Originally Published 11/19/2016
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I post lots of book reviews, but who has the time to comb through them to see which books are worth reading? Well, you can start right here. Here’s the full list of all 12 books that you absolutely MUST read. These books changed my life, and they may just change yours.
Ever since I started college, I’ve been thrilled that all my friends are suddenly reading. Now that they’ve rid themselves of the constraints of English class’ Shakespeare and Dickens, they’re exploring the magical mental media that is reading.
If you’ve never found the “right book” before, then buckle up, because I’ve compiled a list of my 12 all-time favorite books. That’s “all time” as in “my entire life.” This is it. No book has ever matched these 12.
1. The Warriors Series
by Erin Hunter
This is now officially my all-time favorite series, and not just in the “youth” category. I pick this book series above all others for its continued ability to astound me. I can think of no negative things to say about Warriors, and no matter what your age or internet fandom, you should definitely check out the first book, Into the Wild.
2. The Percy Jackson Series
by Rick Riordan
I loved this series as a kid. After re-reading it as an adult, I found all sorts of different nuances and charming aspects that I hadn’t noticed or valued when I was younger. It’s one of those series that gives you completely different impressions depending on your age. It can be a little immature for adults, but there’s a reason that it was so popular, even with my parents. Kids love it because it’s magical and funny, and the review I’ve posted discusses the reasons to love it as an adult.
3. The Hunger Games Series
by Suzanne Collins
I still remember hating how “angsty teenage girl” this series seemed back in middle school… before I actually read it. The series itself is actually very intelligent and complex, and I’d go as far as calling it the epitome of modern youth dystopian novels. If you’ve only seen the movies, please check out the book series. They’re quite different. And even though this series doesn’t instill quite as much nostalgia in me as other series on this list, The Hunger Games gets extra brownie points for being the first book to ever make me cry.
4. The Tale of Despereaux
by Kate DiCamillo
I find it hard to write an objective review for this book because The Tale of Despereaux holds a special place in my heart. You see, when I was a little kid, I didn’t like to read. For most kids in my generation, it was Harry Potter that got them into the habit or reading. You just have to find the right book. Mine was The Tale of Despereaux. If not for this small children’s novel, I would not be where I am today, nor would I be the same person.
5. Wolf Brother
by Michelle Paver
I only discovered this series recently, and I’m so upset that I didn’t have it for my childhood. The culturally-loyal world of pre-Colombian North America, as well as the accurate portrayal of wolves, is something that everyone should be exposed to. No matter what your age, if you haven’t read it, you definitely have something to learn from this book, which is the first in a series.
6. To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
This is one of two books on this list that the American literature community views as a masterpiece. To Kill a Mockingbird‘s simultaneously charm and commentary on adult topics is something utterly astounding. So astounding that my mother named my rabbit after the main character, and the author went down in history after its publication.
7. Brave New World
by Aldous Huxley
Guess what: this is the other book that the literary community likes! I chose to read this as part of my English literature Class’ “Dystopian Choice Novel” unit because of its focus on genetic engineering. To my surprise, the book instead focuses on classical conditioning. While, as usual, I don’t think this dystopia is plausible, nor its commentary useful, nor its author a good person, I’m still fascinated by how the commentary is portrayed.
8. The Song of Ice and Fire Series (a.k.a Game of Thrones)
by George R.R. Martin
Don’t be afraid of this series! Possibly the only thing worse than having a bad TV/movie adaptation (e.g. The Last Airbender) for a series is to have an adaption that alienates people, such as the Game of Thrones TV show. I can tell you right now that the books do not focus as much on nudity as the show does. Instead, they focuse on gore.
Think of it as “Lord of the Rings for grown-ups.” A huge part of my love for this series is the lengths it goes to to provide a historically accurate world–in the sense of gender roles, feudalism, religion, violence/lack of chivalry, and things like that. You won’t even realize that you’re learning as you immerse yourself in this almost too-realistic world.
9. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot
This book is life-changing. If you’re at-all interested in the ethics of science or genetic engineering, the meaning of life, or the intersection of science and faith, then this is the book for you. It’s probably the only book assigned in a science class that I couldn’t put down. Just to give you a teaser: the deceased Henrietta Lacks, the woman of the book’s title, is still alive… kind of.
10. Epigenetics: How the Environment Shapes Our Genes
by Richard C. Francis
This may sound like a niche-book for geneticists, but trust me, you’re going to love the hodgepodge of nature and nurture that is epigenetics. Surprisingly few people know about this new field, but it’s quickly destroying our classical division of “nature vs. nurture”/”blood vs. water,” skewing the line between what traits we’re born with and how we change based on our experiences. This book does an excellent job of explaining what epigenetics is (as a regulatory mechanism) and all the cool things it explains (why identical twins are different, people who can see more colors than usual, why ligers and tigons are so different, etc.). If you have even the slightest interest in human behavior, read this book.
11. The Earth and its Peoples
by Richard W. Bulliet, Pamela Crossley, Daniel Headrick, Steven Hirsch, and Lyman Johnson
This is the book that’s had the most influence on my life–unless you count the Tale of Despereaux, which got me into reading and novel writing in the first place. The Earth and its Peoples is a world history textbook (which I ended up buying a copy of), but it is 100% worth every penny. I always wondered why certain social issues came about–gender roles, war, religious fanatics, why certain societies succeed, etc.–and this book explains it all. Almost like Guns, Germs, and Steel, it has a huge focus on why certain historical events occurred, based on every society’s history, culture, geography, and interactions with other societies. It’s all interconnected, and it’s all explained in this book.
12. Talismen: Birthstones
by Elizabeth Robinson
But seriously though.
READ THESE BOOKS