This month, I asked some TPSers the hardest question a bookworm could be asked: if you could only read one literary work for the rest of your life, what would it be? (Cue dramatic movie trailer music.) Well, maybe the music needn’t be quite so dramatic because the question is completely rhetorical; I’m not actually going to make them read only ONE book for the rest of their lives (that’s just too cruel). Without further ado, let’s turn the spotlight to our fellow TPSers!
- A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Kalijah Rahming claims if she could only read one book for the rest of her life, it would be A Little Princess, because “of its deeper messages and meaning. Although courage and perseverance are common themes in novels, the way that Burnett describes Sara’s every emotion and allows you to truly see her character development is fantastic.” The story follows young Sara, who lives with her father in India for years until he sends her away to boarding school in London, where she is forced to learn under the rule of the horrible Miss Minchin. After some unfortunate incidents back home, Sara is left orphaned and in debt, and with everything taken from her, she is forced to live in the cold, lonely attic of the boarding school. Although Sara is repeatedly abused by Miss Minchin and the servants of the school, Kalijah says Sara’s never-faltering generosity “changed my perspective on a lot of things… I am reminded to treat everyone with kindness and be generous, even if I do not feel like it.”
2. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
I must admit, it’s a little hard to have a favorite book list that excludes the Harry Potter books. Two TPSers have chosen the series as their favorite: Madelaine Setiawan and Allison Pewett. The plotline has become an instant classic for readers of all ages because of its focus on identity and becoming who you are. As Madelaine told me, “I realized that sometimes it’s okay to be different… Dumbledore says, ‘there will be a time when you have to choose between what’s easy and what is right.’ Sometimes you have to lose friends or face undesirable situations for doing what is right. And that’s important.” For those of you who are not familiar with the series, it follows Harry Potter, a wizard attending Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, and his quest to destroy Voldemort, an evil being bent on killing Harry Potter and spreading the influence of dark magic. Allison notes, “There are so many amazing quotes in the Harry Potter books,” and I could not agree more. Allison named a few of her favorites, including “Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic” (Dumbledore) and the classically sarcastic, “There’s no need to call me Sir, Professor” (Harry). Apart from the story’s focus on identity, Allison commented that the series helped refine the way she wrote. She said, “I learned from reading Harry Potter that one doesn’t need to use flowery language or over-the-top literary devices…Instead, one needs to have a strong plot, equally strong characters, and a richly developed story-world,” and the Harry Potter series certainly exemplifies this approach.
3. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
This book was suggested by TPS’s Rachel Shey. It follows Scarlett O’Hara, a spoiled Southern belle who must adapt to the disappearance of her world as she knows it in the midst of the Civil War. Rachel notes that the story “remains timeless by employing many complex characters: Scarlett, the tenacious heroine; Ashley, the man who slowly dies inside when Southern culture fades away; Rhett, the amoral, entertaining rich smuggler (a pre-incarnate Han Solo); and Melanie, loyal, sweet, and in some ways taken advantage of. These people’s exploits are interesting to read about, and their struggles are struggles that everyone can experience and sympathize with.” The novel, which is extraordinarily lengthy, might I add, also explores the possibility of hope in a hopeless situation, some characters remaining optimistic, and others letting the hopelessness of their situation drown them inside. Yet, as Scarlett says, “Tomorrow is another day.”
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
An illustrated psychological horror (but don’t worry, it’s not Stephen King level of scary), A Monster Calls follows Conor, a boy whose mother fights an ongoing battle with cancer. Each night, he has a nightmare about his mother that wakes him up screaming. Each night, the dream is the same. And then a monster comes out of Conor’s yard, claiming to help Conor in his situation. Faith Thompson chose this novel because she says, “It’s a very personal book for me, and I love it. I have definitely been changed as a result of leaving it–I believe now that there can be modern fiction that feels classic and goes deeper than superficiality… The heart of the story is that stories have power–at least on the surface. But A Monster Calls is very deeply layered and requires multiple readings to catch everything. It’s an allegory of grief. It’s a story of family. It’s a suspense novel. It’s got so much depth, and I love that.”
(Cue dramatic credits music.) So, there we have it, the favorite books of our fellow TPSers. Special thanks to Kalijah, Madelaine, Allison, Rachel, and Faith, who helped me out with this article by answering such a hard question so willingly, and look forward to next month’s article, where we’ll hear from Ethan Tang, Annette Gustafsson, Jack Livingstone, and Maria Copeland! Meanwhile, comment below with how you would answer such a difficult question.