So many books, so little time: Must-reads for your Spring Break bucket list

By Mackenzie Kees
Opinions Editor

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This writer started on her must-read books at an early age.
Photo courtesy Mackenzie Kees.

To paraphrase one of the greats, Jane Austen: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a brain must be in want of a good book.”

The importance of reading cannot be overstated. When a student is assigned a book to read by a teacher, it can sometimes be a miserable experience. It also can inadvertently steer students away from reading more for pleasure’s sake.

This is an atrocity.

Teachers are not to blame for this unfortunate side effect of assigned reading, and school-assigned books are important for their own reasons. Sometimes, they can even be interesting.

So, yes, all books are marvelous in their own right for their individual reasons, but there are some novels that unequivocally transcend the others. (Some of these books may even be on your reading list for next semester.)

I have narrowed down my list of countless beloved, life-altering and thoroughly magnificent books to a nice, round number of five. These books and/or book series have been chosen in the hopes that they might change the perspective of those students who only read when they must. With Spring Break approaching, finding a good book to read while lazing about in the sun is paramount.

For these five books I will briefly touch on the plot, but I will mainly concentrate on the writing style of each and whom I believe would most likely enjoy it. So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite novels in no particular order:

The ODD THOMAS Series by Dean Koontz

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Short-order cook Odd Thomas has a peculiar life. In his seven-book series, author Dean Koontz takes his readers along for quite a ride with Thomas in the driver’s seat. All of the books in the series can be read as stand-alone novels, because they each describe a different adventure that hero Odd Thomas must face.

This series is perfect for a bit of easy reading and some light fun. When school’s stressful and work’s miserable, coming home to Thomas is a sweet relief. He doesn’t make you think too hard while offering up a mystery to solve, and along the way he provides you with an endearing sense of humor to keep you smiling. Koontz has made a relatable hero in Thomas that will keep readers coming back for more.

THE MAGICIANS Series by Lev Grossman

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One of the best series I’ve read since leaving the world of Harry Potter behind is Lev Grossman’s trilogy about a group of young adults who discover they can perform magic. This series is incredibly engrossing and will have your eyes glued to the page until the very end.

The trilogy revolves around Quentin Coldwater and his friends as they navigate through life, starting as naive college freshmen and ending up as a group of mature adults. The way Grossman chooses to depict magic gives the story a more realistic feeling than most fantasy novels. Coldwater has to work very hard every step of the way to learn how to properly wield magic. It’s not as easy as just waving a stick around in the air and calling it a wand.

I’d recommend this book for readers who enjoy immersing themselves in a world full of magic, as I do, and who as a child fantasized about receiving their Hogwarts acceptance letter in the mail.

ALICE by Christina Henry

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The stories we read as children are special to us in a way that can never again be felt by reading them as an adult. However, some of the best novels I’ve read have been based on some of those childhood stories. These types of stories provide a different adaptation to classic tales such as “Cinderella” or “Alice in Wonderland.” The novel “Alice” is based on the latter, but it shares none of the lighthearted, whimsical aspects of the original novel written by Lewis Carroll.

This novel is darker than its original counterpart. Its pages are filled with more sinister characters than the likes of Carroll’s Queen of Hearts, who simply pales in comparison to Henry’s villains. She takes the traditional tale of Wonderland and twists it into a terrifying nightmare that is sure to thrill.

THE ROAD OF THE DEAD by Kevin Brooks

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Kevin Brooks is one of the most prolific writers I’ve ever read, and that includes J.K. Rowling, which, believe me is a compliment coming from me. (All hail the queen of fantasy! We are not worthy! We are not worthy!)

Brooks has penned many novels, all just as well written as the last, but his fifth novel, “The Road of the Dead,” is my favorite. The fluidity with which he writes to describe what the protagonist is seeing or thinking creates a breathtaking visual that even the blind could see. I’ve never before felt so transported into a story until I started reading the various novels written by Brooks. He primarily writes novels for teens, which I was when first reading the book, but in the years since I’ve come back to it several times to re-read. The worn dog-eared pages are yellowing with age, but I will never get rid of such a wonderful book.

This particular novel by Brooks is about a half-gypsy boy named Ruben who follows his older brother Cole on a journey of discovery and self-actualization. People with an appreciation for other cultures will enjoy the dynamic between the brothers and their mother, which is somewhat different than relationships are in most American families. As someone who was always fascinated by the gypsy lifestyle, I enjoyed what this novel let me do, which was live vicariously through Ruben. I recommend this book as a quick, easy read for visual readers who enjoy novels that paint the perfect picture for every scene.

CITY OF SAVAGES by Lee Kelly

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The more recently published book out of the previous four, “City of Savages” by new author Lee Kelly, has a different type of story to tell than the rest.

Instead of revolving around magic and fairy tales or gypsies and mysteries, this novel illustrates a dystopian future that has been devastated by the fictitious (for now, anyway) Third World War. Sisters Sky and Phee Miller live with their mother in a prisoner-of-war camp located in a derelict version of Manhattan, in which they are fighting to survive. The novel switches back and forth from each sister’s point of view throughout the story, giving readers a unique perspective that is not offered when there is a single narrator.

For a story of survival against all odds, similar to “The Hunger Games” or “Divergent” series, Kelly’s “City of Savages” delivers with a punch. Readers can expect non-stop action, drama and a little bit of romance within the pages of this book. I recommend this novel for people who enjoy reading books set in a distant war-torn future that are full of action and adventure.