Hello friends! It’s time for another terrific round of “Which novel would you choose if you could only read ONE for the rest of your life?” Recall this question is purely rhetorical, and no TPSers were harmed in the making of this article.
Shout-out to Ethan Tang, Annette Gustafsson, Jack Livingstone, and Maria Copeland for helping me out with this article and waiting TWO. WHOLE. MONTHS. for the article to be released. (God bless your patient souls.)
So now, onto books.
1. The Humans by Matt Haig
This one’s for all you sci-fi fans out there! TPSer Ethan Tang efficiently described Haig’s novel as a book that “follows an alien from some universe or whatnot who comes to observe humans as a human. So he kills a man and takes the form of his body. The entire book is on his discovery and understanding of humans. It’s hilarious, but also a tearjerker.” Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d love to see what aliens think of us. Ethan points out that the book’s birds-eye perspective of humanity gives him a broader sense of understanding and appreciation for the way God created us. It shows us how to love ourselves and love God better. As Haig writes, (quite beautifully, if I might add), “If you think something is ugly, look harder. Ugliness is just a failure of seeing.” While summarizing the essence of the story, Ethan told me, “It takes its time to observe humans and judge and understand the way we act, but it’s never slow. It’s a book of hurting and healing, and why life is important. I don’t know if others will agree, but I think it should be the second most read book in the world. Second to the Bible.”
2. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
This novel is widely considered one of Steinbeck’s most ambitious, as the characters comprising two families vie for one another’s attention and reconnect with lost loved ones. Annette Gustafsson told me the heart of the story lies in its perception of good and evil: “East of Eden studies good vs. evil and the question: are men born good or born bad? Can they change? Are their character qualities defined by their parents’? Good vs. evil is a battle we will always fight until we are in Heaven; that is what makes it timeless.” In relaying a battle we all fight daily, Steinbeck focuses on a relatable and still meaningful theme. The book also spends time differentiating between what it means to be “good” and what it means to strive for perfection. As Steinbeck writes, “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
3. The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer
This novel is actually a memoir of a soldier who fought in World War II. Jack Livingstone considers this his favorite novel because, “It is a fascinating view of a battlefield—and what seems like an entirely new world—that most Americans have little knowledge of. It shows intense and at times brutal aspect of World War II on the other side of Europe from where American soldiers were. The tactics, terrain, and armies in the Eastern Front are immensely different than the Western Front, where the United States fought. Through the experiences of Guy Sajer, you can see not only the tactical and military struggle, but also the mental and physical struggle of the soldiers. It brings the most widespread war in the largest country in the world down to the small, personal level of just one soldier, Guy Sajer.” While reading the war novel, Jack realized, “War is a lot more than just shooting guns and battling the enemy. It reveals important lessons to military commanders, in that you must factor in the personal limits of your soldiers, the terrain, and weather when trying to vanquish the enemy. Beating your opponent is simply the end goal; getting there is much more.” As a memoir, the novel offers a different kind of suspense than historical fiction novels would, but its exploration of true events from the perspective of one who experienced the war firsthand offers a unique opportunity for readers eager to better understand war in general.
4. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
As Maria Copeland nicely summarizes, “The Way of Kings is the first in a projected ten-book series, The Stormlight Archives. So far, three books have been released. It’s the 800-page fantasy tale of a world’s war with formidable foes, inner tensions between cultures, and a handful of compelling characters who know nothing of each other at first, yet may soon be at the center of a conflict that’s been brewing for generations. I’d personally recommend it for ages 15+.” The story follows several seemingly unconnected characters in seemingly unconnected situations in a fantasy universe, including a shunned man, a peasant, and a noblewoman. Maria noted that Sanderson’s world is exceptional in the way it and its characters have been written and created: “Sanderson’s created the breathtakingly detailed world of Roshar, a collection of provinces struck periodically by dangerous storms (highstorms). He’s written whole cultures, down to details like currency and clothing standards. Somehow he manages to keep track of everything and spin it into an impressive tale. Regarding characters, his leap off the page. They talk like people you’d meet, except of course in their own world’s terms. They’re by turns sarcastic, impulsive, depressed, naive, furious, on top of the world. They second-guess themselves. They worry over moral dilemmas. And the ones you love are the ones who will make the right choice even if they’re going to suffer for it. The ones who’ve experienced pain, yet smile anyway.” Sanderson’s novel is artistic and realistic in the way he brings fantasy into reality, and transforms fictional characters into relatable people.
Alas! Now we must say good-bye. Sadly, this is our last article in which TPSers share their favorite novels, but do not despair! Comment below with your own favorites!