I asked some of my elders, well, people I know, what their favourite books were and why. One person I talked to told me these (in no particular order)…
1. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou (1969)
Maya Angelou’s writing style was the main thing that intrigued me when I first read this. It was published three years before I was born, and I read it when I was about nineteen, so I had a pretty good understanding of everything in the book. It was about a black family from San Francisco, and the reason it was very interesting to me was because it was about black people that were not from the south, and I was so used to reading about black people that grew up in the south of America. I was very intrigued, because I only ever read about Southern black people, and they were from California, on the west coast of the US. I liked the title very much too, I really understood it after reading the book.
2. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey (1962)
One of the main reasons I liked this was because I have always been interested in mental health issues and how people’s minds work. The characters in the book are so well formulated and the fact that it’s told through the eyes of someone who doesn’t speak makes for an even more interesting view of the characters and their surroundings. It’s set in a mental hospital, and McMurphy is hysterical. It’s about conformity, really, and do you conform to rules because people tell you to? It’s about a lot of different things, but I liked the rebellion in it. I was in high school, so I liked the whole idea of McMurphy saying to everyone, basically, ‘go f**k yourselves’.
3. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath (1963)
I was sixteen and I was reading a lot of women authors at the time, and I liked the idea of reading a lot of female authors at one time, and I was reading Eudora Welty at the time as well, who I also like. Again, it was about depression and mental illness, which I was interested in. It was definitely thought-provoking because of its dark, sort of, content. I could sort of relate to the sadness of Esther [the main character] and she was close to my age when I read it. It was, of course, Plath’s only book and it was a good one at that.
4. The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers (1940)
I think I was fourteen, no, more like seventeen when I read it. It was set in the deep south of Georgia, this is part of why I liked it, and I had to read it, for school. Alright, basically, it’s set in Georgia and it’s about this guy called John Singer, he’s deaf; I think I related to him mainly because I had people with disabilities in my family and if you took them out in public people looked at you funny and stuff, we didn’t care, but it still made you feel different. John’s deaf and he’s a bit of a misfit, and it’s set in this little county mill town, so it’s kind of a small community. It’s all about him and the people that he meets in this little town; he has this best friend called Antonapoulous. Anyway, they’re both deaf mutes and basically, they live together for a while, I don’t know how long, but Ant ends up going into a mental hospital and all this other stuff happens. The whole book is about the friends he has, and people’s misinterpretations of people who are different from well, people that don’t have disabilities, and their biases. All her books are set in the south, and she kind of gave a voice to the people who were oppressed.
5. The Catcher In The Rye – J.D. Salinger (1951)
I was…probably about fourteen or fifteen when I read the book. It’s about this guy called Holden Caulfield and he goes to this prep school and he’s like the head of the fencing team and in the beginning of the book it starts with him losing all the fencing equipment on a subway in New York. It’s basically about teenage angst and rebellion. His character’s really, really good. It initially made me want to read more and I enjoyed reading it. I first read it because I had to for school, but then I thought, there’s stuff outside of school I can read that I like, and that explains why I’m a big reader now.