One of the most popular reactions I get from people when I tell them I’m an English major is, “Oh, so you’re going to be a teacher?” It was neither my intent to be a teacher, nor a dream to stand in front of a group of seemingly intellectual students and stuff grammar and literature down their throats. Let me make this clear- there is nothing wrong with being a teacher. It was just never a dream of mine. The main reason I became an English major is because I love to read, and I love to delve deep into the unknown world of fiction. I guess I was a little naive when I was nine years old, because I was under the impression that I would be a famous and renowned author by the time I was twenty-one. That was my goal; my intention; and it is still my intention, but the age has, unfortunately, bumped up a little bit. As an English major you are forced to read, and, well, you can’t become a writer if you don’t read.
During my college career, I probably read around 200 novels, and that is an understatement. There were a lot of books I read that I absolutely abhorred, and, at the time, I didn’t understand why the teacher would assign such— as I called it— “crap.” Within those hundreds of books, though, I found glimpses of lights from a few novels that I still read today: novels that made me have a different perspective on my life as a young adult. These following novels are what shaped me into the writer I am today, and they also help me to stick to that dream of becoming a well-known author someday. Hey, one can dream.
LE MORTE D’ARTHUR by Sir Thomas Mallory
This one was a required read for my British Literature class, and I’ll tell you what- when I read the syllabus for this one, I wasn’t that excited. After all, it’s the story of King Arthur and the Round Table, and we all know that story, right? Well, sorry to say, if you haven’t read this book,
I promise you have no idea what happened within the kingdom of Camelot. This novel is filled with dragons and damsels, love and betrayal, and stories about fights for one of the most noble literary kingdoms to ever exist. Within the confines of this 500-page beast that was written in the 15th century, I found some of the most beautifully sad stories filled with battles and bloodshed. Oh, and fun fact: this was one of the first books to be printed using Caxton’s printing press, and it is still relevant today. Pretty cool, huh?
HARD TIMES by Charles Dickens
Ah, yes. Victorian Literature. This was one of my favorite classes. Hard Times was the first book by Dickens I ever read, and it is one of those books that has always stuck with me. This novel takes place in a world that is run by those who don’t believe in dreaming. Everything in Dickens’ world is literal- there must be no horses on wallpaper in homes because that is just not practical and could never happen; horses don’t live on wallpaper! When a child questions this statement, she is punished, and she is sent to live with a different family. This book is all about the importance of following your dreams, and the importance of imagination. A world that doesn’t allow imagination isn’t the type of the world that I would want to live in. Think about it- there would be no movies, no books, and, of course, no art. Hell, this website wouldn’t exist because there would be no internet. If you want to take a look into a world that does not allow creativity, this is your go-to book. It’s truly fascinating.
SUMMER by Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton really broke the mold with her writing, as she was one of the only successful female novelists of the early twentieth century. She was nominated three times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and her more well-known novel, House of Mirth, was another required read. While House of Mirth is fantastic, it didn’t resonate with me as much as Summer did. When I picked up this book, I could not (and would not) put it down; I read it in one sitting. It centers around a woman named Charity, who becomes pregnant by a man who is already engaged. He promises to break the engagement, but life doesn’t always turn out how you want, does it? With an abusive father and a missing mother, a pregnant Charity is forced to face the world on her own without the help of anyone. This novel is all about independence, the role of women, and destructive relationships. It’s truly a piece of art.
FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley
I remember meeting a guy at a bar and telling him the entire synopsis of Frankenstein. And no, I never did get a second date with him. THAT is how much I loved this book. When you think of Frankenstein, I’m sure you think of that green monster with bolts coming out of his neck. First off, Frankenstein is the creator, and “The Monster” is Frankenstein’s creation. Second off, The Monster is certainly not green. Victor Frankenstein wanted to change the world with his creation, but when The Monster escapes, he runs into more trouble that he could possibly imagine. This book will take you inside the mind of The Monster, who curses his very existence. As he hides in the forest, he observes the actions and interactions of humans, and be begins to speak eloquently. But, when people see his appearance, they scream and run, and they don’t want anything to do with him. The intelligence of The Monster surpasses most people in the village, yet they don’t want to engage in a simple conversation with him because of what he looks like on the outside. This causes rage in The Monster, and he becomes what people thought of him all along- a vicious and frightening creature. MAN this book is good. A lot of people might tell you that this book is boring, but I highly disagree with them. Actually, whoever said that, just stop talking to them. It’s best for you anyways. See, I told you I was passionate about this one.
WHAT MAISIE KNEW by Henry James
I will have to admit, I’m not the biggest James fan who has ever lived. I actually took an entire class on Henry James not knowing exactly what I got myself into. When I came across What Maisie Knew, though, my entire perspective on the author shifted. This book is about a little girl named Maisie, who is torn between her mother and her father due to a divorce. This book was written in 1897, and divorce was a rare thing during the time of the late nineteenth century. Both parents have so much hate towards each other, that they use Maisie as leverage and cause emotional turmoil in her life as she is growing up. This read was truly eye-opening, and it is about a little girl who is trying to find morality while aging in an immoral world.