All books have the power to challenge perspectives and make people grow, but only a few can do this without subjecting readers to melodrama or the aging effects of multiple life tragedies. Although far from light reading, these novels will entertain and inspire introspection.
The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
Would you forgo your individuality and freedom for total order in society? In the too-perfect, dystopian world of twelve-year old Jonas, anything that can incite feelings and conflict, such as colors and choices, does not exist. Humans are assigned their skills, jobs, partners, and destinies. But Jonas’ assignment will be special–to train with the Giver, the only person in the community who lives separately and holds all knowledge of the past, including human pain and pleasure.
The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
In this 1943 novel, there is no question that the individual is superior to the collective. Its champion is young architect Howard Roark, a modernist-minimalist who refuses to compromise his ideals in an establishment that clings to excessiveness and conformity, even if it causes him great difficulty. The same ideals guide his decisions on love and relationships. The Fountainhead teaches that the most rewarding decisions are those that kept one’s integrity intact, in spite of societal pressures.
The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
This 2002 novel is told from the perspective of Susie Salmon, who was 14 when a serial rapist and murderer ended her life. From her assigned “personal heaven” in the afterlife, Susie watches her loved-ones pick up the pieces of their lives after the tragedy. As friends and family pieced together the details of her murder, Susie lives vicariously through them to experience the more ordinary parts of life that were snatched from her. The book will have readers pondering the transcience of human existence, suggesting meaning even in the most trivial pursuits.
The Seven Minutes, Irving Wallace
In this 1969 legal drama, a specialty bookstore in a conservative, wealthy community decides to release a controversial book called “The Seven Minutes.” The book portrays the thoughts in a woman’s mind during seven minutes of sexual intercourse, a subject that made people adjudge it as “the most obscene piece of pornography ever written.” While efforts to have it banned were being made, a beloved college frat boy commits a brutal rape and murder. The District Attorney takes advantage of the public interest in the case and the outrage on the publication, to link “The Seven Minutes” with the rape-murder trial. Thus started a community witch hunt to blame a book for a fatal act of sexual violence. A must-read for anyone still in the dark about what rape culture is.
Bird box, Josh Malerman
Released in 2014, this suspense thriller set in post-apocalyptic America shook doomsday preppers around the world. They are prepared for any major natural catastrophe as well as the nuclear fallout from an impending world war, but have they considered going out in the world, against antagonistic forces, without eyesight? In Birdbox, witnessing a mysterious phenomenon had people going mad and killing themselves. The story centered on a young woman named Malorie and her years spent plotting a sightless escape for herself and two children.
How about you? What’s your novel recommendation?