Some books are so engrossing, so engaging that even once you put them down, they never leave you. Every time I reread Pride and Prejudice, my inner dialogue develops a British accent and I find myself using the word “impropriety” a lot. Some books stick with you, in the form of a British accent or perhaps by inspiring a fervor to make a difference in the world. The following books have left a lasting impression on me, encouraging me, in turn, to leave a lasting impression on the world.
Josh Swensen is out to change the world one blog post at a time. Under the pseudonym Larry, Josh blogs about the evils of consumerism, waste, and greed. His ideas spark a fire online and soon Larry is a demigod, preaching minimalism and giving back. But not everyone is a fan of Larry’s teachings, and Josh begins to experience the dark side of fame. With few options left to him, Josh decides to fake Larry’s death in a last ditch effort to free himself from his fans.
Josh values minimalism in all things, and to that end he limits himself to 75 possessions, total. After finishing the book, I did a quick count of what I had on me: shoes, shirt, pants, coat, bag, 3 pencils, 1 laptop, 1 phone, 2 books, 1 pack of gum, 3 keys, the list when on an on. When I finished the audit I had almost 50 items on my person, let alone what was in my car, office, and house! I felt so uselessly lavish, so pointlessly posh, I immediately went home to purge my closet of clothes I hadn’t worn in years. Josh is an ideal of example of living your principles. His story is very inspiring–but beware, you might feel inadequate and wasteful after reading this book.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2012 Teens’ Top Ten nominee)
Hazel lives on the brink of illness, never quite well but not quite dying. Her cancer, kept at bay by chemicals, will most likely never go away. After years of “home schooling” (books and lots of episodes of America’s Next Top Model), Hazel is detached from what used to be her life … until she meets Augustus Waters at a cancer support group. Augustus is full of life and fire and, for reasons she cannot explain, an interest in Hazel.
The character’s tenuous hold on life is a reminder to every reader that we must make the most of what time we have. Realizing the probable impact her death will have on her parents, Hazel tries to pull away and spare her parents the pain of her passing. Her detachment admonishes that the most important things in life are the relationships we make.
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (2009 Best Books for Young Adults)
Markus, a.k.a. win5ton, is a seventeen-year-old computer hacker with a chip on his shoulder. Already fed up with how much information his high school tracks about their students, Markus is pushed over the edge when he and his friends are arrested by Homeland Security after an attack on the Golden Gate Bridge. After three days of being held without arrest, Markus is released into a new San Francisco, which has turned into a police state. His every move is watched, every click tracked, every credit card purchase spied on. Markus decides to take matters into his own hands and leads an uprising against Big Brother.
Mark Zuckerburg is a very rich man; however his company does not charge for their service … why is that? Because they deal in information, selling your preferences, likes, and favorites to companies around the world. In this age, information is valuable, and if you don’t know how your information is being used, you can’t protect yourself. Read Little Brother and I guarantee you will want to close your Google account and Facebook profile and downgrade to an old flip-phone.
Nothing by Janne Teller (2011 Michael L. Printz Award Honor)
Pierre Anthon has come to the realization that life is meaningless. No matter what you do, no matter who you are, you will die … so what is the point? Seeing no purpose in it anymore, Pierre Anthon leaves school and takes up residence in a plum tree, where he ridicules his former classmates for conforming to the meaningless system. His less-jaded classmates band together and devise a plan to prove to Pierre Anthon that life has a purpose. In an abandoned saw mill outside of town they will each contribute a object with meaning to a growing pile. However, their additions of a favorite pair of shoes and a beloved pet hamster are not enough to change Pierre Anthon’s mind. As their determination to find meaning and disprove their former classmate grows, does does the sinister nature of their contributions to the Pile of Meaning.
A book for your inner existential nihilist, Nothing will leave you wondering if Pierre Anthon was right. What is the meaning of all this? After reading this I felt the need to make something of myself and do something “important.”
Many books stay with a reader long after the last page has been turned, but few haunt their readers with the need to do something, make something of yourself, help someone, make a difference, and more.
— Kate McNair