I was going to try to rank these, initially, but I realized there was no possible way I could. Each book has extremely deep meaning to me, and I don’t think there’s any way I could possibly choose one over the other because of that. So I’ll just talk about them and explain why they’re my favorite.
The Road, Cormac McCarthy: This was a book I first read in my sophomore year of high school. My mom had recommended it to me (as a librarian she obviously knows what she’s talking about), but I ignored it like the idiot I am until a project came up for my English course that required me to find a book and review it. My teacher suggested The Road and, remembering what my mom had said, I immediately said I would love to read the book. It ended up being one of my fastest reads and I found it to be an insanely good book. Looking back, I think what really stuck out to me was the message of hope prevalent throughout the book. Obviously the apocalyptic setting is extremely depressing and saddening, but the message of the road pointed out how important it is to keep hope alive and always hope for the best, even in the most dire of situations. I’d like to think that has held true to me for most of my life since reading this. I always do my best to stay optimistic, even to a fault. I love how I view the world now, though, and this book played a huge part in that for me.
Ptolemy’s Gate, Jonathan Stroud: This is less of a life changing book and more of a good story. This is the final book in the Bartimaeus trilogy, and, if you haven’t read it, you really, really should. The book focuses on the world like it is, except for one key difference: demons. In this world there is a place that holds demonic beings capable of powerful magical abilities. The story focuses on a young boy’s life growing up in this world and his companion/slave, Bartimaeus. I don’t want to spoil anything, but give it a chance. The book really is incredible.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery: I read the Elegance of the Hedgehog my senior year of college. It was a little long and I had grown a little unaccustomed to reading books during college (it was more about cramming stuff and racing, not about reading things to really read them). However, I did sit down to read this and finished it about 2-3 hours before the test I had to take on it, and, suddenly, felt an incredibly euphoric sensation flow over me. Part of it was the book, which was exceptional, but part of it was realizing I was really happy with my life and who I am. It’s not often that people don’t reflect on themselves and see flaws, I think, and being able to accept myself, both the good and the bad, just left me feeling extremely at peace with the world. I dunno. The book was pretty exceptional though definitely pick it up and read it.
Foundation, Isaac Asimov: So I read the Foundation trilogy in my junior year of college. It’s probably the best sci-fi book I’ve ever read and it really just gelled well with my whole thoughts on life and how it works. The general concept of the trilogy is that large populations of people are predictable; namely that with a large enough population it is possible to predict the future successfully. I totally buy that because it’s basically how science works. If you can eliminate enough variables or understand enough of them, prediction of the future is actually a fairly straightforward business. Nothing unexpected ever happens. Most people I’ve talked to seem to genuinely dislike the concept that their lives are predictable, but I don’t think that’s really a problem. The system is far too complex with such a large number of variables; predicting the actions of a single person is impossible. Even if the actions of a person were predictable, it wouldn’t make it any less a person’s decision when they make it. They just would have always made that decision if placed in the same setting again. Anyway the book is pretty hard core sci-fi, but probably the best I’ve ever read.
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card: I believe this has gained a bit of popularity over time, especially with a movie based on the book recently coming out. This might be the most popular book on my list, likely only rivaled by The Road, if that at all. Anyway the book is absolutely stellar. The story is great, focused on a young boy attempting to defeat an entire invading civilization of ‘buggers’. The world Card creates is pretty incredible and becoming attached to Ender is probably one of the easiest things in the world. The way Ender sees how the battle station works and being able to make his way through all of the scenarios placed in front of him is pretty incredible, particularly for a five year old. It’s a great read and probably the easiest one of all of my books listed here to get through for the average person. It moves fairly quickly, and I think most people would enjoy the novel as a whole.