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!