WARNING: This list includes NOTHING written by Kristen Hannah.
No self-respecting article titled “5 Books That You Should Read Right Now” should ever include a book written by Kristen Hannah. Period.
I’m sure many of you will find this list unconventional. Gone Girl will NOT be on it, either. Gillian Flynn weaves a powerful tale in that one, but when in your 20s will you ever need to know **SPOILER ALERT** when to frame your husband for your murder, plan to kill yourself, end up forgiving the cheating bastard, and — in a truly sick turn of events — windup pregnant?
YOU’LL NEVER NEED TO KNOW THAT. That book, admittedly scintillating, will teach you absolutely nothing of value. However, the authors on my list will.
I should preface this article by saying I’m a huge fan of The Lost Generation authors. Fitzgerald, Hemmingway, Dos Passos and Ezra Pound have been my literary gods ever since I read Gatsby in the 11th grade. What I find even more fascinating than their work is the way they lived their lives. Expats to the core, this group of dear friends and professional enemies would travel through countries in Europe on whim and invitation alike. They measured their successes by word count, absinthe and extra-marital affairs. Every invitation was accepted, every party attended and no challenge turned down. These people ran with bulls in Spain, got tossed out of cafes in Paris, were published by Scribner’s and still felt mostly inadequate until the day they died. And while this list isn’t exclusive to The Lost Generation authors, they are certainly the inspiration behind it.
To me, the books and authors on this list represent exactly what your 20s should be about. Your 20s are a time for excess, mistakes, impossible love and painful self-awareness. It’s the time to put it all out there.
Lamenting over. With that I leave you with my list of the 5 books you should read right now. Go ahead and learn something. I dare you.
‘The Sun Also Rises,’ by Ernest Hemingway
“Isn’t it pretty to think so.”
Home to arguably the greatest last line in literature, Sun will make any heartbreak you’ve ever endured seem frivolous and inconsequential. You’ll also become obsessively enraptured with the art of bullfighting – or Corrida De Toros if you’re fancy. This book makes the list for no other reason than the phrase, “Isn’t it pretty to think so” will forever find a place in your damp, dark heart.
‘The Great Gatsby,’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Baseball, for whatever reason, is America’s favorite pastime; the Bald Eagle is our national bird and The Great Gatsby is America’s novel. Subtle and tender, this book taught me what it means to fall in love with a story. I hate to pick favorites, I believe that picking a favorite anything is too restrictive, but this novel might be mine.
‘Little Bee,’ by Chris Cleave
“We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, ‘I survived’.”
If this book doesn’t put your life in perspective, you should consider working at a mall kiosk for the rest of your days to ensure that you stay an irrelevant member of society. That was a bit harsh but this book is THAT GOOD. So many chills and feelz when I read it. I can’t even attempt to accurately sum up the story in a blurb. Just trust me and read it. If you don’t, remember what I said about that kiosk…
‘The Paris Wife,’ by Paula McLain
Because don’t you want to know what it was like for Hadley?! Of course you do! Hadley Richardson was Hemingway’s starter wife with a heart of pure, pure gold. The Paris Wife offers a glimpse into the lives of my favorite expats in all their misappropriated glory.
‘In Sunlight and In Shadow,’ by Mark Helprin
“’I wish I had someone who would talk to me that way, as if no one else were in the room,’ Andrea said, not caring how vulnerable she might appear in the eyes of her friends and acquaintances, for she had no one who would, and at that moment she would have traded everything in the world that was clever for one simple thing that was true.”
I hesitate to include this book in the list simply because it will ruin all other novels for you. No other author has been able to build a story with a foundation of love and virtue, sweeping layers of turmoil and bravery, sprinkled with romance and unbelievably tender moments quite like Mark Helprin. The story of Harry and Catherine is extraordinarily grandiose and also simple. The hero and heroine manage to overcome religious differences, class barriers, and the mafia while maintaining their strong sense of morality. The 1940s have never been so alive.
Go forth with this list of truly extraordinary reads and experience the joy of reading a really great book. Don’t be shy to list some of your personal favorites in the comments section. I love to know what other people are reading!