I’ve always had this to-read list that is probably humanly impossible to ever complete.
Some books are on my list for so long or so overhyped that they are built up in my mind to the point that they can only disappoint. Also, there’s nothing worse than spending hours invested in a novel just to be disappointed.
These books were all recommended by people I trusted or on reading lists that had previously given me good results.
For some reason, though, I just kept reading other things first. When I finally read each of these books, I was sad that I hadn’t read them sooner and happy that I’d finally done it.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
I felt like I never knew what to expect from this book.
I certainly did not expect the ending.
Pi Patel is a boy from India who wonders about faith and philosophy and so becomes a Hindu Christian Muslim. He says he can simultaneously believe in all three faiths, showing how similar they all are.
His family has to close their zoo and sell their animals, and so they sail across the Pacific with many of the animals. When the boat capsizes, however, Pi is trapped in a lifeboat with an orangutan named Orange Juice and a tiger named Richard Parker.
It is a book of zoology, religion, philosophy, adventure, and family. It is also beautifully written, with lines like: “Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can.”
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
This is the first-ever book that I’ve read with a narrator who has autism.
Christopher is high-functioning, but still has trouble understanding other people and their emotions and reactions to him. He loves math, specifically prime numbers (the chapters are abnormally numbered by only prime numbers), and he knows the countries of the world as well as their capitals.
Christopher is extremely literally, and often his black and white view of the world is unintentionally (by him, I’m sure it’s intentional by the author) funny. I always found myself laughing out loud at Christopher’s descriptions of a situation.
I also like the unusual features of this book, like the prime numbered chapters and the diagrams throughout the book that illustrate Christopher’s thinking.
If you want to see the world from a different perspective and laugh a little while you read, Curious Incident is a good choice.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
I had seen this book featured in bookstores and recommended reading lists for years, and I was honestly put off by the title.
I think I pictured that Jodie Foster movie Nell where she’s a feral woman living alone in the woods.
As it turns out, this book is HILARIOUS, and I have since read almost all of David Sedaris’s books, which are all collections of autobiographical stories and essays.
The title Me Talk Pretty One Day is a reference to Sedaris’s attempts to learn French, which doesn’t go well, although he and his partner own a home in France. Much of this book focuses on speech and language, the earliest anecdote being the author’s speech therapy sessions in elementary school.
Other anecdotes feature his family and childhood in Raleigh, North Carolina. Many readers will recognize his sister, actress Amy Sedaris, and will likely wonder, as I did, how did these two very quirky people both come from the same family?
Sedaris is sarcastic and cynical, and his descriptions of other people are generally unflattering, but it doesn’t read as angry or mean-spirited. He’s just honest.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Another funny book because of how the author chooses to describe things.
The plot of the book begins with the earth being destroyed to construct an intergalactic bypass, which is not quite so funny in and of itself. However, the completely inept characters and the author’s word choice make this a Monty Python-like adventure in space.
This book is surely worth reading, if only for lines like this: “In the beginning, the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”
It’s nice to read a science fiction novel that’s not just dystopia and the end of the world.
Night Shift by Stephen King
Probably not what you expected, given the content of the other four books, right?
This is one of King’s short story collections, including a few you might recognize, like Children of the Corn.
I read this book slowly over a few weeks, reading one story a night before bed. It has an interesting mix of what we expect from King: horror, thriller, and the occult.
The introduction, about the nature of being a writer, is a fantastic read on its own.
The stories range from realistic and psychological, like “The Man Who Loves Flowers,” to just strange and creepy, like Trucks, which is about a world in which trucks have become autonomous and angry and demand that humans fill them with fuel.
As my introduction to Stephen King, I’m not sure I could have made a better choice.
Whether you’re looking for philosophy, humor, or horror; a novel, essays, or short stories, this list has you covered. If you haven’t read even one of these books, what are you waiting for? You’ll only regret you didn’t read it sooner.
About the Author
Katie reads about 100 books every year, thanks to ebooks and audiobooks. She enjoys a variety of genres and will read almost anything. When not reading, she is an English teacher near Cincinnati, Ohio.