If you have been following me for a while, then you know that I play a lot of video games and that I consider gaming to be my primary hobby. When I get bored with gaming, however, I do have other interests, believe it or not! Therefore, since I am participating in Blogmas and have a lot of days to fill with content, I thought I would spend some time sharing my favorite things from other areas of media. Since I read almost as much as I game, starting with my top ten favorite books (or series) seems like a good place to start!
10. Hell or High Water – Joy Castro
Hell or High Water is a dark thriller novel in a lot of respects, following a reporter in New Orleans that is writing her first large piece for a newspaper and her research gets her wrapped up in the investigation of a missing person in the area. Apart from a pretty good twist that I won’t spoil, this book holds a special place in my heart for a few reasons. First of all, I hated thriller and mystery novels up until the day that I read this book and it changed my mind, leading me to find a number of amazing authors that I now consider favorites. Secondly, I actually read this book for a class in college, and we had the author do a video call with us and we got to ask her questions about the book for an entire class session. Getting to talk to the author about her intentions for various plot and character aspects was a unique experience that I am glad I got to experience. This book doesn’t have the attention it deserves, and I would highly recommend that people give it a try!
9. I Am Legend – Richard Matheson
I Am Legend is technically a novella in a larger book with other stories, but the novella is the story that stood out to me. This book has been adapted to film a number of times, most recently with a version starring Will Smith, but believe me when I say that the movie adaptations and the book are completely different. Though I do have a soft spot for the movie adaptations and liked them enough to read the book when I was younger, where the movie is action-packed and exciting, the book is more of a slow burn, diving into the realities and horrors of being the last man on earth surrounded by these blood-sucking monstrosities. Even though I haven’t read the book in years, I vividly remember so many passages, such as when the protagonist talks about how important dental hygiene is now because he has to do his own dental work, and I appreciate what a well-crafted dystopian world Matheson created.
8. The Illuminae Files series – Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
The Illuminae Files is a really hard series to describe, both because the plot is intense and goes a lot of different directions, and also because the books are formatted in a really unique manner. Basically, this trilogy is a young adult space opera written like a dossier. Instead of having the story told in novel form, the book reads like “found footage”, with instant messages, diagrams, memos, and descriptions of camera footage being pieced together in order to create a full narrative. I started reading this book because I was intrigued by the way it was written, but I stayed because the story is a wild ride. Plagues, AI sentience, rebellions, and moral quandaries are in abundance in this series, keeping me up all night tearing through the book in order to find out what happens next. This series also got me interested in science fiction, which means I then picked up a little video game series called Mass Effect, which is now one of my favorite video game franchises. Definitely give The Illuminae Files a chance if you are looking for some strong, but still fairly lighthearted, science fiction.
7. Night – Elie Wiesel
Night is such an odd book to rank in a favorites list, because describing a memoir about a man’s experience in Auschwitz isn’t the kind of book that can be loved in the traditional sense. I read this for the first time when I was twelve on my own for a book report, and again when I was fifteen for a class discussion. Both times, I had to read the book in short bursts, bit by bit, because Wiesel has a way of telling his story with gut-wrenching vividness. A book like this shows humanity in its darkest times, and it’s unsettling as an adult, but it has a particularly large impact when reading it as a child. I was slightly traumatized as a child by reading this book, but it also occurred to me that Wiesel was about my age when he was actually in Auschwitz, so as I was upset by reading his words, he was experiencing his own story first-hand. Realizing that these events actually happened and this isn’t just some fictionalized dystopia is a sobering fact to comprehend as a child, but also a necessary one so we don’t repeat our own mistakes.
6. Princess Academy – Shannon Hale
I realize that a lot of people are probably never going to trust my opinions on video games again, but that’s okay because Princess Academy is an amazing book and I stand by it. My copy is surprisingly worn down from the amount of times I have read it. This is a middle-grade novel following Miri, a girl living in a small mountain village. The prince of the kingdom announces that he is going to pick a bride from Miri’s village, meaning that all eligible girls must attend a school that teaches them how to be proper princesses. The story is simplistic, but it reads like a fairy tale, which I adore, and the writing is simple enough for children to enjoy, but still strong enough for adults to read and enjoy, as well. There are sequels, but I’m not sure I will read them, as the book feels magical on its own and sequels may just ruin that effect.
5. Wintergirls – Laurie Halse Anderson
I love Laurie Halse Anderson’s books, and choosing the one I like most is quite a challenge. Wintergirls is the book I went with, however, as the writing style is unique and I haven’t seen anything like it before. The novel follows Lia, who suffers from an eating disorder. She used to engage in her already self-destructive behaviors with her friend, Cassie, but when Cassie dies, Lia begins to spiral out of control. What I found most engaging about the book is that Lia has a lot of destructive thoughts, but when she’s in denial of those thoughts or wants to keep them from coming out, the author uses the strike through font (
this) in order to show Lia physically trying to keep these thoughts from overpowering her. It’s a creative way of looking at intrusive thoughts and I thought it added a lot of layering to the depth of the story and fleshed out Lia’s character.
4. I Saw Esau: The Schoolchild’s Pocket Book – Iona Opie
This is purely a nostalgia pick. I Saw Esau is a collection of schoolyard rhymes and poems, like the sorts of funny sayings that kids would hurl at each other from across the school yard. My mom bought this for me when I was in kindergarten and I’ve been in love with it ever since. To this day, I quote poems from this book in my daily conversation, and I give it a read at least once a year. If the fun wordplay wasn’t enough, the poems are also illustrated by Maurice Sendak, most known for his book Where the Wild Things Are. I read Where the Sidewalk Ends as a kid like many others, and while I did enjoy it, I Saw Esau is still where my heart lies when it comes to goofy children’s poetry collections.
3. And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie
While many of my favorite books come from the ages of twelve to fifteen, which makes sense, given that I would be growing into my grown-up tastes during that period of my life, this is a book I read just a few months ago. There are two things that got me to read this scholarly classic: the Family Guy episode that parodies the book, and playing Danganronpa and realizing that the premise of this game series is basically identical to And Then There Were None. Having read it, I can honestly say that I can’t envision any other mystery book I read in my life ever topping this one. The fear is palpable as these characters get picked off one by one on a secluded island and the reader desperately tries to determine which of the island’s residents is the cause of all the murders. I read this book in a single sitting, and I have since been on a binge reading spree with everything Agatha Christie that I can get my hands on.
2. Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
I suspect that the majority of twenty-somethings out there have Harry Potter somewhere on their top ten because, for many of us, these books are the reason we started reading. For me, my Harry Potter journey begins by seeing the first movie. I wanted to know what happened after the movie ends, but I didn’t want to wait for another movie, so my mom and I went and bought the second book. While I was old enough to be able to read the words on the page without issue, the size of the book caused me to struggle with my comprehension and retention of the story’s plot points, so my mom and I read the first four books together. In fact, when I was a little older and decided I wanted to read the fifth book by myself, I may have broken her heart a little bit. I have read every book in the series at least twice, and some books in the series at least five times. Harry Potter is the reason that I got into reading, and is basically responsible for every other book on this list (except I Saw Esau), so I owe J.K. Rowling a lot.
1. The Stand – Stephen King
Here it is: My number one book of all time. My journey with The Stand actually starts with that cheesy TV miniseries from the 1990s that had Molly Ringwald in it. I watched it as a kid and thought the story was fascinating, and it probably kick-started my interest in post-apocalyptic books and video games. One day, I was on a vacation with my family that I really wasn’t enjoying because it involved nature and didn’t have wi-fi, so I found this book at a used bookstore and figured that a book this long should take my mind off of the vacation. I will admit that part of the allure to reading this book was being fourteen and able to say “look at this 1400 page book I’m reading” as I dragged the tome around from place to place. Still, the further I got into the story, the more hooked I became. I found the book’s story to feel like an epic, following a mix of characters from before the disease makes the world fall apart all the way to the rebuilding of society and an epic battle between good and evil. Hopefully, I get a chance to reread this masterpiece in the future, as well as check out some other books from Stephen King, because I’m sure there are some other gems in his slightly intimidating collection.
Well, hopefully no one judges me too much for my taste in books. I realize that the books I read differ greatly from the games I tend to play, which is why I’ve been a bit shy about sharing my book taste up to now. I’ve enjoyed writing about books enough, however, that I think I may do monthly wrap-ups of what I’ve been reading, just to show how playing a game may inspire me to pick up a book I’ve been meaning to read and vice-versa. What are your favorite books? Let me know in the comments section!