In honor of National Read a Book Day, here are some of my favorite books. I wouldn’t say they’re my top ten, they’re just ten that I think are particularly awesome and that I recommend you read if you like books, too.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
This has been my favorite book for a very long time. I can’t even remember how old I was when I read it for the first time, but it’s the ultimate coming-of-age novel as far as I’m concerned. I haven’t reread it in years, but I know that when I do go back to it I’ll still adore it as much as I did the first time. I’m also pretty excited that it’s being made into a movie.
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut is the fucking man, and this is one of my favorites that I’ve read of his. There’s an element of metanarrative that I find really cool, where he is conscious of himself as the narrator of a story about fictional characters and where he even writes himself into the fictional storyline. Everyone should read Vonnegut, and I would recommend this book over Slaughterhouse-Five any day.
Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson
Joyce Johnson used to date Jack Kerouac back in the day, and this memoir is her side of the story of the great beat writers and the women who loved them from the periphery. It’s beautifully written, and anyone who likes Jack Kerouac should read it because it’s interesting to hear about their relationship, but also because Joyce Johnson’s writing blows Kerouac’s out of the water.
When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
I bought this book when I studied abroad in Amsterdam, and I have fond memories of reading it in my flat during the first few weeks I lived there. It’s a light and quick read, and I’ve reread it once or twice since then and it still makes me laugh. I particularly like the last section about David’s struggle to quit smoking, and I love the cover art, which is a painting by Vincent Van Gogh that I coincidentally got to see at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
This book is so great because of Oscar Wilde’s razor sharp wit: it made me laugh, but is also dark, thought-provoking, and shocking. The novel culminates in an epic twist of sheer badassery that’s reminiscent of one of my favorite episodes of Breaking Bad. It taught me not to underestimate the dimwitted characters and socially conscious plotlines of Wilde’s plays. Dorian Gray’s not fucking around.
The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis
This is one of the few books where I might venture to say that the movie is actually better, but the book is definitely still a must-read. Bret Easton Ellis is such an eerily awesome writer, and The Rules of Attraction is a great read for anyone who’s ever experienced the fucked up whirlwind of college and the bizarre misconceptions that come hand-in-hand with searching for human connections in any setting, but especially at a small university full of drugs and crazy people.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
This is a book that everyone should read, in my opinion. It’s very dark, heartwrenching, and even horrifying at times, but I think it’s a very important book that is so relevant to this time period. Cormac McCarthy has a brilliant knack for the English language that is unmatched by any other writer I’ve ever encountered.
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
This is one of those where I saw and loved the movie before I had any idea that it was based on a book. The movie is such a classic (who doesn’t love John Cusack?) and the book is even better. Nick Hornby is British so the narrative style and characterization is slightly different than it comes across in the movie, which makes the book awesome in its own way.
Palm Sunday by Kurt Vonnegut
Another book that I bought while I was in Amsterdam, and another one of my favorites by Vonnegut that I think is vastly underrated. Most people have read or at least heard of Slaughterhouse-Five, but this collection of essays and articles is a much easier read that I found a lot more accessible and relevant to my life and worldviews. Vonnegut is a genius.
A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham
This is one of my favorite books of all time that was also made into a movie that is one of my favorites. It tells the story of an odd love triangle between three best friends who try to find happiness in an unconventional family unit- basically, two guys and a girl who have a baby and choose to raise it together, one mother, two fathers. It’s a very interesting look at the complexity of human relationships and how they are influenced by social norms, and I think everyone should read it.