5. Monsters Of Men by Patrick Ness
Monsters of Men is the excellent conclusion to Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy. Throughout the trilogy, Patrick Ness has explored how people are molded by their experiences, and how certain events can change the person that they are. And he never does this better than in this climactic finale. As war begins in New Prentisstown, Patrick Ness explores how the two main characters, Todd and Viola, have changed from the beginning. At the end of the day, both are good people. But they have been so distorted by past events that this no longer always comes through, especially since they find themselves on opposite sides. And neither of them really belong on either side. Patrick Ness also does an extraordinary job of showing what war can do to people, and how it can twist and change them until they are no different from their enemies. And, because of this, it becomes extremely hard for the reader to sympathize with either side. And, by the end of the book, you have been convinced that war does, indeed, make monsters of men.
4. A People’s History of America by Howard Zinn
Recently, I took a Facebook quiz about what kind of liberal I was. One of the questions was “If you were to leave the Earth to start a new civilization, what book would you take with you?”. And despite being only about a quarter way into it, I chose A People’s History of America. While no one can be 100% certain that everything in the book is truth, it provides the most brutal account of American history I have ever seen. And because of Howard Zinn’s constant referencing of primary sources, I also believe it to be one of the most accurate. Through everything I’ve read, Howard Zinn points out every single mistake that we’ve made as a nation. And there are so many. But it’s not because of the fact that this is one of the few truthful accounts of American history that A People’s History is on this list. It’s on this list because I believe that Howard Zinn’s goal was not to make America look evil (Though he certainly does that) but to provide an accurate account of American history so that we, the people, can learn from our mistakes, and become better people. And at the point I’m at, I feel that that is a goal that could be accomplished.
3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
This is one that I had to read for English class this year. But, honestly, I’m surprised I hadn’t read it before. I’m a hug fan of dystopian novels, and Fahrenheit 451 is easily one of my favorites. And the reason is that, even fifty years later, the books message is still relevant, and the novel provides a story that I can relate to. The futuristic world that Ray Bradbury crafts is scarily realistic, and one that makes you think. What if the government had so much power that they could control everything that we knew? One of my favorite parts of the book is Faber’s description of books. He says that you can play God to a book. It gives you ideas, but you can choose whether or not you want to believe them. You can put the book down and think. And that is something that’s so true, and something that I think is essential to the human spirit. Because, essentially, Fahrenheit 451 explores what could happen if the two components that makeup the roots of what it means to be human; creativity and thought, were stifled. And it isn’t pretty. Also, Montag’s development throughout the story is excellently well done. He starts off loving what he does, which is burning books. But the opening of his mind by Clarisse, in ways that are extremely obvious yet, at the same time, not at all obvious, leads to the development of his character into someone longing for change. Which, at the end of the book, he may or may not get.
2. TV Nation by Michael Moore
Yes, the entire book provides an account of an almost 20 year old TV show. But that doesn’t at all reduce it’s impact. The stories that Michael Moore tells are stunning, and encompass everything that is wrong with American society. His writing style obviously plays a big part in why I love the book so much, as it contains a great deal of humorous wit. But the political and economic message that the book carries are the real reason that it’s such a good book. It chronicles events such as taking boats out to get to a private beach which only the rich members of a neighborhood had access to. It’s stuff that seems, and is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous that the events Michael Moore chronicles in the book can actually happen. And Mr. Moore’s goal was to prove that there is something wrong with at the very core of American society. And he gets that message extremely well. TV Nation was an excellent read.
1. Time Out of Joint by Phillip K. Dick
Over the summer, I discovered my love for Phillip K. Dick’s work. I had already read Man in the High Castle and a collection of his short stories, but Time Out of Joint really got me into his work. The book at first seems to take place in the 1950’s, in a normal suburban neighborhood. But then some odd events start to occur, and the truth eventually gets revealed. It turns out that the whole town was created to house the main character, Ragle Gumm, who’s profession was winning the cash prize in a newspaper competition. However, it turns out that the newspaper contest was really him predicting the strikes on the US by the colonists of the moon. And the town was created to hide this from him, as he was going to switch sides, which would have meant that the colonists on the moon would have won the war. The whole premise of the novel is extremely interesting, and Phillip K. Dick executes it masterfully. Not only is this the best book I read this year, it is easily one of the best books I have ever read.