With thousands of authors pounding out new novels every month, many of these gems tend to get lost in the fray. They become over-shadowed by big names like "A Song of Ice and Fire," "Gone Girl," the "Twilight" saga, or most recently, "Me Before You" and "The Girls." I find, though, that just because a book is a best-seller, does not mean that it is an impact book. I finds that many of the best-sellers I have come come across are good, gripping stories, but they are forgetful. I move to the next book and the characters are gone. I slowly forget their names, their problems, the plot, what made the book interesting, and eventually, the book itself.
There are some books, though, written by an array of famous to unknown authors that have stuck with me since I began taking reading seriously. They are books that never left me, that occasionally pop into my subconscious and give me headaches because I can't stop thinking about how much they moved me.
1. "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis
I vividly remember an elementary school teacher giving me this book to read for a class project. I don't remember their name, but I do remember how much it changed me as a reader. It tells the story of three children who enter the magical land of Narnia, home to talking animals and mythical creatures who have been living under the rule of the evil White Witch. It was the first fantasy book I ever read and it was the first time I ever became attached to a character—Aslan the lion. Spoiler Alert for those who haven't read or seen the movie: when Edmund is sentenced to execution and Aslan offers to take his place and is "killed" by the White Witch, I was devastated. My elementary-aged self never had that kind of reaction to a fictional character's death before, and when it is revealed that Aslan was still alive, I was relieved. It's a book that all children should read, and a perfect way to open the door to the world of fantasy.
2. "The Host" by Stephanie Meyer
I had "Twilight" fever when I read this book, but by the time I was finished with "The Host," I had forgotten all about the Bella, Edward and Jacob drama. This book is far superior to Meyer's more famous saga. It tells the story of a post-apocalyptic earth that has been invaded by a parasitic alien race known as "souls." It follows the story of Wanderer, aka Wanda, who has been placed inside of human Melanie, who is part of a rebel group of humans hiding out in the desert. Unknown to Wanda, Melanie's subconscious is still alive and fighting to reclaim control of her body. The thing that stuck with me about this book wasn't the love triangle Meyer formed when Wanda meets Melanie's love, Jared, but ends up falling in love with fellow rebel Ian (two girls, one body, two guys). It's the relationship that Wanda forms with Melanie throughout the story that leads to a conclusion I still think about almost seven years later.
3. "Revolution" by Jennifer Donnelly
I read this book for a high school project and was consumed by it -- the history, the art, the music, the angst, the catacombs and the worldliness of it all. It's a complicated novel that weaves the past and the present telling the stories of two girls. It follows Andi Alpers, a suicidal, drug abusing and music loving teen whose family is wrecked by the death of her 10-year-old brother. She is taken to Paris by her father for a business trip to study what is believed to be the heart of Louis-Charles, the young son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who was locked away during the French Revolution and believed to have died in a tower at the age of 10. Andi discovers the journal of a girl named Alexandrine Paradis, who lived two centuries earlier and played with and watched over the young duke, and becomes engrossed in the diary to the point of madness. Donnelly weaves the two stories together masterfully. The parallels between Andi and Alex are so unbelievable, it makes it that much better when you start to believe in the wild connections just as Andi does.
4. "Phantom" by Susan Kay
This is a long novel that I whizzed through the summer before my last year of high school. It's dense, beautifully crafted and retells Gaston Leroux's novel "The Phantom of the Opera"through the eyes of the phantom himself. The timeline stretches from the birth of Erik, a deformed child, through his traumatic childhood to his transformation into the phantom who created the Palais Garnier Opera House. This novel reads more like a biography, and less like a work of fiction, but its beauty, stunning visuals and heartbreaking story is worth the read. It's the only book that has ever made me cry over a character.
5. "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini
I read this during my last year of high school and, normally, I don't read books like this --ones that take place in war-torn, third-world countries like Afghanistan that are just too painful and real. This book was pushed on me though, and I'm glad that it was. Khaled Hosseini, who is known for "The Kite Runner," tells the stories of Mariam, an illegitimate child who suffers from both the stigma surrounding her birth along with the abuse she faces throughout her marriage with Rasheed, and Lalia, a girl born a generation later whose life intersects with Mariam's when she is forced to marry Rasheed as well. This book speaks to the inner feminist and changed the way I approach such intense books as this one.
6. "Joyland" and "The Shining" by Stephen King
I lump these two together because they are both equally important Stephen King novels for me. I read "The Shining" last summer for the first time after already watching the movie and was blown away and creeped out by the story and writing style. The story remains a classic in my eyes and changed the way I look at and write horror. Joyland, on the other hand, resonated on another level with me. It was a short, action-packed fast read about college student Devin Jones who gets a job at the Joyland amusement park during the summer he breaks up with his girlfriend, and is confronted with a murder-mystery when he hears the story of Linda Gray, a girl who was murdered in the haunted house. It is vastly different from "The Shining," but something about the fun and light atmosphere of this book keeps the story in my brain.
7. "Fevre Dream" by George R.R. Martin
While "A Song of Ice and Fire" may be his magnum opus, "Fevre Dream" is his masterpiece.
I wasn't expecting what I saw when I opened the pages of this book one week ago. I thought that nothing could beat his mega-book-turned-television series, but I was dead wrong. It impacted me way more than "A Song of Ice and Fire" ever did. This book is the lovechild of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "Dracula," set in 1857 along the Mississippi River and tells the story of steamboat Captain Abner Marsh, who is grappling with a financial crisis after most of his boats are destroyed by an ice float. He is contacted by the mysterious and rich Joshua York, who offers him money to construct the steamboat of his dreams, the Fevre Dream. They co-captain the vessel down the Mississippi in search of glory, but March begins to notice the strange behaviors of Joshua York, like only coming out at night, excellent night vision, his strange bottles of red liquid and his equally strange friends. I'll stop there to avoid spoilers because this book is not what it seems to be. I expected a re-telling of "Dracula" on a steamboat, but instead I got a story takes a turn and explores Abner's and Joshua's dreams, what it means to develop a true friendship with someone so vastly different, the beauty of what our short human lives create and how quickly it can be dashed away by true evil.
This book is not only the best vampire story I have ever read, but all-around one of the best stories I've ever read.