Dear 100 Hour Board,
What are the five best books you've ever read? (Let's exclude religious canon from this list, for the sake of everyone not feeling like they have to list The Book of Mormon.)
1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This book reads like a breath of heaven; it's full of wisdom and seeing beyond present circumstances to the ever constant beauty beneath.
2. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. I love this book for how it makes me consider more fully the basis of my faith.
3. A Wrinkle in Time series by Madeleine L'Engle. These books were among my favorites as I was growing up, and I was given the series as a gift this past Christmas (which of course means I subsequently read them all in the following two days). Rereading them was absolutely... enchanting, amazing, whimsical—I really can't adequately describe it. They communicate all my inborn beliefs of the underlying music of the universe far more eloquently than I could ever hope for.
4. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. This book is about the end of world, what more could you want? And of course, it contains my 'nymsake.
5. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. If you skip all the unnecessary tangents, you'll find this will make you ponder deeply on the pain of humanity, and people's infinite capacity to change.
1. What If? by Randall Munroe. The whole premise of the book is answering ridiculous hypothetical questions a little too seriously. The author, Randal Munroe, is a former NASA scientist turned cartoonist that uses his physics background and imagination to vividly explain what would happen if there was an actual table made of all the elements in the periodic table, or how bright of a laser you would need for it to show up on the moon. The results are hilarious (spoiler alert, most of these end in the destruction of humanity). I spent 30 minutes last week reading it out loud with my roommates and we were all dying of laughter.
2. Thing Explainer by Randall Munroe. Same guy, same combination of humor and physics, different book. The concept of this one is explaining extremely complicated technologies such as the Saturn 5 rocket, smart phones, and nuclear power plants only using the 1000 most common words in the English language. Forcing a physicist to only use the words used by Simple English Wikipedia is hilarious. Not only do you get terms like flappy sky boat (helicopter), but the book also does an amazing job of explaining how things work which is pretty cool.
3. Pendragon Series by D.J. MacHale. This is my absolute favorite book series and I couldn't just choose one of the ten books in the series. The story is about "travelers" who travel to different worlds and different times to protect the 10 realms from an evil traveler. The different worlds are imaginative and wonderful. The plot is full of twists, drama, tension, and intrigue. As great as those are, the personalities of the characters are absolutely amazing which is why it's on this list. (Also I totally wish I could travel through time and different dimensions so that's probably another reason I like it)
4. The Fault in Our Stars/Paper Towns by John Green. I know this is cheating but both of them are so good! I got both of them as part of a box set with Looking For Alaska and I read through all 3 books in less than 36 hours because I just couldn't put them down. I really like John Green's books because the characters are funny, smart, and engaging. There's always crazy antics and ridiculous situations in his stories, but he still manages to make the plots seem emotional and real. These books are pretty darn near perfect. (Except for John Green being stupid and killing characters off! You terrible monster, John Green!) I still haven't seen the movies though. I should do that.
5. Fifty Years of College Football by Bob Boyles and Paul Guido. This book is over 900 full size printer pages of pure college football statistics, lists, game summaries, and stories. This book spans over 50 years of college football history and is basically like printing out 50 years of the sports section. Who would read such a book? 12 Year old Tipperary is who would read this book. My aunt gave this to me one year for Christmas and despite the enormous size and density of the book I plowed through it. I don't know if I've read every word, but I've read most of them. I had the thing practically memorized when I was 12 because college football was my life back then. Ah the good old days.
Thanks for the question! It reminded me how awesome reading is and how I should probably do that again someday (darn school work).
Based solely on the impact of the given book on my life, my list is as follows:
1) I Dare You by William Danforth - My father gave me this book, and while it's old, it contains a ton of wisdom. I'm slightly competitive, so the idea of proving myself on a dare, even a dare with myself, has motivated me to do my best. I think about this book all the time whenever I feel like I can't handle the insanity of life - because I can. And I dare myself to prove it, and somehow I find the energy and mind to power through.
2) Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl - A gift from my boyfriend. I don't know HOW I hadn't read this until last year. Frankl's beautiful philosophical and yet scientific approach to optimism and finding meaning in your life inspires me all the time. I like his emphasis on agency and the control we have over our own happiness.
3) Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli - I read this book once a year. I remember vividly the first time I read it in 3rd grade and how it changed me. This book is a literary work of art to me. My copy is pretty beat up, but the message is the same. Your individual uniqueness is dazzling and you should never be ashamed of yourself for the things that make you different. Likewise, we should love others for who they are.
4) The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein - Is a picture book, but I don't care. I cry when I read it like 70% of the time. When you really love people, you're there for them no matter what. (I do acknowledge the controversy regarding whether the message of the book is about abusive relationships, but we're going to choose to see the good.) It's also a reminder to recognize the kind of people in your life that may be your Giving Tree so you don't take them for granted.
5) Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain - I grew up in a house of extroverts. School is extroverts. 4-H was extroverts. But I always have been the kind of kid that stayed in from recess to read books because I enjoyed the quiet time to myself in the classroom. Understanding my introversion came about because of this book. I felt validated and was so glad that "not being social" wasn't like... an "issue" to be overcome, like so many people tended to make me feel.
Thanks for this question! I wish I could have picked more though...
This is such a difficult question and I really wish I had time to analyze it and consider it from all angles, but alas I lack the time at the moment. So here in no particular order are the top 7 that immediately came to mind and that I've been unable to cut down (I'm sorry for being the worst and being unable to abide by the dictates of your question):
1. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
2. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
3. Anna Karenina By Leo Tolstoy
4. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K Rowling
7. City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
Dear Raskolnikov and the Special Sauce,
- The Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones—This book plays off and has fun with a lot of fantasy tropes while still retaining an engaging, imaginative storyline; it led to Diana being my favorite author for a good decade.
- Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson—The sense of place I felt from this book was immersive and comforting.
- Nafanua: Saving the Samoan Rainforest by Paul Cox—The real-life account of a former BYU professor and ethnobotanist whose excellent knowledge of Samoan put him in a position to save a piece of it from corrupt development. I largely charted my path through college based on my desire to be an ethnobotanist like Paul.
- The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones—The protagonist's journey to become the Chrestomanci—the most powerful magician in the eight interconnected worlds of Blest—is so well-written and interesting, especially as Christopher loses some of his eight lives in accidents and mishaps as he learns to travel between worlds. Highly, highly recommend.
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky—Analyzing the book in English class actually helped me enjoy this book much more than i initially did. +2 points for cool Russian names in many forms.
I'll define "best" as my favourite books/books that have been most meaningful to me personally/books that have impacted me the most.
1. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. How do I express my love? Let's see... Harry Potter is my best friend? No. Harry Potter was my childhood? No. Harry Potter is my past, present, and future? No. Harry Potter is my non-alternate reality? That last one is getting close.
2. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It combines all of my favorite things! Philosophy, surrealism, adorable animal sidekicks, and space. What isn't to like?
3. The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy by Carol Lynn Pearson. I don't think any other book has had such a direct impact on my emotional life. For a long time I felt tortured by polygamy and this book opened the door to freedom for me.
4. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy. Don't let the title put you off, it is a masterpiece.
5. I actually can't think of another book that is a full-fledged favorite. I have plenty of runner-ups though, so why not continue with a second tier of books that I remember reading that are awesome but that I don't love at quite the same level? In no particular order, here are five of my runner-ups:
5a. History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell. I haven't read it cover to cover, I guess I use it more as a reference book. It's amazing though - clear, concise, and surprisingly hilarious. Bertrand was such a snarky man.
5b. What's Behind the Research? Discovering Hidden Assumptions in the Behavioral Sciences by Brent Slife and Richard Williams. This wins for best textbook. It's not as much of a favorite as it used to be. I think I've moved on because I've matured as a thinker since first encountering it. However, I might still be drifting around aimlessly in my career if not for it, so I owe it a lot.
5c. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. It's really nice for me, a person with OCD, to read a book about a character who has OCD. Often I feel like depression and anxiety get a lot of attention and that few people understand the peculiar variety of anxiety that goes along with having OCD. I don't resent the attention depression and anxiety receive because they are more common. However, when my OCD is acting up, I can really only can seek comfort and understanding from other people who have OCD or family members who have learned about it through witnessing some of the things that I've gone through. So it's nice to see someone shine a light on it, you know? Particularly someone as fun and clever with words as John Green.
5d. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I do really love this book. It articulates a theistic existentialism, which I appreciate. Additionally, I really love Frankl's optimism and pragmatism relative to other existential thinkers. I know part of it was that he was more of a helping professional than a philosopher, but he stands out as unique in this respect in my eyes. (Note: Don't misunderstand me as conflating optimism with virtue. Odd though it may sound, I love the other existential thinkers for their despair. I just haven't read them as much, and their writing is more technical, otherwise they'd have books on this list too.)
5e. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. I think I read this book in about two days. It was so good, I couldn't stop reading. I cried. Corrie ten Boom is everything that is right with the world. Though she recounts stories from WWII, I think it is a wonderful book for our time. People ought to care about people who are different from them, and that's that.
In no particular order, based on books that have had a big impact on my life, my list is...
1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Everybody interested in WWII history should read this book, but also anybody interested in the dignity of the human spirit, the ability to persevere, the psychology of loss, etc. Also, just anyone interested in a really fascinating story that actually happened to a real-life person.
2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This book had a big impact on how I view race in the United States, and it really helped me understand why it's such a huge deal here as compared to a lot of other countries. Also it's a fun and enchanting story, and is beautifully written.
3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. THIS IS WHY WE NEED THE HUMANITIES AND ARTS AND SOCIAL SCIENCES. The fullness of the human experience is so much more than just popularly recognized things like sports and STEM careers, and if we want to thrive as a society we need to encourage creative thinking and beauty.
4. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett. If I didn't include something by Terry Pratchett I wouldn't be staying true to myself. His writings have had a colossal impact on how I view the world, and felt like home for so many of my formative years.
5. Les Miserables. I resisted putting this one here, because I didn't want my list to be so similar to Anathema's, but we are sisters, after all, so I guess it makes sense for us to have similar taste in books. For some reason I wasn't expecting Les Miserables to have a very engaging plot, even though I had seen the movie, but I was definitely wrong about that, and its message of hope and redemption is truly inspiring.
1. Enchanted, Inc. by Shanna Swendson because it's lighthearted clean fun that I've read over five times and still want to read.
2. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Such a good book.
3. Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. Okay yes it's technically a comic but my parents owned multiple Calvin and Hobbes compilation books and those were one of my favorite things to read as a child. Even now, Calvin can't fail to make me laugh.
4. The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy by Carol Lynn Pearson. I completely agree with Sheebs on why it's so fantastic. I probably would also add Mother Wove the Morning to this list but I've never read it because I'm too poor to buy it and BYU Library doesn't have it. (Seriously they have these books no one is ever going to read but they don't have a masterpiece by Carol Lynn Pearson?? What is the world coming to?!)
5. This isn't a book, but This is Water by David Foster Wallace is one of my favorite speeches of all time. (If you don't want to read it, here's an entertaining, shortened video of it.) (But seriously, go read it.) It's about living a conscious life, about choice, and about how "the really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day."
-guppy of doom
Dear Russian Name,
I'm going to go ahead and list these in no particular order because otherwise it would take me a crazy long time to try to rank them. Also, for the record, the books I see as "best" are the ones that affected me the most, changed my life the most, or that I enjoyed the most, not necessarily the ones that are best written. Okay, cool, now all that's out of the way:
1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brönte. Jane is an absolute icon of strength, and I want to be more like her. I love the Gothic-ness of this book, and the romance is interesting, for sure, but I mostly read it for Jane herself. She's secure in her morals and isn't afraid to do what she has to in order to do what is right. Plus, she has some super boss lines that are absolutely iconic.
2. Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling. These books were my childhood, and nothing that J. K. Rowling says now will change that. These books shaped my sense of self so radically that I would be an ungrateful wretch to not include them. The moral of these stories ultimately is to be good and kind and to fight evil when necessary. I love them so much for that.
3. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Okay, here's where things get a little crazy. This book is one of the first books I read that like actually shocked me. I read it for the first time about 3 years ago, and I haven't read it since. It got under my skin and made me think about the world in a way that made me deeply uncomfortable but also made me a better, more compassionate person. I hope that's what it did, anyway.
4. Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle. Fair warning, this book gets kinda dark, but that's why I love it. This book is an exploration of the mind of a man who is really doing his best, but his mind goes to dark places and he can't always control it. There's no catalyst, there's no real reason. It's about learning to not listen to the dark parts of your brain, even when they have some interesting ideas (which I have also had to learn how to do, if not to the same extent as the narrator). Also, the plot goes in reverse which makes things even more interesting. (Side note: This book contains discussions of suicide and self-harm.)
5. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. Reading this book was ultimately a really jarring experience. The main character has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (as does the author) and the book explores the her inner life in great detail. Now, there's a few reason this book is important to me. Firstly, though I have depression/anxiety disorders and not OCD, I saw some thought patterns that are similar to mine, as well as some analogies that are almost direct quotes from what my therapist and I have discussed. Also, it deals with the problem of how to be friends with someone with a mental illness. Sometimes it's hard, and this book helped me to see this all in a new light.
***Honorable Mentions: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, Beloved by Toni Morrison, What If? by Randall Munroe, and Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.***