With the semester wrapping up and summer just around the corner, I (like many college students) am looking forward to accomplishing goals that seem nearly impossible during the hectic school year. High on my list is recreational reading – a joy that I regularly pursued as a kid but have found more difficult to do with all the responsibilities of college life. That being said, I have a long list of both new books I'd love to delve into and some old favorites I want to revisit. If you're like me and want to find some satisfying, well-written fiction to dive into, I've compiled the following list of my all-time favorite novels – mainly fantasy and science fiction, with a classic thrown in. Enjoy!
"The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Tolkien first captured my heart with these beautifully crafted novels when I was 15, launching me into a deeply emotional journey of love, adoration, grief, and being way too obsessed with my first ever fandom. As my favorite novels of all time, these books drew me into the enchanting world of Middle-earth, made me fall in love with elves and hobbits, and even made me cry (something I don't usually do during most movies, much less while reading books). These books present a thrilling plot while displaying depth of thought and relevance to the real world.
"Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury.
This book left me deeply pensive and overwhelmed after my first reading of it. During my second reading, I was absolutely astonished at Bradbury's ability to seemingly predict the future, as he wrote in 1953 about technologies and ideologies that dominate today's Western culture. At first glance, this seems like a book attacking censorship. However, upon closer reading, it delves into the dangers of our inability and/or unwillingness to think for ourselves, especially in a world where we allow technology to dominate our lives. "Fahrenheit 451" serves as a stark warning to our generation and has the power to stun readers into deep reflection on the world and humanity.
"Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley.
With my love of depressing stories, I found this deeply pessimistic yet moving book to be just my cup of tea. I only found out recently that it fits in the sci-fi genre, further sparking my interest in it. The plot rais
es important questions about reality and what it means to be human, and it ends on a generally hopeless note, quite the opposite of typical feel-good stories. However, for the optimists reading this book, there are still elements of love and beauty in the characters and setting, however bleak and bittersweet the book's overtones are.
"The Green Book" by Jill Paton Walsh.
When I first read this short book in high school, I didn't even know to label it "science fiction," as I wasn't widely read in this genre. However, this book was the predecessor to my current obsession with sci-fi. I still remember the haunting yet exciting experience of reading about a group of people escaping a dying Earth and rebuilding civilization on another planet. Though seemingly simple and written for kids, this story is fascinating and gives an easy-to-read introduction to the sci-fi genre.
"Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte.
I only read this book after much prompting by my mom, but in the end, I was so glad I did. Yes, it's a love story, but it's not your typical, feel-good, teenage romance. Even the "happily ever after" ending includes dark and bittersweet overtones. Its complex, well-written characters and intriguing plot with unexpected twists drew me in until the end. I found myself so emotionally invested in this novel, ranging from feelings of unbridled giddiness to heartache and despair. There was no in-between.
"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins.
I started this series expecting to hate it, thinking it was nothing more than another overly hyped teen story. I didn't expect to fall in love with it and its unique plot idea, but I quickly did. While my favorite individual book is "Catching Fire," I adore the series as a whole, and it has only made me fall deeper in love with science fiction. The very concept of having a "Hunger Games" (fighting to the death in an arena) sparked my imagination for my own novels and has probably influenced my own story ideas more than any other book.
"The Blue Umbrella" by Mike Mason.
Although not particularly well-known, this fantasy novel is definitely worth a read. The book is targeted towards kids, but many of its themes and scenes are dark and even morbid at times, making it a fascinating read for older teens and young adults as well. This gripping tale about a boy and his friends fighting an evil magician creatively combines fantastical/supernatural elements with ordinary reality, drawing in readers from start to finish.