#1) The Outsiders - S.E. HintonIn the YA genre, I first read this book in high school. In a class full of rowdy heathens. My teacher got really bad when I told her I took the book home and read it. She screamed at the class, "Look, she had to take this book home to read because you are all so disruptive!" Um, I took it home because I wanted to finish it. I'm quite capable of blocking out disruptive high schoolers. A story many of us can relate to, the journey of Ponyboy Curtis, who only wants to fit in. Or at least have people understand him. He's a smart kid from the wrong side of the tracks. He's proud of his greaser side, but his older brother Darryl (the only one in the family with a name that isn't weird as all get-out. Sodapop? Their parents were on drugs or something) wants him to get good grades and go to college. So he pushes Pony at every turn until it becomes so stressful, Pony runs away. He and his best friend Johnny, who will never amount to anything because he's a little bit off and very poor, fall asleep in a lot and wake up to a nightmare. The Socs (that's not pronounced sock, it's short for social) decide to beat them up. They nearly drown Pony before Johnny stabs one with a knife. So they really do have to run away then because obviously Johnny can't go to jail for murder. They end up living in an abandoned church, eating baloney and reading Gone With The Wind for entertainment. There's a fire, a lot of death and a serious Hallmark moment at the end.
#2) Of Mice & Men - John Steinbeck
Steinbeck at his best, IMO. My H.S. English teacher had a serious obsession with death and made sure her reading requirements were chock full of it. Of Mice & Men is the story of two down-on-their-luck guys wandering across the States during the Great Depression, taking work where they could find it. George, the brains of the operation makes sure they have food, their bus tickets and work. Lenny, the lummox, is his traveling pal. When he was a kid, Lenny got kicked in the head by a horse and was never quite right after that. He's obsessed with touching things--particularly anything soft. He's fond of carrying dead mice in his pockets until George makes him throw them away. They take a job working at a farm in California where Lenny outworks every man there. They meet Candy, an old man with one hand who spent his life working on the farm, but will soon be useless and unable to work any longer. Lenny makes George tell about their dream--owning a little farm of their own where no one can tell them what to do. And Lenny will get to feed the rabbits. If they save up enough money, some day soon they'll have it. Except Curly, the boss' son has it in for Lenny. And Curly's trampy wife, whose IQ is only marginally larger than Lenny's, keeps flirting with the gentle giant. Until he accidentally kills her. George gathers his friend and they flee the area only to have the novel end in tragedy.
#3) Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (succeeding HP & the Order of the Phoenix) - J.K. Rowling
Ah, yes. The Boy Who Lived. And suffered a lot, sometimes unnecessarily. But also The Boy Who Sacrificed A Lot for a bunch of people who couldn't do more than point and whisper behind his back. An outcast. An unlikely hero. Beautiful. With it's surprise almost-ending featuring Snape (which was super-beautiful in the movie), and it's touching, feel-good final moments, that whole wait for the end was worth every angsty second. I'll be the first to admit, I thought Harry Potter was a dumb concept when the first book came out. But the more I read, the more I loved it.
I've seen this movie a couple dozen times. I read the book twice. I did not know it was about lesbians. Apparently I'm oblivious. I just thought it was about murdering wife beating husbands and grinding them up to feed to law enforcement. Huh. Who knew? Not me, at least until I actually cataloged a copy and there it was in plain sight: Lesbians |Fiction. Huh. Well, whatever floats your boat, I guess. I love how Idgie's story of the Depression empowers Evelyn. The characters are like people you could really know, the type of family who is so close knit, they'll lie to keep you out of jail. Good stuff.
#5) The Bean Trees - Barbara Kingsolver
So, favorite books. New? Old? What makes you keep coming back to them?