Johnny Got His Gun (1939)
Dalton Trumbo gave us a lot of heavy stuff to think about in Johnny Got His Gun. Written during the time between WWI and WW2, and technically classified as an anti-war piece, this novel was amazing to read. This book was written in a period where soldiers were encouraged to be willing to die for their country in the name of glory, sacrifice, and patriotism. Trumbo saw the brutal effects of war, was super peeved off about it, and told us all about how bad things can really get.
The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
Largely recognized for its themes of teenage angst and the search for identity, J.D. Salinger served us up a hot little piece of awesome in The Catcher in the Rye. This novel is about a teenage boy named Holden Caulfield who spends most of the book trying to find his own identity in a world full of people that he thinks are fakes and “phonies.” One of the reasons that this novel is so timeless is because we all have a little bit of Holden deep inside us, and his questions and musings are often things we’ve secretly wondered about too.
A Fine Balance (1995)
Rohinton Mistry’s fantastically amazing A Fine Balance remains to this day one of the longest books I’ve ever read and probably one of the best I will ever read. This book is set in India and looks at the ways in which the country changed from the time it achieved independence (1947) until the prime minister announced a state of emergency (1975). Starting with the declaration of the state of emergency, there were no elections, forced mass sterilisations, the prime minister ruled the country with a ‘because-I-said-so’ attitude, and other random brutal shenanigans. This novel gives a really secret look into one of India’s darker moments in history.
The Last Lecture (2008)
To give some back story to this book blurb, Randy Pausch was a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA), who was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. He delivered a ‘last lecture’ where he imparted his wisdom and ideas, which was later turned into this book, The Last Lecture. This book contains within its pages all of his life’s wisdom and lessons for his children that he won’t be able to teach them after his death. If there’s one lesson that he wants to impart in this book, it’s the power of laughter and fun, a lesson we all need to remember sometimes.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940)
Carson McCullers’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter has the potential to be loved and adored for a bajillion different reasons. The novel deals with issues of loneliness, belonging, identity, loss, and a ton of other words that describe how people relate to each other. This novel deals with topics that we all experience, but never tell anyone about. This profound ability to know what we all feel is exactly what puts this book right smack dab in the middle of my all time top 10 list.
A Clockwork Orange (1962)
In Anthony Burgess’s extremely life-altering novel, A Clockwork Orange, a teenager named Alex and his friends run amok during the night in futuristic London, England. When he is arrested for violent shenanigans, Alex signs up for an experimental treatment, designed to cure his violent ways. This novel is a story about the cost of freedom and finding an identity as we get older. Disclaimer: The American version of this novel cuts off the last chapter and left me feeling disturbed and unsettled. Burgess’s original story is in the British version and is made of 100% awesome.
Brave New World (1932)
Another deliciously perfect novel set in futuristic London, England is Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World. In this novel, the society is controlled down to the last detail, including physical manipulation of babies, and psychological mind-warping as they get older. Whether this society is completely ideal or a total nightmare depends on your personal point of view. Huxley wants us to decide what we think about this futuristic society he envisioned, and that is one of the main reasons that this book went straight into the top 10, no questions asked.
Three Day Road (2005)
Three Day Road is a novel written by Joseph Boyden, and is a ragingly mind-blowing novel about two men named Xavier and Elijah who sign up to fight for the Canadian army in 1919, after WWI. Once the army sees how amazing these two guys are at tracking people and being stealthy, they promote Xavier and Elijah to jobs as snipers. The reason that I love this novel so much is that it deals with issues of family love, identity, vengeance, belonging, and a billion other ways that we relate to people who we love and people who want to hurt us.
Tender is the Night (1934)
Reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night feels like you’re reading an insider’s look at all of Fitzgerald’s secrets and scandals, including his raging alcoholism and his wife’s loony antics. Even though he changes their names in the novel, we all know what this book is really about. Basically, this book is one of my faves and this author is one of my faves, which can only mean one thing: Automatic top 10 status.
Jane Austen’s Persuasion is her last completed novel, and my personal favourite of hers. So, the main character is a girl named Anne who falls in love with this guy named Frederick Wentworth when she’s a teenager. Wentworth is super hot, but her family convinces her to ditch the poor guy. They seem to think that he’s not good enough for her, probably because he’s poor, and also because they suck as human beings. So fast forward 8 years, Anne is still single. Good call on ditching Wentworth, guys. Anyway, Wentworth rolls back into town, but now he has a really great job and is still really pissed at Anne for dumping him. Just like in reality, life isn’t free from challenges, so Anne has to think of a crafty way to get him to love her again. This novel teaches us about the beauty of old-fashioned romance, integrity, that we need to stick to our guns, and also to believe in people no matter what everyone else says.