from the shelves: all-time favorites

Introducing a new blog series: “From the Shelves.” I love books and go for just about every genre of literature. (Except Young Adult Fiction, which is the one area of Border’s I avoid at all costs. No Twilight for me, thank you very much.) Although I’m not the most talented writer/book-reviewer, in this series of posts I will attempt to share with you some of my favorite books. I am quite the avid reader, and I am always ready to share my thoughts or opinions on literary works. I have probably read twice as many books as compared to the number of movies I’ve watched. (Of course, reading all 56 yellow hardcover Nancy Drew books multiple times back in middle school didn’t exactly help, either.)

Anyway, to kick of the series I wanted to introduce a few of my all-time favorite books to you. I’m sure you’ve heard of most (if not all) of them, but they’re such great reads it would be silly not to include them. In no particular order…

1. The Bookseller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad. One of my favorite Middle East/Current Events books. If you know anything about me, you that that I have a slight obsession with the Middle East (especially Iran and the Israel/Palestine conflict). I’m not an expert by any means, but I read as much as I can about this region in an effort to steer away from ignorant mistakes and assumptions about Middle Eastern culture. There are many books I’ve read on the subject, but I like this one in particular because Seierstad takes you inside people’s daily lives and gives you a very intimate glimpse into Afghanistan. It’s also very easy to read, a major plus for nonfiction in my book.

2. Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. This is one of my more recent reads from this list, and I strongly recommend that everyone reads this book. It’s not in my immediate area of interest in terms of nonfiction, but I loved it all the same. The story is well-written (it’s told by a journalist) and truly inspiring. And I do not say “inspiring” lightly — this book has 100% deserved that title. It’s the perfect “one person can make a difference” story.

3. The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut. I can’t believe I had never read any Vonnegut before this summer. One of his earlier works (and, admittedly, the only one I’ve read as of yet), The Sirens of Titan is bursting with creativity, originality, and insight. It seemed to me to be a perfect mix of The War of the Worlds and 1984 (and probably some other book I haven’t read yet). It’s a very easy-to-read book, and Vonnegut’s simple, fuss-free prose is refreshing and spot-on.

4. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. This book is stunning. O’Brien’s writing style is very clear — like Vonnegut’s in the sense that it’s free of endless metaphors and heavy vocabulary words. Which serves this book quite well, because it takes you straight to the heart of the story as the author artfully blurs the line between the real truth and the “story truth” in this work of “fiction.” You really must read it to fully understand O’Brien’s genius.

5. A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I’ve heard mixed reviews about this book from people — many seem to not enjoy it, but I loved it. The story line is perfectly tragic — beginning as an innocent mistake and then snowballing into something evil and all-consuming. But it was also the writing itself that drew me in. I felt as though every sentence in the book was perfectly worded to show emotions and thoughts without an superfluous details.

6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. We all know it and we’ve all read it. (There would be serious issues if someone had never read To Kill a Mockingbird.) It’s a classic novel for many reasons, which I won’t bother describing here. But let’s just say this list would not be complete without this work.

7. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. This book is most beautiful in the original French version, but if you don’t know French, it’s available in English. It’s a classic children’s book, but every wonderfully illustrated chapter hides deeper meaning behind simple, innocent words. Saint-Exupéry’s novel is a staple of literature.

8. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. If I had to pick just one favorite book of all time, I would choose The Poisonwood Bible. I love Kingsolver’s eloquent writing style and the way she takes the time to develop each character. By alternating the telling of the story through the voices of the Price sisters, she paints a multi-dimensional portrait of the African Congo and the twisted ideology of the girls’ missionary father.

9. The Alchemist by Paul Coelho. I read this book every summer (this will be my fourth year running) because I learn something new every time. Truly, this book grows as you grow and you will see things differently every time you read it. The story itself is quite basic — a fundamental search for one’s purpose in life — but heavily laced with deeper meaning.

10. Macbeth by William Shakespeare. I’m not a huge Shakespeare fan (let’s be honest, his page-long metaphors can get quite annoying), but I somehow feel differently about Macbeth. It’s my favorite play of his, and I’ve enjoyed studying it multiple times. It’s definitely much easier to read than many of his other pieces (read: King Henry IV, Part One, etc, etc) so I would recommend it for anyone who wants to become more familiar with Shakespeare’s work.

What books are on your reading lists? Any you would recommend for me? I love getting new books!


The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan

How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein

{ Source: Images via Google Image Search. }


7 thoughts on “from the shelves: all-time favorites

  1. I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird and The Alchemist, from your list. Loved To Kill a Mockingbird. But can’t say the same about The Alchemist! You should give a shot to Khaled Hosseinie’s books. And check out (if you haven’t read yet) The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga and The Glass Room by Simon Mawer too…

  2. Wonderful list, and I must agree with you on Kingsolver’s “The Poisonwood Bible.” An aching, exquisite read.

    Ever read anything by Khaled Hosseini?
    “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns” are beautiful reads, although I must admit I preferred Suns…

  3. I’m so excited for you to discover more Vonnegut. He’s one of my favorite authors. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read of his. I think Breakfast of Champions is my favorite.

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