Sunday, January 29, 2017

Books to Read as We Survive Trying Times

I recently saw an observation that when Barack Obama was elected, sales of guns spiked...and now with the election of Donald Trump, we are seeing a resurgence in the sale of books. As a Reading for Pleasure teacher, I find that fascinating...and hopeful. Especially since I surrounded myself with books and readers for my entire career. I was the luckiest teacher in the world.

There are multiple research studies that point out the benefits of reading: This National Endowment for the Arts blog post mentions several: reading literary fiction makes us more empathetic, reading may help us resist the effects of dementia, reading helps reduce stress, and reading just flat-out makes us smarter. I, myself, would love to see a citizenry that is empathetic, stress-free, and as smart as we can be. And as the daughter, granddaughter, and niece of dementia patients, I read to keep my mind strong. So, I am proposing we set about reading our way through the next several years...novels (they, especially, contribute to making us more empathetic to others), narrative nonfiction, and straight-up informative nonfiction.

My idea for this blog started small...two books, in particular, have shot up to the top of the Best Sellers' lists: Representative John Lewis's graphic novel trilogy, March, and George Orwell's 1984. I just recently read book one of Lewis's trilogy and was moved by his memories of the Nashville lunch sit ins, and his training to be a nonviolent demonstrator. And, I read 1984, long before 1984! I decided I needed to revisit the classic, and it's waiting on my to-be-read stack.

I asked my online friends what books they would recommend to others and suddenly I lost control over my own project. NINE pages of titles...books I've read and loved, and many books I've not read...some I'd not heard of before.

My plan is to present four lists -- Novels I've read and agree would be important pieces to read and reflect on...nonfiction I've read and recommend. Then I will share the novels suggested by my friends, books I've not gotten to read yet...some again, on that teetering stack to be read, and finally the extensive list of nonfiction I've not read. The two lists that were largest were the novels I HAVE read and the nonfiction I have NOT read. A perfect reflection of my reading habits.

I'll star books that have especially moved me, and I recommend highly.

So, in alphabetical order by title, is a list of novels my friends and I think would be especially thought-provoking and appropriate for us to read and consider over the next years. Please feel free to recommend others, or add your thought on the books here...would love to start a real dialogue. I love talking about books, and my friends know that.

Novels I’ve Read -- literary novels, young adult novels, popular fiction. 

**1984 – Orwell
A Farewell to Arms – Hemingway
**All American Boys – Reynolds
**All Quiet on the Western Front – Remarque
**All the Light We Cannot See – Doerr
Animal Farm – Orwell
Anthem – Rand
Bell Jar – Plath
Beloved – Morrison
**Book Thief -- Zucak
**Brave New World – Huxley
Catch 22 – Heller
Center Ring – Waggoner
Chocolate War -- Cormier
**Christian Nation – Rich
Cloud Atlas – Mitchell
Dark Tower – King
Divergent  Series – Roth
Dune -- Herbert
East of Eden – Steinbeck
Esperanza Rising – Ryan
**Fahrenheit 451 – Bradbury
Go Set a Watchman – Lee
**Grapes of Wrath – Steinbeck
**Handmaid’s Tale –Atwood
**Harry Potter – Rowling
Heart of Darkness – Conrad
**Hunger Games Series – Collins
Invisible Man – Ellison
**Kite Runner – Housseini
Lonesome Dove – McMurtry
**Lord of the Flies – Golding
Lord of the Rings – Tolkien
Matilda -- Dahl
Moby Dick – Melville
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Kesey
Parable of the Talents – Butler
Pinocchio – Collodi
**Poisonwood Bible – Kingsolver
Ready Player One – Cline
Slaughterhouse Five – Vonnegut
**Small Great Things – Picoult
**The Crucible – Miller
The Goldfinch -- Tartt
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas – Seuss
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – McCullers
The House of the Scorpion – Farmer
**The Jungle -- Lewis
The Nightingale – Hannah
**The Reader – Schlink
**The Storyteller -- Picoult
**To Kill a Mockingbird -- Lee
Uglies Series– Westerfeld
**Unwind Series– Shusterman
Watership Down – Adams
We Were Liars – Lockhart
Where the Heart Is – Letts

**Wonder – Palacio

I have starred titles I think are especially important to read and consider. 

Three more lists to follow.

And in case you need more ideas, here is my Top Ten reads of 2016...and my friend Nancy Flanagan's Top Ten for last year. Her lists always mean new books on my TBR stack. 

What books would YOU recommend for us all?


  1. Fantastic!!!! Thank you for putting this list together. You are creating hope where a void was forming! Can't wait to get started on many new titles and revisit some old friends and inspirations!!!!!!

    1. As my friends' suggestions kept pouring in, I felt the same hope...and thank YOU for your contributions.

  2. Wonderful list--thanks for publishing it. I do think that, if you are going to communicate with those who don't read much, then movies are the next list to develop--and in our time, keeping the distinction between political and other genres is important. Also, since no one can read them all, and there is C-Span's where authors talk in depth and answer questions about their books. But kudos for the list. Interesting point about the spike in gun sales, and then books.

    1. Thank for the ideas, Catherine...This is only a quarter of the books I've compiled! I am too tired to think about a movie list!

      I like your idea about political and nonpolitical nonfiction...I will consider that idea...with the nonfiction I have not read, tho, I couldn't make that distinction.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

  3. The Diary of Anne Frank should be on the list. Thank you for compiling this!

    1. Oh, it WILL be -- on my 'nonfiction I have read list!' I love that book!!