The new Facebook reactions are perfect for expressing ourselves online, but — hear us out — they're also perfect for cataloguing books. I love to recommend books, and I always my reaction to a book before giving it to a friend. There are plenty of books that I "like," but every book appeals to me in a different way. Does my friend want a book that will make them cry or a book that will lift them up? Are they the kind of person who likes to meditate on love, or do they want to experience a romping adventure through the galaxy? In the library of my mind, there are thousands of categories from which to choose.
While creating this list, I discovered that some categories were much easier to fill than others. I could think of hundreds of books about love, but finding books about anger was a much bigger challenge. There are many different ways you could interpret these reactions, so I came to define each category in its own special way: "Love" symbolizes books about love in all its different forms. For "Wow," I reached for books in which authors were innovative, using the form of writing itself in new and interesting ways. "Haha" books will, of course, make you laugh out loud in public. "Sad" books are books that will, at some point, give you a good cry, and "Angry" books feature characters who are dealing with anger.
So, whatever mood you're in, get ready to react your heart out with these fantastic reads.
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
Romeo and Juliet don't hold a candle to the star-crossed lovers in this stunning read. When Ijeoma is sent away from her war-torn country at age 11, she falls in love with another refugee. But since they're both female and from different ethnic communities, they are forced to lie about their love. Nigerian folktales play their own special role in this astounding book about identity, truth, prejudice, and war.
Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam
This book, one of my favorites, encompasses so many different kinds of love. The story of a Bangladeshi family living in Brooklyn, the book follows each family member as they navigate sexuality, marriage, identity, and tragedy. With astoundingly real characters and simply gorgeous writing, this novel will take you on a ride you'll never forget.
Soppy: A Love Story by Philippa Rice
This graphic novel is simply adorable. Because real love isn't always about big romantic gestures, Rice chronicles all the tiny, quotidian, seemingly throw-away moments between a loving couple. Your heart will be bursting with joy as you read this one.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
This book is absolutely stunning, and it's impossible to read without ruminating about the nature of the universe. Mitchell tells the first half of six stories, all in a different time and place. Then he boomerangs back through in reverse order. As the stories braid around each other, you'll grasp onto the tiny things that connect them, and in turn, all of humanity. Breathtaking, in all the best ways.
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
The premise of this classic is deeply unsettling: when a filmmaker investigates why his house is larger from the inside than the outside, he discovers a haunting secret. But what makes this book incredible is how Danielewski breaks the rules of writing to create a deeply unsettling work of fiction. He uses insane text formatting to take you deeper and deeper into the dark labyrinth of this story.
The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli
Luiselli collaborated with the workers at a Jumex juice factory in Mexico (which houses an amazing gallery) to bring this book to life. The book follows Highway, an enthusiastic collector and auctioneer, as he tells his story — everything from how he came to be in possession of Marilyn Monroe's teeth to his feverish kidnapping by malevolent clowns. Blazingly original, this book is a piece of art itself, threaded with ideas about the human experience.
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
You'll feel like your Mindy Kaling's best friend as she gives you an inside look at her life, tells you about her weird "soup snake" relationship with B.J. Novak, and even writes a rom-com short story for your delight. This book will get you through the worst of days.
Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett is one of my favorite authors. His Discworld books are absolutely ridiculous, and yet strikingly smart. You'll think just as much as you'll laugh — and you'll laugh a lot. In this book, we meet the Night's Watch, a rag-a-tag crew who roam the streets of Ankh-Morporkh, not really to prevent crime, but mostly to make sure it's being done properly. But when a dragon tries to take over the city, the Watch finds itself unwittingly forced to play the hero.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
This graphic novel is utterly delightful. Nimona is a plucky teenage girl who can shapeshift, and she has declared herself the new sidekick of the (surprisingly well-moraled) evil mastermind Lord Blackheart. As the two battle against the oppressive government, confront ghosts from their past, and enjoy board game nights, you'll be cackling with glee.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
If you talk to anyone about We Were Liars, they'll immediately tell you about how much it made them cry. That being said, it's better not to know too much about this book before reading it. Fairytales, mystery, and young love all have their parts to play in this unforgettable masterpiece.
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
This collection of short stories is filled with heart-wrenching tales, set in both India and the United States. Beautifully written and wonderfully smart, this book won the Pulitzer Prize, and it's easy to see why.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
It would just feel wrong not to include The Fault In Our Stars in a list of books that will make you cry. I read it in a single night, and when the morning came, I was an absolute mess. A love story between two teens with cancer, The Fault in Our Stars is all about embracing the life you're given, looking fear in the face, and loving and living as much as you can in the time you're given.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize, this novel is purely amazing. Using the real-life 1976 attempted assassination of Bob Marley as a focal point, James raises a chorus of vibrant voices, Jamaican and American alike, to tell their tumultuous stories. This book is filled with real and unromantic violence. Many of the characters are raging against the impossibility of their situation, and you will feel the storm right along with them.
Dear America Airlines by Jonathan Miles
We've all been there: your flight is canceled, you're stuck at the airport, and you want to scream. This book begins as an outraged letter to American Airlines, but quickly becomes a story about the narrator's disappointment with his own life and his own choices. Equal parts moving and witty, this book will resonate with anyone who has ever wanted to write a formal letter of complaint to the universe.
A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller
I saw this play on Broadway a few months ago, and it features some of the most intense anger I've ever experienced. This is the story of Eddie Carbone, a man in 1950s Brooklyn who provides for his wife and niece by working on the docks. When his wife's cousins immigrate illegally from Italy, Eddie's world is turned upside down, and he's forced to confront his own realities.
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