Since I was pretty small, I have always played with the idea of writing my own books someday.
I read all the time, I was (and still am) addicted to burying myself in the pages of a book and being transported to another world. So why not become a creator of those worlds to give other people the same experience right? The only thing holding me back was everybody else drilling into my head that I needed to have a very reliable, very well paying, very BORING job in order to be successful.
Well after reading as many books as I have, and following young authors from their debut to the novel that went viral, I decided to tell "everybody else" to suck it and follow my dreams. Heres a list of books that helped me get there.
WARNING: This list really has no rhyme or reason because I've never been one to conform to one genre and I couldn't possibly pick an absolute favorite but I promise you, every single one of these books helped me fall in love with the power of words and they deserve to be read.
1. "Sempre" by J.M. Darhower
I said I couldn't pick favorites but this one is actually my favorite. Sempre is a novel about a young girl raised as a modern day slave as a result of human trafficking ring based out of the Italian mob in Chicago. Haven is bought by a powerful mob doctor and separated from her mother, relocated in the doctor's home and introduced into a world that is the polar opposite of the one she grew up in. This is a story of triumph, strength, love, and freedom that will not only empower you but also pull at your heart stings in the most wonderful way.
I have read Sempre more times than I can count, I have my favorite quote from this book tattooed on my arm for goodness sakes. The story is incredibly developed and you cannot help but fall in love with the characters. Absolute MUST read.
2. "Harry Potter" by J.K. Rowling
If you haven't heard of Harry Potter at this point in your life, what are you doing honestly? Harry Potter is the classic of classics, it is a must read, even if your an adult (especially if you're an adult). Follow a young group of kids through a mystical world of magic and wizardry all while facing the disastrous journey that is growing up, on top of trying to defeat a murderous villain. Whats not to love right? Plus there are 9 expertly directed movies to add to the experience once you finish the books.
3. "The Hunger Games" by Susan Collins
The Hunger Games trilogy was one of the first books I've ever truly fallen in love with, and it is responsible for my instant infatuation with dystopian fiction. In a world far into the future, any semblance of todays society has been erased and the continent is separated into 12 factions all ruled by the iron fist of a wealthy capitol. Every year there is a country wide competition in which children are chosen at random to participate in a battle to the death. Katniss Everdeen is one of the chosen, thrust into a world of glamor and vicious politics before entering an arena she's prepared to die in.
Beautifully written with extreme attention to detail, The Hunger Games and it's sequels are books you won't be able to put down until the very last page.
4. "The Giver" by Lois Lowry
An American classic, The Giver is one of the original dystopian fiction books to grace the shelves of bookstores across the continent. In a future where the government controls all aspects of your life, including the way you perceive colors, everything has a very strict order. You grow up, you're placed into a job, you're assigned a spouse and required to have a specific number of children. But all that changes if you meet to the Giver.
A timeless work of literature that is a good read for people of all ages, The Giver is a tale of what can happen when secrets are uncovered and the spirit of change that can erupt from knowledge. Also, I didn't know until a few months ago, but there are three sequels to The Giver that are all just as amazing as the first. The storylines are separate from one another but all have the same great lessons in between the lines.
5. "The Host" by Stephanie Meyer
If the name "Stephanie Meyer" sounds familiar, you may know her from the bestselling Twilight Series but don't write off this amazing stand-alone just because you didn't appreciate the vampire and werewolf feuding, teenage angst filled amazingness that was Twilight. The Host is completely different from the series that came before it, set in a dystopian future in which aliens have taken over Earth, but not in the Syfy way you might think. Called Souls, these aliens simply slide into the brain of a human, and become that person, but they erase all violence and jealousy in order to create a safer, more effective society. But sometimes, the human who used to inhibit that body stays behind ensuing a fight within the mind between the original and the invader. This is what has happened to Melony after she is captured by the Souls and an alien is inserted in her head.
A story of survival, love, and acceptance, The Host is a great read for people with an interest in dystopian fiction and alien activity.
6. "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee
Another classic known by many, probably because you had popcorn read it, out loud, in 10th grade English, and for good reason. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a tale of mystery, change, and friendship told through the eyes of a young girl named Scout. Over the course of two years, Scout, her brother Jem and their new friend Dill investigate the story of Boo Radley, a recluse that lives in the house down their street and she watches her father defend a black man accused of raping a white woman during his court trial.
To Kill A Mockingbird is a story about understanding and finding the truths in others lives, and simply a must read at any point in your life.
7. "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseine
I read The Kite Runner for an AP Literature assignment in high school and before I picked it up, I was convinced I wouldn't like it and I almost just read the Sparknotes summary and called it a day. Now that I've read it (and been quizzed on it multiple times), I am incredibly grateful that I did.
The Kite Runner follows Amir and his friend/servant Hassan as they grow up in Kabul, Afghanistan while a majorly destructive civil war rips apart their country. Hassan and his father work for Amir and his father from both the boy's births until the war forces Amir and his Baba to flee the country. Hassan is fiercely protective of Amir and is willing to do anything to ensure his safety, which is put to the test after some other wealthy boys in their neighborhood take to bullying Amir. But amir begins to take this willingness for granted, causing great harm to both Hassan and the relationship the boys have. In a harrowing journey from age 11 to adulthood, guilt plagues Amir because of what happened to Hassan all those years ago until an opportunity arises fro Amir to fix his mistake.
The Kite Runner is a story of quilt, sacrifice and unconditional love for those you call family. It is an incredible read that makes you think about your decisions and question how far you might go to protect the ones you love.
8. "The Red Queen" by Victoria Aveyard
After waiting for what seemed like forever for the final book to be released, I have just finished this series and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a science fiction book set in the future filled with war and politics, with a little bit of a love story mixed in.
In this four part series, readers enter a world where the color of your blood separates society. If your heart pumps crimson, you are thrust into a lifetime of hard labor or fighting an everlasting war that you have nothing to do with. If your veins are filled with silver, you are graced with a lifetime of luxury and power. But what happens when your caught in between? Mare, a Red girl from a poverty stricken village on the outskirts of the capitol, fills her days pick pocketing to feed her family and trying not to think about the war that has taken all three of her older brothers and will take her the day of her 18th birthday. But everything changes when she's forced to go to the city to work in the palace, serving the royalty who enslaves her people across the country. Mare is pushed into the line of fire during the competition to be the next queen and a secret she didn't even know she had comes out in front of hundreds of Silvers that could end her life on spot.
The Red Queen series is one that I have followed since it's release and spent too many nights reading until my eyes won't stay open anymore. A perfect mix of surprise love, survival and finding yourself, The Red Queen is an incredible read for anybody looking for a little adventure.
9. "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck
Another novel you probably read in high school, Of Mice and Men is a short novella that you were forced to read for all the right reasons. You might not have gotten to fully appreciate it when you read it back then but looking back, you have to admit, there are some must read lessons in between the lines on those pages.
This book follows migrant workers George and Lennie as they hike around California in hopes of finding work during the great depression. Throughout their journey, readers learn of Lennie's mental disability, and Georges obligation to look out for them as they move from farm to farm to work. Based on Steinbeck's experiences during his teens, Of Mice and Men is another must read during your lifetime, but make sure you have some tissues close by while you're reading.
10. "Born" by Tara Brown
I found this book on Amazon while I was looking for a book like the Hunger Games because I had just finished it and was dealing with a good bit of after-series-slump. Another trilogy, Born is set in a post apocalyptic wasteland created after a nuclear fallout, set in motion in hopes of restarting the world. Told in first person by main character Emma, readers follow her as she transitions from being completely alone since the beginning to learning how to be around other people after two survivors show up on the door step of her cabin begging for help. That singular act of kindness leads Emma to the for front of a rebellion and creates a small family of misfits as Emma goes from just herself and her wolf to an "us."
A story of survival, rebellion, and frustrations of love after being alone for so long, Born is a great fit for anyone who loved the Hunger Games or Divergent, but with a more feral twist.
11. "The Great Gatsby" F. Scott Fitzgerald
If not for AP Lit, I probably wouldn't have picked this book up. I had heard so many great things and I watched the movie but I couldn't connect with it enough at first to really want to read it. Man was I glad that I did.
The Great Gatsby is about an extremely wealthy man shroud in mystery but it is told by his significantly less wealthy neighbor, Nick. Gatsby is known for his wild parties, his mansion filled wall to wall nightly with the scandalous nightlife of 1920's New York, but nobody really knows who he is because he never attends the parties himself. Nick, who has just moved to New York from the midwest is captivated by his mysterious neighbor, and mentions it to his cousin Daisy, a beautiful socialite who lives across the water from the Gatsby mansion. What ensues next is a whirlwind of partying, money, and rediscovering a love story that was cut short so abruptly.
Another American classic, The Great Gatsby is a story that will excite you, confuse you, and have you wanting to go back in time to live life as a 20's flapper.
12. "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls
I'm gonna be honest, I normally don't venture too far out of fiction novels unless I absolutely have to, which is the reason that I read this book in the first b=place, and the reason The Glass Castle has found itself on this list.
A memoir written by Jeanette Walls, The Glass Castle is based on a true story about her life up until she moved across country, away from her family to become a writer in New York City. This name might sound familiar to you because there was recently a movie adaptation made which was released a couple months ago (pretty good adaptation by the way). The story follows Jeanette through her childhood with extremely unconventional parents who made every day seem like an adventure… until Walls grew up and saw those adventures for what they really were, cover-ups for the reason their family was always on the move (running from warrants and bill collectors), and the reason they slept under the stars more often than not (extreme poverty due to her fathers relationship to booze and gambling).
During her long struggle to adulthood and freedom to live her life as she thought best, readers feel all the emotions that come with growing up in poverty constantly on the move with only what fits in the car to call your own. This book gave me a much needed wake up call about how lucky I am to have been given a comfortable and happy life with parents who truly care.
13. "The Selection" by Keira Cass
Set in an unknown time period (presumably in the future), The Selection is a three part series that I call a mix between The Hunger Games and The Bachelor. In a world where you're born into a caste and the only hope of moving up in caste is marrying up, the Selection is a once in a lifetime chance to move to the highest caste and make sure your family is well taken care of for the rest of their lives. A competition meant to unite the castes in which 24 girls are selected at random to compete for the heart of the Prince of the country, The Selection is the dream of every girl across Illeá. Except for America, a Five who is content with her life and wants nothing to do with being royal. But by some twist of fate, after being forced to fill out her application in an attempt to help her family, America is chosen to participate in The Selection and forced to compete for a hand in marriage she doesn't want in order to help her family stay fed. But while she's in the palace, can she help eradicate the caste system that is oppressing the people she left behind at home?
A journey through leaping out of your comfort zone and accepting yourself for who you are, The Selection is a coming of age novel that I couldn't put down.
14. "Everyday" by David Levithan
This novel is unlike anything I've ever read before. Every night, A goes to bed in one bed and every morning A wakes up in another. Everyday a new body, every day a new life. A travels from body to body, experiencing others lives for one day each, never getting too attached, never forming any connections to anybody in that persons life. That is until he wakes up in Justin's body, and then meets Justin's girlfriend Rhiannon, and instantly throws all those rules out the window. A forms the first real attachment he's ever had with Rhiannon, and then does everything he can to jump to bodies close to her. But could he really expose himself to Rhiannon? Would she actually believe him?
Everyday is a novel about unconditional love and companionship. This book is a prime example of love that knows no bounds and the way relationships take strength and courage but with the right person, anything can happen.
15. "The Fault In Our Stars" by John Green
John Green is one of my all time favorite authors just because I love the way he writes, but The Fault In Our Stars is his best novel in my opinion. Main character Hazel, has been battling lung cancer for years, she's been through all the treatments, all the support groups, all the make a wish sponsored events she can and she's simply in limbo living the same boring life everyday. Until she meets Augustus waters, a bone cancer survivor with a very peculiar, very unique outlook on life. From then on, despite Hazel's hesitancy to get into a relationship, they fall hopelessly in love, destined to be together forever. But will their body's cooperate?
This book holds a special place in my heart and it always will. I will always have a love for Augustus Waters and a want to be best friends with Hazel. Make sure you have a full box of tissues beside you though, its a rough one.
16. "Maus" by Art Spiegelman
I had never been into the whole world of graphic novels and comic books until I took a genre class last semester that broadened my horizons more than I thought it ever would. This take on explaining the Holocaust from a first person point of view is one of the best I've read, and by far the most understandable. Art Spiegelman expresses the horrors and tragedies of the Holocaust by illustrating his fathers experiences and how they've impacted his own life.
Maus is a truly harrowing tale based on a true story that changed the way I think about graphic novels as a whole and furthered my knowledge on what it was like to survive the Holocaust and how survivors began to pick up the pieces after they were liberated from those awful camps.
17. "Our Numbered Days" by Neil Hilborn
I've never been much for poetry unless I had to read it for school. Obviously I have a theme of sticking to fiction and staying there, but my eyes have been opened, and I have truly found another facet of literature that I love and mostly because of this collection of poetry. Neil Hilborn has a gift with words, and sarcasm that make me both laugh and cry reading his poetry. This book changed everything in regards to poetry for me. AND, he preforms all his poems they're all on Youtube too!
I hope you love these books as much as I do. Crack them open, snuggle up in a fuzzy blanket and immerse yourself in the magic they contain. Enjoy!