Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by book blogger (and evident alliteration fanatic) The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's theme deals with books that do their part to give some kind of broader form to some of the most difficult issues to understand. Through these peeks into the world of those falling victim to mental illness, those suffering under oppressive societal conventions like racism, and those trapped in terrifying situations, like war.
These are some of my favorite books dealing with harsh issues and tough topics.
1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky.
This is a wide favorite among many, simply because of its tender tackling of many different social and personal issues that affect many teens, including mental illness, bullying, understanding homosexuality, and feeling alone. It's a great novel, and the movie is pretty good as well.
2. Just Listen, by Sarah Dessen.
I've seen lots of Sarah Dessen novels making it onto people's lists for today, and I understand why: she is able to deal with a wide range of true-to-teenage-life topics with understanding and subtlety. This book deals with the effects of bullying and sexual assault in the main character, as well as eating disorders in a background character,and is one of the first books I found that I could read, and cry about every single time.
3. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
I've also seen loads of John Green today, for similar reasons as to Sarah Dessen: these two just really get how to talk to and about teenagers. I wasn't sure what I was expecting going into this book, but the big tough topics really came like a slap in the face. It's a spoiler, so I won't give reasons.
4. The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath.
I've already discussed this to be one of my favorite books on the whole planet. This is one of my favorite books, not only for the relatable nature of the heroine, but because of Plath's amazing talent, in mirroring the character, Esther's, thoughts and feelings perfectly in the mind of the reader. Dealing with depression, mental illness, and suicide, this is one of the greatest books ever written, in my opinion.
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain.
I'm immensely biased to be on Mark Twain's side in any given situation, due to the fact that he wrote my favorite novel of all time. This book is one of my favorites as well. While widely contested and popularly censored across the United States, this is one of the best examples of Twain's work, and is a vital description of slavery in the South.
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.
Also one of my favorite books, this is yet another moving portrayal of civil rights abuses and injustices against African Americans in the South, set against one young girl's story of simply growing up. (Bonus points to the good folks at King's Books in Downtown Tacoma, who house a friendly cat named Atticus.)
7. The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien.
This book sucks for many, many reasons, very particular to me, but it is a truly horrifying depiction of the war in Vietnam. It was a polarizing book in my senior year English class, because people either loved it for the war, or hated it; either way, it got us talking on another very important issue, especially when it seems like the wars in the Middle East have been going on forever.
8. Escape from Warsaw/ The Silver Sword, by Ian Serraillier.
Okay, this is a bit of a random choice, it would seem, but actually, this moving portrayal of the flight of a group of siblings from Warsaw after German invasion in WWII, has stuck with me since I first read it in the seventh grade. (Even all of these years later, I still want to name a chicken Jimpy, after a pet rooster in the book.)
9. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Sherman Alexie.
This one was read as a summer assignment for junior year, and it ended up introducing me to one of the most unique voices I've ever read. Sherman Alexie is very good at what he does, which is depict the life of Native Americans in a very gritty and real way, from varying viewpoints and through roundabout descriptions, so you really have to work to actively understand exactly what people are going through. Truly powerful stuff.
10. Animal Farm, George Orwell.
I had a really difficult time picking out what my last book would be, simply because there were a lot of contenders for the position, but in the end, I had to go with yet another summer read for school - I think it was sophomore year - depicting the evils of governmental oppression and communism, as palatable for popular consumption. This is a quick read, but a powerful one.
So, those are some of my favorite books dealing with Tough Topics. What are yours?