I was going to do a blog post/podcast episode about ten books I hated but surprisingly I could only think of two. So I decided to go the opposite direction and pick ones I loved because I was able to come up with quite a few!
If you’re interested in learning about some of the stuff I like to read or if you’re looking for new book recommendations, feel free to stick around. As for the podcast episode (video + audio), it will be available on Wednesday like always. And if you’re interested, you’re more than welcome to stream my old episodes on any platform of your choice, YouTube, or by clicking the ‘Podcast’ tab.
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Let’s get into it, shall we!
**DISCLAIMER: A lot of these books deal with heavy topics like sexual assault, torture, war, death, etc. Please look into any trigger warnings before you choose to read any of the books listed.**
#1: The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester
Piper McCloud can fly. Just like that. Easy as pie. Sure, she hasn’t mastered reverse propulsion and her loops are kind of sloppy, but she’s real good at loop-the-loops. Problem is, the good folk of Lowland County are afraid of Piper. And her ma is at her wit’s end. So it seems only fitting that she leave her parents’ farm to attend a top-secret, maximum-security school for kids with exceptional abilities. School is great at first with a bunch of new friends whose skills range from super-strength to super-genius. (Plus all the homemade apple pie she can eat!) But Piper is special, even among the special. And there are consequences. Consequences too dire to talk about. Too crazy to consider. And too dangerous to ignore.
I don’t know if anyone else remembers those Scholastic Book Fairs that schools would host every year, but this is actually where I first found this book. If you end up watching the video version of this post (which I totally think you should) then you’ll see how tattered the cover is. I’ve probably read this book close to ten times, maybe more.
I think this book holds a special place in my heart because it came to me during a time when I was getting teased because I had strabismus. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically a condition where one eye is misaligned (inward or outward) while the other eye remains focused. I had a lot of head injuries as a kid, so it had been like that for as long as I could remember. It wasn’t something that bothered me that much until other people started to point it out. Something that wasn’t a big deal became one of my biggest insecurities. It made me feel isolated to feel different from the other kids and I had a hard time in school after that.
So Piper was the person I wanted to be. The person I aspired to be really. Because no matter what people said, she always stayed true to herself and embraced her differences. She didn’t let other people’s comments affect her.
Of course, I ended up getting my eyes realigned when I was twelve, but that doesn’t mean it’s fully gone. I can still tell that one eye drifts outward, especially when I’m tired, but it’s not something that’s as noticeable anymore. I don’t regret doing it because, at the time, it made me feel better about myself, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn a lesson from that book. Now I embrace my differences, even when it’s difficult because the Universe made me this way for a reason. I’m not responsible for other people’s projections. But I am responsible for how I react to them, so I’m like Piper now: free and unbothered.
This book changed my life in so many ways so that’s why it’s on this list. And why I had to make sure to put it first.
#2: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Set in the author’s girlhood hometown of Lorain, Ohio, it tells the story of black, eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove. Pecola prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be as beautiful and beloved as all the blond, blue-eyed children in America. In the autumn of 1941, the year the marigolds in the Breedloves’ garden do not bloom. Pecola’s life does change- in painful, devastating ways.
I discovered this book in English class, which is probably going to be a common theme going forward. I was in my senior AP Lit class and we had to read two books of our choice throughout the year and do a mini project on them.
Of course, I get the list and the majority of the classics on there are from old dead white guys that I could give two shits about. As usual, there was zero diversity until I came across Toni Morrison. I knew she was black, but I had never read any of her work. Luckily, I actually had The Bluest Eye on my bookshelf because my mom had read it years prior. So I decided to pick that book. I’m so glad I did.
It’s such a haunting but profound take on colorism and the concept of beauty, especially in the black community. The story flips between Pecola and two other sets of characters, but the main theme is the same: beauty standards can shape how young women see the world and themselves. And colorism is slowly tearing us apart.
Pecola is shunned by the people in town because she has a darker skin tone than the rest. Automatically, she’s seen as less than just because she was born with more melanin. And because it doesn’t conform with the traditional beauty standards of the time.
Of course, beauty standards have started to shift over time, but the foundation of it has always been predominantly focused on white women or light-skinned black women. They were always seen as desirable, as the pinnacle of beauty. This is what people should aspire to in order to really be considered “beautiful” on society’s terms. To be wanted.
I remember feeling so sad for the girls in that book, especially Pecola, because I understand what it’s like to want something you can’t have because you think that “beauty” is only measured in what society promotes. And when you’re around things that don’t tell you otherwise, the cycle of self-hate is vicious and relentless.
I never wanted to be white or have blue eyes like in the book, but I do find myself wishing that I had the ideal body type that I see online. Lately, I’ve learned to embrace my body for what it is, but that only came from a lot of self-reflection and a positive community. The girls in that book didn’t have that. And I know that there are girls in real life that don’t have that either. And that makes me sad.
So that’s why I will always recommend this book to anyone because I think it’s important that people recognize the impact that the media can have on young women. We need to have more conversations about embracing yourself and not letting society dictate what you “should” look like.
And as for colorism, I think this book will allow for an open and honest conversation about how deeply it affects us and how if we let it continue, it’s going to break us apart.
#3: The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom
Eddie is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life. His job is fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him as he tries to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakes in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination. It’s a place where your life is explained to you by five people, some of whom you knew, others who may have been strangers. One by one, from childhood to soldier to old age, Eddie’s five people revisit their connections to him on earth, illuminating the mysteries of his “meaningless” life, and revealing the haunting secret behind the eternal question: “Why was I here?”
Another English class recommendation. But I think what makes this book special to me is that it made me comfortable with the idea of death and it taught me that it’s the little moments that we don’t take into account that have the biggest impact.
I’m not going to sit here and lie to you. I’m terrified of death because I can’t imagine not being me. I don’t know if that makes sense, but to imagine myself in another body or just not in this current body doesn’t really sit right with me. I’m aware that we’re all energy and energy never dies. And that death is a natural part of life isn’t as terrifying as we might think.
Over the years, I’ve reached different conclusions on what life after death might look like (i.e. alternate dimensions, reincarnation, etc.) but this is the first book that actually made me feel more comfortable about discussing death and what it could look like.
And it also made me realize that the smallest thing can really change someone’s life, even if it was minor to you. As I’m writing this, I actually remembered this saying about trauma: to someone else, it was a monumental experience, but to the other person it was just another Tuesday. I’ll just leave that there because I don’t really think it needs more of an explanation.
But I will always recommend this book because it changed my life. It’s one of those books that I’ll always remember.
#4: The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith
**DISCLAIMER: MENTIONS OF SA (SEXUAL ASSAULT)**
Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.
What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.
Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative debut reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and unbearable pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, and while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart
I remember picking this book up on a whim from Target and I don’t even have the words to describe how deeply this book touched my heart.
I haven’t personally dealt with SA myself, but I’ve met a lot of people who have and the trauma that comes with it is so raw and deep that I feel like it’s hard to truly convey that in a respectful and truthful manner in fiction.
Of course, I can’t speak on how accurate this was, but I remember reading it and I felt like I was able to understand the mindset of someone who had been through that, a lot better. It broke my heart to read this story, but I feel like this book and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson are so important because we shouldn’t be afraid to discuss this topic. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it’s painful. But it’s real. And the people who unfortunately had to experience that trauma deserve to have a place where they feel seen.
And I think it’s also important for people like myself because I’m sure that it will help us recognize what to look for in our loved ones so that they don’t have to suffer alone.
If you’re able to handle it, I suggest taking the time to read it. Plus the writing is absolutely phenomenal so the author deserves all the love she can get.
#5: Cheaters by Eric Jerome Dickey
In Cheaters, Stephan loves em and leaves em, just like his daddy. Chanté thinks she’s found her dream man—until his wife and kids come banging on her door. Jake is a player—left with bad dreams he just can’t shake. Darnell is true to his wife…but the temptation’s getting tougher every day. Tammy is caught between the man she loves, and the woman he’s promised to. And while Karen lectures her friends about fooling around, she may not live up to her own high standards.
Now the subject matter might seem a little questionable, but I promise you the story is so good.
Of course, I’m not condoning cheating, because you shouldn’t do it, but I think what makes this book so interesting is that it shows how complex relationships truly are. Nothing is black and white, good or bad. It just is. I also loved how rich and simple Dickey’s writing is. He immerses you in each setting and in each character’s life with such ease that it makes you feel like you are them. Not a lot of books have the power to do that, especially to me.
But there was this one scene that had me bawling from how beautiful it was because you could just feel how much the two characters loved each other and the heartbreak of knowing they couldn’t be together. I swear that that made it one of my favorites because I don’t normally cry when I read anymore so for it to invoke that much emotion in me was rare.
#6: Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
In a 1950s Paris swarming with expatriates and characterized by dangerous liaisons and hidden violence, an American finds himself unable to repress his impulses, despite his determination to live the conventional life he envisions for himself. After meeting and proposing to a young woman, he falls into a lengthy affair with an Italian bartender and is confounded and tortured by his sexual identity as he oscillates between the two.
I had this book recommended to me by a co-worker. This was way back in the day when I used to work at HomeGoods, but that’s beside the point. I decided to buy the book on a whim because the premise sounded interesting and I trusted my co-worker’s judgment, so, within the next few days, Giovanni’s Room was on my doorstep.
I absolutely adored this book because of how beautifully written it was and the complexity of the storytelling. I was so immersed in their world that it felt like I was there, watching every situation unfold.
But what truly made it special was the fact that each emotion was raw and unfiltered. Even if you aren’t a part of the LGBTQ+ community, you can feel how deep their love ran, but how strong the main character’s pride was, which kept him from being true to himself. It makes sense considering the time frame it was set in, but it was just a heartbreaking novel altogether and I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever forget.
#7: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
IN THE YEAR 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
This might be a controversial choice because I know some people don’t like it, but it’s about the books I love and this happened to be one of them. However, we won’t be discussing that monstrosity of a movie.
I don’t remember where I got this book from, but I do remember how excited I was to read it and how it took me away from everything going on around me. I’m not much of a gamer and I don’t know shit about half of the games that Cline mentioned in the novel, but great storytelling makes you feel like you do. And I would say that this is a good example of that.
Now I haven’t read the second book because I’ve heard it’s not as good (and personally I think it should’ve been left as a standalone) but the first one will always hold a place in my heart because it was one Sci-Fi book that I actually enjoyed.
#8: The Crown Ain’t Worth Much by Hanif Abdurraqib
A sharp and vulnerable portrayal of city life in the United States. A regular columnist for MTV.com, Willis-Abdurraqib brings his interest in pop culture to these poems, analyzing race, gender, family, and the love that finally holds us together even as it threatens to break us.
If you watch Button Poetry, I promise you that you’re going to scroll across a video of Hanif Abdurraqib reciting a poem from this book. Hence why I bought it.
I can’t even begin to describe how intensely he spoke about grief, loss, and race. It was in such a profound and unique way that you ended up walking away from the book with so much heaviness, but it was the good kind. The kind that made you feel like you had learned something. That you had been changed.
I felt like this book helped propel my poetry to where it is today because it made me want to dig deeper, to talk about things in other ways, to make something sad and beautiful again.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves poetry or writes poetry because it’s such a monumental piece of literature that needs to be read at least once. And maybe to some, it may be nothing, but to me it’s everything. That’s why it made the list.
#9: The Rose That Grew From Concrete by Tupac Shakur
This collection of more than 100 poems that honestly and artfully confront topics ranging from poverty and motherhood to Van Gogh and Mandela is presented in Tupac Shakur’s own handwriting on one side of the page, with a typed version on the opposite side.
This book is so important to me because it was one of the first poetry books I ever read that wasn’t school-related. I love Tupac, but more for his poetry and less for his music (although it’s still good)
I would say that this book was part of the reason why I decided to truly start taking poetry seriously. His work touched my soul and I wanted to do the same for someone else. So I studied it and I kept going. I credit him for getting me to where I am today because I don’t know what would have happened if I never found that book in my Mom’s room.
#10: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
A pilot stranded in the desert awakes one morning to see, standing before him, the most extraordinary little fellow. “Please,” asks the stranger, “draw me a sheep.” And the pilot realizes that when life’s events are too difficult to understand, there is no choice but to succumb to their mysteries. He pulls out pencil and paper… And thus begins this wise and enchanting fable that, in teaching the secret of what is really important in life, has changed forever the world for its readers.
It’s the last one! I read this book in English class years ago. I think I was still in ninth grade when I was forced to read this.
This is one of those books that children and adults can read because there are so many life lessons that you can take away from it. It would be hard to name all the themes in the book because I feel like it would give it away, but don’t let the cover fool you. It’s really an amazing read that will take you on a journey of self-discovery.
I hope you guys enjoyed my book recommendations. If you have read some of them, make sure to comment down below. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Until next time!
-The Writer Chick