Jumping on this meme again in what I think is a chronological order… (As always, thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for hosting!)
1. Awake and Dreaming – Kit Pearson
I remember being very ill at some point in elementary school, and my mom went to the library to stock up on some literary amusements for me. The children’s librarian pushed Awake and Dreaming on her, and even though I haven’t read it in probably fifteen years, I still remember the intense emotions that this novel inspired. Theo is such an endearing protagonist, and I empathised with and understood a lot of her struggles (though perhaps not the ones involving ghosts). This book was also set in Canada, and I have a special place in my heart for Canadian books.
2. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
Ender’s Game was a novel that was tossed my way as part of the gifted English program in high school, and it instantly became a favourite of mine. In fact, I am pretty sure that this is the novel that truly sparked my great love for sci-fi. Unfortunately, it’s also a book that I’m pretty bitter about today thanks to the author’s behaviour and the moralistic leanings of later books, but it remains a novel that has shaped so much of my literary life.
3. Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
When people ask what my absolute favourite book is, Flowers for Algernon is one of the first to pop into my head. My cousin sent it to me for Christmas one year thinking that it would be a challenging read for me, and while it was conceptually difficult, I loved it completely. It’s a book that I pick up every few years to reread and I notice something new every time. It’s also a novel that I still struggle with in regards to questions of morals and ethics, and fiction that makes me think is the sign of a great book for me.
4. The Bean Trees – Barbara Kingsolver
The Bean Trees is another “you’re gifted in English, so have more work to do” book. It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly what about this story is so memorable since it’s so far removed from the genres that I usually read. It’s a story about vulnerable people. It’s a story about women who do what they need to do to survive. It’s a story about dualities and nuance, and it speaks to my current self just as much as it spoke to me as a teenager.
5. The Sirens of Titan – Kurt Vonnegut
This is the last of the high school gifted program books, and I am now realising that I should be incredibly thankful that I was in the program since I was exposed to so many cool novels by my mentors. The Sirens of Titan blew my poor little teenage self away. It was just so strange and difficult for me to grasp at the time. It was also some of my first sci-fi for adults, and it expanded my perceptions of what was possible in literature. Finally, Sirens of Titan is also what probably sparked in me a love for black comedy
6. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – JK Rowling
Harry Potter was mind-blowingly popular when I was a teenager, and consequently, I wanted nothing to do with the series. After all, popular things are never good, right? I was dead-set on not reading these books until my aunt starting going on about how they were so brilliant and amazing even though she had never read them. She had borrowed them from a friend though, and I picked the first one up just to prove to myself that she was wrong. The next thing I knew it was several hours later and I needed the second book immediately.
7. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café – Fannie Flag
I am sure most readers would agree that everyone has comfort books that they read when they need to feel like everything is normal and okay. Fried Green Tomatoes is one of those books for me. My aunt nagged me about reading it for quite a while, and I am very glad that I eventually gave in. Even though this is one of my comfort books, it’s not an easy read. Racism, poverty, loneliness, abuse, and self-loathing are all central themes in this book. However, the book is also full of happiness, love, and solidarity, and was probably the first time I ever read about same-sex love. It’s complicated and difficult, but it leaves me with warm and fuzzy feelings!
8. Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood
Oryx and Crake holds a special place in my heart not only because it is one of my favourite books ever, but because it was hand delivered to me by a friend right before I got on a plane to take me across the country. He had read it in an English class, fallen in love, and wanted to share his joy with me. How could I refuse such kindness or really any reading material for a multi-hour trip? I was a captive audience and the book kept me entertained and contemplative as I flew over Canada.
9. Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka
Kafka and I were introduced to each other in a sociology class during my undergrad, and The Metamorphosis still makes me feel uncomfortable when I think about it several years later. There is something so utterly chilling about this book, and it fit in absolutely perfectly with the course’s theme of deviance. It’s a book that I still reflect on even though my time in sociology courses is long past.
10. Feed – Mira Grant
I walked into a book store one day looking for some YA literature to take my mind off my job. As I was wandering around with Cinder in hand, one of the clerks came up to me and started talking about how I should read Feed. At the time, I didn’t really like the zombie genre, but the clerk was pushy and there was enough of a politics hook on the back description that I decided to give it a try. Now the Newsflesh Trilogy are some of my favourite books of all-time, so I owe a huge thank you to the clerk who wanted to share his love for this book with everyone who came in the store!
Honourable Mentions: Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture by Douglas Coupland, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore