Happy Thanksgiving, Americans!
In the spirit of the holiday, I’m going to talk about five books that I am thankful for.
Of course, I’m thankful for every book I read (except maybe a few…), but these five in particular are special to me. Maybe they came to me at just the right moment in my life, maybe I have particular memories associated with them, or maybe I just really, really love them. This isn’t a list of my favorite books of all time (although there is certainly overlap), but instead simply books that I am grateful exist in my world.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
This one should be obvious to anyone who knows me even a little. Also, this might be cheating a little, since I’m including all seven books on this list, but WHATEVER, I make the rules here.
What can I even say about Harry Potter that hasn’t been said a million times before? These books, simply put, were my childhood. That’s true for many people of my generation, which makes it even more special – it’s something that connects us all, a cultural touchstone that is beloved to millions around the world. These books taught me what true magic looks like and they tell a story I can return to over and over again without getting tired of it. Brilliant, beautiful, multi-layered, emotional – they wear the veneer of simple children’s books but manage to teach us important and complex lessons along the way.
Reading Harry Potter will always feel like coming home. Hogwarts, of course, is where I live in my imagination, and the characters are so dear and familiar to me that they feel like family. I may know every beat of this series by heart and have a good deal of the lines etched into my memory, but I never fail to be surprised by how much it can still make me feel. I doubt there will ever come a time that a portion of my heart is not entirely devoted to these books. Thanks, Harry Potter!
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
When I first read this book at the tender age of eight, I had no idea it would become one of the most important and impactful books in my life. Of course, at that point I knew that I loved it, that I was going to pester my whole family and all my friends into reading it, and that I wanted to reread it time and time again. But I had no idea that, thirteen years later, I would still list it as one of my all-time favorite books and reread it every few years and fall in love all over again.
Honestly, I don’t know exactly why this book became so important to me. I understand, of course, why I loved it – the writing is beyond perfection, the characters are beautiful, and the fantasy world it takes place in feels so alive. But I loved lots of books when I was little. Why did this one make such an impact? Maybe it has to do with the fact that my friends and I wrote an entire musical based on it (lol) or that I didn’t stop talking about it or begging people to read it for years. Or maybe it’s something less quantifiable, something that’s simply magical about this book and the reason that I return to it over and over again. Every time I pick it up, I think maybe this will be the time I’ve finally outgrown it, but it never fails to blow me away. I guess I have to accept the fact that this book will be with me forever. (I’m okay with that.) Thanks, The Goose Girl!
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
This book came into my life at exactly the right time. When I read it last spring, I was nearing the end of my junior year in college and feeling pretty miserable. I was burnt out and jaded, more than ready to be done with school forever, but also terrified of that concept because I felt like school was all I had ever been good at. There was (and still is) a part of me that wondered who I’ll be when I’m not that girl who’s good in school, whose self-worth isn’t dependent on her grades. I related so hard to Frances’ character that it was almost scary.
I remember finishing this book and having to lie down for a while and reevaluate my entire life and future. When I read this, I felt like I was the only one who felt this way about school, but reading this book was so affirming and reassuring, reminding me that there’s more out there than just academic success. Thanks in part to this book (as well as other things), I feel a lot more confident about my life post-college. Still terrified, of course, but better than before. Thanks, Radio Silence!
The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
This is another example of perfect timing meeting an incredible book. This book came out less than a week after the Kavanaugh hearings, which were incredibly difficult for me and for women across the world. I was angry but didn’t know where to put that anger, feeling helpless and powerless against an establishment that refuses to listen to women’s voices.
Then I read this book, with its righteously angry protagonist, Felicity Montague, who was determined to take on a world dominated by men and achieve her dream of becoming a doctor no matter what. Even when she was belittled and ridiculed and silenced, she refused to compromise her dreams and her principles. Her story takes place in the 1700s but it felt so relevant to today. Felicity reminded me that, yes, I have a right to be angry, and that even when I feel weak and helpless, I deserve to take up space and have my voice heard. I already loved her because of Gentleman’s Guide, but this book made me love and look up to her 500x times more. Thanks, Lady’s Guide!
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Going from the newest book on this list to the oldest! And quite possibly the most universally beloved, though Harry Potter is certainly up there as well. Pride & Prejudice, though now over 200 years old, has stood the test of time for a reason: it’s basically the perfect story. I know, I know, that’s a big claim to make, but it honestly is one of my favorite stories in the world, and one that I (and so many others) never get tired of returning to.
P&P was the first Jane Austen book I ever read, way back in high school, so I can thank it for introducing me to an author that I would come to consider an all-time favorite. But more than that, it brought me a new world of incredible fiction. Of course the original story will always be dear to me, but there have been so many retellings that make me fall in love with it all over again. From the brilliance of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries to the epicness of Heartstone by Elle Katharine White to the importance of Pride by Ibi Zoboi to the beautiful ridiculousness of P&P & Zombies and Bride and Prejudice – as well as countless more – Pride & Prejudice has inspired so many stories that I now love. Jane Austen may have told this story two centuries ago, but people are still telling it today and giving me new reasons to appreciate it. Thanks, Pride & Prejudice!
Happy Thanksgiving! Eat lots of good food and spend time with your loved ones!
What books are you thankful for?