1. Room – Emma Donoghue. This book was really interesting, imagined from the perspective of five-year-old Jack, whose mother has been imprisoned in the same 11’x11’ room for the past seven years. It’s tragic and really makes you think about the real people behind all those SVU marathons.
2. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde. What if you could do anything you wanted, and no consequence would ever befall you—and just befall an inanimate object that no one else could see? I’m actually in the middle of reading this right now (after having read it and not quite getting it in high school) and I can’t help but wonder what I would do in that situation. What would you do?
3. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand. I think it’s unlikely that anything even remotely approaching the world of Atlas Shrugged could ever happen in real life, but the thought is scary anyway. As an employee of the non-profit industry, I work to help the less fortunate—but government-mandated charity like that described in Atlas Shrugged (i.e. you have to patronize suffering businesses even if they’re suffering because they suck at their jobs) just makes me shudder.
4. The Chronicles of Narnia – C. S. Lewis. I didn’t read these until earlier this year; I vaguely remember reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in fourth or fifth grade, but I didn’t understand it and wasn’t interested in reading more of the series. I wish now that I had. As an adult, it’s pretty easy to see the religious symbolism, but even if you’re not religious they’re just great stories about doing what’s right, even when it isn’t easy. They also made me think because I kept trying to figure out what biblical story each book alluded to 🙂
5. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card. The end of this one is particularly poignant, as Ender asks himself: do the buggers truly realize that they are killing individual, thinking beings? To be faced with such a question at a young age is one of the hardest parts of the book to stomach. Those of you who know how it ends—don’t ruin it for those who don’t—that part stayed with me for AGES. Even now it’s hard to shake myself of it.
6. The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker. I just finished this one, about what happens to the earth as its rotation slows and days (and nights) get longer and longer. It really just makes me wonder if that would ever happen, and if what happens in The Age of Miracles would actually happen in real life (solar storms, stronger gravity, etc).
7. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller. I haven’t read this one in a long time, but the one thing that has always stuck with me is the Colonel’s form letter of condolence: “Dear Mrs., Mr., Miss, or Mr. and Mrs. _______: Words cannot express the deep personal grief I experienced when your husband, son, father or brother was killed, wounded, or reported missing in action.” Have you ever seen any other words that have better captured the sheer absurdity and tragedy of war?
8. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey. This is another one that I have to reread; it makes me think mostly because my 9th grade English teacher made us think about it, but it also shows the craziness of electroshock therapy and lobotomies for people who probably weren’t actually mentally ill—just a little different. Thankfully methods are a lot more humane these days, but could you imagine living in such a time?
9. 1984 – George Orwell. As someone who is already highly skeptical of government (not in the conspiracy theory way, just in the “they’re not looking out for anyone but themselves” way), this book just made me more so. It takes a lot of mental gymnastics just to even wrap your mind around the principles of doublethink, and it horrifies me to think that such a thing could actually happen. Like Atlas Shrugged, I’m preeetty sure we don’t have to worry about it, but it still does make me think.
10. Harry Potter – J. K. Rowling. What could be more thought-provoking than a kid who regularly defeats the forces of evil, despite being a pretty much normal (albeit magical) teenager most of the time? The battle of Hogwarts in Deathly Hallows is one of my favorite parts of the entire series, and also makes me think quite a bit: if I was 17 and in that situation, would I be brave enough to fight the most evil wizard of all time and all his cronies? I certainly hope I would be…but I don’t know! It really makes me examine my own courage and motives. And that’s basically the best kind of book there is!
What books make you think?by