, and some stick out as better than others, but they resonated with me in a special way. I spent my summer wanting to be a shadowhunter, taking self-defense classes and telling myself to train harder. In addition to the strong narratives of love and humanity, it teaches the reader that anyone can achieve greatness. “Because the world isn’t divided into the special and the ordinary. Everyone has the potential to be extra ordinary” (City of Heavenly Fire).
- I want to also note that the Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare is also a wonderful series which did not make this list only due to it being similar to the Mortal Instruments and the main things I took from it being about love, which honestly I am not the kind of person to feel strongly about. Collectively, however, these two series have helped inspire me to write my own series, and for that I will always feel dearly about them.
- One Child (Torey Hayden). The first standalone book on this list, and wow, what a book it is. Hayden has taught special education for years, and her novels are memoirs about specific children she’s taught, with names and identifying factors having been changed for the sake of anonymity. I read One Child when I was twelve years old, under the recommendation of my best friend (every girl in her family reads it). It shocked me. Terrified, even. I could not put it down, but it was so far beyond what I was expecting that my mom wished I wasn’t reading it. It chronicles Hayden’s experiences with a girl of six or seven who was placed in special ed after setting a little boy on fire, including what her life was like at home and how Hayden finally got her to open up. If The Hunger Games reinforced in me that people can endure anything if they are resilient enough, One Child stands as proof of that. I highly recommend it.
- The Catcher in the Rye (JD Salinger). Easily the book I’ve most recently read to make it on this list, I had anticipated the Catcher in the Rye to be boring and overrated, as most classic literature seems to be from a modern standpoint. It wasn’t. I’ve written an entire post about it already, so I’ll just say that it snuck up on me. I didn’t think it was all that special until the end, when suddenly I wondered if I was a phony, if everything I’ve worked for is fake. And invoking those kinds of thoughts without having any real plot or resolution, that is a sign of a truly great writer.
- The Inheritance Cycle (Christopher Paolini). I am not going to pretend that I have ever thought these books to be examples of strong literary work or original plot elements. Paolini takes a long time to finish what he starts, if he does, making what was supposed to be a trilogy into four novels, and now writing his fifth. His plot devices even sometimes mimic those of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. What they are great for is transporting you to a completely different world. His writing is long because it is detailed, and once you’re immersed you feel you know even the look of the flowers sitting by the window in the elvish home. I used to play with stuffed animals, pretending they were dragons that lived in caves (mailboxes). I even threw daggers at a tree stump with my best friend. Note: do NOT judge these books on the movie. The Eragon movie was so terrible I once tried to get a group of fans together to make a fan version. That is how passionately I feel about it.
- Divergent (Veronica Roth). I read Divergent right after the Hunger Games, and it was another special one. While the previously mentioned YA series have strong themes of bravery, Divergent is literally about a girl choosing to live in a commune of people who put bravery above all else. The Hunger Games taught me that I can endure anything, and then Divergent made me want to be brave enough to do it. And if anyone is curious, yes, I loved the ending. I thought it was perfectly fitting (but I rarely get upset when any characters die).
- Crank (Ellen Hopkins). I read Crank in the same academic year as One Child, and let me tell you, between the dark themes of these two novels it was a tough year in the mind of Amanda. Hopkins has a very distinct style with which she’s made a name for herself, and I don’t often venture into that style, but Crank was a recommendation from a friend. It was the first time I read a book about drugs, or even really thought about them. It was the first time I read something with adult themes, and I don’t know if you really can prepare yourself for that. But it did make me think, and expanded my horizons.
- Bound Feet & Western Dress (Pang-Mei Chang). This is one I had forgotten about that I actually added to the reading recommendations page after making this list. Not my usual style, it was a gift from a friend. It is a beautiful memoir of one brave woman in China during a time when, as the summary says “in China, a woman is nothing.” Refusing to have her feet bound, getting one of the first divorces in China, moving out of the country and returning, it is yet another example of the strength of human characters and what we can endure. It also taught me that I am indeed a feminist. Once again, I highly recommend it.
- Unwind (Neal Shusterman. Unwind was not a series I expected to make this list, as the fourth and final installment is yet to come out and my other series on here are all completed (though Paolini is re-opening the Inheritance Cycle). Nevertheless, it is an important series to me. In a genre more often female-dominated, Unwind brings something new and original to the dystopian genre that I didn’t find in most other series. The summer I read Unwind was the summer of dystopians, and almost ever series was about love, ultimately. Unwind isn’t. Unwind is about a world where the fight over abortion rights has led to a second civil war, which resulted in the development of unwinding. The idea is, though you cannot get an abortion, when your child is of teenage years, if you find them to be unruley or have some other reason, you can choose to have them unwound. Unwinding is a surgical procedure where every part of the child, from their hair to their feet, will be donated to someone and kept in use, and if every part of them is still living as a part of someone else, is it really death? Unwind made me think from a new perspective on life and literature, and for that it deserves to be on this list.
So there you have it, my lengthy reasoning as to why these are my top ten books/series that have affected me in life. I apologize for any grammatical mistakes, I’m feeling quite tired today and a little dizzy. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoyed it, and maybe you’ve felt the desire to pick up one of these books yourself!
Have you read any of these books, and if so, what were your thoughts? Even more important, what books have affected you the most? I’d love to add them to my must read list!