As hectic as our lives can be, it is essential for us to read multiple novels throughout our high school years.Whether it’s historical, fiction, psychological, our getting exposed to a wide range of literature will enhance not only our writing skills, but also knowledge. Below are ten novels—ranging from fiction to psychological, from historical to christianity—that I find engaging and thought-provoking. I hope you, along with your peers, attempt one or more of these books and truly embrace yourself into the powerful content and prose.
1.Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Genre: Non-fiction, Self-help, Business, Feminism, Leadership
Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is an empowering novel that has changed not only the lives of women, but also the perspective of the society. Dissecting and examining current gender inequality, anecdotes, data and research, Sandberg reveals the harsh reality that surrounds women in the workplace. She advocates that women should Lean In at work and explains how vital it is for men and women to unite in making progress to this issue. Gender inequality is critical to know in our fast-developing country; yet, so little know about it. Reading this novel will make you ponder about aspects that you have never thought of and will make you want to lean into your work and responsibilities.
“Women need to shift from thinking ‘I’m not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that — and I’ll learn by doing it.’”
“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”
- Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Genre: Non-fiction, Self Help, Autobiography, Inspirational
Just as the subtitle states, this runaway bestseller novel revolves around two man and a concept: an old man, a young man, and life’s greatest lesson. Through the perspective of the author, Tuesdays with Morrie recounts the colloquial—yet inspiring—conversations that a young man named Mitch have with a dying, old man called Morrie. The two planned to talk about how they are doing; however, it turned out to be a final class about how to live. A heartbreaking and inspiring novel that will change your life completely.
“Tuesdays with Morrie has made me hungry to find a teacher like Morrie”- Anonymous Freshmen
“The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” -Mitch Albom
3. Everything is Illuminated– Jonathan Foer
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Contemporary
Jonathan Foer’s novel is divided into three sectors and perspectives: recount of journey, history, and letter. The novel mainly focuses on the journey of Foer who travels to Ukraine with a blinded man, a lustful dog and a bad translator in quest to find the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazi. The other two sectors seem to be completely divergent and non-linear to the story; however, these three intertwine as the story drives through and remind us that confusion is what makes this novel so unique and powerful. Beautiful prose, jargons and sentences that will guarantee you to be illuminated—you will cry, scream and smile.
“She was a genius of sadness, immersing herself in it, separating its numerous strands, appreciating its subtle nuances. She was a prism through which sadness could be divided into its infinite spectrum.” —Jonathan Foer
- Letter from Birmingham by Martin Luther King Jr.
Genre: Non-fiction, Politics, History
Through the play of words, Martin Luther King Jr. portrays the injustice that evolves and dominates in Birmingham. The letter was, initially, to the clergyman who forced him to stop campaigning; however, instead, it is a depiction of the cruel inequality that still lingers around human and a compelling defense of nonviolence. Inspiring and powerful, Martin Luther King Jr. guides the readers through his cogent logic, enabling you to have a firmer grasp on reality.
“Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Anyone who lives inside the US can never be considered an outsider anywhere in the country”
“Justice too long delayed is justice denied”
- City of Thieves by David Benioff
Genre: Historical Fiction
Imprisoned for looting, Lev—a socially awkward, passive Jewish boy—meets an outgoing, garrulous Cossack deserter named Kolya. Rather than being executed, the two are given an alternative: to find a dozen eggs for the colonel’s daughter’s wedding cake. In the war-torn city of Leningrad where even finding a single meal is a rarity, Lev and Kolya venture on a perilous journey that will determine their fate between life and death. What makes this novel compelling is the fact that Benioff intertwines history with humanity, allowing us to know that friendship is what keeps us going.
“ I have always believed that smile was a gift for me. Kolya had no faith in the divine or the afterlife; he didn’t think he was going to a better place, or any place at all. No angels waited to collect him. He smiled because he knew how terrified I was of dying. This is what I believe. He knew that I was terrified and he wanted to make it a little easier for me.”
- Elements of Style by William Strunk
Genre: Non-fiction, Language
A classic manual that will help amateur or professional writers to find their own style. Starting from basic grammar instructions to tips on choosing the right dictions, The Elements of Style is a short and powerful book that will guide you to writing with power and passion.
“To achieve style, begin by affecting none”
“ When a sentence is made stronger, it usually becomes shorter. Thus, brevity is a by-product of vigor.”
- The Geography of Thought by Richard Nisbett
Genre: Psychology, Non-fiction, Philosophy, Sociology
As international students, we often see the divergent characteristics among Westerners and Easterns—not only in appearance, but also behaviours, logic and decisions. In The Geography of Thought, Richard Nisbett utilises history, statistics, diagrams and examples to convey and inform the readers about how the two are different and why. Reading this will allow readers to appreciate who they are and the reasons for this difference.
“The Chinese believe in constant change, but with things always moving back to some prior state. They pay attention to a wide range of events; they search for relationships between things;and they think you can’t understand the part without understanding the whole. Westerners live in a simpler, more deterministic world; they focus on salient objects or people instead of the larger picture;and they think they can control events because they know the rules that govern the behavior of objects.”
- Predictably Irrational– Dan Ariely
Genre: Economics, Non Fiction, Business, Psychology
In our lives, we always overpay, procrastinate and belittle; for so long, many have believed that we are innate in these actions and that our decisions are unpredictable. Ariely, however, reprimands this commonplace notion and entices us through statistics, economics and experiences that we are linear and predictably irrational. Once one finishes this, he or she will never think about decision making and economy the same.
“We usually think of ourselves as sitting the driver’s seat, with ultimate control over the decisions we made and the direction our life takes; but, alas, this perception has more to do with our desires-with how we want to view ourselves-than with reality”
- Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo
Genre: Nonfiction, Christianity, Spirituality, Inspirational, Autobiography/Memoir
Colton Burpo, a four years old who made it through an appendectomy surgery, tells his parents of how he went to heaven whilst he was in operation; how he met Jesus; how he discovered what happened before he was born. As absurd as this sounds, his parents constantly gets aghast and shocked at his seemingly fictional yet true recount. Heaven is for Real will alter the way you think about eternity, life and love.
“…when I was angry at God because I couldn’t go to my son, hold him, and comfort him, God’s son was holding my son in his lap.”
10. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teentalk Getting into College by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Amy Newmark
Genre: Self-help, non-fiction
As high school students, we are always pressured about getting into college—especially with the upperclassmen. In this novel, there are 101 first-hand stories and recounts from students all around the world who have experienced getting into college. Intertwined with multiple emotions, these stories will guide and remind you that although the application process is onerous, the experience is successful and rewarding.
“The best counsel of all comes from reading the real stories of those who have known the anxiety and uncertainty of the college application process”- Sally Rubenstone
– Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)