9 books everyone should read

March 18, 2021


Emma Ritter

Everyone should read several of these books in their lifetime.

“Only the very weak-minded refuse to be influenced by literature and poetry” -Cassandra Clare in the Infernal Devices 

There are a few books that I believe everyone must read outside of English courses before they die in order to broaden their horizons and expand their perspective on life. 

As a result of influential and formative past English teachers, I’ve always had a particular respect and admiration for literature, and it is because of this that I am frequently asked for book recommendations from friends and family. I’ve compiled a list of nine books that have given me a different outlook on life and that have changed me for the better.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska is a novel about a boy named Miles, or “Pudge.” He goes to a boarding school and meets Colonel, Takumi, and a wild and beautiful girl named Alaska. At this boarding school, he is pulled into a life that he’s never been familiar with. Miles learns how to live freely, to fall in love, and eventually, how to deal with loss. This is a beautiful book that was able to give me a different perspective on the value of relationships and the substantial effect that those you love have on your life. My favorite part of this novel was how I was able to identify with some of the characters, and how it shed a different light on losing someone you love.

We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.”

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak is a novel that takes place inside the head of a 9th-grade girl named Melinda. The book takes you through the aftermath of Melinda being raped at a high school party by a senior boy named Andy. The vulnerable journey she takes through her daily life after experiencing such trauma is heartbreaking, but we are able to see Melinda slowly stitch herself back together again to try and heal. My favorite part of the book was how raw and honest that the author made the main character’s experience, and after reading I found a passion for speaking out against sexual assault.

I just want to sleep. A coma would be nice. Or amnesia. Anything, just to get rid of this, these thoughts, whispers in my mind. Did he rape my head, too?”

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Nineteen Minutes is about a high school shooting in a small town in New Hampshire. This book goes into depth with several characters battling complex emotions. Students that attend this high school not only battle post-traumatic stress from the experience but are also forced to confront the part that they played in the web of this tragedy. I think Nineteen Minutes does a great job of showing just how much our actions can affect others. The reason I enjoyed this book so much is because of how much character development there was throughout the novel. It taught me that most things are not how they seem and just how important mental health is for ourselves and everyone around us.

If you gave someone your heart and they died, did they take it with them? Did you spend the rest of forever with a hole inside you that couldn’t be filled?”

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Out of My Mind is about a girl named Melody who suffers from cerebral palsy. She cannot walk or talk, but she is extremely intelligent. She has a photographic memory and can remember the smallest details-but nobody knows this about her. Those who diagnose her and those she goes to school with have no idea how bright Melody really is. With a look inside her head, we can see how she struggles to voice what she thinks. Even with this, Melody refuses to let cerebral palsy define who she is. She is determined to prove to everyone around her that although her disorder affects her body, it has no effect on her brain and that she is more than what others think of her. My favorite part of this novel is seeing Melody gain confidence and slowly be able to express herself throughout the book.

Words have always swirled around me like snowflakes-each one delicate and different, each one melting untouched in my hands.”

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Turtles All the Way Down is about a 16-year-old girl named Aza who suffers from severe OCD and Anxiety. She does all the normal things a teenage girl would do, like go to school and spend time with her friends, however, her mental illness always comes first. It interferes with every single part of Aza’s life. Aza not only was scared almost every second of the day, but she felt incredibly alone. One day, Aza meets someone named Davis. Although he does not struggle with anxiety, he and Aza have similar hardships. They are able to identify with each other in a way that others did not comprehend. The novel goes through Aza’s journey with her mental health, her relationship with Davis and her other friends, and Davis’s personal life, as well. I really enjoyed this book because I believe it gave an accurate representation of what having Anxiety is really like and because of how beautiful the relationships in this novel are written.

I mean, anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.”


Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie is about a reporter named Mitch, and his professor from 20 years prior, Morrie. Morrie is dying of ALS. One day, Mitch sees his previous professor on TV, speaking about his disease during an interview for a well-known reporter. Seeing this, he decides to contact Morrie and ask to meet with him before he passes away. Mitch came to realize that meeting with Morrie was much more meaningful to him than reporting on gossip and celebrities. He and Morrie begin to meet every Tuesday, and instead of school lessons, Morrie mentors Mitch on life lessons. This book gave me a completely new perspective on life, and along with Mitch, I was able to learn valuable lessons from Morrie.

Accept who you are; and revel in it.”

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a magical realism-filled novel about three generations of the Roux family and the tragedies and hardships that each member faced over the years. Starting with Emilienne, then her daughter Viviane, and finally Ava, we see that the motives of the outside world are not always innocent. Emilienne’s childhood was riddled with loss and heartbreak, Viviane faces troubles with a serious relationship in her teenage years, and Ava undergoes a life-altering tragedy as a result of being different. Each of these individual obstacles have a common theme: inevitable loss. Ava Lavender, the main character, not only faces ultimate devastation but also learns how to heal from events that make life seem especially merciless and unforgiving. This book resonates with me because I think it shows that although life is not easy, we can heal and grow from difficult experiences. 

I have traveled through continents, languages, and time trying to understand all that I am and all that has made me such.”

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Out of the Easy is a book about Josie Moraine, a young girl living in 1950s New Orleans. Her mother, an addict and a prostitute is unstable and absent. Because of this, she lives in the attic of a bookstore that she works at and is raised by the brothel madam that her mother works for. Her entire life, she has had to prove to others and herself that she is more than the person that life has made of her. Josie has a strong will and an admirable inner compass but struggles with how to live a life free of her mother’s failures. This book helped me come to the conclusion that nothing worthwhile is just handed to you, and that growing up under not ideal conditions has the potential to make you strong, not break you. Through Out of the Easy, I was taught that our decisions and attitude shape who we are.

Sometimes we set off down a road thinkin’ we’re goin’ one place and we end up another. But that’s okay. The important thing is to start.”

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming-of-age novel about a boy named Charlie and his experience in high school being an outsider or a wallflower. Charlie faces the typical ups and downs of being a teenager; however, he struggles to deal with an extremely traumatic past. Socially, Charlie has such an honest innocence, however, he also is very bright and views the world in a deep and intense way. After being befriended by two seniors, Patrick and Sam, Charlie realizes that he no longer has to be alone in his struggles or experiences and that we are oftentimes a lot more similar than we think. The book has such amazing themes of unlikely friendship, and the reason I recommend it to everyone is because the things that Charlie faces in high school are something that every teenager can relate to: feeling like you may not fit in. Whether this is because of a haunting past, like Charlie, or a different reason, Charlie’s experience makes you feel like you are not alone. This book taught me that feeling different from others is okay, and that staying true to ourselves is universally important in experiencing growth.

So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them.”



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