So in the spirit of the Holidays, I’d thought today I’d share my list of “books that make me embrace my life”. You know those books you read and afterwards everything just seems so much MORE than it was before? When things don’t seem so mundane and life feels like something you want to squeeze? For me, those are the most Thanksgiving-y reads I can think of. Not all of them are happy, necessarily, but they all inspire the same spark in me.
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
There are some seriously messed up situations and people in I’ll Give You the Sun–but there’s a lot of hope and life, too, though most of it comes after great sorrow. Everything about this book just made me FEEL so deeply. The other day I was thinking about one of the characters in the book before I remembered that he was a CHARACTER and not a real person. There’s just so much life here.
Quick, make a wish.
Take a (second or third or fourth) chance.
Remake the world.
Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot
There’s a lot of nostalgia in Even in Paradise, which isn’t always the most conducive to that embrace-your-life-now idea, but there’s something in this book that pushes me forward anyway. I think it’s because it made me think about my own past and choices, even if my past was so totally different than that of the characters. There’s an air of reflection, which is important too.
It’s only in hindsight that we can point, as easily as finding a town on a map, to the moments that shaped us — the moments when yeses and nos determined the people we became.
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Of course it makes sense to include Before I Fall on this list, since it’s about a girl who died but gets stuck in a groundhog day loop of her last day, and she lives it over and over again trying to correct things. Probably the most obvious choice for this list. The characters in this book can be quite cruel to each other. That makes it a difficult read to swallow at times, but in the end it’s totally worth it.
Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there’s a tomorrow. Maybe for you there’s one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through you fingers. So much time you can waste it.
But for some of us there’s only today. And the truth is, you never really know.
This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
I have so much love for this book. It holds a special place in my heart because it really gets to the bottom of what it means to feel alone in a way I think few books get right. Sometimes it’s not outright bullying or meanness that can get to a person but the feeling of being invisible, insignificant, unimportant. This book just opens up in such a raw way and replaces it with this overwhelming sense of love and purpose and does so without ever feeling cheesy.
You think it’s so easy to change yourself. You think it’s so easy, but it’s not. True, things don’t stay the same forever: couches are replaced, boys leave, you discover a song, your body becomes forever scarred. And with each of these moments you change and change again, your true self spinning, shifting positions– but always at last it returns to you, like a dancer on the floor. Because throughout it all, you are still, always, you: beautiful and bruised, known and unknowable. And isn’t that – just you – enough?
Something Real by Heather Demetrios
I read this book at the beginning of the year and I don’t remember much of the story but I remember thinking it was brilliant and having that warm, fuzzy, “let me hug my life” feeling. Something Real, at the very least, is interesting in a analytical way. I remember being so proud of the main character for forging her own path despite the setbacks in her life(that parents that wanted to air her entire life on TV).
I’m not Bonnie™ or Chloe. I’m the essence of her, the nontrademarked person the camera can never capture and my parents have no right to sign over. There is a sovereign nation encased in this skin that MetaReel can never trademark.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
The lone adult book recommendation on my list! Gilead is definitely slow-moving literary fiction, but it’s beautiful. It’s framed as an older father writing down things for his young son because the character KNOWS since he’s up in age that he may not be around the entire boy’s life.
… but it’s your existence I love you for, mainly. Existence seems to me now the most remarkable thing that could ever be imagined.
I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
Markus Zusak is best known for The Book Thief, which was another contender for this list, but I think I Am the Messenger fits the tone of this post better. This book explores purpose and being connected to others and in many ways is very much about being brave enough to take ownership of your life. It’s really beautiful and I have to say, sweet.
Sometimes people are beautiful.
Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are.
Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Open Road Summer is probably the “lightest” book on my list. It’s a contemporary story about romance and friendship, which isn’t that uncommon, but there’s something special in it. There’s just something about this book that lit up my heart when I read it.
If we could capture feelings like we capture pictures, none of us would ever leave our rooms. It would be so tempting to inhabit the good moments over and over again. But I don’t want to be the kind of person who lives backwardly, who memorializes moments before she’s finished living in them. So I plant my feet here on this hillside beside a boy who is undoing me, and I kiss him back like I mean it. And, God help me, with the sky wrapped around us in every direction, I do mean it.
When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney
There were a lot of “grief books” I considered putting on the list because there are a few that have made quite an impression on me, but this was the only one that really made me feel something similiar like the other books on this list. While the main character in the book is grieving the loss of his mother, there’s also this great embrace of life & love. Plus, it has one of the best literary dogs EVER.
Because this is what I believe – that second chances are stronger than secrets. You can let secrets go. But a second chance? You don’t let that pass you by.
LET’S CHAT: Read any of these books and got the same feeling from them? What are books that make you want to embrace your life?