As I continue the second half of this top ten book list, I can’t help but think how controversial yet personal so many of these books are for me. Some of these books made me uncomfortable. One in particular left me outright offended. All of them challenged my preconceptions in some way. I like the challenge, but, more than that, I like the honesty that so many of these books bring. These books and their authors aren’t afraid to be real and that truly inspires me as a reader and as a writer.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I love Jane Austen’s writing. Her prose style is simply breath-taking. Her use of language, however, pales in comparison to her understanding of character conflict and romantic tension. Before the “love” scene was ever deemed appropriate in fiction, Austen was weaving plotlines with more subtleties and complexities of boy meets girl than most modern day authors could hope to achieve in ten books, let alone one. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite from her treasure trove of work. When I want a good love story, I turn again and again to Ms. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
While I’ve read all of the Harry Potter books multiple times, this book remains my favorite. Rowling’s world-building is so imaginative and fun, her characters are flawed and interesting, her humor is captivating, and her sense of mystery is phenomenal. Rowling’s plot twists astound me. *Spoiler Alert* I love the fact that the person we think of as the third book’s main antagonist actually turns out to be one of Harry’s greatest allies.
The Autobiography of Malcom X by Malcom X as told to Alex Haley
This book was, in many ways, one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read. Malcom X tried to paint himself in a noble light, but most of the time all I saw was a bitter man broken by his hatred toward his oppressors and himself. Malcom X was a self-admitted draft dodger, drug dealer, burglar, and felon until His conversion in the Muslim-based cult of the Nation of Islam in the early 1950s. The teachings of NOI leader Elijah Mohamed sowed a deep seed of hatred for Caucasians in Malcom and made him just as blind to the good in people of other ethnicities as many of them were toward people who shared his own ethnicity. Malcom railed against men such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for choosing to try to work with white and black men and women to solve the issue of racial prejudice in 1960s America, but I think Dr. King’s methods consistently proved the better method toward gaining racial equality. Eventually, Malcom himself recognized his own prejudices and left the NOI to seek a more moderate worldview. He was assassinated by three of the organization’s members about a year later.
What struck me most about this book was the fact that racial prejudice can be experienced by anyone from of any ethnic and economic background. The book also made me aware of some of the many inaccurate and accurate religious and political arguments on both sides of the racial equality issue.
The Shack by Wm. Paul Young
The Shack is one of those rare books that made me stop and really search myself for the reasons I believe certain things about life, God, and other people. The book, while deeply spiritual, didn’t feel like it bashed me over the head with religion. Instead it coaxed answers out of me through its protagonist’s troubled questions.
The book, while fiction, is beautifully layered with truths about God, people, and what our relationships with Him and each other are supposed to look like. It doesn’t answer all of the questions that it posits. Instead it asks as many questions as it can and leaves you and God to come up with the answers together. It is a book with enough depth to hold up to multiple readings during many different points of life and several different stages of grief. This isn’t a soft book, but it is a good book.
Skinshifter by Alycia Christine
At risk of seeming self-serving, I have included Skinshifter in this list for a very specific reason: Skinshifter taught me how to write a book. Since I am a person who learns my skills by doing them over and over again until I get them right, I had to write a book before determining whether or not I actually could write a book. Skinshifter was the first book that I ever wrote. It was also the first book that I ever rewrote. I started this book once when I was a teenager and once again while I was in college. I managed to write two whole chapters before I got stuck the second time. After another two years, I was able to write the third chapter and then I never looked back. I wrote most of Skinshifter over the course of two-and-a-half years from 2006 to 2009. Then I left it alone, so that I could began writing its sequel in late 2010. Skinshifter has been through seven revisions at this point and, by the time it’s published, the novel will be on revision eight. While the task of making this book something special has been long and arduous, it’s worth the effort. The other books in this list proved to me that I was a reader, but Skinshifter proved to me that I was a writer.
Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!
The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!