Goodreads is an app that I have had a love-hate relationship with. I’ve been using it since I was in middle school. However, I often find that reviews on Goodreads aren’t an accurate reflection of the novel—many readers will either give everything five stars, or they’ll be overly critical in their analysis. I find myself to be in the middle: I don’t critique every minor aspect of a book, but if I give a book five stars, it’s for a special reason. With that being said, today I’m going to take you through some of my five star picks, and exactly why I picked them. (Spoilers ahead!)
- The Talented Mr. Ripley–Patricia Highsmith
This book is insane. As a summary, Tom Ripley is offered a lot of money to fetch a rich man’s son, Dickie, from Europe…but instead, he murders Dickie and assumes his identity. The main draw for this book is the manner with which Tom’s lack of identity is expressed: he never buys anything with his newfound wealth, but he happily wears all of Dickie’s items like a costume. Despite committing multiple murders, Tom doesn’t blame himself, instead blaming Dickie, as he genuinely feels himself to be in Dickie’s mind. The way Highsmith writes Tom’s cruel intentions with such a casual nature is subtle and brilliant. This book is easy to read, but hard to digest: I’d 100% recommend it.
- The Starless Sea–Erin Morgenstern
This book is gorgeous. It tells the tale of a graduate student named Zachary who finds his own story in a library book, and falls into a world of fables in the Starless Sea, hidden within the library. The story is special because it’s not linear: there are fables beginning each chapter, and the characters themselves are often stand ins that represent abstract concepts, like Time. The spark in this book lies within the prose: the descriptions are magical, and you will be transported to the Starless Sea along with Zachary.
- The Promised Neverland, Vol. 1–Kaiu Shirai
Oh. My. GOD I have never read a manga story so perfect before. The perfect mix of stakes and plot-line, with deeper themes to analyze even after reading a volume. The imagery is beautiful, the characters are all unique and likable. I cannot sing the praises of this enough. It could metaphorically stand in for many of life’s common battles, too: the kids behind the wall could represent loneliness, or the ignorance of Aristotle’s cave. The Mamas could represent the decision between preserving one’s humanity or advancing in one’s career…there’s endless analyses!
- Stellaluna—Janell Cannon
If you haven’t heard of this book before, you can probably finish it in under a half hour. I added this because once more, the imagery is beautiful, and it tells a charming story which honestly stood out the most to me in my childhood. This was one of the only books that my mom read to me that I actually remembered the plotline for years later. Basically, a fruit bat is separated from her mother, but is raised with a nest of birds. This would be perfect for children with found families, kids being ostracized in school, or anyone who needs a reminder that bonds can be formed regardless of our differences.
- The Venetian Whispers—Anthony Hecht
If you know me, you probably predicted that I would throw a poetry book in here. Poetry is the perfect canvas for words: there’s no grammatical expectations, no ‘proper’ form or word choice. Anthony Hecht uses nature as his primary subject, and writes on it with the most riveting combination of adjectives that I have had the pleasure to read. His work is thought provoking, but universal enough that anyone of any educational background can follow his train of thought.
Each of these books I love for different reasons. But the core element remains the same: I am a sucker for a good piece of art in a book. The flowery prose and artistic word choice always draws me in. What’s your favorite writing style?