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  • Devin Gackle

15 Books that Gave Me All the Feels

Books are a subject I could ramble on about for quite some time; I’d probably recommend every book in my personal library. However, I’ve narrowed down a list of some books I’ve read that have meant a lot to me, or that I’ve simply enjoyed many times. Though I’m not sure it’s possible to put into words how I feel about some of these books, I can certainly say they gave me all the feels.

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1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This was one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a while, and it quickly became one of my favorites. A story full of twists and turns, The Night Circus is an intricately interwoven tale of two magicians in contest with each other—except the contest is between their protégés, neither of whom know what’s really at stake. The setting of this contest is a mysterious and magical circus that’s only open at night, and over the course of many years, patrons and circus members alike try to unravel its secrets. A story of magic, mystery, and love, any fan of the fantastical will definitely be enchanted by this book—I wish there was a night circus in real life!

Photo Credit: from Penguin Random House

2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This was a truly fascinating read for me. I found it to be poetically written, and very unlike any other post-apocalyptic story I’ve ever read. Station Eleven follows a handful of characters before and after the collapse of civilization, and the story unfolds by going back and forth in those characters’ lives. A Traveling Symphony of actors and musicians, a ruthless prophet whose influence is far reaching, a journalist-turned-paramedic, a famous actor and his best friend, and a closet graphic novelist/artist—all these people and their lives seem so unrelated, but through the course of the novel we discover just how connected they really are.

Photo Credit: from Penguin Random House

3. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

This is one of my favorite books of all time. If you’re looking for something both profound and hilarious, this is the book for you. Alternating view points from two different high school guys—both named Will Grayson—they navigate the ups and downs of their individual lives; the first Will does his best not to care too much about life to avoid getting hurt, and the second Will struggles with depression. Though the two Wills only meet each other a couple times, their mutual musical-writing friend, Tiny Cooper (who is actually not tiny at all) is a link to both their stories. This book is laugh-out-loud funny, clever, and moving. And, if you really enjoy it, there is a short companion book called Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan, and it’s the hilarious script to the musical Tiny wrote about his life (the one performed at the end of Will Grayson, Will Grayson).

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4. The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Yes, The Princess Bride is indeed a book, and the abridged version by William Goldman is what the beloved movie is based on. What’s cool about the abridged version is that it cuts out all the unnecessary stuff and explains why things were cut out; you can likely find a version with an introduction by William Goldman, the abridger, where he explains how the abridgment came to be, and also a lot about how the movie was made. If you love the movie, believe me, you will love the book; it’s just as delightful, and like with any adaptation, you’ll discover the ways in which the movie is different from the book. (For instance, there is no Pit of Despair; it’s actually the Zoo of Death!)

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5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

It’s been adapted many times and many ways, but nothing beats the original—I never get tired of reading it. You may have seen one or all of the many movie/television adaptations, but if you’ve never read the book, I promise it’s worth the read. Austen’s books are always charming, but in Pride and Prejudice, the sheer wit and vivacity of Elizabeth Bennett is front and center, and it’s hard not to be amused by the craziness of the Bennett family, the ridiculousness of Mr. Collins, the adorableness of Jane and Mr. Bingley, and of course, the social awkwardness of Mr. Darcy. It’s classic for a reason.

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6. Dracula by Bram Stoker

Oh, the classic gothic novel. There are many, but Dracula remains one of my favorites. The story is told through the letters and journal entries of the characters, who gradually come together to figure out the mystery of Count Dracula, one that eventually takes them to Transylvania for a final showdown. There’s mystery, creepiness, death and battle, and of course, classic Victorian era horror. Again, you may have seen many different Dracula movies, but Bram Stoker’s novel is the first and best version of the story—the one where the legend was born, and characters like Van Helsing and Jonathan and Mina Harker were immortalized.

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7. Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare

I could go on for a really long time about Cassandra Clare’s books. Clockwork Angel is the first book in the prequel trilogy to her series The Mortal Instruments, and follows Tessa Gray as she discovers the wonders and the horrors of the Shadow World, and her own new and untapped shapeshifting abilities. Though I love all Cassie’s books, I really enjoyed The Infernal Devices series for its setting in Victorian London, its steampunk-esque style, the witty, bad-ass characters, and so much more. I put this book on this list because it’s truly fascinating, funny, full of magic, blood and death, love, demon battles, secrets and mystery, and it’s only one piece of the whole world that Cassandra Clare has built. So, really I’m recommending all the Shadowhunter books, because it’s both a beautiful and heart-wrenching world, and one that’s so worth getting sucked into. I started reading these books nearly a decade ago, and since the series’ are still going, I’m still reading them!

(Side note: If you want to start reading this series, I recommend reading them in the order they came out in. Clare herself has posted the order on her website just to keep you on track! For a super-cool and academic perspective, I also recommend Shadowhunters and Downworlders, a collection of insightful essays by other authors about the themes, characters, etc. of the Shadowhunters.)

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8. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Yes, I know, another series. But I had to! I’m obsessed with Greek mythology, and the Percy Jackson series does such a great job of capturing ancient myths in the modern day world—not to mention, it’s really hilarious. Gods, demigods, monsters, magic, and more all await you in the craziness that is Percy Jackson’s life—and again, this is a world you will never regret getting sucked into. You will love these characters more and more as they grow up over the course of the series, and in the spin-off series’!

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9. Caraval by Stephanie Garber

This book was so good! It's the first book in a series, but the sequel, Legendary, doesn't come out until May, so I can’t speak about it as a series yet. Caraval is about a girl named Scarlett and sister, Tella, who are invited to play the dangerous and mysterious game of Caraval; this is the opportunity Scarlett has been waiting for her whole life—a chance for her and Tella to escape the oppressive island ruled by their abusive father. But when the game begins, Tella goes missing as part of the game; and as much as she tries to remember it’s only a game, the deeper Scarlett gets into it, the more she’s convinced it’s not a game. What’s real what’s not? Can she trust the man she’s falling in love with? After I finished reading this book, I couldn’t get over how awesome it was. It’s frustrating and twisted, lavish and romantic, and keeps you guessing (for real)—if you think you’ve made it to the last secret, you’re wrong. In a nutshell, it’s a colorful story in a world full of night; even emotions are in color. And finally, a heroine who actually asks the villain, “What is wrong with you?!”

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10. The Search by Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts is a brilliant writer with hundreds of books in print—how could I not recommend her? Her characters are vibrant, funny, and real; her plots are thrilling, mysterious, realistically romantic, and if it’s one of her series that involves magic, I love the way she writes about it as such a natural thing. In particular, my favorite of her books is The Search. The story follows a woman named Fiona, who was kidnapped by a serial killer when she was in college, but escaped and helped put the killer in jail. Now a dog trainer who runs a search and rescue unit, the past comes back to haunt her when a copycat killer emerges—and one who makes it clear he intends to finish what his mentor couldn’t. With the help of her sarcastic and sometimes rude neighbor, her friends, an old contact from the FBI, and of course, her dogs, Fiona does everything she can to make sure the search for a killer isn’t her last search of all. This was the first Nora Roberts book I ever read; it kept me on my toes, and it made me laugh out loud, so I can tell you it’s a great way to get into her books.

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11. The Odyssey by Homer

Remember when I said I’m obsessed with Greek mythology? There’s a lot of Greek tragedies and epics I can recommend, but perhaps the most well-known is The Odyssey. It follows the ten years it takes Odysseus, king of Ithaca, to get home after the Trojan War; disastrous sea monsters and sirens, the cyclopes and a witch, trips to the underworld—Odysseus must use the clever mind he is known for to get through it all. And all the while his wife Penelope believes he’ll return, and she cleverly avoids suitors who believe Odysseus is dead. The story of The Odyssey is just one of those stories you can’t miss out on.

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12. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

I first saw this book on the shelves of my college library, and picked it up because my first thought was "Man, that's a cool title. I read it because the description sounded interesting and unusual - and it was. The narrator, Rose, focuses on three more important times in her life, and the reader watches her grow up, and is with her when she discovers, hones, and learns to live with her unusual and unique superpower: She can taste a person's emotions in the food they make. Rose is seven years old when she first realizes this, and throughout the course of the book, she learns secrets about her own family, and tries to solve the mystery of her reclusive brother, Joseph. It's an interesting take on how we handle emotions, and I found it to be a quietly brilliant book. If you're looking for something unlike anything you've ever read, this is your book.

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13. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I promise this isn’t a self-help book. Nor is it a guide for how to be happy. Instead, I’d say it’s a bit of a journey—a project—the author undertakes herself. She researches and tries different ways to live a happier life, and does her best to implement them in her own life and see how well they work; this book is the result of her findings, and I have to say it’s really cool. There’s a lot of very interesting things you can learn about life, happiness, and even people from this book. And if you’re interested in starting your own happiness project, the author has tips on how to help find what works for you. The goal of this book isn’t to make you feel happier, but hopefully by reading it you may discover something about yourself and your own road to happiness.

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14. Quiet by Susan Cain

Another piece of nonfiction I think everyone should read. Quiet is about what it means to be introverted, the role of introverts in society, and even about what it means to be an extrovert. As an introvert myself, I really enjoyed this book; it helped me realize that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being an introvert, and understand where my introverted tendencies come from. Cain talks a lot about how the power of introverts is underutilized in a society that emphasizes the importance (and sometimes the alleged “superiority”) of extroversion—and how really what we need is a balance of both. What’s also cool is that she talks about ways we can find that balance, and how we can adjust our expectations of people, which ultimately can lead to a more understanding and efficient society, and satisfaction in life.

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15. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore (art by David Lloyd)

An acclaimed graphic novel (and a pretty good movie, in my opinion), I put V for Vendetta on this list because it’s a great and clever read, has a lot of important things to say, and embodies the vastness and depth of an Alan Moore plot. In a dystopian society, a woman named Evie becomes tangled in the affairs of a masked vigilante known only as V—his identity is always a secret, and he has a dark plan to free the people from their oppressive society once and for all. And since it’s a graphic novel, you can bet the artistry that conveys the plot will only enhance the experience.

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