By Megan Bell Thursday, May 16, 2019
A new addition to our staff means a new addition to our blog series on staff picks! These are our responses to the question: “What are 10 books that are memorable for having some kind of impact on us as readers?” Many of them are titles that spoke to us at different points in our lives, and may not be our current favorites. We captured a kind of “highlights of our individual reading histories.”
We're so pleased to have Ruthie joining the team for the summer! We first came to know Ruthie years ago as a bright, curious, and friendly high schooler with seriously good taste in books--and bookstores ;). Coming back to Carrollton for the summer from Atlanta, Ruthie is currently pursuing a political science degree with a minor in Arabic from Georgia State University. Along with her keen mind, warm and welcoming energy, and impressive knowledge of nerd culture, Ruthie also brings fresh cat pictures to the bookstore, particularly of her cats Gimli and Pippin.
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
This book is not fun. The author purposely made this book hard, dense, and virtually impossible to get through more than 15 pages of it at a wack. It is wordy and pretentious. The author was very obviously fond of his own voice. However, all that being said Infinite Jest has some of the most important life lessons and ideas about the modern age that have ever been written. David Foster Wallace teaches you about family, beauty, tennis, consumerism, cable TV, and patience not only through the prose, but also through the simple act of taking the time and effort to read this literary behemoth. I can not promise you that you will enjoy this book right away, for Infinite Jest is a cruel and uncaring mistress, but I can promise you that this book will change your life.
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
I would recommend this book to anyone that truly wants to be horrified. It has an eerily simple plot - it is about a house that gains rooms. First it starts with a couple extra centimeters in the closet, and eventually expands into vast never ending hallways with towering staircases consuming those that live in the house. House of Leaves will force you to descend into a world of madness and cause your heartbeat to fly off the page as much as the words do. It will make question what is real and cause you to always double check the size of your linen closet.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Loss is a horrible thing that almost all of us will have to endure at one point or another. Unfortunately, it never gets easier and there will forever be a person-shaped hole in our hearts. Tell the Wolves I’m Home deals with this in a very mature and realistic manner. The story is of 14 year old June Elbus, who is the niece of world renowned painter Finn Weiss. Her and her uncle are very close, until his untimely death of AIDS in 1987. It is a complicated story of grief, family, and a love that transcends gender, death, or age. This book broke my heart, but as someone who has lost a loved one it has helped me mourn and understand that my grief is not only normal, it is valuable.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
For fans of The Hunger Games or any teen Sci-Fi stories, I would recommend this series. It’s thrilling and I often consider it ahead of its time. In a universe where the threat of an alien attack is always looming around the corner, Earth looks to children to command and defend them. Though it is a sci-fi series it often shows the reader a very human and touching side to a rather dismal and political world.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
When reading this book be prepared to get a lot of questions. Such as, “Hey isn’t that the book about pedophiles?” or “Woah! Dude do you like little girls or something?” Yes, Lolita does have a pedophile as a main character, but no it is not about that. It is about not trusting someone for what they project to the world. The main character speaks beautifully and acts like a gentleman, but he rapes children. He can sell it to you though and make you think it is love. This book is disturbing, but teaches a very important lesson through wonderfully deceptive writing and one of the most unreliable narrators known to man.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Do you remember how it feels to be young and in love? That weird mix of confusion and butterflies that float around in your stomach. This book captures that feeling and puts it in a readable form. Two teenage boys fall in love with each other over several years of becoming friends. They tiptoe around each other and hold each other close through a move, family drama, and health issues. This is a feel good novel with a rare happy LGBTQ ending.
Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez
For those of us who do not have the willpower to stiff arm through A Hundred Years Of Solitude, I offer this easier read. It has the same aspects of magical realism in the book, but in my opinion it is much clearer and more concise. Set in the 18th century, a young girl named Sierva María is bitten by a dog and people believe her to be possessed by a demon. Thus they send her to a convent where a priest meets her and falls in intense love. This is my favorite of Gabriel García Márquez works. The brevity of the book removes a lot of the authors more undesirable traits, but continues to showcase his infamous style.
The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall
Whoop! Whoop! Vintage lesbians, baby. We are all about that representation on this page, because quite frankly there just is not quite enough in my opinion. The Well of Loneliness is not the perfect LGBT book, in fact there are tons of scholarly essays and videos that point out all of its flaws. However, I grabbed this book when I was 13 (in order to seem a lot smarter than I was) and it was my first introduction to lesbian representation in literature. No matter how problematic this book may be, it will always hold a special place in this small bisexual's heart.
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
I normally get told, “Wait this was a book?” when mentioning this pick. Yes, the movie was based on a book, and the book nor the author get enough love. Fight Club the novel is as violent and harsh as the movie. There is the same plot twist and all your favorite characters. Though, the book does have a surprise ending that the movie lacks (and one that I prefer). I am a huge Chuck Palahniuk fan. His edgy and political writing makes my inner rebel come out and hopefully yours too.
How I Shed My Skin by Jim Grimsley
I am not a huge nonfiction reader. Most of the time I won’t read nonfiction, unless it is in easily digestible New Yorker articles. How I Shed My Skin however is one of the extremely few that I have read and took the lesson of the book and incorporated it into my life. Living in the south we come face to face with racism on a daily basis. Often times we blame it on our location. Since this racism happens in the south it is okay, because it is expected. This book takes a deep dive into why we think that way and what we as proud southerners can do to become more aware of our racial biases.