Winter break is just around the corner—just a couple of days left! As our lives have been inundated with an incessant amount of assignments and exams, we finally have time to take a break from school. One way of resting up over the break for the new year and semester is to read some novels that you couldn’t possibly catch up during school. Below are top 10 novels that I, as an avid reader, recommend to get your mind off from work!
1. Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Genre: Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Mental Health
Tracing the life of a young boy who has schizophrenia, Challenger Deep takes the readers through the mind of Caden Bosch. As he is sent to a mental hospital for treatment, Bosch creates a second world inside his mind that is unlike reality: he is the artist of a ship that is headed for Challenger Deep, the south of Mariana Trench. Using simple yet beautiful prose, Schusterman leads the readers into a whole new world where imagination and reality are inseparable, whilst he reveals the truth behind the curtains of mental hospitals. A perfect book to get you out of your reading slump!
“Dead kids are put on pedestals, but mentally ill kids get hidden under the rug.”
2. Station Eleven by Emily Mandel
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Dystopian
A seemingly dark and sentimental novel, Station Eleven features a world twenty years after a devastating plague. However, one cannot call it a simple survival novel. Shifting back and forth from the current world where Kirsten, the main character, watches King Lear to a desolate world where she faces isolation and killings, Mandel compares the modern world to that of an apocalyptic beautifully that it makes us appreciate the things we have today: laptops, phones, and even newspapers, raising important questions about the world: Why doesn’t a desolate world urge people to a common goal? Is it better to govern or be governed? Should we teach the children about the previous world? Poetically writing with the strategic diction and pauses, Mandel crafts the each one of the characters so intricately that the you immediately fall in love with them, a rare occurrence in apocalyptic novels.
““First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.”
3. The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan W. Watts
Genre: Philosophy, Spirituality, Self Help
More scholarly than the other books but nevertheless invaluable, this book discusses the need for people to find balance in an age where we worry greatly about the future and the past. It is an excellent book to read especially after weeks of hectic assignments and exams as you can start to apply Watts’s teachings of how to immerse yourself into the present to real life! As a student who is frequently insecure, this book plain spoken to me as it shifted my perspective on how to alleviate the anxieties I face everyday. Although some concepts are abstruse and heavy to comprehend, Watts integrates metaphors to help guide the reader, reminding us the beauty of using metaphors even in non-fiction.
“If, then, my awareness of the past and future makes me less aware of the present, I must begin to wonder whether I am actually living in the real world.”
4. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Genre: Classic, Fiction, Historical Fictional
Focusing on two colored sisters that live in south side of America, The Color Purple touches on a variety of topics: racism, feminism, and more. The two sisters face grave situations wherein they are harmed and violated by men- one of the reasons why this novel is frequently listed for American Library Association’s Most Challenged Books. Regardless of the graphic language and scenes, the novel has a much deeper side to is as it depicts not only the history of the early 1900s but also the gravity of feminism in its history. The novel may be challenging to read at first as it uses odd formatting, but it gets better as you read. I would recommend that you read the first couple of pages out loud to understand the text.
“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.”
5. Expiration Day by William Powell
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian
Sometimes as high-school students, we are urged to read more classical books like Crime and Punishment and Macbeth. But sometimes, we need to read some teenage novels that brings the nostalgic feelings from our teenage years. A science fiction novel that ties in artificial intelligence with humanity, this novel depicts a world where nearly all the children are robots, except a few of those who are humans. Tania, who believes that she is a human, sets out to discover the reasons behind the division and whether or not she is truly a human. This novel is much more in-depth compared to what I first believed as it questions the existence of humans and our lives if we cannot distinguish between AI’s and humans.
“What rational being would willingly enter a relationship that’s guaranteed to end in sorrow? Grieving husband buries wife, or vice versa. Or they divorce. But we marry anyway. Because even death and divorce is better than loneliness.”
6. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Thriller
Need something that will keep you on the edge of your seat? Well, The Girl on the Train is the right book. Riding the same commuter everyday, Rachel watches a young couple from a distance for a few split seconds every day and imagines them to be a perfect couple. However, one night, as Rachel forgets her actions, she entangles everyone into an investigation, including the couple she saw. Told through three perspectives, the novel gets perplexing at times; nevertheless, the characters and plot are well-constructed that you start becoming eager for the next page. Great book that will make you stay up till 3 am!
“Hollowness: that I understand. I’m starting to believe that there isn’t anything you can do to fix it. That’s what I’ve taken from the therapy sessions: the holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mold yourself through the gaps”
7. What if? by Randall Munroe
Genre: Science, Humour
For science nerds and non-science lovers alike, this book is an intriguing book for you to engage in your passion or just to learn about the science behind the world. Ranging from questions like ‘ From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hit the ground?’ to ‘Is it possible to build a jetpack using downward firing machine guns?’ this book has great value to it since you can learn about scientific facts, both basic and complex. It can also build your common sense about the world, too!
“But I’ve never seen the Icarus story as a lesson about the limitations of humans. I see it as a lesson about the limitations of wax as an adhesive.”
8. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Genre: Romance, Fiction
If you think this is a cliche teenage romance novel like The Fault in the Stars, you’re wrong. Me Before You has much more depth and meaning, at least to me, than just simple love line; it reminds us about what it means to have a voice, a choice in life. Featuring a rather ill-tempered, disabled man and a young, energetic woman, the book shows the two fall in love despite the barriers that separate them. The male protagonist’s decision at the end of the novel just plain spoke to me about how precious and beautiful the choices we make in life are, and that sometimes, you can’t make someone to become the person you want. You’ve got to read it and experience it for Moyes creates the two characters elegantly and builds up to the climax beautifully. Even the conversations between the the two will make you weep in tears.
“How could you live each day knowing that you were simply whiling away the days until your own death?”
9. Harry Potter by J.K Rowling
Why not throw in a childhood favorite? As you probably know or heard, the Harry Potter series is a phenomenal book for many children. Students, however, never really get the chance to re-read those books that we used to read since we are so focused on academics. However, this winter, take the opportunity to rekindle the memories of your childhood while remembering Hermione’s sassy line, “It’s LeviOsa, not LeviosA,”and the enchanting wonders of Hogwarts!
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
10. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Genre: Self Help, Psychology
One of my all-time favorites, Daring Greatly discusses the importance of building shame resilience, revealing ourselves authentically, and being vulnerable. She explains how vulnerability lets us connect with one another and build compassion, whilst hiding our weakness and imperfection would make us isolated. Touching on a variety of subjects like sexism and parenting, this novel is continuing to help me grow confidence and acceptance of who I am. Strongly recommended to all students—don’t fear your imperfection, just accept who you are! Perfect book to end 2016 and kick-start to 2017!
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.”
As high school students, it is no doubt difficult to fit in reading time with the large amount of assessments. Yet with the winter break approaching, you can catch up with all the reading you missed out on—and possibly even accomplish your reading goal! Regardless of which you books you read, I am sure that they will give you a new perspective wherein you can learn and empathise with.
—Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)
*Banner: Crescentia Jung (’19)