Although I make resolutions every year, I usually never manage to keep them. By the end of January, it’s likely I have forgotten most of them. But somehow, through this medium of blogging, I’ve completed one resolution from last year, which was to read more books. Each month I chronicled what books I read and what was next on my list. In reflecting on those monthly book lists, I decided to curate a list of my favorite 10 books I found to be inspiring, informative, or just really good.
MY TOP TEN BOOK LIST FROM LAST YEAR
1. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
This book felt as though I was reading journal entries about Hemingway’s life, which gave me a bit of insight into his lifestyle and some of the relationships he had with individuals like Hadley, Gertrude Stein, and Scott Fitzgerald.
2. Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod
I’m always craving wanderlust, and this book serves as a temporary remedy. The author describes saving up money to trade in a corporate lifestyle to one of art and travel. She writes about moving to Paris, finding love, and pursuing her passion for art.
3. Paris Was Ours by Penelope Rowlands
This book provides short recollections 32 different people had regarding snippets of their experience in Paris. I enjoyed reading about what brought them there, where they came from, and what they pursued while there. Walks along the Seine river, finding the cheap locations to eat at, hanging out in cafes, and pursuing a career as a writer, were all reoccurring themes present in this book.
4. Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser
My interest in French history has grown over the past few years, and one of my most recent fascinations has been with Queen Marie Antoinette. This book explores her journey from childhood, being raised in Austria, to her marriage to Louis XVI, her role and lifestyle as Queen of France, her experience of motherhood, and her capture and death at the hands of the French Revolution.
5. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
“It was the worst of times, it was the best of times…” are the famous opening lines to this book. The story begins by introducing the main characters and the connection they have to each other. As the story picks up five years later, the foreshadowing of the French Revolution becomes more present. Dickens paints a clear description of the distinction between the aristocrats and the poor, and the massive gap that separates their lifestyles, causing the reader to feel empathy for those in poverty and indifference towards the rich. While this is taking place, the relationship between the characters deepen, which leads to the unfolding of secrets, uncovering the unknown past. The third part of the book picks up intensity as the scene shifts into the bloody and violent outbreak of the French Revolution, placing the life of one of the characters in grave danger. The main characters must face an environment uprooted of its laws, lacking in mercy, and full of vengeance.
6. All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
As this book followed the lives and growth of two individuals, a young French girl with blindness and an orphan boy recruited as part of Hitler’s youth, the author unfolds images of World War II and the loss and emotional toll it brought. Sympathy is felt for the two characters as the girl copes with the changes the war has brought, and the boy wrestles with right and wrong.
7. The Letters of Vincent van Gogh by Vincent van Gogh
This book provided personal details into Van Gogh’s life concerning the dynamics of his relationship with his father and brother Theo; love and the types of women he’d often find himself with; poverty and illness; and of course his journey in becoming an artist, which includes his travels, his struggles, and his growth in the techniques he was learning and developing. I found it most interesting to read his personal thoughts, to follow along with his descriptions about the types of drawings or paintings he was working on, to become familiar with those artists who inspired him, to feel the depth of his relationship with his brother Theo, and to listen to him poetically depict the colors, tones, light, and shadows of the pieces he was working on.
8. Night by Elie Wiesel
This book was heart wrenching, emotional, and a reminder of the not so long ago terrifying and horrendous events of the Holocaust. The author recounts his personal experience of being placed on a cattle cart as a young teenager, without the knowledge of where he and his family were headed or what was in store for them upon arriving to a concentration camp. Forever separated from his mother and younger sister with the words “Men to the left! Women to the right!”, he and his father became victims to a terrifying world of starvation, torture, loss, and the looming shadow of death as each day was a battle to survive.
9. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
This book has become one of my all time favorites. It’s written somewhat like an autobiography, from the viewpoint of the main character, Jane Eyre. The writing is full of beautiful descriptions and words, that it makes you feel as though you are going on a journey with Jane, as you see the world, her experiences, and her reflections through her eyes. You also get to watch her grow and develop, overcome hardship, and process through feelings of love.
10. The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck
I really appreciated this book, especially the way it allowed you to observe and get to know the struggles and feelings the conquered and conquerers were going through. The setting takes place in a small town, during a great war. Over time, you begin to see how the tactics used to keep order in the small town, increase the feelings of fear and loneliness for the conquerors. At the same time, you witness a peaceful and loving community transform into a people with great hatred and revengeful tendencies. The story provides this picture of humanity that is easily lost during war time, when our main focus is on good versus evil.