High school, college, grad school, whatever – we generally find ourselves with a lot of extra time once school is not an in-your-face priority anymore. Here are some books to help you unwind a bit and remember why you loved reading in the first place.
1. In the Wilderness – Kim Barnes
A memoir of a girl growing up in a variety of places (many that include the actual wilderness, such as a logger’s camp), Barnes’ writing is just beautiful – it will make you remember why you loved to read in the first place. And the things that she remembers and the grown-up conversations that she deciphered as a child – amazing.
2. Boy Still Missing – John Searles
I discovered this book in high school, and still like to go back and reread it. The story follows a teenager in the 70’s who befriends his father’s pregnant mistress. Subdued hijinks ensue, along with coming of age things and a hostage situation.
3. Running with Scissors – Augusten Burroughs
The first of Augusten Burroughs’ memoirs, Running with Scissors follows his life as a ward of his mother’s psychiatrist and his strange family. The best part of this book is the humorous twist that Burroughs puts on events that would make any other person want to curl up in the bath tub and cry.
4. Mariette in Ecstasy – Ron Hansen
An interesting story for religious and non-religious folks alike, this short book follows a young woman who joins a nunnery and develops the stigmata, while the other nuns gossip and deny that she is telling the truth.
5. Cat’s Eye – Margaret Atwood
A great introduction to Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye follows a young woman as she flies through childhood and grows into adulthood. The beautiful language that Atwood uses makes this book just lovely to read. And no, the title is not about a cat, it’s about a marble (and oh, how literary analysts and professors love to interpret that).
6. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson
If you ever want to feel better about your own strange childhood, read Jenny Lawson’s first memoir (and then check out her blog, because it’s awesome). From taxidermied animals to sticking your arm inside a cow’s vagina, your life will never be this strange.
7. Macbeth – William Shakespeare
People complain about Shakespeare being difficult to read and even worse to understand, but I guarantee it’s easier when you’re not being forced. Macbeth is a nice one to read because it is a very interesting story, full of witches and curses and prophecies and killing kings and blood all over the place. Seriously, it could be a modern movie, and everyone who didn’t know it was Shakespeare would love it.
8. House of Leaves – Mark Danielewski
This is definitely not one to read if you are buying a new house, but it’s worth the fears any other time in your life. This book follows a couple who find a strange opening in their home, and keeps even the most ADHD reader in check with spiraling text, footnotes, and lots of other strange stuff.
9. The Stand – Stephen King
Stephen King is always great to read, because his stories are so interesting (except for Dreamcatcher. Even King will admit that he wrote that one while on an immense amount of painkillers). This one is post apocalyptic and mysterious, and also became a bad TV miniseries (I do not recommend). It may make the apocalypse seem too real, though, so beware.
10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
Yeah, you probably had to read Tom Sawyer in high school, but honestly, I don’t know why that one is more popular. Huckleberry Finn has the better adventures, and more poignant tales than that guy. Check out this one.
11. Bastard out of Carolina – Dorothy Allison
This fictional story is actually based on a lot of things that happened in Dorothy Allison’s life, before she found the courage to speak about her white-trash family in a real sense. If you like her as an author, or just want to experiment with something new, I suggest also reading her memoirs, because they are flavorful and quick reads.
12. Grimm’s Fairy Tales – Brother’s Grimm
Everyone should know the original fairy tales – the gruesome, giving birth in your sleep, cutting off your heels kind of stories. Because life is not all fairy tales, and these versions will at least make you feel better about not fitting into your sister’s shoes.
13. Outlander – Diana Gabaldon
I know I’ve talked about Outlander before, but I can’t help it – it’s an awesome series. It’s got Scottish people, time travel, true love, and lots of authentic history. Pick it up if you feel that you have an overabundance of time on your hands (like when you’re unemployed and living at home).
14. Invisible Monsters – Chuck Palahniuk
In true Palahniuk fashion, Invisible Monsters has a unique story that lets you see the world through someone else’s eyes – In this case, the eyes of a former beauty queen who had the lower half of her face shot off.
15. The Princess Bride – William Goldman
Yes, it is actually a book. Yes, you should still read it. It’s very similar to the movie, but with some differences that make it worth reading (and just so you know, S. Morganstern is not a real person, even though Goldman talks like he is. Sorry to ruin your dreams).
16. The Vampire Lestat – Anne Rice
A better option than Interview with the Vampire, this book gives you better insight into the character of Lestat, and lets you love him for who he is, not for how others see him. It’s also far less angsty, and a lot like a memoir.
17. Mortified – David Nadelberg
Graduating generally makes people nostalgic, and this book is a great way to get over that. Basically, Mortified is selected diary entries from people who are grown ups now, but were highly dramatic teenagers in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.