By Peri Miller
When someone asks me, “Peri, what’s your favourite book?” I reply, “Uhh…”
I can’t pick favourites. Perhaps I don’t want to make other books feel bad. Or maybe, because I enjoy most books I read, it’s tricky deciding which I like better than others, especially when I like them for different reasons.
There are and always will be, of course, certain stand-outs. Books that contain lessons, characters, or feelings which take permanent residence in my mind; which resurface in my thoughts weeks, months, years after first having read the book. So in one last fit of sentimentality, allow me to share some books I have yet to stop thinking about.
Unwind, Neal Shusterman
I discussed Unwind way back in issue two, but I recently reread the first book, and came across something interesting. Previously I mentioned how the main concept of the book—a law that allows parents to ‘retroactively abort’ their teenagers—might seem extreme or unrealistic. At one point in the novel, however, a character acknowledges that the in-universe bill had at first seemed ridiculous and unlikely—right up until it was passed.
Sound familiar? As little as a year ago, the idea of a reality show host becoming the U.S. President seemed ridiculous—to me, and to plenty others. It still seems ridiculous, but it happened. It’s some interesting food for thought.
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
Another one I’ve discussed previously. It would be strange for me to have been writing this column all this time without having once mentioned any personal favourites. However, it’s been almost four years since I first read East of Eden, and it’s quite the undertaking to re-read. It’s a favourite on strength of the memory of how it affected me on that first reading.
The most significant aspect of it is one I can’t actually talk about because spoilers, but I guess I can say this: it concerns the power of the individual human mind, specifically the power of choice.
Charmed Life, Diana Wynne Jones
Oh? Another book I’ve previously discussed? This neat little novel holds all the tropes of books I loved in my childhood: magic, orphans, castles, magic. I can pretty safely say conclude Charmed Life is a life-long favourite by reason of unrelinquishable nostalgia.
Hamlet, William Shakespeare
Is it pretentious to claim a Shakespeare play as a favourite book? Maybe. On my most recent revisitation I found something unexpected: an almost-relatable Shakespearean character. Hamlet just thinks too much, and as a serial overthinker myself, some of the sentiments he expresses feel like they were taken straight out of my head and translated into Shakespearean English. Four centuries ago.
Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre
Speaking of thinking too much, what’s your stance on existence? Like, what are we even doing here? We exist, but why? What does it even mean, ‘to exist’? How can we be sure that we do, in fact, exist—that anything exists—if we don’t know what ‘existing’ even is?
To explore these questions and other such soul-destroying notions, read Nausea. In other words… not a book I’d necessarily recommend to everyone. It’s not completely bleak, though. The eventual conclusion Sartre’s protagonist comes to is strangely and satisfyingly hopeful, actually.
The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
Now for the most divisive book on this list, which, since rereading it a few months ago, has become surprisingly prominent in my mind. Salinger writes a protagonist who is stuck in a similar existential rut as Sartre’s Antoine Roquentin, entertaining similar thoughts of life and death as Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Yet Holden Caulfield is just a sixteen-year-old, caught up, as most sixteen-year-olds are, in his own pretensions and angsts.
I have a weak spot for character studies, and Salinger’s writing is incredible. I can’t help but love this book.
Harry Potter, JK Rowling
Guess I can’t very well leave it out. Regardless of how overexposure and tireless unnecessary additions to the ‘Potterverse’ have coloured my opinions towards the series, I can’t deny the impact it had on my childhood, pre-teen, and teen years. It’s sad, actually, that I can’t view the books with the same sense of wonderment and excitement as I once did, because I am, have been, and always will be a part of the so-called ‘Potter Generation’.
Keep reading, Massive readers. We never know where books can take us. I, for one, always look forward to finding out.