I recently returned from Toronto on a six week internship – one that required three hours of public transit a day, so needless to say I had ample time to read. Also, I often sat by the fire with a cup of tea, my aunt’s jazz music playing in the background, as the feeling of being far away from home soothed my soul. I made two trips to local book stores and both times spent more than I should have, leaving me at one point with 24 cents in my bank account. Luckily, after applying a coat of overpriced nail polish I was able to return it. Citing that I “collected polish for a living” and “forgot I already had this shade of blue.” The clerk gave my money back, but stripped me of my Shoppers points. But, back to the books! While trudging along on public transit, I wedged my way between nose pickers and drug dealers, opened a book, and escaped momentarily from my dire sardine situation. Below are the books that saved me from bad breath conversations and crusty cornered eye contact. All the books this round were amazing in their own regard and get the stamp of a “MUST READ,” but as always, the summaries.
Cheryl Strayed – Wild
The first memoir of my collection.
Not necessarily the most ground breaking writing, but her feel good story about discovering herself along a grueling trek will ring true to any born and bred BC’er. The last few pages held me in a constant state of awe, but not without the lead up. Much like the slow climb to the peak of a mountain, sore muscles and self-doubt like a heavy pack on your back, only to reach the top and encounter a breathtaking view and a better sense of self.
Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett – A House in the Sky
One of the most riveting stories I have ever read. Sometimes I felt like I was this girl, and that it could have been my life. I have recommended this book to quite a few friends and heard nothing but positive feedback. It is heart wrenching, full of courage, rage, and ultimately forgiveness. It will force you to feel the strength in fighting for life, drag you along with the injustice of her misfortunes, and beg you to hold on to a thread of hope while dwelling in her darkest corners. By the end you will thrive in the simplicity of your own existence while you feel her lose everything but the will to live.
Emma Donoghue – Room
This book was recommended to me by a dear friend and fellow reader. I dove in thinking I wouldn’t like it because it was written from the perspective of a five year old. I quickly changed my mind, and was amazed by the simplicity of the child’s revelations. This book is easy to read, yes, there is no complicated dialogue or words that need to be “googled”. Instead, what this book does is present a very difficult topic (rape) and a very difficult situation (kidnapping) and a very difficult event (miscarriage) from the innocent perception of a child. It then allows the reader to see such circumstances in a different light, as if being afraid of the dark, breathing fresh air for the first time, or remembering the feeling of endless love without judgment.
John Ajvide Lindqvist – Let Me In
Move aside Stephanie Meyer, this is how real vampires do it. Well, vampire. Okay, so there is only one, but she/he/it is badass enough to make up for a lack of covenant. This book is amazing in its prose, its emotion, its scenes, and its eventual outcome. And while vampires may be a little out of fashion, bully’s getting what they deserve is SO in. One of my all-time favorites.
Susannah Cahalan – Brain on Fire
A terrifying true story of a brilliant young woman’s decent into madness. It flowed easily, it was exceptionally well written and strikingly honest. I found her resilience refreshing and her actions believable. I found her emotions raw, her confusion painful and her slow crawl to recovery courageous. By the end of the book I felt like I had a chance to sincerely get to know this young woman, and felt inspired by her willingness to overcome what unexpectedly plagued her, and furthermore, go on to help those facing a similar battle.
Lauren B. Davis – Radiant City
This book begins with a scene of horses screaming inside a burning barn. This graphic opening sets the tone for the majority of the book, and although it occasionally dips into a cold, dark sorrow, the words more so linger like a burning itch. It follows a war-zone journalist after he is shot in the field. His mental recovery is the hardest to heal from, as he runs from his demons, revisits his past, feels the harshness of war weighing on his skin, and falls in love with a fragile woman among it all.
Daniel Keyes – The Minds of Billy Milligan
A true story about the first person in Ohio to be diagnosed with multiple personality disorder after having committed felonies such as rape and robbery. A fascinating story built on hours of interviews, recordings and court documents that ultimately weaves an intriguing dialogue between Billy’s outside interactions and the constant conversations within his own mind. An intricate account of the events that transpired leading to one of the most riveting court cases involving the debate of mental illness and accountability of crimes committed.