TME Collaboration: Our Top 5 Favorite Books

10 11 2010

Around the age of eight, I was pretty much living in hell. That was a point in time when TV, movies, fireworks, and other kids all scared the crap out of me. I wouldn’t develop my love of spoofs and tolerance of horror films for eight years. I wouldn’t have a video game system for three years. Midget wrestling wouldn’t be on TV for ten years. During that time spent as a child, books were the best way for me to escape from the horrors of being a sheltered white boy. Hence, this post.

Now, to be perfectly honest, it’d be pretty easy for me to make a post with my five favorite books, put a mini-essay on why each one is more important that your children with that list, and then post it under my name and my name only. But what if Jackie wanted to tell the world about her favorite books? Or Trevor, or Emily? Jimmy doesn’t know how to read, so I’ll leave him out of that. I think you see where I’m getting at. Instead of four different posts all about the same thing, all of the authors are coming together and putting their opinions onto one big post. Follow us after the jump to see everyone’s top five favorite books!


5. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

I’m an atheist. Many, many, many people don’t understand so many things about atheism, and I think all of them should read this book, because it would answer so many of their questions for them. I won this book in an internet contest a few years ago, and have read it at least three times since then. Richard Dawkins writes so incredibly well whether he is describing scientific theory or simply discussing his life experiences. A wonderful book for those of any religion.

4. I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert.

Stephen Colbert is quite simply the second greatest person on the planet. (I prefer Jon Stewart personally.) However, Colbert’s book is far, far superior to America (The Book), although both are worth reading. (I am sadly unqualified at this time to comment on the quality of Earth (The Book)). Colbert writes the book completely in character as an autobiography of sorts, and of course, partially just yelling his opinions at you. It’s a great book to just open and read for 15 minutes at a time, as every page is hilarious. Even better, every page has comments in the margins and footnotes, as if the entire book is an extended segment of “The Wørd.” And it’s a winner of the “Stephen T. Colbert Award for the Literary Excellence.” How can you not own a copy?

3. Give A Boy A Gun by Todd Strasser

An infinitely depressing book about the aftermath of a school shooting, told mostly through interviews and internet chats. Strasser does absolutely nothing to hide his thoughts that gun control in this country must become far stricter than it is, and when you read the footnotes at the bottom of almost every single page such as “Every day, fourteen children under 19 are killed with a gun.” and “in 1996, handguns killed 15 people in Japan, 30 in Great Britain, 106 in Canada, and 9,390 in America.”, it’s hard not to agree with him somewhat.

2. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I’m sure everyone has read this book in school. Maybe the reason I like it more than most people seem to is that my mother read it to me when I was about eight. I’ve read it many, many times since then, and the unit over it in ninth grade was a breeze. Like Give A Boy A Gun, no one is going to think the message of the book is subtle, but it shouldn’t be. Lee makes sure that it is impossible to read the book and not get the message “Being a racist asshole is a bad thing.” Plus, the movie can hold its own next to the book, which is quite an achievement.

1. A Series Of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

These are the books that made me who I am today. Lemony Snicket’s hilarious, cynical narrating style, combined with wit dryer than the Sahara desert, cemented my sarcastic personality early in life. A series of 13 books about 3 orphans seems odd, and it is. But as the books go on, and the mysteries grow, and the adults become less helpful, and V.F.D. becomes…oh, just read the damn books. They’re amazing.

Honorable Mentions: The Tower Treasure, the Alex Rider series, The Color of Magic, Ender’s Game, The Outsiders.


5. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
I love Dan Brown. I have read every single book he has ever written. I also really like Clive Cussler. These two men are pretty much the exact same author. The books follow this: Slick guy is living semi-normal life, something crazy happens, race with time to accomplish something cool, shooting, explosions, car chases, helicopter crashes, boat races, sexy girl is helping guy, problem is solved in super cool way, guy sexes sexy girl. Yet, even though these books are predictable, I love them so much. I think that Angels and Demons does such a wonderful job of story telling, and Dan Brown in general does an amazing job of keeping the reader flipping the pages, and drooling to see what will happen next. Robert Langdon, the main character, is a lovable guy. Handsome, intelligent, and a total badass. The book does a great job of combining action with science fiction and history. Just an all around interesting book.

4. Conversations With Tom Petty by Paul Zollo
When I was reading this particular book, I was backpacking through the mountains of New Mexico, and would sit in my small tent and read while worrying about bears tearing my face off. So without any other distractions, I could get into this book. I have read many books about bands, their singers, their guitarists, etc. Some were awful (The Unofficial Modest Mouse Biography for example), and some were great (Scar Tissue), but the one that came out on top has to be Conversations With Tom Petty, written by Paul Zollo. Even though, unlike Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty was never addicted to any hard drug, the book is just incredibly interesting. The entire book is an interview with Tom by Zollo, and tells the life story of Tom Petty. Because the author can ask as many questions as he wants, it really pries into the mind of Petty, and out comes a really interesting book. Making you love Tom Petty and his music even more. A must read for any Tom Petty fan; even the illiterate ones.

3. Rocket Boys by Homer H. Hickam, Jr.
I had to read this book for my 8th grade science class. I had started reading before I knew it was assigned. My father had suggested the book to me. The book tells of a young man being raised in Coalwood, West Virginia, a mining town. The boy falls in love with science and rockets, and begins building and launching them. This book is just so easy to love. The book tells of his love interests, his club houses, and his adventures, such as those involving moon shine. The main character, Homer Hickam, Jr. (What!? A memoir!? OH NO!) reminds me of myself; young, and very interested in the sciences. The book just paints the story of a young man in a dull coal mining town making a past time for himself and finding his own adventures. Just a really good story, with a wonderful description of the setting, and written with a beautiful artistic story telling quality. An all around must read.

2. Contagious by Scott Sigler
Matt already did a review on Infected, and I will be doing one on its sequel, Contagious. Contagious seemed to have everything; aliens(Don’t worry, it’s great. I was weary about aliens in a book too), shooting, explosions, crazy people, demon girls, and the most badass man to ever walk the earth-Perry Dawsey. I cannot give away the book, but this book will blow you away. A nonstop page turner. Perry Dawsey just may be one of the greatest characters in any of the books I have ever read. All in all, an amazing book, written insanely well. A book that will suck you in and not let you put it down until you are done. By the end of the book, I was almost in tears. An amazing story with wonderful writing and wonderful characters.

1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
I was forced to read this for my IB English class my Junior year. I loved this book. Plain and simple. Another book that has had me on the verge of tears. This story is so depressing, and the scenes that are painted are just so dank and depressing. Yet the story is beautiful and meaningful. A man and his son, not even given names, are forced to wander through a landscape ravaged by God knows what. Avoiding tribes of cannibalistic men, and surrounded by death, the story is gruesome, yet beautiful. McCarthy is a wonderful story teller. The book is beautiful, yet incredibly sad. A must read for any fan of post-apocalyptic stories, and a fan of good, yet odd writing styles in general. A wonderful book with a wonderful plot, and beautiful imagery. A complete must read for anyone who likes, you know, reading.

Honorable Mentions: Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis, No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman (Biography of Jim Morrison), Deception Point by Dan Brown, Infected by Scott Sigler, most novels by Clive Cussler.


[I’m the story lover. Great story telling is really all I aspire for. So, yea.]

5. Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

I have this intense Holocaust fascination. I’ve read a lot of books over the years all within this topic, but it’s always like there’s something missing. It’s like someone is taking one of the most tragic times in human history and making sure a 3rd grader can handle it. I mean, that was great for me 9 years ago, but there’s always that sense that you’re not getting the “big picture;  human atrocity” vibe from it. This book does that. It gives you the past and present look at the effect of this time period through two worlds, one in Germany during the war and one in Minnesota decades later. It takes into account the perspective of a Nazi soldier, a young woman in Nazi Germany, a Jew living in Nazi Germany, the daughter of a woman who lived in Nazi Germany, and an American soldier. It’s this collective presentation paired with the artful story telling from Blum that make this novel so impressive to me. There might also be a little graphic sex, but… it happens.

4. My Life In France by Julia Child

Hey, have you ever sat in your room alone wondering what it feels like to make your life awesome? Thought so. This book is probably for you then. Julia Child literally goes through the steps of her life from when she was pretty sure she was going to succumb to the mundane, to how she fell in love and became a famed television chef. Boring —-> Awesome. You get it? It just has the really nice combination of food that makes you hungry and contemplate if you could pull off making garlic bread in your own home from scratch, but also the message that you need to find the things that will bring you joy in your life and make you fulfilled. It’s a real good book for us dreamchasers.

3. The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom

I know this book is sappy. I totally get that. I first read it at a rough time in my own life and it’s a really reflective book in general, which helped push me along to some extent. I always feel the “carry the past with you and don’t deny that it makes you who you are, but learn from it and let yourself keep growing” message. It’s a heartfelt work and though Albom is probably just trying to make you feel nostalgic and sad, at least it works that. I’ve read it several times now and it always does that for me. Plus the afterlife concept is probably the most intriguing thing of all to me (I didn’t put Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin on this list but– oh man, talk about a book about the afterlife).

2. The Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larrson

These books are so horrific that you can’t stop reading them. It’s like crack. You know nothing good is going to come of reading them because you will just suddenly know more about computer hacking, prostiution, Swedish drug trafficking, government corruption, sex, media corruption, rape, and murder. That probably doesn’t sound good to you, but after every book I just stared at a wall for like 2 hours astounded. And that’s awesome that a book can do that. It totally absorbed my mind to the point where I would just have to sit thinking about it and how complicated it was and how the hell this Larsson guy came up with this stuff that was eating my brain. It’s a pretty hyped up series right now and to some extent that down plays Larsson’s actual talent. He created a crazy intense plot for each book, complex characters that you know and love and intertwined them with seemingly, equally complex characters that have special guest slots only. There’s constantly switching angles and I can’t even imagine the kind of research that was required to write them. If you’re not reading them because you think it’s just a bunch of mumbo jumbo crap, you’re missing out on a really good books.

1. The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf and I get each other always. Like she is sick of all these jerks who think women are beneath them, she has some dark thoughts going on that make it kind of confusing, and most of all she just wants to tell you about her mind and she’ll come right out and do that as in her many essays, or she’ll creatively hide it all in her novels. I chose this novel as my number one because she is by far my favorite author because of how beautiful her writing is. She doesn’t come out and say anything because she doesn’t need or want to and she’ll get there eventually if you just give her some time. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a boat to South America like in this novel, or just strolling around a college campus, or getting ready for a dinner party. This novel by itself is a great representation of that. Woolf is just telling you about what someone grows through when they start to figure out who they are. It bounces off of other characters and their perspectives, all of which contribute to the lovely effect of…I don’t know, insight on growing up and deciding what it is you’re going to be.

Honorable Mentions: Junie B. Jones (Yeah, the whole series!), A Wrinkle In Time, The City of Ember, Night, the Hours, and My First Five Husbands.


As a note: I am really pretentious. Therefore, many of the books I  list will not focus on plot but the quality of writing. I read for writing, not story telling. Also, I chose not to include plays or series. Also, I hate A Series of Unfortunate Events. Ugh.

5. The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson

As mentioned before I have an obsessive personality, so when I find a subject that interests me I learn the frack out of it. Two years ago, I became obscenely interested in linguistics and the origin of language. Like, whatever. Normal stuff. Anyway, this has to be the most entertaining, enjoyable, and educational book I’ve ever read. Bryson is a travel writer so he adds in anecdotes about certain places and their dialect. He also panders to human interest with a full chapter on curse words and other stupid things.

4. Atonement by Ian McEwan

Sometimes, books just make me weep. Like, full on, tears flowing, sobbing. Atonement does that. It is so beautifully written, and the characters are so…ethereal it makes me want to  die. The movie adaptation is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Also, the word “cunt” is said over ten times. Whatever.

3. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

Everything Michael Chabon writes goes above and beyond. Fantastic characters, plots that are just incredible -near  fantasy quality and his style is relaxed but refined. Chabon just has a way with words. Also, the plot focuses around two of my favourite things: Jewish people and comics.

2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald // Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

I love rich people. I love rich people’s lives and I love everything about these books. The Great Gatsby holds a place in my heart where no other book can stand, I read it first in seventh grade and I consider it one of the first “real” books I read (read: not a Dear America diary). Fitzgerald’s writing style is where I first noticed “style” because his is jut so real but at the same time it’s really not, like everyone in the West Egg lives in a fantasy land.  And Wharton, well, she’s a goddess.

1. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

I picked up this book when I was in seventh grade, my sister wanted it and I thought it was about math. I bought it because I’m an asshole. I casually read it over a period of six months. I’m getting nowhere. Fast forward to the end of eighth grade, I’m pretty lost. I’m pretty heartbroken. My longtime crush has rejected me, I’m going to high school, I’ve been having a continuous existential crisis. I pick up a book to console me. It’s this one. Now, I don’t want to be that girl who is always “Blah blah blah this book changed my life blah blah blah” but it did. Life of Pi affected me more deeply than any book has ever done, and only the Bible has done since. I don’t know. It’s just so beautifully done, the characters are deep, the plot is intriguing and it’s wonderful. It makes you think more than any book where the summary is “A boy is lost at sea with a tiger” should ever do, because it’s way more than that. Way more.

Honorable Mentions: Rat Saw God, A Separate Peace, Lolita, Devil in the White City, Never Let Me Go


5. The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons

Few things about me surprise others quite like my love of sports, specifically basketball. This book packed to the gills with more NBA history, commentary, and analysis than a basketball fan could ever dream of. Mix that with Simmons’ hilarious stories and footnote jokes (The bigger a pop culture buff you are, the funnier it is), and you get a very entertaining piece of work. Can’t fork over the cash required for the 700+ page hardcover? The paperback comes out later this year.

4. World War Z by Max Brooks

For some strange reason, Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide is often called a ‘comedy’ instead of a ‘how-to’. Probably because his dad is the master of spoofs, Mel Brooks. That said, Max proved that he is a very talented horror writer with World War Z, which is far and away the best zombie apocalypse novel out there, and a must-own for fans of horror fiction.

3. Infected by Scott Sigler

I purchased this book after reading World War Z and immediately starting to look for more zombie novels. Infected wasn’t a zombie book, but that doesn’t really matter now. Never, ever, ever have I been so absorbed by a book. Ever. I read this thing in three days, almost non-stop. It’s that good. Scott Sigler is a God among men in the newest generation of fiction writers, and this story of an angry man that gets infected by something that makes people much, much angrier is as addictive as it is disturbing. Get more opinion here.

2. Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons

If you haven’t heard of Dan Simmons yet, you need to start reading his stuff. He’s well know for both sci-fi and horror novels, including Ilium, Olympos, Drood, Carrion Comfort, The Terror, and, of course, the Hyperion Cantos (Which is 4 books). I won’t go into too much detail, as I would probably have to ramble for a few thousand words to get all of the plots in order (It essentially is the story of people attempting to prevent an Armageddon) but I will say that Hyperion Cantos is one of the best, if not the best, Science Fiction epics of the 20th Century. Just bring your thinking caps with you; these books are very complex.

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

I first read this book in the 3rd grade for my mother, who wanted me to read the first installment before we went to see the first Peter Jackson film. Nine years later, I’ve read through the entire series four times. With each successive read-through, my appreciation for the world Tolkien created, and the stories that he told with that world, has grown. No understatement should ever be made for how fantastic this series is. If you ever ask me why they didn’t just fly the ring to Mordor on the giant eagles, I will punch your mother in the jejunum.

Honorable Mentions: The Curious Incident with the Dog in the Night-Time, Ancestor, Standing Up: The Autobiography of Steve Martin, Band of Brothers, Neverwhere

Hope you enjoyed! What books do you think we should be reading?




2 responses

11 11 2010
Jill (aka Mom)

All of you should read “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving.
Which one of you is most like Owen?

Did you know that I have TWO friends that named their children Owen based on reading this book?

Here is a brief summary copied from Amazon.

“A Prayer for Owen Meany” is NOT your typical book. Of course, that could be said about any of John Irving’s novels; his is one of the most unusual voices I’ve ever read. But this one is especially unique. Owen Meany is probably the most memorable character that I’ve ever come across in a book of any genre. A dwarf with a voice so striking and strange that his dialogue is WRITTEN IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, he also believes (rightly!) that he is an instrument of God. It is sometimes confusing to follow the jumps in time; the narrator, Owen’s best friend Johnny Wheelwright, alternates the story of his growing up with Owen with anecdotes from his “present” life in the late 80’s.
Predestination, faith, doubt, politics, love, hate, family, friendship…these are all themes that make appearances in this book. Furthermore, it is a page-turner that is impossible to put down, right from the start. I read the entire second half of the book in one marathon reading session, wasting an entire morning because I couldn’t bear to stop, knowing that more revelations were in store. I’ve read some of Irving’s other novels, and loved them all, but I think “A Prayer for Owen Meany” has been the best so far.

19 11 2010
5 Books I’m Not Ashamed to Say I Like More Than Harry Potter « The Media Experiment

[…] more of our favorite books, click this – […]

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