Note: This post previously appeared at christiney.com as a guest post I wrote for the site.
One of my earliest memories of school is reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a for fun reading in my third grade classroom. Despite the book being a pretty advanced book for my age, my teacher encouraged me to try reading it if I wanted to do so. When it came time to take a content test on the book, I bombed my test. That said, without that encouragement and experience, I’m pretty sure that my love for reading wouldn’t have grown as strong as it did.
Sixteen years after that happening, I got to thinking about what my favorite books ever are. These may not have been the most critically acclaimed books I’ve read, nor are they necessarily the ones that benefited me the most in my professional endeavors. That said, these ten books are the ones that I found the most enjoyable to read, and I’ve read many of them multiple times in my life. All images courtesy Amazon.com.
10. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Oh, Lord of the Flies. How easily people discard you as a gruesome required reading in high school literature classes without giving a second thought to the broader story told beyond all the death between your covers. The #10 spot on this list was my most difficult to select, as I also considered The Island of Dr. Moreau for this list. Ultimately though, while both books are attempting to make similar points, I appreciate the metaphors made in Lord of the Flies better.
#9. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The summer of 2011 was incredibly kind to the reader in me, as three of the ten books on this list are ones I picked up for the first time during my sole summer spent in Phoenix. Vonnegut’s most widely known novel played strongly to my love of satire, and I found his use of flashback scenes as wonderful examples of how to do the same as I was working on my first NaNoWriMo project later that year.
8. The Giver by Lois Lowry
My first exposure to dystopian literature came courtesy The Giver during my fourth grade English class. While I’m not as big of a fan of Lowry’s three sequels in this series, The Giver is an example of the perfect dystopian world…in that the dystopia itself is created by the fact that those who rule the world have created a world where the dystopia is believed to be a utopia.
7. I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert
Colbert’s TV character on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report is one of the inspirations to why I wanted to major in media in college. His biting wit and satire is on full display in I Am America (And So Can You!), especially in the footnotes and asides throughout the book. While Colbert’s followup books have been disappointments, I Am America (And So Can You!) is the second best comedy book I’ve ever read.
#6. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller
This is the point of the list where it becomes really evident that I have a thing for dystopia. A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of the few books where I had a completely different take on it the first time I read it than after subsequent reader. On the first go around, it was a decent, though not spectacular dystopian novel, akin to Brave New World. That said, as I reread the book in the summer of 2011, A Canticle for Leibowitz charmed me with the breadth and depth of a historical back story created within its pages, and has since become one of my favorite books.
#5. Why My Wife Thinks I’m An Idiot by Mike Greenberg
In my entire life, there’s only two books I’ve ever bought within a week of their release: the aforementioned I Am America (And So Can You!) and Why My Wife Thinks I’m An Idiot. Greenberg is one of the most respected names in the sports radio business, best known for his ability to both embody the fan he is at heart while still having the objectivity of a sportscaster. Why My Wife Thinks I’m An Idiot is a great set of stories from Greenberg’s life, and because of the book’s charm, it comes in as the top non-fiction work on this list.
#4. Brain Droppings by George Carlin
There’s been one celebrity death ever that has brought me to tears — George Carlin’s passing in 2008. Carlin’s witty and sophisticated humor delivered in an understandable (if not crass) manner made him an idol for many comedians, writers, and entertainers the world over. Of his books, Brain Droppings is the one that I’ve found myself rereading the most frequently, if for no other reason than as more time passes, the content in its pages only continues to become more and more relevant.
#3. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Lolita is the final of three books from this list from my summer of 2011 in Phoenix. For as much as I like the stories in the top two books on this list far better than Lolita, I dare you to find a more complex character than Humbert Humbert. The amount to which Nabokov allows you into the mind of Humbert is astounding, revealing a character who is loving, mad, controlling, and caring, all at the same time. Humbert is the standard to which all character transformations should be held.
#2. Feed by M.T. Anderson
Have you ever read a science-fiction book that felt like it was possible in the here and now, even if the technology to make it work doesn’t exist? If not, I recommend reading Feed. Though it was published in 2002, well before the explosion of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites, the book’s main technology, feednet, is a constant stream of updates surrounding a person’s life, complete with personalized advertising to each individual based off of location, all while being completely connected to each person. Sound familiar?
#1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Just kidding…no human who’s telling the truth actually likes Bronte novels…
#1. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
After all the talk about dystopian novels I’ve done throughout this article, did you really expect anything else? The book was written nearly 70 years ago, yet serves as a constant reminder that too much surveillance and control without checked power easily becomes a dangerous weapon. Even the love story in the book doesn’t seem completely ridiculous, which is an achievement in the literary world. Hell, the book is in the top 35 books sold on Amazon in four different categories (Classics, Science Fiction, Humor, and Satire). Seriously. It’s that good of a book.