11 Books I'm Thankful For

11 Books I'm Thankful For

Thanksgiving doesn't just have to be about family and friends. It's about appreciation of what you have, no matter what that may be.

In light of Thanksgiving, I wanted to write a piece about something I appreciate, something that makes me happy, something that made an impact on my life. Everyone writes about family, friends, etc., so I wanted to switch it up a bit this year. (Of course I am thankful for family and such, but you can read a thousand other articles about that.) Nothing has made more of an impact on my life than literature, and I’m sure many others can relate. Here are eleven books I’m thankful exist.

1. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

Detailing the mass murder of a family of four in Kansas, In Cold Blood isn’t something you go to for laughter and fun. It’s a dark, compelling “nonfiction novel” (as coined by Capote himself) which tells the true story of the murder, the investigation afterwards, and the eventual fate of the culprits. Although debunked for many lapses in accuracy and a good amount of creative stretching, In Cold Blood was the novel that inspired me to pursue the Journalism major I’m currently in. Mixing my love of nonfiction writing with creative writing, In Cold Blood was a revolutionary thing to me. It’s one of my favorite books of all time and if you’re into dark fiction, look no further.

2. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

You’ll find that many of the books I discuss you likely read in your high school English classes. Classic doesn’t equal boring or bad, trust me. In high school I originally went into Frankenstein thinking it would be a boring, lackluster attempt at eighteenth-century horror, but in reality, it’s one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. You all probably at least vaguely know the story, so I won’t go into detail. But the overarching themes of man vs. nature and the truth of what makes “humanity” tugged at my heart throughout the novel. You fall into something of a love with the monster, you befriend him, and you learn his thoughts, soul, and desires. You also see the huge jerk that is Dr. Frankenstein and his lovely girl Elizabeth. It’s a classic that everyone should check out and don’t worry if you aren’t into scary books or horror, it’s not really the thriller the movies claim it to be. Frankenstein’s Monster is really just a softie with too big of a heart. He’s the best.

3. The Awakening – Kate Chopin

Originally hailed as a piece of feminist fiction, The Awakening tells of a Ms. Pontellier, your typical nineteenth-century submissive housewife, who falls in love with Robert, a young, dashing fellow, and attempts to abandon her husband in search of a more autonomous lifestyle. Well it doesn’t exactly work out with Robert, but after that, Ms. Pontellier is forever changed. From then on it is a struggle, woman vs. society, as she abandons her home life in search of a higher purpose. This was a book that greatly inspired me to continue my interest in feminism, which would eventually turn into a minor in Women’s Studies, but even if you’re not into that sort of thing; it’s an amazing read about defying societal norms and seeking independence and self-worth. For anyone that enjoyed A Doll’s House, it’s worth a read.

4. Hamlet – William Shakespeare

Hello, senior English Class. I’m sorry, I know everyone isn’t a Shakespeare fan (I’ll even admit that Romeo and Juliet is total crap) but I will defend Hamlet to the death. Explained in a sentence: how one Danish family can literally screw up an entire country on their own. Melodramatics are rampant, so if you’re into mocking Shakespeare’s caricature-esque people as much as I am, it’ll be great fun.

“To be or not to be.” More like “To whine or not to whine.” C’mon Hamlet, shut up.

5. The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury

Short story writers, here’s your goldmine. Composed entirely of short stories that go-together-but-not-really, you hear the tales of every tattoo on a man covered in them—The Illustrated Man. From 4-D gone wrong to robot wives to jungles on Venus, Bradbury is one of the best to go to for crazy science fiction. This is especially good for those of you who may like reading, but don’t want to commit to a three-hundred-page novel. Eighteen short stories make up this masterpiece, and never worry about getting bored. Bradbury will keep you on the edge of your seat through each and every tattoo.

6. Fade – Robert Cormier

Definitely something that shouldn’t be considered YA Sci-Fi. I was handed this book in middle school, and I never fully recovered. Telling the story of Paul Moreaux, a young boy who possesses an ability to “fade,” that is, turn invisible upon command. At first he thinks his gift is amazing, that now he can spy on everyone in his small Massachusetts town, but he soon discovers things he wish he’d never seen. It’s written to be for younger audiences in terms of vocabulary, but wow, don’t read this unless you’re at least in high school. With highly controversial themes (racism, sexual assault, the assault of children), this isn’t a book to be taken lightly. Still, if you can, I recommend this book almost more than any of the others on this list. Cormier is a genius author, and this book will leave an impact on you. I can guarantee it.

7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is the greatest thing to happen to children’s literature, and I will not accept any arguments. This list could’ve been made entirely of just his works, but Charlie has just always been one that stuck out to me as a kid. After I saw the Gene Wilder movie (aka the only acceptable Charlie movie, sorry Depp) I ran to find a copy of the book and I soon absorbed it and its sequel (yes, it has a sequel—Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. The lesser-known but still great continuation of the adventures of Charlie and Wonka). It’s a book I still own to this day, and something I made my little sister read when she got old enough. It’s such a fantastical, silly but amazingly-written story that you’ll fall in love with the tale of chocolate rivers and Oompa Loompas all over agin.

8. The Giver – Lois Lowry

If you didn’t read this in middle school, you had a crappy teacher. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. The Giver is, in my opinion, the best middle school/YA book ever written. And it’s not YA in the way most people think of YA—there’s no forbidden romances with ancient vampires or anything—it’s an incredible futuristic/dystopian story about a young boy, growing up and realizing he has an incredibly rare gift—to see the memories of the past that have been forcibly erased from the rest of society to create a Utopian world (creepy, much?). It’s reminiscent of “The Lottery” by Jackson if you’re familiar, just without the murder. Government-controlled people, robotic personalities, and the dehumanization of humans creates a dynamic, yet suspenseful and terrifying narrative. Either way, it’ll leave you speechless. Check it out now.

9. Reading Lolita in Tehran – Azar Nafisi

This is a bit more to stomach. I didn’t read this until my freshman year of college, but the entire time I was underlining sentences and paragraphs that just made me go “…yes.” It’s about a group of women in Tehran during the 1970's Iranian Revolution as they fall under a new, strict, oppressive regime and try to maintain a sense of themselves, their femininity, their intelligence, and their dignity as the war rages on. Focusing around a group of students and a literature professor at the University of Tehran, the women bond over literature and academic discussion. Take note, however, this book is a memoir, meaning it is nonfiction. It reads like a fiction tale, but the events are too striking and powerful to just be made up. It changed my perspective greatly as a privileged, white, Western feminist, as it opened my eyes to some things I’d only heard of abstractly—being denied education, religious persecution, etc.—but could never fully understand. This isn’t to say I fully understand it now; I don’t think anyone can until they experience it, but it gave me insight into a pivotal moment in Iranian and Middle Eastern feminism. This book will touch your heart and stimulate your mind, as well as give perspective into a culture very different from our Western society. It’s an eye-opener that’ll leave you shaken.

10. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights is widely-known as one of those classics that’ll put you to sleep within fifteen pages. To an extent I agree. The first time I tried to crack it open I barely made it to chapter two. But upon a second glance, I pushed myself through the first bit and immediately became engrossed in the story, in these ridiculously-flawed characters, and in how they mess literally everything up. And don’t listen to people who take it as a dramatic, inspiring romance; those are the same people that think Romeo and Juliet are “relationship goals” (because nothing’s more romantic than dual suicide). However, it is a romance book, but it’s not cheesy in the way many are. It explores ideas of love, forbidden love, love lost, and unrequired affections that…carry on into the afterlife in a way that is a bit more than creepy. It’s a hauntingly beautiful piece that I hold near and dear to my heart, even though there isn’t one character I can think of as “good” besides the narrator (another myth: Heathcliff is not anyone’s “bae.” He is not the guy you want to get involved with. Just saying). But the egregious flaws are what make them and the story so compelling and enthralling. Even if you don’t like romance, it’s a book that I can almost promise you’ll love if you can just make it through the first few chapters.

11. Where the Sidewalk Ends – Shel Silverstein

This is something that I remember most of the kids in my elementary school liking. I don’t remember seeing much, if any, other children’s poetry besides Silverstein’s books. I would read them at night over and over, studying the odd drawings and reading the poems out loud, each time in a different voice to find which one I liked most. What’s cool about Silverstein’s poetry is that most of it isn’t fantastical, yet has a tone of such; it’s about very real subjects (getting sick, the end of the world, hiding things from your parents), but are written in a way that is almost reminiscent of “The Jabberwocky” by Carroll. When I took another look at it as I got older I realized that yes, many of the poems cover dark subjects, including death, the afterlife, and the point of existence, but in a way that seemed like just a fun poem to kids. He is one of the most highly-regarded children’s poets, and if by some odd miracle you haven’t read his stuff yet, you need to find it immediately. Each and every poem of his is a true masterpiece.

Cover Image Credit: http://samanthapfield.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/book-stack.jpg

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.

Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.

7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.


Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.

I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.

I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.

As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

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