Now, for a long time, after I made a Top 20 Favorite Films list, and a Top 15 Favorite Video Games list, people have been coming after me saying –
You say that you love all great stories, well then, where is the list of your favorite books, huh?!
And you know what, that’s a good point. Since I do have a love of literature, I thought to myself – what are my favorite books? This has been the hardest list that I have ever had to make. I was determined to narrow the list down to my top 10. I wasn’t going to let myself have to expand on it. There are so many books that I could read, over and over and over again. But I sat down, and forced myself to pick the top 10 books that just make me happy. This is that list. I should say, up-front, that this isn’t a list of the books that I thought were the best written. Like my list of favorite movies, the are just the books that I could read, over and over and over again, and never lose enjoyment. I hope you enjoy.
10. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
When you hear that a book is about some cute little bunny rabbits, I bet that most of you don’t think that they could be in a very dark, very gritty and often-times very harsh story, do you? I didn’t, when I first heard about it, and I was very happily surprised. This book tells the story of a group of rabbits who are off to find a new home. Their journey along the way leads them to some of the most disturbing places you can possibly imagine. But even when it gets dark, you can still feel the hope behind these characters. I think my favorite character was Fiver. The little mystic of the group, the way he talked and the way he acted was always interesting. And his visions were very cool as well. This book tones up the dark in a huge way, and I loved every disturbing minute of it.
9. Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton
Just to give you a heads-up, you are going to see several of his books on here. Michael Crichton is, by far, my favorite author. And this was the first book of his that I ever read. It’s ironic that the film made from this book was the first film I ever saw in theaters. When I was a little kid, I was a dinosaur nut. And since I taught myself how to read, I couldn’t wait to read a book about dinosaurs that was set in modern days. I just loved it. This book was loads of fun. I like that it wasn’t so much about the danger and action, as the movie was, but instead was about the discovery and the mixing of an old world with the new. They really look at the world of the dinosaurs, and try to put you into the shoes of understanding what it would be like. Also, as with all Crichton books, they REALLY get into the science of how they were brought back, and everything else. Crichton loved his science, and to show off what a good researcher he was to write his books. And I have yet to have a problem with that. It made for a great book.
8. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
So, Ender Wiggin is one of my favorite characters of all time. A very intellectual hero who is able to rise above prejudice, conflict and his own limitations with only the power of his mind. The story of a war with an alien race known as “buggers,” this tale chronicles the genius children who are turned into officers in humanity’s space fleet. Ender is the smartest of them, using his mind like a well-oiled machine as he becomes one of the shining examples of humanity’s strength in our darkest hour, against an enemy that could very well destroy us. This is in no way a happy book, but it overcomes that with a great conflict, great characters and a lot of really heavy emotional moments that stay with you until the end. If you haven’t read this book, I can’t recommend it enough. This is science fiction among its best. It was one of my favorite books growing up, and it still is to this day.
7. White Shark, by Peter Benchley
After having a book that is so emotionally and thematically powerful, you might be wondering what a not-too-complicated horror book is doing on my list. Well, it is here for a reason. For one, I like Peter Benchley’s writing style. He is a lot of fun to read. I have always liked it. But this book is on here because I like how a lot of the perspective is from the creature. It isn’t a man or beast. It’s something else. It has a mind, and this mind works. It thinks, and can formulate plans. This monster is a mix of everything there is to fear. Plus, the characters in the island where it is taking place are a lot of fun too. I especially like the neat little romance between the main character’s son and a deaf girl. It is made to be a lot like how a young boy, almost a teenager, falls in love with a girl. It is a lot of fun to read. There is no real complexity to it. This is just some nice cheesecake. Something good to curl up with. And really, is that so wrong, when enjoying a book?
6. Disclosure, by Michael Crichton
See, I told you there would be some more books by this guy on the list. Now, while most people will rightly lionize Crichton for his science-fiction work, I honestly think that some of his corporate espionage books were great too. And of those, this was my favorite. The book is about a man who works for a software company. He is expecting a promotion as a new business merger is about to happen. However, he is passed over, and the promotion is given to somebody he didn’t expect – an ex-lover of his, who left him long ago. Being a married man, he wants nothing to do with this woman, but she invites him to his office and tries to put the moves on him. He rejects her, but when he comes to work the next day, he finds out that he is being charged with sexual harassment. Instead of bowing out gracefully, he decides to fight back, hiring a lawyer and charging her right back with sexual harassment. This book takes a rather hard look at gender roles, and it doesn’t back down from its premise. It makes the argument that men can just as easily be victimized, and that things are not as black and white as society wants them to be. Looking at gender happens a lot in this book, and I love how much respect they give how heavy a topic this is. Along the way, the man finds a trail of sex, lies, corporate greed, and how his company was intending to screw him and many others. It’s a great book, if you like a good conspiracy story.
5. The Sacrifice/The Solution, by K.A. Applegate
I said that I was going to pick only my top 10, but I am cheating a bit. Honestly, I just couldn’t find a way to pick between these two books. They are both so similar in mood and tone (and in the same series), that I couldn’t pick between them. I was pondering making a list of what I believe to be the Top 10 Underrated Series’s. If I did, the Animorphs series, which these two books are both a part of, would be high on it. This series tells the story of a group of children who, by sheer chance, is in a construction yard, where an alien life-form comes crashing down. He tells them of an alien menace who has been slowly invading Earth, and is looking to take control of all life. To date, there is no effort against them, because they are keeping their operation small, so no one will notice. And they are winning. The children are given a device that allows them to change into any animal (including people) that they touch and acquire the DNA of. This series is amazing. The themes at play are just great. There is the loss of innocence, the cost of war, what it means to be human, how you cannot recapture your past life once you’ve lost it, and so many others. And the two books that capture it best are these two.
The first, The Sacrifice, is the third from the last. Without spoiling anything, it has been a long war. The Animorphs are tired, and ready for it to be over. Things are getting worse and worse towards the end, and now, they have one last plan to do some major damage to their enemy, hoping that help that they sent message to would arrive. Each book in the series is told from a first-person perspective of only one character. This one is from the Andalite youth, Aximili, or just Ax, for short. His people have commanded him to let the invasion continue on Earth. That would have the Yeerk threat amassed on Earth, and able to be crushed in one swift blow. It would be final, and it would be over. But all of humanity would die in the process. The internal monologues in this book are AMAZING! Ax wrestling with himself over what the right thing to do is is so powerful that I could read just that scene alone a million times. The conclusion he comes to is so brief in the end of the book, but powerful. It’s great.
Then there is The Solution. This is from the character Rachel’s perspective. As far as character growth is concerned, I think that Rachel is by far the crowning achievement of the series. She goes from an adrenaline junkie who loves the fighting, to becoming consumed by her love of carnage, to the point where arguments have been made that she is kind of a sociopath. By the end of the series, even her own mother is scared of her. And in this book, she confronts her own internal darkness in a very big way. The dialogue between her and Jake, her cousin and leader of the Animorphs, is another scene that is so good that I could read it over and over again. These were great books, of an incredibly underrated and relatively forgotten series.
4. Carrie, by Stephen King
One thing that I, and pretty much every literature critic under the sun has gotten on King about is the fact that he cannot end a book to save his life. Stephen King is a very good writer, but that has always been one of his Achilles Heels. But this book does not suffer from that at all. Telling the story, from multiple perspectives, of the events leading up to a girl with telekinetic powers going on a psychotic rampage, you get into a lot of character’s heads, and it has a conclusion that is so sad, yet leaves you with a feeling of disturbed dread, because it implies that this sort of thing is going to happen again. You really do feel for Carrie. Even though what she did was monstrous, you have to wonder – is it really her fault? She tried to be a good person. She tried to be a good Christian. But the ugliness of the people around her, and the ugliness of the belief system her mother shoved down her throat tore this girl apart. In the end, I think this was a brilliant critique on society as a whole, and religion. Something King was good at. I loved this book. Every page of it.
3. Prey, by Michael Crichton
This is the last book by Crichton, I promise. But man, this is an awesome book! This is the book which I think was the magnum opus of Crichton’s talent as a writer. He took something that is still pseudo-science, to this day, and made it something we could all understand. One of the cool thing about Crichton is that he takes things that are real science, and then moves them ahead to the next step. In this book, it looks at nano-technology, and also the integration of science and nature. The story is about a man, who goes from software developer to stay-at-home dad, but is forced back into the mix when a nano-tech program goes haywire, and things are getting dangerous. This book has some great tension. I won’t spoil it for you, but the last third of it is just great. I was so pissed when I would have to stop reading to go to class or work or something. It legitimately pissed me off. This book was awesome, truly awesome. From start to finish, it was Crichton’s best work, by far.
2. World War Z, by Max Brooks
When I first heard the title of this book, you can imagine that I was more than a little skeptical. A book about a global zombie war? Come on. How can that possibly be good? Thankfully, I got one of the best answers ever. Max Brooks is another of those authors who really does his research, and isn’t afraid to show it off. And he did just that in this book. This book is told as a series of interviews with people who went through the events of a narrowly avoided zombie apocalypse. It looked at the beginning, middle and end of the zombie war. Man, the cultural authenticity to this book was great, just great. You felt like all of the people belonged in their respective places. From looking at the corruption of American politics, our over-blown belief in how badass our military is, to looking at a Japanese young man, who had hid from the world for his entire life, now having to face the world when it is falling apart. I think that my favorite segments in the book were the one from the perspective of the soldier, talking about America’s failure that nearly cost them the war, to the segment about how the entire country of North Korea completely disappeared. In one night, everyone from that nation vanishes. When you look at how dogmatic that nation is, it makes sense, and the tension that that scene leaves is incredible. This was a great book. Don’t let the title fool you.
And my favorite book, to date, is…!
1. The Amber Spyglass, by Phillip Pullman
I was battling between myself to cheat again and put the entire series up here, because I love all of these books so incredibly much. But when I thought about this series, my first thought went to how much I love this book, the third and last. This book was great. There were so many emotional scenes. The plot of this series is unbelievably complex, so I won’t go too much into that. This book picks up where the last left off, with Lyra having been kidnapped by her mother, and Will, her traveling companion, looking to save her, with the help of two angels. The events of this book are so dark, and so heartless at time, you do feel legitimately hurt by it. The dialogue between Will and Mrs. Coulter (Lyra’s mother) when he finds her is so damn intense, but it gets into the darkness of both of these characters. But my favorite scene, and I say this from my inner romantic, is from a scene towards the end, where Will and Lyra finally admit their love for each other. That scene is so intense, and so beautiful, I love it. But then it comes to the saddest, most unnecessarily painful ending of all time. For real, this ending was brutal on a level that I have never seen, before or since. I wonder if I actually had to be, but that’s nit-picking. The fact is that I love this book, so incredibly much, and were it not for the ending, I would love this series like nothing else.
Until next time, a quote,
“I was awake and I wanted to tell you the same and now I know what I must have felt all the time: I love you, Will, I love you.” – Lyra Belacqua