I grew up hating books. They seemed too boring, too long, and too uninteresting for my taste. Watching TV or playing with my friends always seemed like a better idea. That was until I got to
forcefully read one of my favorite books for a school project in 7th grade. I won’t tell you what that book was, but what I will tell you, is that after finding a book that I truly enjoyed my life completely changed.
As a girl, I feel that there are certain pressures bestowed on us by society, and we sometimes have no idea how to react to certain life situations or challenges that are thrown at us. I didn’t really have a personality growing up, and I sure as heck had no idea what I thought about love, life, education, traveling, and any sort of relationships. I was constantly trying to mold myself into the perfect person (
using the horrible social norms we see in the media of course) and failing. I never really shared my opinions or deviated from the gender roles and expectations that I always saw around me. That did not work out very well for a while, and I quickly found out why and all the answers and life lessons I needed through, believe it or not, books.
There are actually 7 books that shaped me into the person that I am today, and really influenced my thoughts about culture, politics, women/men, sexuality, depression etc.
I want to recommend them all to you my wonderful readers. These books taught me life lessons in regards to having an honest character, learning to become “mannered” and “cultured”, choosing a higher education, figuring out why it’s totally alright to not be the same as everyone else, why being a woman is actually a GREAT thing, why men/ boys/women act the way they do, and a looooot more. Basically, these books will teach you about the harsh reality of life, and how you can become the person you want to be (or already are).
- Gone With the Wind
Scarlett O’Hara might actually be my all-time female idol…and a prime example of idiotic white supremacy in the female form. However, she probably taught me more lessons about rising from the ashes and being a strong, resilient, independent woman than any other character ever did…and I read a lot of books. Scarlett basically teaches females what NOT to do (she’s a rich, spoiled, Southern belle who needs the world to wait on her), and that it’s okay to radiate self-confidence and always go for what you want, regardless of what others think/say of you. Nonetheless, don’t let that self-confidence turn into vanity like she did. Scarlett also reminds us why we should not always play games with whom we love, because those games will quickly backfire and burn us to the ground. That applies to friendships and romantic relationships in her case. Moreover, she teaches the reader the negative side effects on not separating reality from fantasy, and why reaching for the stars while pretty much holding the moon at her feet is the worst idea. Last but not least, perhaps the most important thing Scarlett teaches us in GWTW, is to GIVE instead of always taking… and expecting more.
- Catcher in the Rye
This book is the testimony of an anxiety-filled, troubled, hospitalized boy who has no hope for his future. He is incredibly judgmental of everything and everyone he meets, and throughout the plot of the novel we find out what got him into the psychiatric hospital he tells his story from. This is one of the best books I read in my entire life. You won’t regret picking it up. There’s a reason for it being on the classic book list in most schools in the United States.
- 13 Reasons Why
This novel addresses suicide. It was my first time reading about the subject, and it was the first time I understood why people get to such a stage of depression and grief at such early years in their life. It really taught me how much impact the words that I say on a daily basis have on others, and how their words and actions impact me as well. This book is incredibly depressing, I am not going to lie, but it is educational for multiple reasons. I read it when I was 14, and I remember re-evaluating who my friends were at the time, what my daily influences were, and how kind and honest I was being to others after I finished it.I was going through a rough patch too, so I identified with the characters really well. Huge reality check. This book is apparently getting its own TV production too, directed by the one and only Selena Gomez, on Netflix.
This novel specifically addresses the rape culture of the 2000’s through the eyes of a freshman in high school, who experiences a violent rape at her first high school party. It discusses victim-blaming, how a person can easily get away with rape in the U.S.( and the rest of the world), how white privilege affects this situation in an educational environment, and what a victim endures after such a terrifying and traumatizing experience. I was really shocked at how well-written this book was, and I did not know much about what “rape culture” meant back when I read it. It is such a blunt and raw novel, and with everything going on in the world today, I would say that it is a must read for any individual. Everything described in this novel can easily happen (if it’s not already happening) around you. A movie adaptation for this book does exist, and Kirsten Stewart plays the main character.
- The Great Gatsby
This novel, which you probably already read, is an all-time classic. I have extreme hate for a “certain”main character in the book, for certain reasons that lead to certain tragedies, but I also love the way everything plays out in the plot. This novel is set in the 1920’s, and it follows the mystery surrounding the incredible Jay Gatsby. One of the saddest, most realistic love stories is revealed in it, and a lot of different plot twists occur. Lots of the dialogue in this book, in terms of feminism, made me angry, but I realized after finishing the novel that the world has definitely evolved since the 20’s for women. Either way, the lesson I learned in this book is to basically always trust your gut. Additionally, you never give up your life and dreams for a person who might not be there at the end of the day. Put yourself first, and make sure your love is actually real (and safe) before giving up everything else in your life.
- Perks of Being a Wallflower
This book will be the “Bible” for my future children. I am going to make them read it right before they enter high school, since the main character is a freshman, and I think all the issues (depression, sexuality, physical abuse, gender roles, molestation, consent, panic attacks, anxiety, happiness, education, friendship etc. ) depicted in the novel are extremely relevant for a 14/15 year old to read about. As many of you probably already know, there was a movie adaptation of this novel made, starring Emma Watson and Logan Lerman. Even if you watched the movie, I HIGHLY recommend reading the book since many parts were left out that are very meaningful. The film does a pretty incredible job staying true to the book, but like I said, I still recommend reading the novel.
- This Side of Paradise
This whole novel is a kind of a depressing story about the trial and error path to adulthood and happiness. The story is centered on Amory Blaine, a rich individual who attends Princeton University before WWI. The main thing about Amory is that he is incredibly prideful and feels that he is superior to most, which ultimately leads to his depressing lifestyle. The major theme of this book is disillusionment. Amory develops views about politics, religion, love, social class, and friendship throughout the plot, and we can definitely learn a lot from that part as readers. Furthermore, he constantly gets challenged by people that are well-read and intelligent, and his ego gets in the way of most of his romantic relationships during this time. Towards the end of the novel Amory has quite the cynical view of the world, and becomes immensely depressed. This is a must read for those who feel like they belong nowhere.