Take My Breath Away

I recently watched “The Book Thief,” and without spoiling it for you, let me tell you that I can tell from the movie that this is one of those books that will have me forgetting to breathe while I read it. The movie had that effect on me, and though I had fun plans for the evening, I found myself dreading the end of the movie. And at the end of it, I wondered which of my book- and movie-freak friends knew how good this was and kept it to themselves. By count of Facebook friends who agreed that it was awesome, at least a handful.

Though I’m a relatively rabid reader (less now than when I was a kid, but still a comparative book-freak), I’ve only had this complete immersion experience a few times in my life. And in an effort to improve my book-friend karma, I share it here, for you, in approximate chronological order of my discovery. And I’ll know it worked if you, dear readers, clue me in to my next great read in the comments.

I wish I could claim that these were undiscovered gems, but you’ve probably heard of them before. And if you haven’t read them, tell me— what are you waiting for?

  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. What can I say— sometimes a life of adventure is thrust upon you… by your big brother, for your seventh birthday.
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I got assigned Canada for a project in middle school, and one of the options was to read this book. I was un-thrilled, to say the least. Until I opened the cover, and met a lifelong friend.
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In fairness, I was assigned this in college. But it introduced me to magical realism in a way that made me a fan for life.
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. Nonfiction and historical, the story of murder in Savannah. Travel, history, voodoo— so good.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. You’ll come to know this about me, but this one was obvious.
  • Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha N. Beck. The nonfiction memoir of a Harvard Business School teacher pregnant with her third child when she learns that the baby has cerebral palsy.
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Incredible. Transporting. An amazing feeling to get immersed in and feel at home in a culture with which you’re so entirely unfamiliar.
  • Possession by A.S. Byatt. I read a lot. A lot. And I studied literature in college, to the extent that I kid you not, the English department sat me down, my senior year and said “you are well past the number of classes we require for your major and are still taking overloads. You have a problem. You can’t take all of the classes we teach. Stop, now, for the love of all that is holy.” And this book still managed to redefine what literature could be and do, for me.
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan. McEwan is a craftsman with words, but this one is on a whole ‘nother level, even for him.
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. This book is so indescribably beautiful. Patchett is a ridiculously talented author, and you can’t go wrong with any of the books of hers I’ve read so far. But this one, friends,will change your life.
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. My social group is very pro sci-fi. As a result, I’m pretty resistant. (I’m a born contrarian.) But this book was incredible. Give it a chance, even if you think sci fi isn’t your thing.

Your turn— spill!

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One thought on “Take My Breath Away

  1. It’s interesting to me, that while I really enjoyed “The Book Thief,” it wasn’t one that quite hit the “take my breath away,” For non-SF folks, I’ve explained “Ender’s Game” as the best book on forgiveness I have ever read, even though, you have to get to the end to see that.

    I guess, it’s partially why it can be hard to recommend books. This weekend, I finally realized I really pretty much hate Judy Blume books, and I kept reading them as a kid, because so many people loved them. Eventually, I stopped, but, could never really have articulated *why.* It’s only now, as an adult, and coming across another of her books from the NPR list of 100 Best YA books that I’ve been working through. (The Book Thief is in the top 10 of that list, which is how I learned of it, and read it.)

    Here’s the list: http://www.npr.org/2012/08/07/157795366/your-favorites-100-best-ever-teen-novels

    I’m about at the halfway mark, and I worked from the top. Most surprising to me was this fellow John Green, who I had never heard of, and who had 5 books on the list, Including 2 in the top 10, and 4 in the top 25. His best one is “The Fault in Our Stars,” and its also filled with a beautiful sadness, and I really loved it. I actually enjoyed all his books, and have enjoyed his blog off and on.

    It’s how I stumbled on Divergent, which was also a surprise. And a few others that I’ve enjoyed more than I expected. There are also a number I’ve not enjoyed at all, though, more good than bad, on the whole. If you’d like further insight onto any of those first 50, I’m happy to share.

    There are several on your list I’ve not read, so, I will add them to my list, too, since you and I often enjoy the same things.

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