A Few of My Favorite Books

A friend just wrote on her blog about how she has recently been reading more, and she asked for recommendations of books readers recommend. I posted a few of my suggestions, and decided to post my thoughts here as well. I really should add more to this list, because it is just a smattering of some of my favorite books; it is by no means complete.

I’ve been reading a lot of the classics the last few years, especially those that I read during high school. I personally hated most of the books I read for school. I think the fact that I had to read them invariably made it a miserable experience. In reading many of them again recently I have almost always found them to be quite enjoyable.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is one of my all time favorite books. I read it in 9th grade and hated it; I’ve read it twice in the last few years and loved it. It is medium lengthened and pretty enthralling from start to finish. You come to know and love many of the characters, while coming to understand the horror of slavery. The book is perfectly balanced with social commentary. I think everyone should read it. Be prepared to cry at least a few times.

Dracula by Bram Stoker is a short read and is extremely enjoyable. You won’t be able to put it down. It is written in 1st person from the perspective of all of the main characters in turn and is very well done. It is well worth reading just for the fun of it.

I just finished reading My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor. It is a short, but fascinating autobiographical account of a neuroanatomist that experiences a severe stroke. She describes what it was like to experience the total deterioration of her brain’s left hemisphere capacities and functions over the course of 4 hours and her subsequent 8 year complete recovery. It sheds a lot of light on the way the brain works and the distinction between the two hemispheres of the brain. (For more information, read this post.)

I really enjoyed Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, but I think that one is a little more difficult to get through than some others. I found it very insightful in understanding obsession to the point of complete self destruction.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas is well worth a reread if you’re like me and didn’t get anything out of the books you read in high school. It is lengthy but not too difficult—be sure to read the unabridged version. The themes and messages in the book are much more powerful than those in any of the movies made about it.

The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis is a great book. It is pretty short, but is one of the most quoted nonscripture religious books out there. It’s not too difficult, entertaining, and quite insightful.

Continuing the religous theme, another book I’ve read recently that I wholeheartedly recommend is The Broken Heart by Bruce C Hafen. Elder Hafen discusses what it means to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit and how that relates to the Atonement.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky is also on my list of favorites. It is a rather dark psychological exploration of the main character committing a serious crime and the subsequent mental punishment he experienced thereafter. I found it frighteningly similar to my own thought patterns and mental tendencies and quite insightful into the human psyche. I think it is a phenomenal book, though I know many people who hated it and found it quite depressing.

Finally, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo is among my favorites. It’s very long and a much more difficult book to get through. I don’t recommend it early on in your rediscovery of reading, but you should read it later at some point. Hugo goes on a number of long tangents (like 50 to 100 pages each) on what some would say are completely irrelevant topics. When you do read it, it is still worth reading the unabridged version (about 1500 pages) even with the tangents because of the detail, particular in the background and development of each of the characters.