By Juliet Freedman
Volume 69, Issue I
Autumn: a time of great comfort and sincerity. The outside air begins to cool, leaves change color and fall off their branches, and everything and everyone radiates warmth (said no one ever). With the days off from school in the coming months, what better time is there to cozy up next to a great big fire with a cup of tea and crack open a new novel? To coincide with my favorite season, I’ve plucked from my bookshelf my top four favorite novels of all time. Happy reading!
4. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
The story takes place in a fictional town in Maine, and it follows a woman named Olive, her husband Henry, and their son Chris. This book is not a light read, and it is not what you would call a conventional story. Rather, it is an aggregate of many different stories about many different people, the one common denominator in all of them being Olive Kitteridge’s involvement. This book, although ranked as my least favorite, definitely set a standard for literature which I had not yet been exposed to. I first encountered this story around the rough age of 13 when my parents were watching the HBO series, and from then on, I knew what a valued piece of text was. It can get dark at times; however, if you are interested in a novel that will make you think quite deeply, this is the book for you.
3. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Leaves of Grass is a collection of poems written by Walt Whitman over the course of his life, and it is divided up into thematic sections. What makes this book of poems so interesting and versatile is the number of times it has been rewritten. The original volume contained a mere twelve poems, while the final volume, closer to his death, consisted of over four hundred. These poems are so influential and so necessary to the transcendentalist movement with their constant accolades to the human body and individual mind. This book is the perfect read for a chilly Sunday afternoon on your front porch, and in my opinion, a must read for anybody with the capability. It will force you to learn a lot and will give you an overall better appreciation for poetry.
2. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Milk and Honey, a #1 New York Times bestseller, is a poetry book, much like Leaves of Grass. However, the nature in which the poems reside are quite different. Milk and Honey is a collection of poetry and prose surrounding the idea of survival. The book only consists of four chapters, with each chapter representing a different theme or idea. They seem to follow each other in a consecutive order, starting with “the hurting”, ending with “the healing” and including “the loving” and “the breaking” in between. This book, in my heart of hearts, touched me in a way I don’t think another book of poems will ever be able to do. There is no beating around the bush with Rupi Kaur. Not only is her writing amazing in technicality and emotion with such a genuine background, but the illustrations in the book also elicit such intense and frank emotion. Each poem is derived from some sort of personal experience, leaving out no up rise or downfall. If you feel alone with your struggles or simply unaware of others, this book will open your mind, your heart, and your eyes. In Kaur’s own words,
“my heart woke me crying last night
how can I help I begged
my heart said
write the book.”
1. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler
Have you ever thought that your family was dysfunctional? If so, this book may be up your alley. The novel follows the Tull family over the course of twenty something years, with the main focus being Pearl Tull. The book starts off during the time of her gradual death, and all are taking the time to reflect on their past endeavors as a family unit. I don’t want to say too much with the potential issue of giving anything away, but this book is genuinely the best novel I’ve ever read. It’s not so difficult for the average reader to understand, but it is so intellectual and mind-boggling in its simplicity. It is the kind of book that will make you go, “Hey, I feel that way all the time!” or “I thought that was just my family!” It will shed light on issues you never knew how to articulate, and Anne Tyler will clear your mind with her exquisite writing.