My top five book choices are…weird. First of all, they aren’t brand new. I mean, I’m a mom and a teacher, how would I ever have time to get something hot off the presses? I’m still using slang like “peeps and LOL” as if they were just released to adults. My five book recommendations are very different in genre, and they don’t really go together in any thematic way. They do, however, have a common thread, and that thread is that I don’t believe what I took from them will ever leave me. I have a terrible memory, and I’m usually fuzzy on details in my life, but I took something from each one of these books that I think others would love. Please enjoy my list of literature that changed me in one way or another.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
I am woman hear me, peep? Just kidding, but until I read Wild by Cheryl Strayed, that’s what it felt like being me. During and after reading this book, I definitely understood the cliche of “I am woman; hear me roar.” Wow, this book is inspirational! I do not want to see the movie because the book was too meaningful to me. Nothing against Reese Witherspoon, but I loved the book so much, I don’t want any production ruining that. Cheryl Strayed composed an autobiographical masterpiece with this book. It is honest, and raw, and ornery. It is an unbelievable story of a woman hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone. She makes readers believe that she decides to go off on this journey to prove she can do it, but the further I got into it, the more I realized her journey was more of a purging and cleansing of her body and soul. On her journey, she relied on the kindness of strangers, a little luck, and her trusty flip flops. It was dangerous. It was heart stopping at times. It was exactly what I needed to read. I am a sucker for strong female characters, and it’s a bonus that this was non fiction. I won’t ruin it for you, but I do need you to know my favorite quote from the book. It gets me smiling each time I read it: “It was my life – like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was, to let it be.” Wow, right? Let it in your life.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
If you have ever deemed yourself your own worst enemy, then this is the book for you. My husband got me The War of Art because he had heard an interview with the author, Steven Pressfield, on Joe Rogan’s podcast. He got it to inspire me to get writing, and it absolutely helped. If you have ever dreamed about accomplishing your creative goals like writing, art, design, etc, and just never attempted them because you were sure you’d fail, you need this book. Pressfield addresses the resistance to creative living right away. If we even sit down to write, write only a paragraph, we have overcome resistance. His book is littered with intelligent quotes. If I say inspirational quotes, I’ve lost my audience. I get that. But these quotes are incredibly interesting by the Dalai Lama, William Blake, mercenaries, and even a quote from Boogie Nights. In his discussion of resistance, and what it can do to us, he explains how happiness comes in the act of doing. If we are waiting to jump into the creative unknown, nothing can be more paralyzing than doubt. His words of wisdom are rough and funny. It’s no gentle self help book, and that’s what I like about it.
I purchased it one year, and a student kept it. I had to buy it again, and since then, I’ve had two or three reluctant readers, but aggressive thinkers read it and love it. It transcends generations and that is really something. Steven Pressfield’s second book was just released on June 15th, 2016 called Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t Why that is, and What You Can Do About It. It’s my next read for sure.
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
For some reason, every time I pick up a Rainbow Rowell book, I cannot put it down. I like her authorship because it’s light and fun. I also enjoy it because most of her books are geographically familiar. However, Eleanor and Park is a different kind of Rowell book. This book begins with two teens who feel like outcasts. Eleanor considers herself a large female with wild red hair and opinions. Park is half white and half Korean in a part of town that makes him feel different. Due to their shared bus route, they become friends and then love interests. It’s hard not to like these characters. Eleanor has a rough life. Her mom doesn’t make the best decisions when it comes to men, and they live in poverty. Park, on the other hand, has parents that love him. The two have an unconventional relationship full of ups and downs and awkward teenagey things that Rowell doesn’t sugar coat. I adored this book because it was funny and intelligently written. Even John Green (author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in our Stars) gives this book accolades for its humor. It has a young adult focus, but it’s endearing enough to interest adult readers. This is my favorite Rowell book for that reason.
The Glass Castle A Memoir by Jeanette Walls
This is the memoir to end all memoirs. The Glass Castle follows the life of Jeanette Walls whose family is very unconventional. Jeanette is the middle daughter in a family of six. When I opened this book, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I had to double check that it was, in fact, a nonfiction story. Her parents are very different from the mom and pop we usually find in our books. Her father would teach the kids how to steal, scrape, and acquire goods to just keep them going. He loved passionately, and he read vigorously. He inspired the kids he raised by encouraging them to question and to read. His unorthodox way of raising his children was endearing at the beginning, but turned dangerous by the end of the book. He jumped from town to town and finally ended up living in a homeless community in New York by choice. Alongside his interesting parental choices, Walls’ mother was unusually unfeeling. She could be cold, harsh, and selfish, but she still kept them all together.
Through all of their poverty, and their town jumping, and their dire conditions, readers never feel like the author is complaining. She’s simply stating what happened. It also makes me feel like a really good guardian compared to what she and her siblings experienced in the parenting arena. So if you need a mommy pick-me-up, you can’t go wrong here.This book had me in awe at every turn, and the stories are shocking. This is a great read. You won’t believe what’s in your hands actually happened to a functioning adult.
Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
If you haven’t read Nightingale yet, run straight to your library, download it, buy it, get it in your hands. I love anything by Kristin Hannah, but I only read her when I don’t want something too heavy in my brain. She has a lot of great books, like Night Road (you’ll bawl your eyes out), Firefly Lane, and Home Front that are great fast reads. I call these books “mind candy’. I know exactly what to expect, and she never disappoints. However, Nightingale is one of the best novels I have ever read about World War II. As a high school English teacher, I have taught Night by Elie Wiesel enough to really never read about the Holocaust again. As a mother and a human, it makes me physically ill to even think about it anymore. This book is different. I didn’t have a Holocaust read in me when I picked it up because I feel so heavy physically when I read about what people had to endure. Additionally, I have taught about the Holocaust so much (and will continue to) but I have left it out of my personal reading lately. This book takes place in Paris at the very beginning of World War II. Not only was it not solely about concentration camps, but it’s a historical fiction about how Europe was torn apart. The story follows two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, who are very different. The setting is in the French village of Carriveau. Vianne has to send her husband away to war, and she is forced to watch her village and her house become over run with Nazis. She even has to house two different Nazis in her home that she shares with her daughter. One is a gentleman to her, and one certainly is not. Her sister Isabelle is a rebel (literally and figuratively). Readers watch the impossible unfold in this book. The author has outdone herself in this historical fiction. The decisions the characters have to make are impossible. It is a tear jerker, but it does make you think as well. Since World War II books are usually focused only on the Holocaust, I found it very interesting to learn of Paris and villages like Carriveau, and the people who hid their friends, while simultaneously catering to Nazi generals in their home. This is the definition of a must-read book!
So there you have it. I would recommend these books to anyone looking for a rush from literature. Please share with a friend in need of a good book, and let us know your favorite reads from this summer in the comments on our page or on Facebook. Thank you for reading! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.