1. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Tim O'Brien sums up his novel perfectly when he says: "I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is sometimes truer than happening-truth."
This story is full of story-truths from Vietnam, based on O'Brien's real life and facts, and it dives deep into the men of Vietnam, and all that they carried - not just on their backs but in their minds and hearts as they navigated the elephant grass and the swamps.
2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Although it's a young-adult novel, this book is jammed pack with themes of friendship, family, addiction, prejudices, and character development. When Junior decides to go to school off the Rez, he's humiliated by his fellow Indians and the white people at his school in Spokane.
Junior says, "Life is a constant struggle between being an individual and being a member of the community.” And this is what he faces when he "leaves" the Rez to go to school with the white people.
3. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
"We're young. We're so young. We have so much time," Keegan writes in her Yale 2012 commencement speech, which she gave just a few days before she was killed in a car crash. Keegan had been published in the New York Times and the Paris Review, so after her death, one of her Yale professors and her parents put together all her unpublished essays and short stories to make a small book collection. The first thing you'll read is her commencement speech, in which she states that she doesn't know if there's a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if there is, "that's what I want in life."
4. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This has been one very talked about book lately, and for good reason: the story of two people, on opposite sides of war, coming together. One, a blind girl that traces a miniature of her city, and the other: a young man unwillingly fighting with Nazi Germany in Saint-Malo, France.
5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
In this beloved American classic, father Atticus Finch and kids Jem and Scout are forced to deal with the segregated south in different ways. Atticus is a lawyer defending an innocent black man convicted of rape, while Jem and Scout deal with the repercussions of their father's job and also try to get the neighborhood recluse to come out.
6. The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
In this young-adult novel, a girl, Parvana, from Kabul, Afghanistan, deals with living under the harsh Taliban rule after her father is arrested. Soon, her mother asks Parvana to cut her hair and dress up in men's clothing so that she can continue to run her father's business. Which is dangerous business in a culture that's ruled by men.
7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
This is a story about awkward high school student Charlie, who loves reading and needs to find a place for himself. When he meets a group of seniors that take him in, all seems well in the world. However, through his own mishaps and unsocial tendencies, he pushes them away, until eventually they realize that they need their wallflower as much as he needs them.
The book is written in letter form, and always ends with "Love, Charlie."
8. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
This book is full of vignettes- small stories/poems weaved together to create a fuller picture. Esperanza, the main character, talks about her day-to-day experiences on Mango Street, as well as going through puberty. After being sexually assaulted, Esperanza vows to leave Mango Street behind, only she finds it more difficult than she believed.
9. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
This famous novel is full of racial tensions in the American south, as main character Celie trys to cope with the abuse she suffers from both her father and new husband, Mister. Celie also has a younger sister, Nettie, whom she believes dead. When Mister's lover becomes ill, Celie is charged with taking care of her, and at first resentful, the two woman start a friendship.
10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Ten year old Liesel is forced to move into a home with her new foster parents after her brother's death in World War II destructed Germany. When her family takes in a Jewish man, Max, Liesel starts to learn to read secretly. She steals books the Nazi seek to destroy, and she teaches Max to read, and also writes her own stories.
11. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
This amazing and life-changing novel is about the generations of the Buendía family, whose patriarch moves from Columbia in search of a better life. He images himself in a city of mirrors - Macondo - on an island in the Caribbean, which he sets up. After a series of misfortunes, the Buendía is almost completely eliminated, and their secret fortune is finally revealed.
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