Top books to read your way through the pandemic in 2021

  1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of being a Wallflower is narrated by a freshman in high school named Charlie. He navigates through the ups and downs of growing up along with confronting his past. Throughout his freshman year, he meets Sam and Patrick who help offer him support and friendship. They help him discover the joys of friendship, love, music, and many life lessons. During this school year, he gets a glimpse into the real world and the adventures of life. However, as the year comes to an end, Sam and Patrick have to leave for college leaving Charlie all by myself. Charlie must learn to face high school by himself and confront past experiences in order to get through his next years of high school.

Senior Megan Wesselkamper said, “I really liked reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I think it is a good book in which a lot of high school students can connect with. It was easy to follow and had many experiences that I could relate to.” 

2. The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

In the New York Times young adult best seller list, The Hate You Give, main character Starr Carter is challenged with switching between two different worlds. She goes from living in a poor, black neighborhood to the wealthiest, white prep school where she attends school. However, the balance between the two communities are destroyed when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend at the hands of a police officer. Starr must face all the odds and stand up for what she believes is right. 

3. Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

Can’t Hurt Me is a story David Goggins, who goes from being a depressed, overweight young man struggling to find his purpose in the world. to a powerful athlete and military leader who inspires many people today. This story describes his journey on adjusting his outlook and changing his lifestyle to one filled with hard work, discipline, and mental toughness. 

4. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

E. Lockhart created an excellent young adult psychological thriller through her book called We Were Liars. The story is narrated by eighteen-year-old, Cady Eastman who is a part of the wealthy Sinclair family who spends every summer on their grandparent’s private island called Beechwood. Throughout her summers at Beechwood, she spends time with her cousins who are referred to as The Liars. They make many memories and have adventures on the island; however, that suddenly changes when a tragedy strikes on the island during Cady’s seventeenth summer that causes her to lose all of her memories of that summer. Throughout the novel, Cady tries to piece together what happened that summer and begins to unravel the image of the “perfect” Sinclair family and their secrets.

Senior Riley Ruehlmann said, “We Were Liars is probably my favorite book I’ve ever read. It is written in such a beautiful way that captivates the reader from the first page. It’s a page turner with a mind-blowing ending.”

5. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

The Five People You Meet in Heaven is about a character named Eddie who is an eighty-three-year-old man who earns his money maintaining the equipment at an amusement park. Eddie is very unhappy with himself, his job, and feels like he has no purpose. However, that suddenly changes after his death at the Ruby Pier when he tries to save a young girl from being crushed by a falling cart. After Eddie dies, he enters Heaven and receives flashbacks of his birthdays during his time on Earth. Throughout his time in Heaven, Eddie meets five people who help him understand his meaning throughout his life on Earth. Each of the five people teach Eddie one lesson that changes his perspective of his time on Earth.

6. Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza

In this beautiful memoir, Immaculee Ilibagiza retells her story about surviving the 1994 Rwandan Genocide that killed one million people in the span of 100 days. In the Rwandan Genocide, members of the Tutsi minority ethnic group along with moderate Hutu were slaughtered by the members of the Hutu ethnic majority. In the beginning of the book, Immaculee tells stories of her childhood and early adulthood that lead up to when the genocide begins. During the time of the genocide, Immaculee turns to God. She prayed for hours every day for his guidance and protection from the killers. However, she mostly prayed to God to help her learn to forgive the killers who were after her and her family. Fortunately, Immaculee survives to tell the story that anyone can learn to forgive, no matter the circumstances. God can help anyone turn to forgive and spread God’s message even after devastation.

Theology teacher Theresa Davis said, “Left to Tell inspired me in faith, in perseverance and taught me the hidden stories behind every war. Above all things taught by this memoir, forgiveness is always possible. The real-life, real-time forgiveness of those who killed her family. That is Jesus’ story. Forgiveness did not come easy and Immaculee walks us through her heart in making this decision. She has much to teach all of us.” Davis also stated, “Also, anyone struggling with forgiveness of someone who hurt them deeply, this is the book!”

7. Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Lock and Key is a story about a seventeen-year-old year girl named Ruby who is abandoned by her mother and left to live on her own until she is forced to live with her older sister, Cora and her husband, Jamie. Ruby is introduced to a new world of privilege, family, and relationships. She faces new challenges as she deals with this change. Along with these difficult challenges, she meets new people who impact her view of life and shape her into who she is meant to be.

8. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Jennifer Niven created an amazing story told through two high school students. Theodore Finch and Violet Markey are polar opposites who happen to meet when they both desperately needed someone. Violet has not been herself ever since the death of her sister who died in a car accident, while Finch has suicidal thoughts that control his everyday life. After these two classmates meet, they are assigned a project together in which they visit sites in the state of Indiana. Throughout this project, Violet and Finch both experience many new and amazing opportunities together that eventually lead them to fall in love. Finch helps Violet heal from her sister’s death, while Finch’s situation only gets worse. As Finch gets worse, he runs away from home and gives Violet the remaining project that must be finished for their class. Finch sends her many texts that help her go on adventures by herself in order to help her discover where Finch is hiding out. However, things go completely unexpected. This heartbreaking book brings awareness to mental illness coming from all different aspects.   

9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief is a historical novel that takes place near Germany during the Holocaust between 1939 and 1943.  In this book, Death narrates the events in which he describes his first encounters with the book thief who is later discovered to be a young orphan named Liesel. Due to the death of her brother and separation from her mother, Liesel goes to live with her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Throughout her time with her foster parents, Hans learns that Liesel cannot read so he teaches her. Meanwhile, Hans hides a Jewish man named Max Vandenberg who becomes close friends with Liesel. However, as the war beings to intensify, Nazi soldiers begin parading Jewish prisoners through town on their way to a concentration camp causing Max to leave. Throughout Liesel’s experience she learns more about Hitler and the awful deaths of many, including some of her family and close friends. Liesel then writes the story of her experience throughout that time in which she describes the ending events of the Holocaust and the lasting effects it has on her life.   

10. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

I am Malala is told through Malala Yousafzai who, because of this book, is the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.  At the beginning of the book, Malala recalls her early childhood. She valued education from a very early age through the encouragement of her father. Due to her love for education, she was always the first in her class. However, during her time at school, the attacks on 9/11 occurred, as well as an earthquake that devastated her homeland and caused her people to become vulnerable and in need of leadership. Then, when Malala was ten years old, the Taliban came to Swat Valley which implemented many strict rules including the fact that girls could not be educated. Due to that, Malala and her father spoke out about the injustices of the Taliban. Throughout this time, she began to write in a diary explaining the major events that were happing in her community. Unfortunately, Malala and her family had to leave Swat Valley but it was not long until they returned. During her time back in the valley, she became an advocate for girls’ education. As a consequence of her advocacy, one day on a bus ride home from school, she was shot in the face by a Taliban man. Thankfully, Malala survived and became an international advocate for girl’s education and female empowerment.  

“I love Malala. The person and the book. We read I am Malala in Comparative World Religions. First of all, Malala’s world of Islam turns stereotypes on its head as she is adherent of Islam, not radical Islam which is what is practiced by the Taliban that she battled with her mind and body in Pakistan. Second, it is a story of a young person growing into themselves and finding their strengths to be used for others. A character trait we all should have. Malala’s bravery to rise from the assassination attempt to fight even harder for young women to attend school is inspiring and serves as a role model,” Davis said.

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