Reading has been an important part of my development from a young age. I love the intimacy and the ability to teleport realities. It has enriched the way I narrate my own perceived world. Like with poetry and connecting to other art forms, books are among the greatest insight of human experience and life meaning.
I’m always interested in the kinds of stories people are drawn to, and why certain characters become likable. I get to know myself more through my feelings towards characters the same way our living relationships act as mirrors. Many people read for a temporary escape, yet find comfort in the relatability of characters, even their believable mistakes and flaws. Other characters are beloved for their admirable qualities, that which we strive to be. We invite these characters in at the risk of disappointment and sometimes to fill voids. To immerse in others’ perspectives is a unique opportunity to deepen our senses of empathy and compassion, which is probably why so many stories leave a lasting impression.
Here are 5 magnificent books (you’ll probably finish in a day) that I recommend because they blow me away every time:
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
I always start with this one, and I know it’s technically a children’s book. A spoiled and arrogant rabbit is ripped from his fine life and learns harsh lessons about loss and love. Through his adventures and time spent with people of very different walks of life, the kind and the cruel, Edward develops compassion and understanding.
I read The Lottery short story in my high school sophomore year American literature class. Since then, Shirley Jackson is one of my favorite authors. The Lottery is also one of her short story collections that includes the title story. Her stories put a vague yet distinct eeriness to mid-20th century suburbia. She brings discomfort to familiarity. The stories are not necessarily scary but reveal the rawness of human nature.
The Elephant Vanishes
Haruki Murakami merges mundane with wild imagination. These are stories I return to over and over no matter my mood. My favorite genre is probably magical realism, which means the reality is completely ordinary until some subtle element makes you question everything. Murakami isn’t always subtle with the impossibilities, but he holds attention and makes ridiculousness almost believable. By some indescribable way, his stories are relatable.
A Mouthful of Birds
This is another short story collection, but I also equally love Samanta Schweblin’s novel, Fever Dream. Her work is completely shocking! I suppose you could call her a modern Shirley Jackson in the horror genre (with a little satire), but I feel like that would be an injustice to both of them. Some of it reads like horror, but again, it’s more like tearing open pandora’s box to the darker sides of humanity. Schweblin’s writing is gripping as it is clever. Also, it looks like Fever Dream has been picked up by Netflix!
In this coming of age novel by Jamaica Kincaid, Annie grapples with intense concepts like death and how the way you view your parents evolves with aging. Her complicated and complex relationship with her mother feels deeply honest and authentic. She demonstrates how some relationships have such a fine line between love and hate and how we react to changes for self-preservation. There are emotions and feelings in this book that I’m certain have never been put into words nor discussed among friends.
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Mouthful of Birds image from https://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/2019/summer/mouthful-birds-samanta-schweblin