Books I Liked In High School
I finally dug out my e-reader the other day, which reminded me of a whole bunch of books that I haven't thought about in years but adored when I read them. Why not throw a list up?
Can you tell what my favorite fiction genre is?
- 1984: Most of us have heard of this one by now, but it's worth reading yourself if you weren't forced to do so in school. If you liked 1984 and want another classic in the same vein, then read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. That managed to be darker than 1984.
- A Confusion of Princes, Garth Nix: Did you ever want to see different technologies (biotech included!) expanded upon in a universe of feuding royalty? Want to see one of those royals stripped of their tech to get a solid humbling and start a revolution? There you go.
- Arclight, Joslin McQuein: I've already talked about why I love Arclight so much.
- BZRK, Michael Grant: I'll be honest, the writing of this book sucks. It's awful, confusing, and really not that captivating. I found the plot dull. I wouldn't put this on here if the concept didn't intrigue me enough to make up for it. People telepathically controlling nanomachines and fighting whole battles on and inside the human body, complete with descriptions of how hair and eyelashes and all the minute parts of the body get in the way of combat? I'm an anatomy geek. I eat that stuff for breakfast and love it. Despite the awful writing, I wanted to see more of the core concept of this book, so I read it anyway and enjoyed it for the concept alone. If you don't want to hear about all the details of your body on a nano scale, this definitely isn't for you.
- Dr. Franklin's Island, Ann Halam: While the science doesn't hold up well in the real world, a little suspension of disbelief makes this a very interesting read. What's it like to be transformed into an animal against your will by a mad scientist who doesn't care much for your well-being? It's as much a horror story as science fiction.
- Expiration Day, William Campbell Powell: Humanity can't have kids, driving expectant parents to extremes. A robotics company solves this by creating simulated child androids that they rent out for 18 years, taking them back and disassembling them once they've grown up. Delves into the question of what makes someone human, convinced me to pick up the bass guitar, became an exception to disliking diary format books, and still holds a special place in my heart.
- Farenheit 451, Ray Bradbury: This is a classic for a reason. Firefighters burn books to keep society under control.
- Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes: I've cried over this book. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
- Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams: This book is weird, absurdist, and unexpected- which is exactly what makes it amazing. There's no logic or reason to it. It's an entity of its own that nonetheless leaves a pretty strong impact on me every time I read it. I now keep one towel in my bag at all times.
- PHANTASIA, M.U. Riyadad: This book feels long, is a bit dry, and uses a lot of larger words, but it's well-worth reading. Unfortunately, it's also no longer being sold. It's a shame, because the worldbuilding is wonderful. Giant parasites! Underwater civilization! Cool stuff! If you really can't find it and want to read it, email me.
- The 5th Wave, Rick Yancey: Aliens wipe out most of humanity and are trying their hardest to exterminate the rest. It does a pretty good job of building atmosphere, and while the premise isn't the most original, one could say that of any book at this point. People either seem to love or hate this one.
- The Ender Quartet, Orson Scott Card: This is one of those series that sticks with you. If you haven't at least read Ender's Game yet and you even slightly enjoy science fiction, go pick it up and get back to me. It gets into the ethics of war and inter-species interaction in a way that's changed my outlook on life. I'd very much like a Speaker when my time comes.
- The Eye of Minds, James Dashner: VR gamer has to stop a hacker who's trapping people in VR. Interesting because the simulated reality feels more real than the non-simulated one. Legitimately surprising twist ending. Otherwise, meh.
- The Giver Quartet, Lois Lowry: Another one that's worth your time- at the least, read The Giver. A kid lives in a world with no pain, color, or memory of the past, but is taken on as an apprentice by the man who remembers it all.
- The Host, Stephenie Meyer: I'm genuinely surprised that liking this is an unpopular opinion. The worldbuilding is incredible, the depiction of sharing one's head with an unwilling host is fantastic, and there's a genuine arc of the main character learning and changing because of the situations she gets into. Maybe it's just internet tradition to laugh because this is the same author that wrote Twilight, but I like this book quite a bit.
- The House of the Scorpion, Nancy Farmer: Harvesting the organs of clones is messed-up enough. Being one of those clones is even worse. Who are you if you were only born to keep someone else alive?
- The Martian, Andy Weir: Science on Mars! The nerd in me enjoyed the problem-solving aspect of this book, and I was often cheering along at some solution I'd have never considered. It's brilliant if you enjoy science at all. The movie held up well to the book for once, too.
- Reboot, Amy Tintera: Some people come back from the dead with better physical abilities and fewer emotions, so they're trained to be soldiers. One of them learns to be human again.
- Red Rising, Pierce Brown: More revolutions! Man from the lowest caste in the universe is disguised as the highest caste to tear them apart from the inside.
- Robopocalypse, Daniel H. Wilson: So you know robot apocalypse stories? Yeah, those. This is one big robot apocalypse, and it wouldn't have held my interest if the robots didn't start learning from biology. The evolution of the robots is fascinating here, and this is a book that only gets better as it goes. Stick with it and get past the beginning.
- Unwind, Neil Shusterman: Speaking of horror, this is the one book I steadfastly refuse to reread because one chapter literally gave me nightmares. It's absolutely horrifying. The concept is dark (unwanted children are taken apart for their organs to resolve the abortion debate), and the execution is even darker. If you enjoy reading things that can scare the crap out of you, here you go.
- What's Left of Me, Kat Zhang: This one is deeply meaningful to me because it's surprisingly okay plural representation from the narrator. People are born with two souls per body. One usually fades away, but the narrator hung on and survived.
- City of Bones, Cassandra Clare: Magic sigils, demon hunters, and supernatural intrigue. This is a whole series, so there's more where that came from, but people seem to either love it or hate it. And apparently there's a plagarism lawsuit that started after I read it (which went nowhere and was dismissed because it's mostly based on common fantasy tropes)?
- Mistborn, Brandon Sanderson: The villain won. A bunch of thieves decide to fix that using magic metal-burning and trickery.
- Plain Kate, Erin Bow: Girl gets a talking cat from a witch in exchange for her shadow, realizes she needed her shadow, then spends the rest of the book trying to get it back. The cat is very much a cat, and I love him for it. One of my favorite friendships in books.
- Sorrow's Knot, Erin Bow: Tying knots repels the dead. One of these knot-tyers gets torn apart by her own powers. There's strong worldbuilding and I adore the depiction of one of the creatures. That said, this is somewhat based on Native culture, and the author isn't Native. I can't say whether she did anything justice or not because I'm not Native myself, but it's worth noting.
- The Descent Series, SM Reine: Admittedly not the best writing, but definitely one of the most "finally" payoffs of a book series I've read. I read it all just to see if something would happen, and it sure did! Telling you more would mean spoilers, but know that you're going to have to get through well over half the series to have that moment. It picks up and actually gets good after that.
- The Grisha Trilogy, Leigh Bardugo: The villain was my first fictional crush. Some people can manipulate elements and are trained into the military or royal court. Main character turns out to have special powers and garners dangerous attention as a result. Aside from being great books, I've gotten to meet the author. She was pretty nice.
- The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova: Who wants a vampire book in the old sense of "walking corpse that sucks blood and is genuinely a terror to be around?" Said vampire doesn't even show up until the end of the book, and it's a long, slow ride to the finish. Worth it. There's some great build-up here.
- The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien: This book is well-known for a reason. I honestly prefer it over Lord of the Rings.
- The Wizard of Time Trilogy, G.L. Breedon: Magic powers, protagonist is the chosen one, the usual YA fantasy trappings... but with a beautiful tie between the beginning and ending, as well as surprisingly well-researched time travel and time shenanigans. Also has an interesting concept of magical talismans being created by strong positive or negative emotions.
- Black Beauty, Anna Seweil: A horse's life all the way from birth to death. If you like animal books, this is a classic.
- Life of Pi, Yann Martel: Another story that people seem to love to hate on. I find it pretty enjoyable. It feels steeped in a sense of place that a lot of other books lack, and it presents a question at the end that's good to think over if you like philosophy.
- Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, Matthew Dicks: It's not often that you see a book written from the perspective of an imaginary friend, let alone one that considers what that perspective is like or gets into the existential terror of one's existence relying on someone else's belief in you. The kid imagining the narrator is implied to be autistic, and while the representation isn't perfect and leaves a fair bit to be desired, it's more positive than some books I've come across.
- Out of My Mind, Sharon M Draper: A girl with cerebral palsy is frustrated by her inability to communicate verbally. This one hit me hard.
- Stone Butch Blues, Leslie Feinburg: If you read one queer novel, this should be a strong contender. An excellent window into queer history, butchness, gender, and navigating it all in an era where being queer was a mental disorder. Look up content warnings before reading this. If something bad can happen, it will. This book is heavy but worth the pain.
- The Book Thief, Markus Zusak: I don't normally love historical fiction, but I adored this. WW2 Nazi Germany, a child protagonist stealing banned books, a family sheltering a Jewish man, and all narrated by Death himself. An emotional ride to read. Would you really have done anything more?
- Room, Emma Donoghue: It's a strange book for sure, but an emotional one. Narrated by the very young son of a kidnapped woman who doesn't fully understand the circumstances of his life. Definitely look up content warnings for this one.
- Roots, Alex Haley: Again, check content warnings if you're sensitive. The author traced his lineage all the way back to a man kidnapped and enslaved, and he follows the lives of each of his ancestors all the way back to himself. It's a brutal look at American slavery.
- A Dog's Purpose, W. Bruce Cameron: A dog lives several lifetimes in search of their purpose, changing the lives of the people they meet. Spoiler, the dog dies. Yes, I cried. My copy of this book was loaned out to several people I know, and it's rather battered now, but it's gotten rave reviews from everyone that's borrowed it.
- Fire Bringer, David Clement-Davies: Did you like Warrior Cats? Do you want deer, prophecies, political intrigue, and some rich worldbuilding? Fire Bringer is fantastic.
- The Sight and Fell, David Clement-Davies: Did you like Fire Bringer? Do you like wolves? Here you go!
- The Underneath, Appelt Small: A Southern tale of kittens and a bloodhound creating a found family under a porch. There's a musical quality to the prose that I loved.
- Watership Down, Richard Adams: This one has rabbits and a lot of dark themes. I went in expecting a cute rabbit story, and I came out crying over fictional rabbits. Good stuff.
- Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook, Delbert Carlson: A fantastic reference for cat care. There's also one for dogs.
- Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery, Henry Marsh: Ever wondered what it's like to be a brain surgeon? This is a glimpse into that profession and all the ethical dilemmas that come with it.
- Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio, Peg Kehret: I actually first read this in 5th grade, and it left a significant impact on me. This book has made polio personal in a powerful way. Makes me furious at anti-vaxers nowadays because they don't understand the damage they're doing.
- When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi: A doctor's view on death as both patient and provider that asks what life is about.
- Hidden in Plain Sight Series, Andrew Thomas: Presents an unusual idea on how to approach combining general relativity and quantum mechanics- building up instead of breaking down. Whether you agree with his ideas or not, these are an interesting read.
- What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, Randall Munroe: Did you ever want to know what would happen if you actually assembled the periodic table? How about pitching a baseball at light speed? This is a fun read, and informative to boot.
- The Pocket Guide to Cats, Emily Williams: When I say I know just about every page of this book, I mean it. This is the first special interest I can remember, and I've obsessively read it over and over. It's a very good overview of cat breeds and basic care.
- What Dog?, Amanda O'Neil: Want to adopt a purebred dog, but don't know what breed would suit your household? This book will help a lot with that.