Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday Makes You Think

I checked the Top Ten Tuesday on Broke and the Bookish today, and I thought of a handful right off the top of my head. The topic is Top Ten Books that Make You Think. This list is not the books that make you think, but the ones that have most expanded my inner horizons. Consequently, many of them are books I read in school.

1. Othello. I can't very well list every Shakespeare play here, and that's the one that made me realize the universal and timeless notions Shakespeare was tapping into. Also, y'know, racist, so it taught me how to start approaching problematic elements in things I like.

2. Crime and Punishment was the first book I enjoyed that everyone around me disliked. I think the notion of being sick with guilt resonated with a part of my angsty teenage self that hated me just for existing. I found a new sort of escapism in this reading, the kind that's glad you're not that bad off.

3. Night by Elie Wiesel brought the horror of the Holocaust home for me in a way the pictures of mass graves, of skeletal survivors, of firsthand accounts by soldiers, couldn't. I'd never experienced the kind of hunger and pain and cold Wiesel describes, and I never will, but I understand it better.

4. The Yellow Wallpaper not only messed with my mind, but helped me to see ways women were being silenced without the vast majority of us even noticing. It made me start looking deeper into my assumptions about power dynamics and human relationships.

5. The House of the Spirits helped raised my awareness of political turmoil in places other than the U.S., and our role in it. It's a fictional tale about one family, with magical realism throughout, but it opened my eyes to a much bigger world.

6. House of Leaves scared the ever-loving crap out of me. Maybe it's pretentious and annoying, but reading it made me want to dig through symbols and peel back layers of story and spend hours dissecting it.

7. The Handmaid's Tale. To me, the best science fiction is the kind that shines a light on aspects of our own society. Not only did I finish this book with the sense of being glad it wasn't true, but I also started to notice where Atwood got the ideas in the first place. If we use it as the cautionary tale it was intended to be, it won't happen, but the erosion of Roe vs. Wade and the recent discussions around birth control being covered by insurance makes this all the more relevant than when it was written.

8. The House of Discarded Dreams is a lovely book that integrates a mythical tradition I'm totally unfamiliar with. I didn't always understand it, but I sure wanted to see what would happen next. This is a book unconstrained by the narrative structures I know, and it was fascinating to read.

9. The Grapes of Wrath was written to highlight the greed of those who caused the Great Depression, and to create sympathy for the workers who suffered from it. The fact that some profit while many starve today hasn't escaped my notice. Nor has the "get a job!" sneering.

10. Brave New World. Once again, science fiction that shines a light on the world it isn't depicting. Lots of aspects of modern society are raised, and satirized. It got me thinking about a lot of things I take for granted. I'm still mulling over some of the topics the book raised.


  1. I haven't read any of these yet, but Atwood is on my list of authors I hope to get to soon.

    1. I enjoy her books a lot. They're best read slowly, savoring the flow of the language. She has a heavy poetry background, and it shows in her prose.