Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Made Me Think

Top Ten Tuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

I know, I know it's not Tuesday. Tuesday exploded and blasted me into Wednesday. But I've managed to sift through the shrapnel and arrange this post despite the difficulties. You're welcome.

This week's topic was books that made me think. Now, I have read a couple non-fiction books that also accomplished that, and I've read a lot of books in school that I was forced to think about, but I don't really want to delve into either of those facets of my reading career.

So below are my Top Ten fictional titles and series that provoked the most thought, reflection, or intellectual conversation. Enjoy...

Harry Potter Series10. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

This series was and continues to be a major thought-provoker for me. Not so much as I was reading them, but more so when looking back. Not only is there the story of Harry and Voldemort, good vs evil, but the side-stories, sub-plots, morals, revelations, juxtapositions, allegories, myth, metaphors, quests, deaths, and much, much more. Attend a convention and you'll find dozens of lectures, discussions, and panels that focus on one or more or the aspects found in this series.

And all that doesn't even touch on the phenomenon that surrounds these books. Why did they sell? What did they do to the YA industry? Why are fans still obsessed? I just love hearing and talking about all the trivia surrounding these books, and I don't know that I'll ever be tired of hearing about them.

Anyone else up for LeakyCon?

Chronicle of a Death Foretold9. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

One of the few books that I was forced to read in school that I revisited once or twice afterwards, Chronicle of a Death Foretold fascinated me, plain and simple. I loved the style of the book. You know from the very first paragraph that the main character has died/will die. The rest of the book goes back in time, showing each and every event leading up to the death as well as the choices that might have saved Santiago's life.

Which brings us to the main draw of the novel. Is fate or destiny real? Are our futures set in stone? Was Santiago's murder the fault of the two brothers, the whole town, or of the stars? Short and sweet, this book packs a lot into its 98 pages.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Technically, I read this for a book club so was 'forced' to think about this one. I'd never heard of it before, and it's honestly something I don't think would ever be on my radar. Despite that, I found myself relating to a lot of what happened in the book.

I'm a bit socially awkward, shy, quiet, etc. so reading about a kid who preferred to observe, but still wanted to have what the other kids had really resonated with me. It might not be for everyone, but I think a lot of loners will find some connection with this one.

Ender's Game7. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

I read Ender's Game for a scriptwriting class...cause the movie was coming out "soon" in 2004 (try 2013). But something about it drew me back that summer. Sure it's a story about a kid going through tactical military training in space. Yay for zero-gravity simulations!

It's also about war, logic, survival, politics, strategy, philosophy, the power of the internet, ethics, blame/fault, and so, so much more. Sure, kids will probably enjoy reading it, but older audiences will still get a lot out of it as well.

To Kill a Mockingbird6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I read this one voluntarily after our 8th grade class watched the movie. I can't recite any of the speeches, I can't name all the characters, and I probably can't remember everything that happened in the book. But I remember enough, and considering I read it over 10 years ago, I think that speaks for itself.

I'm sure a lot of lists will have this one. It's pretty obvious what this book's message is. But that doesn't make it any less potent or thought-provoking. There's a reason it's still being read today, and really that ought to make us think.

The Amber Spyglass5. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

The first two books (The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife) were great stories as well, but The Amber Spyglass was really the first book that brought home the underlying messages for me. Perhaps it was my age, perhaps it was just less subtle, but if you had any doubts about the religious messages in the first two books, you're in for a rude awakening in this one.

And is that necessarily a bad thing? Is it wrong to read something that has you questioning what you think you know? I won't say this series is for everyone, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading and thinking about it.

4. Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide by Orson Scott Card
XenocideSpeaker for the Dead
I could have included these with Ender's Game, but really they don't have much in common. The events in Ender's Game happened and some of the characters transferred over. Other than that, the style, tone, and message has completely changed.

Both these books (and the third, which was omitted due to being more confusing) present strong characters on opposing sides, both having strong reasons for their actions, but divided in duty and morality. Is the destruction of a planet the only solution to stopping the spread of a disease? Or does the disease have as much right to life as anyone else? Not a fluff series by any definition, but fascinating nonetheless. ...Even if you can't stand the author...

The Bell Jar3. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I was assigned this one as a part of our Madness class. The freakiest part was connecting with this character on a personal level—we were all literature or English majors, most of us aspired to continue working in that field, and more than half of us were female—then following her as she descended into depression and insanity. But we still connected with her. She didn't seem least not most of the time.

It was really was a disconcerting feeling to look at a character and see yourself, especially when she ends up where she does. Perhaps not as poignant for those not in the English/literature field, but still an interesting look at madness.

The Wish List2. The Wish List by Eoin Colfer

Another religious book, but this one spoke to me on a personal level more than Pullman's series did. Here you have a girl who has done literally just as many good things as bad. So when she dies she's given the chance to earn her way out of Hell by fulfilling a dying man's last wishes.

Maybe not so much religion as morality, I still think back to this book whenever religion or ethics comes up. Might be a conversation starter, might be a different perspective than you're used to, but I'd strongly recommend The Wish List for any group and any age.

The Hunger Games1. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

When I told my friends and family I was trying to come up with this list, this was the first book/series each and every one of us said. It's simply impossible not to think when reading these books. Morality, ethics, politics, society, class, poverty, freedom, war, revenge, retribution, psychology — these books have a little of everything.

I don't think they'll ever gather as much of a following due to the intensity of the subject matter. Who wants to read about kids being forced to kill each other? For me, the draw is more in the conversations about the books than the books themselves, because while I found them well-written and unforgettable, I don't particularly want to relive the experiences.

So while I'd say this is my top pick as a thought-provoking read, it's probably a book/series I don't plan on reading again. Not for pleasure, in any case.

Which books made you think?
Which books can you never forget?
Let me hear you howl!