10 books that will make you smarter and more interesting
There’s no more virtuous pastime to take faux Instagram stories of than reading books.
Books are dope; everyone knows that. Oprah reads books. Obama reads books. Bill Gates has a reading blog. Know who doesn’t read? Donald Trump. True story.
So maybe there isn’t a direct causational link between reading and becoming loaded, but reading is one of – if not the – best things you can do to better yourself and generally become a more interesting person this year.
It’s a pretty common thing that we read heaps when we’re a kid, because our imaginations are running wild and we’ve just discovered Harry Potter. But ten years later, it’s often a sad fact that our attention spans are shorter and we prefer to instead consume information in vlog form.
So why not channel your inner child (because let’s face it, we all want to go back) and all the wondrous imagination that comes with doing so, and become a more diverse reader these holidays. Here’s a few to get you started.
1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
I first stumbled across this gem in a uni English class, and it’s made this list because it’s the only one that didn’t bore me to pieces (I no longer study English). In fact, quite the opposite: it’s now one of my favourite books of all time. Winner of numerous awards, Station Eleven manages the rare feat of being a deep and powerful book that’s really, really readable. It’s about the relevant scariness of a apocalypse coming in flu form, and the characters dealing with all-to familiar struggles of human life before and after there not being many humans.
2. On Writing by Stephen King
Although an absolute must for anyone who likes writing, Stephen King’s half-autobiography/half-master class is a sometimes wild look into the mind of one of the most successful writers of all time. After watching It, you won’t be disappointed with the crazy ride it took to write it – it involves rejection, almost dying, and lots and lots of cocaine.
3. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Impeccably vibrant writing; complex, loveable characters; and a heartbreakingly powerful twist – this book will drive you mad. It’s probably one of the most devastating novels I’ve read – but in a good way – the sort of way that sticks with you long after you’ve closed the final page, and wakes you up at 2am urgently questioning the universe OH GOD WHY DID THAT HAVE TO HAPPEN. You will finish A Little Life positively shook – and you’ll annoy the hell out of all your friends, family and acquaintances to read it too just so that you’re not left alone with this burden of knowledge. Cheerful, I know. Grab the tissues and post-up. Then DM us what you thought of it (because god knows I never get sick of talking about it). Content warning: distressing content.
4. Mythos by Stephen Fry
Not just for classics nerds. Stephen Fry is hilarious, and it’s surprising how hilarious ancient Greek myths can be as well, when told by someone who, as aforementioned, is very, very funny. Ancient Greeks didn’t have David Attenborough, and so they had explanations for literally everything – from why people live, why people die, why there’s seasons (there’s a weird stalker in that one) and why bees can only sting once before taking the L. This book differs, though, in how it’s told as casually as if one of the best comedic minds in the world was just having a yarn to you at a party.
5. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
When this book was first published, it was banned in the United States. It’s pretty easy to see why in the first chapter: not only is it hectic, it’s at its heart a critical look at the United States and the government – and how topical is that now? There’s literally no better time. Although classics can be the absolute driest, A Clockwork Orange is one of the most insane literary roller-coasters of all time, with literally everything illegal in it told from the perspective of a teenager battling with the ideas of good and evil. It also has a made up language. It’s also pretty short. t’s also literally THE best book to use for NCEA English, and double win because it’s dope. Just read it. Warning: adult themes.
6. We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Harvey Weinstein has officially poured the gas on debates around feminism, and reminded us to all to look at the systems that have led to such egregious abuses of power. Whichever side of the argument you sit on, it’s important to get informed so that you can at least backup your opinion with reputed voices. This little mini-book is the perfect supplement to Intersectional Feminism101, is small and easy enough be read in one sitting, and serves as the best way to explain the movement to someone who knows nothing about it (or to inform yourself, if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about). Plus, it’s famously sampled in Beyonce’s revolutionary hit single Flawless, which is enough of a reason to read it on its own. If you’re shocked to see a political book on this list, please remember that it’s now 2018 and everything is political. Check urself.
7. Hunger by Roxane Gay
This book is a raw, honest memoir from an esteemed writer, activist and lecturer – as told through the lens of her body. Yep, you heard it, throughout Hunger, Roxane Gay examines what it’s actually like to live in the body of a fat person, and all of the mental, social, physical and economic barriers society presents to overweight people on the daily. After learning of the devastating trauma Gay has experienced in her life, you quickly realise how scathing our judgments of other people’s outer appearances can be. You’ll finish the book not quite knowing what to think, but with the intense feeling you’ve walked a mile in the author’s shoes. Everyone should read this book, and remember how important human empathy is for the world we live in.
8. Sleeps Standing: A Story of the Battle of Ōrākau, Witi Ihimaera
Catch up on Aotearoa’s very own history by picking up Witi Ihimaera’s new fascinating book, Sleeps Standing Moetū. This small novella (short novel) mixes fact and fiction in retelling of the Battle of Ōrākau – a real event that marked the end of the NZ land-wars in 1863. The story is nothing short of exciting – exploring the momentous battle through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Moetū. The story is printed in English on the right-hand page and in Kelly’s Maori translation on the left, so you can check your te reo Māori as you read. While history is often told from the winners POV, this book gives a different perspective on a battle that hasn’t always been presented from an indigenous viewpoint. Plus, it’s 10x more interesting than any Year 13 history textbook you’ll be reading in class.
9. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger
You know I had to include it. J.D. Salinger’s masterpiece is included in pretty much every list of the best books ever, and for good reason. The Catcher in the Rye is another one of those books known for seeming like it’ll be a tedious mission of monotony when your English teacher gives it to you, but actually turns out to be surprisingly cool. It’s no coincidence that literally the second line of its wikipedia page is: “A classic novel originally published for adults, it has since become popular with adolescent readers for its themes of teenage angst and alienation.”
10. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
At number 10, the book that inspired the movies and a whole lot of children and adults to read. Because you probably couldn’t get through the entire The Lord of the Rings trilogy in the holidays if you tried, The Hobbit is worth it for being an awesome story in one of the most successful fictional worlds of all time. Initially written as a children’s book and published because a 10-year-old loved it, it’s pretty short and really approachable, while still being literally epic.
Bonus! 11. How Young People Succeed and How Parents Can Help by William Guzzo
Enjoy! And remember to tag @studytimenz in your intellectual Instagram stories xo