Percy is a twelve-year-old dyslexic boy who doesn’t fit in, his mother lives with an abusive stepfather, and he has just been expelled from his sixth school in six years. Life is frustrating, and the future seems bleak, when he suddenly learns the truth: his father is one of the Greek Gods! This, of course, means that Percy is half a God, and it opens up a whole new world full of danger, but also hope. The Lightning Thief is the first book in Rick Riordan’s young adult series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and it will make you wish you paid attention more in high school when you were studying mythology. This is a fun book with a Herculean quest, prophecies, and plenty of action.
This short story is one of my favorites. Written in the style of a tall tale, it follows the football team at Siwash College and the daring exploits of star player Ole Skjarsen, a lad built of sturdy Scandinavian stock. He could dismantle most teams single-handedly, until the day he decided not to play anymore, leaving the entire university in turmoil. Find out how the fans cope with this great calamity. The Big Strike at Siwash by George Fitch is free at books.google.com.
Me Talk Pretty One Day is a series of funny essays by David Sedaris. In the first half of the book, he recounts humorous anecdotes about his life in the United States, but my favorite is an essay about his time living in France and trying to learn French with transplants from around the world. The class eagerly attempts, in very broken French, to try to describe to a Muslim woman what Easter is. It is one of the funniest things I have ever read.
The first thing you will notice about this book is the excellent writing. I think Ray Bradbury could write a book about paint drying and make it come to life. Fahrenheit 451 takes place in a futuristic world where firemen exist not to put out fires, but rather to start them. In particular, all books and all literature are hunted down and burned while people mindlessly stare into television screens all day.
Until recently, Guy Montag was happy being a fireman, but when his wife attempts suicide and his neighbor disappears mysteriously, Guy secretly begins hiding books. When he is discovered, he must run for his life.
Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth is a word lover’s paradise which both children and adults can enjoy. The story follows Milo, a boy with not much interest in anything, through a mysterious tollbooth into a magical land where he must try to reconcile the differences between the land of Dictionopolis (which holds words most dear) and Digitopolis (a kingdom ruled by numbers). Only by rescuing the princesses Rhyme and Reason can Milo end the discord dividing the kingdoms. It is a fun adventure for everyone as Milo learns to find delight in the world around him.
This eerie short story will make you question your faith in any long standing traditions. The whole town has gathered for the annual lottery, but no one seems too happy about it. There is a general uneasiness about the crowd which Jackson masterfully cultivates until the final shocking moment. You will never look at your neighbors the same again. Check out The Lottery today.
Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is a ridiculously funny play that will make you laugh out loud. It starts with two English gentlemen (Jack and Algernon) discussing how they each have one identity for the city and an alias for the country. Jack uses his city alias (Ernest) to woo his true love, but he has no money to secure a marriage, and living the double life is starting to catch up with him. Jack decides he may have to “kill” off Ernest, but not before Algernon has a little fun himself. This is a masterpiece of mistaken identities and a lot of fun.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is one of those timeless classics that is best read on a dark night. The plot is familiar to most people thanks to television and the movies: Doctor Frankenstein works secretly in his laboratory to bring to life a slow, dim-witted monster. Imagine, if you will, that the monster is not dull, but rather a genius who can move at incredible speed and he is coming after you! Is there any place on Earth that you could hide?
No Easy Day is a firsthand account of the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden from the point of view of the Navy SEALs who were there. The story begins as the team is about to fast rope down into the Bin Laden compound when the helicopter starts to spin out of control headed for an inevitable crash. Mark Owen then backtracks and describes his entire training from testing to qualify as a Navy SEAL through missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The story will capture your attention throughout, but especially at the climax as the author retraces every step of the raid that ultimately killed the most notorious terrorist of our time.
Louis Sachar’s Holes is a young adult book with short, bite-sized chapters that make you want to read the whole thing in one sitting—and you do. It follows young Stanley Yelnats who is unjustly sent to a correctional facility in the desert, most likely on account of a 100-year-old family curse, where he is forced to dig holes to “build character.” Every detail in the book is intertwined into a well-crafted plot which bounces back and forth between the present and past. It has quickly become one of my favorite books.
After you read the book, be sure to check out the movie version of Holes.