Weekly Lists #127: Perspective Changing Books

So in last month’s reading update, I mentioned how I wasn’t really too happy with the books I’d read that month. Sure, there was one book I loved. But that was about it. No other life changing moments, no books that hung on to me for days, apart from that one book. And quite frankly, if I’m going to be reading? I want at least some of what I’m reading to do just that: hang on to me for days. And that got me thinking: what exactly makes a perspective changing book, for me? What makes me give a book 5 stars? And more specifically: which books like that have stuck with me the most?

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Now, there’s quite the big chance that I’m going to do another post like this. Because, you know. If you look at my “re-re-re-re-re-read shelf” on Goodreads? There’s just a couple more of them. But as I said: these are the ones that stuck out to me the most right now.

1. Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson

“Speak up for yourself–we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication.

In Laurie Halse Anderson’s powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

I’ve written a whole review on this book which expresses how much I adored it much better than I could ever do here, so… Go read that! (Goodreads, Amazon*)

2. The Brothers Lionheart, Astrid Lindgren

The Brothers Lionheart (Swedish: Bröderna Lejonhjärta) is a children’s fantasy novel written by Astrid Lindgren. It was published in the autumn of 1973 and has been translated into 46 languages. Many of its themes are unusually dark and heavy for the children’s book genre. Disease, death, tyranny, betrayal and rebellion are some of the dark themes that permeate the story. The lighter themes of the book involve platonic love, loyalty, hope, courage and pacifism.

The two main characters are two brothers; the older Jonatan and the younger Karl. The two brothers’ surname was originally Lion, but they are generally known as Lionheart. Karl’s nickname is Skorpan (Rusky) since Jonatan likes these typical Swedish toasts or crusts.

In Nangijala, a land in “the campfires and storytelling days”, the brothers experience adventures. Together with a resistance group they lead the struggle against the evil Tengil, who rules with the aid of the fearsome fire-breathing dragon, Katla.

Sure, this is a children’s book. However, it’s also one of the first books I ever read that touched on the concept of death in such a thoughtful way. But also, totally age-appropriate? It’s basically just amazing. (Goodreads, Amazon*)

3. 84, Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff

This charming classic love story, first published in 1970, brings together twenty years of correspondence between Helene Hanff, at the time, a freelance writer living in New York City, and a used-book dealer in London at 84, Charing Cross Road. Through the years, though never meeting and separated both geographically and culturally, they share a winsome, sentimental friendship based on their common love for books. Their relationship, captured so acutely in these letters, is one that has touched the hearts of thousands of readers around the world.

Again: just go read the review. But if you don’t feel like clicking that right now: the book is amazing, it’s a book written in letters and breathes of love for books. And how that can survive through the ages, across oceans and bring together people. (Goodreads, Amazon*)

4. The Love Song of J. Alfred Pucock, T.S. Elliot

Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherized upon a table; Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, The muttering retreats Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels.

This was basically the piece of writing that made me realize that, hey, even if I had to study it non-stop for school? Literature (with the capital L) could be fun. The more you know, right? (Goodreads, Amazon*)

5. Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day comes a devastating new novel of innocence, knowledge, and loss. As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were.

Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special–and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. Suspenseful, moving, beautifully atmospheric, Never Let Me Go is another classic by the author of The Remains of the Day.

I don’t know whether I first came across this story on just the right time or whether it would have this effect no matter when I read it. Either way, this is the book that made me slightly weary for the future of humanit. Also, the book that made me more interested in reading “real literature” because apparently? YA wasn’t the only genre that could get dystopian right. (The irony being, of course, that while I’ve started reading more “real literature”? I don’t think any of it’s actually been dystopian or even vaguely similar in genre to this one) (Goodreads, Amazon*)

What are some of the books that have changed your perspective? On life, on literature, on anything else? Be sure to let me know below!

-Saar