Ernest Hemingway

2016 Reading list #47: Green Hills of Africa, by Ernest Hemingway

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately, though I’m getting plenty of reading done. I’ve just been caught at an odd time when, every time I finish a book, I stare blankly at my shelf, unsure what to read next.

Green Hills of Africa wasn’t really on my original reading list for the year, though reading something by Ernest Hemingway was. I’d planned on working through Hemingway’s complete collection of short stories, but, after the first 200 pages, I watched the book sit unopened, so I’ve reshelved for a later time (though I have read somewhere in the realm of 30 of his stories, so I know I’ll happily return to it when the time is right).

Green Hills of Africa was one of the shorter selections on my shelf that also meant I would be accomplishing one of my 2016 goals of reading a work for a few select authors. After falling in love with Hemingway and Faulkner in a lit class four years (!) ago, I’ve tried my best to read something new by each of them every year.

This wasn’t my favorite of Hemingway’s works, but that’s mostly because I don’t care about hunting. This is all about hunting. It’s not a bad book at all, it’s just a book that doesn’t quite align with my personal interests.

Hemingway even says in a very short forward to the book that this is his attempt at seeing if a book without plot or romance can still be true and interesting to readers, and I think he accomplishes that. Near the book’s conclusion, he has a few beautiful pages about the majesty of the earth and how people corrupt its beauty. His appreciation for nature is at a serious high in this book.

He also refers to a hunting guide who’s overly expressive and annoying as “Theater Business” and speaks of himself as having the “evening braggies” after whiskey makes him overconfident, both of which are tidbits I enjoy tremendously.

If you can forgive Hemingway’s casual racism and whiteness here and there (he was writing in the 1930s, after all), Green Hills of Africa is a pretty pleasant read. Maybe not my favorite, but it’s hard to go too wrong with Papa.

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Life post-Master’s degree

I graduated with my Master’s two-and-a-half weeks ago, but saying I have a Master’s degree sounds fake. I imagine it will for a while, especially since my future career prospects are still a giant question mark.

Since graduation, I’ve done a lot of applying for jobs, but I’m also basking in the very strange freedom of no impending responsibilities apart from maintaining my own existence. To celebrate graduation, my mom took us to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter which was both rewarding and exhausting. We’re happy to have had the experience and to hopefully never need to do it again.

Luckily, this freedom means I have lots of time for my Very Favorite Activities: reading all the books and watching all the TV/movies I can think about. So, to celebrate my first time away from school in 19 years, a mostly successful and rewarding first semester of teaching, and writing a 114-page thesis, here’s how I’ve been spending my hours of entertainment.

Books—I feel like my reading progress should be more substantial since finishing school, but I did finish Diana Gabaldon’s Voyager, an 870-page tome that I expect will be my longest read of 2016, so that makes up for the short reading list. I’ve also knocked out Ta-Nehisi Coates’s though-provoking and beautifully written Between the World and Me, which is essentially 150 pages of reminding white people to check their privilege. We all need more of that in our lives.

As a fairly transitional reading project, I also powered through K.C. Dyer’s Finding Fraser, a light read for fans of the Outlander series. It wasn’t anything terribly enlightening or profound, but it kept me feeling occupied and pleasant for a day or two. I’m also feeling mentally cleansed to delve back into heavier hitting literature, so I’m working through two projects right now: Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard. It’s my first time with both of these authors, and I think my first attempt at anything Russian, so I’m hoping for rewarding experiences. Once these are done, I plan to resume my work through Arthur Miller’s collected works since I haven’t revisited those since January and Ernest Hemingway’s collected short stories. It’s such a pleasure to know I will never have a shortage of great things to read.

Movies—My movie-watching habits have been surprisingly lame these days, partially because the movies I have watched have been rewatches rather than anything new. I do intend to see Me Before You when it’s released this week, but there hasn’t been much in theaters to draw my attention—partially because the things I am interested in are only available in limited release. I recently built up my Amazon watchlist, so I’ll hopefully start making a dent in some of those films soon.

TV—It’s probably fair to say that I haven’t watched many movies lately because I’ve been busy with TV. Though most shows I watch have stopped airing for the summer, Game of Thrones, Veep, Outlander, and Inside Amy Schumer all keep me busy enough, but I’m also doing plenty of other TV viewing. I finally got to the War & Peace miniseries adaptation that aired in January and February, and I really loved it (this is a big reason why I decided to tackle Chekov). The more I see of Lily James, the more convinced I become that she’s actually made of sunshine.

I also finished the two seasons of Starz’s cult hit Party Down yesterday, though my journey through the show has been a bit strange. I watched the first 3 episodes on my Bluray player, and when I picked up on my iPad, unknowingly began with episode 4 of season 2. I got all the way through the end of season two and backtracked to the 3 episodes of season 2 I hadn’t seen before I realized the problem. I’d been wondering if I’d been paying bad attention (Where did Jane Lynch go? When did Megan Mullally get here? When did Adam Scott start dating Kristen Bell?) or if they just didn’t explain everything very overtly, so I was glad to realize it was my organizational mistake that created the confusion rather than bad viewing habits. I may have to watch it again from start to finish sometime to make up for my stupidity.

I’ve also watched half of Amazon’s Doctor Thorne, which is charming and lovely. I expect to finish it today. And I’ve started season two of Netflix’s Bloodline, but that’s a show that’s too depressing to really binge, so I expect we’ll take some time with it. I’m also expecting that Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Grantchester will be the next two projects on my list. Nothing like a period piece to momentarily take you out of a humid Kentucky summer.

What are you reading and watching these days? I’m always looking for suggestions!

Books I Read in 2015

I’ve been a bit all over the place with my reading the last two years. In 2013, I set a goal of reading 40 books and beat it, and in 2014, I seriously surpassed my goal of reading 52 books by reading 91 (my numbers have been greatly bolstered by reading plays, in case you were wondering).

Since I’m in an English Literature graduate program, I obviously do plenty of reading, but I think I went back to my goal of 50 books in 2015. Though this number might be a bit low based on 2014’s results, I stay plenty busy with my school reading and don’t always have lots of time for recreational reading. I ended up exceeding that goal by reading 69 books in 2015, an achievement I’m pretty proud of. Here’s my full list of reading from 2015–for reference, the titles listed in bold are those I particularly enjoyed.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  2. Live From New York, James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales
  3. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green and David Levithan
  4. Looking for Alaska, John Green
  5. Sanctuary, William Faulkner
  6. It’s Only A Play, Terrence McNally
  7. Brother to Dragons, Robert Penn Warren
  8. On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan
  9. Paddle Your Own Canoe, Nick Offerman
  10. The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, William Inge
  11. Come Back, Little Sheba, William Inge
  12. Bus Stop, William Inge
  13. The Basic Eight, Daniel Handler
  14. Tobacco Road, Erskine Caldwell
  15. My Ideal Bookshelf, Jane Mount and Thessaly la Force
  16. Fallen Too Far, Abbi Glines
  17. Wait for You, J. Lynn
  18. The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
  19. Dead as a Doornail, Charlaine Harris
  20. In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway
  21. Child of God, Cormac McCarthy
  22. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
  23. Love, Rosie, Cecelia Ahern
  24. Airships, Barry Hannah
  25. Crimes of the Heart, Beth Henley
  26. The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
  27. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
  28. Joe, Larry Brown
  29. Wolf Whistle, Lewis Nordan
  30. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
  31. Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
  32. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews
  33. In the Unlikely Event, Judy Blume
  34. Angels in America Part One: Millennium ApproachesTony Kushner
  35. Angels in America Part Two: Perestroika, Tony Kushner
  36. The Complete Stories, Flannery O’Connor
  37. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, J.K. Rowling
  38. Quidditch Through the Ages, J.K. Rowling
  39. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  40. Paper Towns, John Green
  41. White Teeth, Zadie Smith
  42. Shame, Salman Rushdie
  43. Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee
  44. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
  45. The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
  46. Vita Nuova, Dante Alighieri
  47. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  48. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
  49. Dragonfly in AmberDiana Gabaldon
  50. We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  51. Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih
  52. Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, Aimé Césaire
  53. Divine Comedy Vol. I: Inferno, Dante Alighieri
  54. After the Fall, Arthur Miller
  55. Murder in Retrospect, Agatha Christie
  56. Divine Comedy Vol. II: Purgatorio, Dante Alighieri
  57. The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Phoebe Gloeckner
  58. Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, Doris Pilkington
  59. Divine Comedy Vol. III: Paradiso, Dante Alighieri
  60. The Grownup, Gillian Flynn
  61. Me Before You, Jojo Moyes
  62. The Book of Mormon, Trey Parker and Matt Stone
  63. Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh
  64. Dracula, Bram Stoker
  65. Doctor Sleep, Stephen King
  66. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne
  67. This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  68. The Cripple of Inishmaan, Martin McDonagh

Favorite Books of 2015

2015 has been an especially successful reading year for me. I didn’t really read anything I didn’t like, and, as I’m always on the quest to read more, I’m happy with the fact that I finished 66 books this year (though I may have one or two more done before the year ends).

To commemorate this year of reading, here are my favorite reading endeavors of 2015, arranged in alphabetical order by title. I’ve also listed a few Honorable Mentions at the bottom because I just like books a lot.

What were your favorite books you read this year?

The Complete Stories, Flannery O’Connor

The Complete Stories of Flannery O'ConnorI first encountered Flannery O’Connor in high school and fell in love with her stories “A Good Man in Hard to Find” and “Good Country People,” both of which I’ve revisited again and again. So when I had to read seven of O’Connor’s stories for a Southern Literature class last spring, I decided, having bought her entire collection of short stories, to continue working through the book throughout the year. O’Connor is famous for her grotesque and darkly comic stories, a theme that is seen again and again in her works. For more on my favorite stories from the collection, check out my review of the book I wrote upon finishing it in June.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Phoebe Gloeckner

IMG_1804My interest in The Diary of a Teenage Girl was sparked by the rave reviews for the film adaptation that premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, largely because it fits well with the research I’m doing for my master’s thesis project. After seeing the film in August and loving its sincere and honest tone, I bought myself the semi-autobiographical, semi-graphic novel that inspired the movie. Phoebe Gloeckner does a wonderful job of capturing the voice of Minnie in her work (a voice that she took from her own teenage diary entries). I found the book charming, troubling, and fascinating–a work that clearly aligns with Judy Blume’s famously honest portrayals of young women. The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a true treat (you can read my full review here).

Doctor Sleep, Stephen King

IMG_1836I really didn’t expect to enjoy Doctor Sleep as much as I did, but boy did it surprise me. It can be expected that reading a Stephen King novel will be an entertaining experience, but I didn’t expect to become so invested in these characters. Though Doctor Sleep is the follow up to The Shining, this is a very different story: adult Dan Torrance becomes involved with protecting a young girl who shares his “shining” capabilities. I love when “pop fiction” is more than just a pleasant way to pass the time, and Doctor Sleep certainly delivers in this fun, creepy, and entertaining book (full review here).

Dracula, Bram Stoker

DraculaDracula was one of my longest-lasting reading projects of 2015 because my roommate and I decided to take on the task of reading the book together, an experience we both enjoyed thoroughly. I’d been plenty familiar with the story before (because who isn’t?), but it was a much more rewarding experience to read the source material, especially when it’s made all-the-more enjoyable by reading with your best friend. As it turns out, a shared reading experience full of laughs is the perfect antidote to a stressful semester of grad school, and one we’ll certainly be repeating (full review here).

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

IMG_1505The Grapes of Wrath has long-been on my reading list, but I finally took the journey this summer, a choice that only made me wonder why I hadn’t done it sooner. The best part of reading John Steinbeck’s classic was that I got to read my grandfather’s 1950s copy of the book full of his annotations–The Grapes of Wrath was the subject of his thesis while in seminary (note the feature picture). Though my grandfather died when I was three-years-old, reading his words alongside Steinbeck’s gave me the bittersweet experience of feeling just a bit closer to him (full review here).

The Grownup, Gillian Flynn

Grownup

Gillian Flynn doesn’t disappoint. The Grownup is a very quick read–it is a short story, after all–but it rings true to Flynn’s other disturbingly entertaining works. If you loved Gone Girl as much as the rest of the world, set  aside an hour to give this a read. Only down side: you’ll finish reading it and feel slightly disappointed that it hasn’t turned into a full length novel.

The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle

The Hound of the BaskervillesThe Hound of the Baskervilles was a particularly fun read because it kept me entertained during my cozy snow week last spring (oh, the joy of having an entire week just to stay inside and read). I fell in love with BBC’s Sherlock during my 2013-2014 winter break but hadn’t ever read any of Doyle’s stories, so I was very happy to see that his writing is just as fun as the show (full review here).

In the Unlikely Event, Judy Blume

In the Unlikely EventAs you might have guessed from what I wrote about The Diary of a Teenage Girl, I’m a Judy Blume fan, so her release of a new novel this year was a special treat for me. In the Unlikely Event is technically an adult novel, but the majority of the story is about a fifteen-year-old girl, so it often feels like Blume’s classic young adult novels. Set in the 1950s, the book has the same mid-century feel that makes Mad Men so fun to watch, and the characters and so endearing that you’re immediately drawn into the story. If you’re looking for an easy read with a lot of heart, In the Unlikely Event is a great way to spend your time (full review here).

Me Before You, Jojo Moyes

Me Before YouMe Before You was a perfect (if not emotionally draining) way to spend my Thanksgiving break. With the knowledge that a film adaptation of this book arrives in theaters next spring starring the adorable likes of Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, and Matthew Lewis, I had a feeling this would be the kind of sweet book I’d enjoy. This is definitely true, but don’t expect a very happy ending–but I don’t want to say any more about it. Me Before You is the perfect kind of bittersweet romantic book, and great for a quiet weekend at home where you can ugly-cry when things get sad (full review here).

On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan

On Chesil BeachAnd speaking of bittersweet romance… Ian McEwan is the indisputable king of the genre (if you’re familiar with Atonement, you’ll know what I’m talking about). On Chesil Beach tells the story of an awkward and shy couple on their wedding night. It’s a short novel that, apart from flashbacks, stays entirely in the moment of one evening. It’s the kind of book that will make you want to yell at the characters, but you can’t stop yourself from reading on. This book can be read in an afternoon, but it’s the type of story that will stick with you long after (full review here).

Outlander, Diana Gabaldon

outlanderI first met Outlander through the TV adaptation of the book series, but after deciding I could no longer wait for the show to keep me up-to-date, I embarked on the journey of reading the series. Gabaldon writes hefty books (in the realm of 800+ pages), but the story is fun and thankfully has kept my interest in these characters satisfied. I’ve also read Dragonfly in Amber, the second book in the series, and if I don’t get the third for Christmas, I’ll be buying it for myself soon. While Outlander is a romantic story at heart, history and science are also hugely essential. So thanks, Diana–I feel like your books are slowly making me a bit smarter (full review here).

White Teeth, Zadie Smith

white-teethI just might have saved the best for last. White Teeth was conveniently both on my personal reading list and required reading for a class this fall, so I was happy to read it this summer. I really had no idea how much I’d enjoy it. Zadie Smith is a fabulous Dickensian writer; she writes developed characters that make up an incredibly diverse and vast ensemble, but manages to make you feel as if you know them each individually. Her prose is beautiful slow-building, and I don’t know whether to bow to her or hate her for having written White Teeth at the age of 24 (which just so happens to be my current age). White Teeth is a truly rewarding experience (full review here).

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And, as promised, here are some Honorable Mentions for my other favorites this year (listed alphabetically by title):

  • Angels in America, Tony Kushner
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne
  • A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
  • Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee
  • The Divine Comedy Vol. I: Inferno, Dante Alighieri
  • Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh
  • Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  • In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway
  • Sanctuary, William Faulkner
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

You can find my full list of the books I read in 2015 here and explore the rest of the blog for longer reviews of these works.

 

Book #20: In Our Time, by Ernest Hemingway

I’d say reading 20 books before the end of February is a pretty solid start to my reading list in 2015. I just finished Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time, a collection of short stories I have to present on in my American Short Stories class later this semester. If you know much about my literary tastes, you probably know that I have a major soft spot for Hemingway, so I’ve been especially studious in getting my reading done for this several weeks in advance.

I’ve also read several of these stories before, in my Hemingway and Faulkner class a few years ago. Most of the stories in In Our Time are Nick Adams stories, which chronicle Adams’s life from childhood to his return from World War I.

Generally, these stories deal with the savagery of war, particularly in an internal, personal sense. Hemingway also presents several scenarios of masculinity and femininity that are characteristic of his writing. As Hemingway’s second publication, In Our Time is a perfect example of his earliest works that helped establish his deceptively simple writing style. Hemingway fans, put this one on your to do list.

Snow Days

I couldn’t be happier to be writing this from the comfort of my bed, snuggled under a pile of blankets with snow falling outside my window. My semester got off to a busy start, so I thought I’d take this moment of reprieve to write a quick update of my pop culture life these days.

Books — School reading obviously takes precedent over any leisurely reading, but I’m still free enough that I’m able to maintain something for myself. After forging my way through a book of William Inge plays, I took a sharp turn to reading Daniel Handler’s The Basic Eight, a fun teen novel about murder (I guess it doesn’t sound that funny, but it really is). My latest Southern lit reading assignment was Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road, a super strange and darkly comic book chronicling the strange lives of a group in Depression-era rural Georgia. It’s a truly entertaining read. This past weekend I finished My Ideal Bookshelf, a collection of lists made by various celebrities of the handful of book they’d put on their “ideal” bookshelves. It was especially fun to read the lists of celebrities I like (like James Franco), and the book provided me with several books I’ve added to my own reading list.

Currently, I’m in the middle of reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles and I’m enjoying the experience tremendously. I’ve also started Ernest Hemingway’s short story collection In Our Time, a book I’m required to present about in one of my classes next month. This snow day (which just might turn into two snow days) is giving me the perfect opportunity to stay in and read guilt-free.

Movies — I’m well on my way with my 100 movie goal for 2015, having watched 23 new movies this year. Some recent favorites include the classic Pulp Fictionwhich I hadn’t seen until recently, and Still Alice, the movie for which Julianne Moore is likely to win an Oscar. Admittedly, I also got really into this Lifetime movie called Restless Virgins that I watched on Netflix, so I guess that should make the list as well. Sometimes you need something mindless to watch, I guess.

TV — I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so busy with TV-watching as I do now. I’m making pretty good progress on my rewatch of Lost (I’m currently watching episode 2×15), but I’m also kept very occupied by all the normal TV shows I watch that are airing. This list includes: Downton Abbey, Girls, Bob’s Burgers, Jane the Virgin, Parks and Recreation, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Broad City, Scandal, Reign, and How to Get Away with Murder. It’s both sad and a little stress-relieving that Parks and Rec and How to Get Away with Murder will be ending in the coming weeks so my watch list can be pared down a bit. However, Bates Motel, Game of Thrones, and Veep will all be returning soon, so the madness continues, I suppose. For now, though, I’m content to stay in my bed and enjoy my cozy day inside.

My Ideal Bookshelf

For Christmas, my best friend bought me a lovely book entitled My Ideal Bookshelf, edited by Thessaly La Force, with art by Jane Mount, that I was feeling inspired by the other day. Essentially, this book in a collection of illustrations and notes from famous people of many disciplines (people from skater Tony Hawk to author Daniel Handler to actor/professor/student/unfortunate Oscar host extraordinaire James Franco) who describe the books that would be on their “ideal bookshelf.” The prompt for choosing these books is as follows:

Select a small shelf of books that represent you — the books that have changed your life, that have made you who you are today, your favorite favorites.

If you happen upon this book in a store, I suggest sitting down and perusing it, especially if you’re a fellow book lover; it’s always fun to see what other people enjoy, and the illustrations are lovely. After much thought, I’ve tried to compile my own list, based upon the book’s cover art:

My-Ideal-Bookshelf

So, here are my picks for these categories. I’ve probably spent far too long toiling over my choices, largely because there are too many books I love, and many that could fit into any and all of these categories. I’m sure they’ll change over the course of my life, but that’s just one of the many joys of reading, isn’t it? What are some of your favorites?

My Favorite Book:

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

When I reread The Great Gatsby early in 2013, I was reminded why I’d used this novel as my go-to when asked what my favorite book was. Essentially, it’s perfect. Fitzgerald couldn’t be more eloquent in his simplistic style. I love writing in my books and underlining passages I really like, and I found that nearly every other line was marked in some way. The Great Gatsby is the quintessential American novel, and one that I suggest everyone read at least once in their lifetime.

The Book That Changed My Life:

For Whom the Bell Tolls

For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway

My interpretation of “book that changed my life” was a bit loose here, but I can explain my choice. In the fall of 2012, I took a Hemingway and Faulkner literature course that has absolutely changed my life. For Whom the Bell Tolls was my first Hemingway read aside from a few short stories, and it was my favorite of his four novels we read. The story is beautiful and detailed, allowing readers introspective insight into events over the course of three days. My experience in reading Hemingway has made me realize that I really prefer 20th century American literature to all else (though I still read all kinds of things) and it’s helped me in realizing my aspirations of becoming an English professor. Thanks, Papa Hemingway.

The Book I Read Again and Again:

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Starsby John Green

To be fair, I’ve only read this twice, but it’s one I’m certain I’ll return to numerous times in the future. I’m a sucker for young adult literature anyway, and in an age when there are plenty of crappy teen romances on bookshelves, you really can’t do much better than John Green. The Fault in Our Stars was the first book of his I read, and I immediately became a dedicated fan. Green writes with such a real voice in his novels that you kind of can’t help by identify with his characters. The Fault in Our Stars is funny and heartbreaking, and one that I think all teens should read. Side note: I couldn’t be more excited about the film adaptation that comes out this June. Hooray!

The Book I Love The Most:

Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling

Okay, I’m kind of cheating myself by using two categories for Harry Potter, but if you know me, you’ll probably understand that I can only express my Potter love by being excessive with it. Even after many, many readings of Deathly Hallows, I can’t help but cry at the perfect ending, and I usually have to give it a nice hug before returning it to its place on the shelf. Deathly Hallows is not only my favorite book in the Potter series, it also features my favorite chapter, “The Forest Again” (try reading it without crying, I dare you). It’s perfect. There really isn’t anything else to say on the matter.

The Book(s) That Made Me Who I Am:

HP

The Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling

So, now to part two of my Potter picks. I’m not sure this really needs much explanation. Obviously the Potter books have made me who I am. I don’t know if there are many other topics I would dedicate the time it takes to write an honors thesis, but I happen to have an extra amount of love and devotion where the Potter books are concerned. The only thing I can really say is that I’ll be forever grateful I received a paperback of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for my eighth birthday. It made me the person I am today.

The Best Book I Ever Read:

The Sound and the Fury

 The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner

Again, The Sound and the Fury could be assigned to nearly any category on this list. Like For Whom the Bell Tolls, I read this novel for my Hemingway and Faulkner course, and I really never expected to be as impacted by it as I have been. This is not for light readers — Faulkner almost always write in a confusing style, by The Sound and the Fury takes confusion to a whole new level with its narrative style. Despite the confusion, though, this is honestly the greatest book I’ve ever read. The Compson family and all they represent create a harrowing portrait of the declining South post-slavery, and these characters are bound to stick in your memory. I look forward to the next time I read this masterpiece so I can be reminded of its greatness.

The Book That Makes Me Cry Every Time:

A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving

I think it’s rare to ever find a book that makes readers cry, and when they do, it’s usually just a tear or two (that’s been my experience, at least). A Prayer for Owen Meany, therefore, in an anomaly; I don’t think I’ll ever forget finishing this book in a hostel in Montreal, tears pouring from my eyes. Trust me, it wasn’t pretty. But that’s the kind of story Irving has created in this contemporary classic. I recently told a friend to read this to restore his faith in contemporary literature, and I think that’s one of this novel’s many benefits. The best quality of the book, though, is this epic, perfect, brilliant story. If you don’t love Owen Meany as a character, you must be heartless. This is my mom’s favorite book, and before I read it, she always used to tell me that when she finished reading it the first time, she held it and sobbed. After my experience, I understand that reaction completely, and I imagine you will too if you’ve read this book.

So, since I was limited to these seven categories, I decided to add a few honorable mentions that I think would also be likely to find their way onto my ideal bookshelf. Here are a few extra titles I really love.

Honorable Mentions:

Little Women, Jane Eyre, The Awakening, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Forever…, Gone Girl, Death of a Salesman