Hello friends! Happy February! Let’s start the month out with my final book list! I have given these books a lot of thought. I’m interested in what you think too, so make sure to find the comment button below and share your takes on these and other good books.
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I hope you enjoy the list. Have a great Wednesday!
- The Giver – So, in case you didn’t see my middle school list, I’m going to start with this one which is also on my middle school list. This is another book that I STRONGLY caution parents of. When my oldest son was in middle school – all three grades – he would not have been able to handle reading this book. In fact, I don’t think he would have been ready for it even as a high school senior. Oh, he could have read it; certainly. But he would not have understood all of the themes and the more serious undertones would have been lost.
- This book is an example of what were to happen if everyone was really “equal”. It’s a great opportunity to start a conversation about what “equal” means. In this utopian society, they have manufactured “equal”, and in doing so they have had to end true freedom. It is only when the young protagonist of the story begins to see things as they really are that things can become what they should be again.
- To Kill A Mockingbird – Odds are you probably had to read this book at some point in your life. If you didn’t, then your children probably did. This book contains the themes of racism, black/white crime, rape, ethics, integrity and social classes. It is set in Alabama during the Great Depression. There is little I can say without giving away the ending. It is a must read!
- Cheaper By The Dozen – This is the true story of the Gilbreth family, written by two of the children. and Mrs. Gilbreth were time and motion study engineers – or efficiency experts – in Montclair, New Jersey. Mrs. Gilbreth was the first woman in her field. The couple studied how to make things run faster and more efficiently. The story, however, is about their family of 12 children and how their father and mother handled them efficiently. It is funny and smart.
- Belles On Their Toes – This is the next chapter of the Gilbreth’s life story. After tragedy strikes, the family must move on. Again, funny and smart; but with an emotional resonance.
- The Great Gatsby – Ah, the Great Gatsby. Have you ever seen the movie “Catch me if you can” about a boy who learns to lie so convincingly that he spends time being paid as an airline pilot and a doctor? That reminds me of Gatsby. Who is he? What does he do? No one really knows. Is he just one of the greatest con men ever? If you haven’t read this book; you are cheating yourself. It is very thought-provoking, but also written so well that you can just envision the 1920’s glamour. You can almost smell the cigarette smoke mixed with champagne and you can imagine the silky feel of the satin dresses and the weight of the costume jewelry.
- The Scarlet Letter – It is a little astounding when a work from the 1800’s withstands the test of time so well as to be relevant in today’s society; if only in a figurative manner. This book is about so much more than adultery. It is about having class when those around you don’t. It is about having the integrity to accept that you have done something wrong without dragging others down. It is about living the rest of your life with dignity, in spite of your transgressions. While the heroine, if she can be called that, keeps her silence; the secret eats away at her lover until he can bare it no more. Again, if you haven’t read this one, you’re cheating yourself.
- When the Wind Blows and The Lake House by James Patterson – These books have 0% learning quality. Ok, they make you think a little. Just because science can do something, doesn’t mean we should. How do you treat others, even when you don’t understand them? Those are a couple of themes. Patterson introduces us to the world of Maximum Ride in these books. He later wrote the “Max” series for young adults. My kids enjoyed that series. I thought they were a little over-indulgent on the writer’s part. These first two books are amazing. Could not put them down. I downloaded them to my permanent library on my Kindle.
- Stephen King: The Stand – This book is the absolute best book I have ever read. Hands down. And I’ve read it about 5 times. It is a bit daunting at first…after all, it’s well over a thousand pages long. However, this tale of the end of human civilization as we know it and the war between good and evil is epic. It is terrifiying; not in the way that King’s supernatural horror stories are terrifying; but rather because you know that it’s a little too realistic. We all know there is evil in the world. We try to deny it; but in the end, we know. And, in The Stand, we learn that there are different kinds of evil; but they all come together as one ultimate evil. Whether you believe in God or not; this book is amazing. And, speaking of believing, Mother Abigail says, “…it don’t matter…He believes in you!”
- Twilight Series – I know, I know. I can’t believe I’m going from The Stand to Twilight. A lot of people will argue this one. The fact is this: it was entertaining and easy to read from the first book to the fourth book. It was clever story-telling (explaining Bella’s injuries and absences). And it was dusted with a couple of mentions of classic books, which intrigued the literary student in me. Yes, Bella and Edward’s love is a bit obsessive at first. However, I especially love Edward’s commitment to waiting until after marriage. Not many culturally acceptable icons in today’s society could get away with such “prudish” behavior! Bravo!
- Angels and Demons – Dan Brown wrote many books based on Italian geography, art and architecture. I read this book before I read The DaVinci Code. I was a fan from the start. These books made me want to go to Italy. I want to go and see this art and these fountains and sculptures. I want to walk the streets and travel the canals. The writing in these books makes you feel like you are there while making you want to actually go there at the same time. The stories, while centered in Italy and around the famous sites, are not really about those sites…which makes it doubly interesting. Instead, they are about ancient symbols – what they mean, where they came from and who used them. I highly recommend all of Brown’s books.
- No Fear Shakespeare – I wanted to include this on my list, even though it’s actually a series of books. Every Shakespearean play is available in Sparknotes: No Fear editions. These books take the original play and put it line-by-line on the right side, while putting the modern English version, also line-by-line, on the left side! These books make it so that one can actually enjoy the plays. You don’t have to take a class and have an instructor tell you what some of the long-outdated phrases mean. Here, you can read for yourself. And, if you are taking the class, I completely defend your right to proudly carry this book right into class with you. You see, if you’re smart, you can read the commentary and you can either agree with it or argue with it. A good teacher will recognize the intelligence in a student who reads the commentary as someone else’s opinion and forms his or her own opinion in spite of reading this.
- No Fear Canterbury Tales – The same applies here. This is just one book for all of the “tales”; but Chaucer, like Shakespeare, is hard to understand. This book makes it much more enjoyable. My favorite “tale” is the Wife of Bath. She has seen a lot; been married several times and traveled a lot. She is smart and not afraid to show it. She is also a bit manipulative, which, given the time period of this “tale”, cracks me up.
- Eragon – This is on my “going to read” list. My oldest son enjoyed the series. It begins when a teenage boy finds what he thinks is a stone; but is a dragon egg. The dragon hatches from the egg and that is the beginning of a cat and mouse game while the boy, Eragon and his dragon evade capture. The book is followed by three more: Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance.
- Dean Koontz’s series: Frankenstein – This is a five book series that re-imagines the Frankenstein tale. Viktor Frankenstein has found a way to live to our modern era, where he continues to create live “monsters”. However, these “monsters” develop a sense of cognizance that Frankenstein never expected. In fact, they have developed “souls”. And, so, his dream of creating a new master race is sabotaged by that power that no one truly understands: Love.
- The Metamorphosis– This story is going to be the strangest you have read. The main character is a traveling salesman who wakes to find himself transformed into an insect. The entire story is about his acceptance of his fate and how his family handles him, now that he is a burden. This novella is full of symbolism. Perhaps Gregor is sick of his job not paying him what he thinks he is worth. He feels like he is a burden to everyone around him and like he will never be able to pull his own weight or have a job that he finds worthy. This transformation is the result of the ugliness inside manifesting itself on the outside. Gregor hates himself, so it is no wonder that he sees that hatred reflected in his family’s eyes as they look at him with dread and horror at what he has become.
- The Yellow Wallpaper – This is a short story written at the turn of the 20th It is about a woman whose husband locks her in a room with yellow wallpaper and treats her like she is mad. When the woman eventually becomes mad, is it because she always was mad, or is it because her husband treated her that way? I believe this story to be a story of nature vs. nurture. However, scholars say this is a story about the oppression of women. I just don’t see that. Read it for yourself! You can comment below and let me know what you think!!
- Tuesdays with Morrie– I admit that I haven’t read this since my early 20’s. However, I really loved the stories that Morrie shares with his visitor, and of course, all of us through the book. The themes are so relevant throughout time: Love, loss, death, depression, right and wrong, and survival and happiness.
- The Left Behind series – For the Christian reader, this series is a lesson in two men’s opinion about what will happen during the “end times” of the world. There is a great debate about whether God’s chosen will be “raptured” before the tribulation begins or whether they will have to endure the tribulation. The books are fiction, but are well written and provide an enormous amount of information which can prompt the reader to look into getting more information. The stories are also emotional and touching. The first 10 books were amazing. The net two books – 11 and 12 – started to seem a little too drawn out for my taste. I did not even know about books 13 – 16 until I looked up information for this post. Yay! More books to read!
- The Secret Life of the Dyslexic Child – I will be, at some point, writing a post that will specifically deal with dyslexia. This book, however, was life-changing for my family. My older son was a very smart preschooler; albeit stubborn. I never, in a million years, would have thought that he wouldn’t catch on when he began reading instruction in school. Yet, by the time he finished 2nd grade, I found myself arguing with the teachers and administration that something was wrong. Dyslexia, as author Robert Frank, Ph.D. writes, is more than slow and mixed up reading. Frank himself is dyslexic and he talks about the many problems that have nothing to do with reading. I believe every adult should read this book – and every educator should read it twice. As I am writing this, I have skimmed through the book. In ten minutes I have read enough of my marked and underlined pages that I’m heartbroken all over again. Check back for my complete post on this in the future.
- Thirteen Reasons Why – I have not yet read this one. It was recommended by a friend. It is a story about a girl who commits suicide, but creates cassette tapes for each of 13 people whom she says drove her to her death. I think, reading the synopsis of this story, that it gives people a look into a lot of what is going on in the world of teens. Each person who received a tape had to deal with their part in driving someone to their death. In the end, each of them could choose to do something different and to make a positive impact on others instead.
- Legend series – Again, I have not read this series, but my youngest son loved it. In fact, for once, I can’t even tell you what it’s about. Let’s see what Wiki says……..Looks like an alternate reality/dystopian society in the future. There is a gap between rich and poor and a war has broken out. (Sounds like Hunger Games, no?) There appears to be elements of a plague and conspiracy as well. I’ll look for your ideas on this one, readers. Did you read it? What did you think?! Tell me in the comments section.
- Things Fall Apart – This one is on the list as a NEVER read! My children had to read this story as a required reading. It is an African (I think) book and the first problem is that the names are incomprehensible as well as too close to one another. For example: Okonkwo, Unoka and Umuofia as well as Ekwefi and Ezinma to name a few. The writing is wordy and too involved and the point is lost in the text. By the time you wade through all of it, you just don’t care what the bottom line is. If you are a teacher thinking of using this for your curriculum, I urge you to look at other options. Your students will not love this book.
- Into the Wild – This is another one on my NEVER read list. This is a non-fiction story of Chris McCandless. It was originally written as an article and, honestly, should have been left as an article. There really isn’t enough “story” for a book. Here’s what it was about: This idiot who grew up in the suburbs in Virginia and who studied at Emory University, decided to give away all his possessions, stop talking to his loving family give away his college fund and hitchhike to Alaska. He had read about survival in the wild and thought that this “book knowledge” would be enough. Long story, short. He was wrong. He died. He was stupid. I think it is often on required reading because it represents adventure. All of my kids thought it represented enormous selfishness and stupidity.