With the holidays right around the corner, I'm looking forward to seeing my family, and celebrating, but most of all, curling up by the fire with a good book. I've been helping brainstorm books to give my boyfriend's niece for Christmas, and I thought I would come up with a list of my 10 favorite books (in no particular order). What are your favorites? Let me know in the comments!
1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Harper Lee's iconic classic takes place in the South during the Great Depression. Centered around 6-year-old Scout Finch, her brother Jem, and her father, Atticus, the book deals with racism, coming of age, judging others, and more. I keep a copy next to my bed at my parents' house so I can read it every time I'm home!
2. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The four March daughters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, face the trials and tribulations of growing up less than wealthy during the Civil War, with a father who is out working as a doctor for the army. The story covers their love lives, coming of age, death, poverty, and learning to appreciate all you have. My mom and I read this together when I was little, and I've continued to read and reread it over the years. Each reading brings a new understanding; it's definitely one every woman should read!
3. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Anne with an "e" is an orphan who comes to live with Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, fifty-something siblings who have lived together and maintained the farm since their parents died. The Cuthberts were expecting a boy, so fiery, vivacious Anne is an unwelcome surprise. But over time, Anne and the Cuthberts learn from each other, grow, and become a family. Montgomery takes you through Anne's childhood all the way to graduation from the university. Another one I read with my mom as a child that continues to resonate today - I still identify friends as "kindred spirits!"
4. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Unlike most, I didn't read The Catcher in the Rye until I was in college, older than the protagonist Holden. As a young adult, I was able to appreciate the book's many complexities and unique brilliance. Salinger details Holden's expulsion from private school and his subsequent journey home, during which he explores dilapidated hotels, loses his virginity, and catches up with an old fling. Holden embodies teenage angst, and the book was initially banned from many libraries due to the foul language. As an English major, this quickly became one of my favorites.
5. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
Who doesn't know the story of the boy who wouldn't grow up? Mary Martin's portrayal of Peter Pan in the televised Broadway play was one of my favorites, and after reading J.M. Barrie's novel, I was completely hooked. I still re-read Peter Pan at least once a year; Barrie's ability to capture the wonderment and imagination of a child is unmatched. If you've only ever seen the Disney version, I invite you to read Barrie's work on which it was based. It will thrill you in a way Disney's animation can't quite match.
6. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
The boy who lived vs. the Dark Lord. Arguably one of the most important literary series of the 21st century. Rowling's tale follows Harry Potter through his seven years in wizarding school (Hogwarts) and watches his development as he continually takes on the Dark Lord (Voldemort, responsible for killing Harry's parents). Along with his two best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, plus a cast of other characters, Harry grows from a small bespectacled boy living under the stairs in his aunt and uncle's house to a brave young man, leading the fight against Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters. If you somehow missed this train when the books took off, stop what you are doing and READ. THEM. NOW.
P.S. Don't think by watching the movies you know everything. I will know. And I will call you out.
7. 11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King
Confession: I am not usually a Stephen King fan. I like mystery novels, but the creepier aspects of his book freak me out too much (I have an overactive imagination). But 11/22/63 is different. Fans of conspiracy theories surrounding JFK's assassination, or history fans in general, will love King's imagined version of what it would be like to travel back in time to stop the JFK assassination. Jake Eppling, the protagonist, is tasked with doing just that when an aging diner owner whom he barely knows shows him a whole in the fabric of time. The novel, while long, remains a page turner from start to finish. It's definitely a commitment, but one that is worth the time.
8. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald. By far one of my favorite authors (not to mention that he was portrayed by Tom Hiddleston in "Midnight in Paris..."). The Great Gatsby follows Nick Carroway and the people he meets one summer: his cousin Daisy, her husband Tom, and the mysterious, millionaire bachelor next door, Mr. Jay Gatsby himself. Nick watches the drama unfold between Daisy and Gatsby, former lovers, Tom and Myrtle, his girlfriend on the side, and Tom, Daisy and Gatsby as they discover that sometimes, love does not conquer all. The best line by far? "And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past..."
P.S. If you're going to watch the movie, Baz Lurhman's 2013 version starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan is beautiful and the 1974 Robert Redford / Mia Farrow version is classic. Both are brilliant.
9. Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Another I read in college for my English major. And you should have seen me bawling in the library at the end. Hemingway's hauntingly honest tale of an average love that survives despite the odds, Farewell to Arms will move you. Set in Europe during WWI, Hemingway captures the desperation of a soldier, the tender care of a nurse, the normalcy of love and the disparity of life. The story follows expatriate American Henry as he navigates life in the Italian army and his relationship with the nurse Catherine Barkley. Haunting is probably the best adjective I can use to describe it, but if you haven't read it, you need to.
10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
After J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins might be the most teen fiction author of the 21st century. Now a movie franchise, with its star protagonist a role model for young girls everywhere, The Hunger Games explores a post-apocalyptic world in which children are pitted against each other each year in a fight to the death as a punishment for a long-ago uprising by the districts. The Capital rules all, and each district is required to send a boy and a girl tribute to fight in the games. Katniss Everdeen, a tribute from District 12, changes everything when she refuses to kill Peeta Melark, her fellow District 12 tribute. The series follows their stories as they challenge the Capital and fight for a new, better world.
P.S. The movies and J-Law are wonderful, but the books offer so many complexities missed on-screen. Definitely don't skip reading them!