Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Top Ten Books That Make Me Think

Image from The Broke and the Bookish

It's been a while since I've participated in a Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  It's not that their topics haven't appealed to me; it's just I've been so damn busy.  I decided today to take the night off and catch up on blogging and blog reading.  Since today is 9/11, I've been in a bit of a reflective mood, and I really responded to the theme for today's Top Ten Tuesday - books that made me think.
  1. Falling Man by Don DeLillo offers a post-9/11 look at the world.
  2. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathon Safran Foer provides another, less literary, portrait of post-9/11 USA.
  3. Great House by Nicole Krauss (wife of Jonathon Safran Foer): This book of interconnected narratives had me marveling anew at Krauss' genius fifteen minutes after finishing it.  To this day, I return to it as the epitome of literary fiction again and again.
  4. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak: I have always been a fan of Holocaust fiction - a bit of a dark interest - and The Book Thief delivers a compelling, historical account from a different perspective than other Holocaust tales.  The main narrator is death, but the protagonist is a little German girl who befriends an older, male Jew.
  5. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins: I am dying to teach these books in the Ethics course at my college.  It is ripe with political issues and more fundamental questions of good versus evil.  Although these issues are certainly apparent in the series' namesake, I think they are most fully explored in Mockingjay
  6. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis is a classic example of Christian fiction forcing the reader to think about what lies beyond, but Lewis does not force his views on the reader, which I think is important in any piece of religious fiction.
  7. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness: I am thisclose to finishing the first book in Ness' Chaos Walking series, and I love it, but it is so intense.  You think The Hunger Games is violent and ethically challenged?  Check out The Knife of Never Letting Go.  This is some deep stuff, and I have to keep putting it down because I am so overwhelmed, but my total investment in the main characters ensures I will pick it up again, and soon.
  8. The Giver by Lois Lowry: I didn't read The Giver until I was in graduate school, and I'm glad I didn't because I think I was better able to understand the complexity of the responsibility bestowed upon Jonah as well as the shocking actions of his society.
  9. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling provides many pearls of wisdom on loyalty, family, friends, and courage, but it is Rowling's emphasis on memory and the power of remembrance that has me returning to this series again and again.
  10. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood/Bumped and Thumped by Megan McCafferty: A classic and contemporary look at women's role in society.  Both terrifying and brilliant.
Honorable Mention: Revolutionary Road (the movie although I think the book would be even more thought provoking!): I fully admit to not having read Revolutionary Road although it is on my TBR.  I did watch the movie with Kate Winselt and Leonardo DiCaprio, and I was struck by the overarching theme best expressed in Betty Friedan's breakthrough study The Feminine Mystique as the "problem with no name."  It really makes you wonder, how can someone who seemingly has everything be so dissatisfied with life and his/her surroundings?  Where does fundamental happiness lie?

I cheated with number 10 and my honorable mention, but it's been a while since I've participated, so I'm making up for lost time.  Also, my list is YA heavy, but I think this goes to show that YA Lit. is an area worth studying.  It can teach readers.  This video from Ted Ed that I discovered through NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) really conveys that idea better and in a more interesting way than I could.

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