OUR FAVORITE THINGS: 5 Books That Change You
“Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic,” J.K. Rowling wrote. My girl J.K. nailed it, because I firmly believe words can challenge and shape our perspectives on life. Below are 5 books that I have read multiple times and highlighted the ish outta the pages. I’ve included some of my favorite lines to give you a preview of the goodness you can expect in each book.
1. If You Find This Letter // Hannah Brencher
I’ve written about my love for If You Find This Letter in another post before—about how it came into my life just when I needed it, during a too-hot and lonely summer as a new grad. The memoir follows Hannah during her first year after college living and working in New York City; the story is a speak-to-the-heart, make-you-feel-things kind of story (aka the best kind). Hannah’s set to release another book August 28, 2018 and I’m excited to give her second book a read.
“The professor taught with confidence that books change you. They mess up your insides. They make you drool over the prospect of being a better human and a better lover and a better friend. They pull at your stomach and leave you raw and open and naked. Books can straight up mangle you and sometimes it’s better if you let them do their work.”
2. Harry Potter // J.K. Rowling
Have I weeped more while reading a series of books than Harry Potter? That’s a firm no. How J.K. Rowling came up with a story so intricate, so fantastical, so heartbreakingly beautiful is beyond me and wow just wow that woman is a hero. But I do have a confession: I put off reading the books until I was a senior in high school because who wants to read about a boy wizard? YOUNG ALLY, YOU SWEET NAIVE GIRL! I made up for my ignorance by reading all seven books in one month. The scene in the last book where Harry looks into the pensieve and then enters the Forbidden Forest… TELL ME you didn’t just absolutely LOSE IT?! And if you didn’t lose it, do you have emotions at all?
“Of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?”
3. The Problem of Pain // C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis is straight-up BAE and I wish I could write half as well as this humble Englishman. His ability to write so eloquently—to pull forth all the tears from the reader—yet also use logic to explain his theories is a writing skill I can only dream of having. The Problem of Pain wrestles with the basic question of the human heart: why is there pain and suffering in this world? Again and again I return to this book when life feels chaotic, finding solace in the truth captured in these pages.
“It is men, not God, who have produced racks, whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets, and bombs; it is by human avarice or human stupidity, not by the churlishness of nature, that we have poverty and overwork.”
“When I think of pain—of anxiety that gnaws like fire and loneliness that spreads out like a desert, and the heartbreaking routine of monotonous misery, or again of dull aches that blacken our whole landscape or sudden nauseating pains that knock a man’s heart out at one blow, of pains that seem already intolerable and then are suddenly increased, of infuriating scorpion-stinging pains that startle into maniacle movement a man who seemed half dead with his previous tortures—it ‘quite o’ercrows my spirit.’”
(TBH my favorite lines are basically every single sentence in the entire book.)
4. The Great Gatsby // F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald's writing is the epitome of word wizadry. I’ll admit that his other novels haven’t quite captured me like The Great Gatsby has, but in anything he writes, his sentences are so completely dreamy that the cadence of each line alone is enough to emotionally tear me to pieces. As I’m sure everyone who took a high school English class knows, The Great Gatsby is considered an American classic, a story of societal opulence and unrequited love and the willingness to mold yourself into what you think others would like. Drama on drama on well-written drama and I’m all about it, tears and tissues in hand.
“The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”
“I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others—young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.”
“In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.”
5. Syrian Dust: Reporting from the Heart of the War // Francesca Borri
This book is the book that changed my entire career trajectory. I found Syrian Dust while wandering alone in my favorite London bookstore, the one with the big window and cobalt blue wallpaper, and though it is no light read and not at all a “vacay book,” I decided to purchase it. The next two days found me at coffee shops while it rained and in parks between the rain reading page after page of this horrifying story of an Italian journalist covering the Syrian war from Aleppo. I had already been volunteering with high schoolers who were mostly refugees, but it was this book that finalized my decision to apply and then accept my current position working with a refugee resettlement agency. Please, please, please, if you read any books from this list, let it be this one.
“Because if I had ever understood anything about this war, I would not have been afraid to love, afraid to take a chance in life, if only I had really understood anything about Syria, about this life that might end this second, instead of huddling against the wall a thousand times in my dark dank corner while everything around me exploded, instead of cowering there hopelessly regretting everything I had never had the courage to say, now that it was too late, too late for everything, and how could I have lost what was most beautiful to me? Because this is the only thing left to say about a war, the only piece that I really should have written … You who are able to, you who are alive tomorrow, what are you waiting for? Why don’t you love enough? The only thing to write, from amid my rubble, if only I had understood anything: You who have everything, why are you so afraid?”
Go ahead, sign up for that library card or make a stop at your local bookstore, then pour yourself a glass of wine and dig into a good read.
What books have changed you?
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