It's kind of hard to believe but, The Book Thief is ten years old this month (celebrated, of course, with a special hardcover anniversary edition). Oddly enough, despite the youth of its author, this seems like a book that's been around longer--probably because it's considered by so many of us to be a classic of young adult literature: a perfect example of why people who have left their young adult years far behind are such a big part of the genre's readership today.
The Book Thief is on so many readers' top 10 favorite books list that I wondered what the author, Markus Zusak, has on his...
Compiling a list of top-ten books is an act of great joy and terrible sacrifice. Here are some books that gave me something to imitate, as well as the impetus to forever search for my own voice and to hell with what anyone thought:
Rumble Fish by S. E. Hinton: At ninety-two pages (in my old paperback edition), this was her masterpiece, and a book that gets better as I get older. I didn’t understand it when I was fourteen, and I might not understand it now, but I still like to hear Biff Wilcox’s voice in my head, going, “You’re one dead cat, Rusty-James!”
My Brother Jack by George Johnston: The great Australian novel in so many ways, set between World Wars I and II. Davey and Jack Meredith grow up in Melbourne, and Davey’s narration is so honest it’s almost unbearable. His summation of his own life is totally disarming, and Jack is both a lovable rogue and a tragic optimist. When he says, “My brother Davey’s not the sort of bloke who’d let you down,” Davey knows differently....
Wake in Fright by Kenneth Cook: If My Brother Jack is the great Australian novel, this is the great Australian nightmare novella—a teacher trapped in the friendliest little country town in the world—as long as you can gamble well, drink beer like water, and never dream of the sea....
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë: Again, it gets better over time, and I can’t help but love the ferocity of the writing—Heathcliff and Catherine love almost viciously, and we can love them without necessarily liking them.
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger: It’s so trite to have this book on the list, but more than any other book, this is the one that gets better as an adult after reading it as a teenager. When Holden says “And then something really terrible happened” and he drops the record he bought for Phoebe in Central Park, it’s one of the most heartbreaking moments you’ll ever read.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape by Peter Hedges: GREAT CHARACTERS MAKE GREAT BOOKS.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: It’s the magnetism of the narration—a voice that never tries to seduce you, but does. And it’s worth reading for the gem on every page.
Old School by Tobias Wolff: How can you resist a book with guest appearances by Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway, in which one of the characters mocks Hemingway’s “foolproof shit detector”?! In the end, I just love the ease of it. You feel in the safest of hands from the very first words.
The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt: One image from this book always stays with me, and it’s the mother of a soldier who has returned from Iraq sitting in her car outside her son’s old high school. A sign there hails him a hero, but she’s living with him as he lives with the scars. It’s so sad, frightening, and beautiful all at the same time.
The Commitments by Roddy Doyle: When I was nineteen I read this book obsessively, watched the film obsessively, and listened to the soundtrack obsessively. Obsession is a good writer’s trait, in the end.
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