Alright, I'm going to finish up my book recommendations today. You can check out my popular fiction and non-fiction lists here.
So this last set is my fiction list. These aren't "popular reading," although some of these might be fairly popular, and usually I am going to list an author or a series as opposed to a single book.
Also, you might notice that there is a lot of young adult or high school reading on here. What can I say? In his introduction to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lewis wrote, "Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again," and I must admit that I often live by that quote. If a book is on this list, that means I have read it multiple times, and I often started reading it while a child or teenager.
Perks of Being a Wallflower
My best friend in high school bought this book when it first came out and then lent it to me. This book just feels like 11th and 12th grade to me. My group of friends read this book, talked about this book, quoted this book. Nothing against The Catcher in the Rye, but this book was much more a coming of age anthem to me.
In the book, Charlie (the main character) is given a book list from his high school teacher. I read through that list in 11th grade (well I had already read about half, so I finished it up). Here they are: To Kill a Mockingbird, This Side of Paradise, A Separate Peace, Peter Pan, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, On the Road, Naked Lunch, Walden, Hamlet, The Stranger, and The Fountainhead. I would suggest that entire list (maybe leave out Naked Lunch) to anyone wanting to read more, especially of the classics.
Look, if you are looking for book suggestions and you aren't a teenager, I honestly don't know how good this book will be to you. It might be like The Great Gatsby. When I try to reread that book, it just doesn't feel as wonderful as it did when I was 16. Perhaps Perks is like that. Perhaps it's only magical when you are young (and because I read it then, when I reread it, it's still magical to me).
But it's worth a shot, right?
Atlas Shrugged & The Fountainhead
Oh goodness, I feel like I'm opening up Pandora's box with this one. Look, I'm not saying I agree with Ayn Rand on anything/everything. I am just saying that she is an incredible story teller.
Give these two books a chance. I have read Atlas Shrugged probably four times. After the first time, I just started skipping pages anytime she went on a political or philosophical rant. Perhaps that would make her sad, but I don't really care. Both books are really beautiful and amazing stories, and both feature pretty incredible female heroines (which isn't often the case with most books in the classical cannon).
My love for the great dame of mystery writing began in junior high, thanks to And Then There Were None. I didn't read too much of her after that, until I got to college. And now, I read every Agatha book in the library of wherever we live, wait until I've at least halfway forgotten who the murder is, and then reread the book again.
If you don't like mysteries, I guess Agatha Christie isn't for you. But if you do, Agatha was the best mystery writer...ever. Okay, maybe that's not 100% agreed on, but she's at least top 5. One of my favorite things about her is the lack of gore, language, and sex in her books. I also love how I can rarely figure out who did it, but at the same time, the answers aren't a crazy stretch either. And of course, her two main characters, Miss Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot, are just wonderful.
In high school, I often chose my books off of the AP reading list. I went through many phases: the Beatniks, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Vonnegut. But my absolute favorite is Potok.
Chaim Potok is a Jewish author, and most of his books have to do with Hassidic Jews. Not only are these books incredibly interesting because of the history you learn, but they are also incredibly beautiful. His writing is just wonderful. I would suggest starting with The Promise, My Name is Asher Lev, or Davita's Harp.
I know, this seems like it should fit in the "popular reading" list. But I think that Harry Potter will last. I know I'm ripping of Alan Rickman here, but I do believe I will still reread these books when I'm 80. I think Rowling has done an incredible job creating this series.
I'm going to be honest. I reread this series often. Like every two years or so. And I am never disappointed. I LOVE that Jack is so into Harry, because it gives me yet another excuse to reread the series.
I feel like most people have just read A Wrinkle in Time, which is an incredible book. But L'Engle has so many other incredible books which should be read too!
A Wrinkle in Time is the beginning of her time quintet, which includes A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet (my favorite in the series), Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. This is a great series.
But my favorite of her books are the Vicky Austin books. These lack the fantasy aspect of the time quintet and instead focus more on the teenage years of Vicky. Her family lived in New England, and I have to blame so much of my love for New England (and desire to take family camping trips) on the Austin family! My favorite in the Austin series is Troubling a Star.
L'Engle also wrote a book about her Faith called Walking on Water that I am currently making my way through. Seriously, her books will blow you away.
Anne of Green Gables series
Oh, Anne girl. There may be no series that can top this one for me. I know, lots of people have read the first book, maybe even the second. But the whole series is just perfect, and I would highly suggest it. Rilla of Ingleside is a strong contender for my favorite book in the series, and it's the very last of eight!
So much of who I am and what I love has been shaped by this series. I think I started reading them in 3rd grade. I then proceeded to ask my parents to call me Anne for a year (and of course, Anne with an e!). And I have a son named Gilbert, which is no coincidence. Anne is just amazing, not because she's perfect, but because of her love for beauty and for her eternal optimism. And now that I have children, books like Anne's House of Dreams and Anne of Ingleside take on a whole new meaning.
If you have never read this series (or have only read the first book or two), do yourself a favor and finish it. You won't be sorry.
Chronicles of Narnia
Well, who's surprised with this one?
My dad started reading Narnia to me when I was a little girl. Honestly, I don't think anything else he (and maybe anyone) has done has shaped me so profoundly as this.
A mother once wrote to Lewis, concerned that her son loved Aslan more than Jesus. He responded, "[He] can't really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that's what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus; and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before."
I grew up falling in love with Narnia and with Aslan. And that love has shaped my faith more than other weightier and more serious books ever can or will.
As I look over this list I've just made, I'm reminded of how much I love words and quotes. I used to fill notebooks up with quotes and lyrics and poem stanzas that I love. And all of these books and writers are filled with beautiful, life giving words.
And if this list inspires you to read anything on it, please let me know!