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The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Highly praised novels that are actually worth the hype


Picture this: you can’t decide which book you want to dive into next, so you ask your friend for a good recommendation. As you make your way through the novel (the one that everyone said you just had to read), you come to find that it’s not that great after all. Sound familiar? I don’t know about you, but I feel like this is constantly happening to me.

While I enjoy some books that everyone seems to buzz about, for example, Gone Girl and The Hunger Games trilogy, there are others that I simply don’t believe are worth that kind of adoration (like The Fault in Our Stars, which I found to be unrealistic and boring).

After reading these so-called “amazing” books, I became frustrated because I don’t think they deserve the amount of praise that they’re receiving. Because of this, I’m here to highlight several different novels that received high praise and deserved it. Think of this as an inside look at five exceptional books that are actually worth your time.

1And the Mountain’s Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini’s novel embodies everything that a good book should—it’s a page-turner, it’s well written and the reader can’t help but become emotionally attached to the fictional characters. Hosseini, who is also the author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, allows his literary talent to shine through in yet another critically acclaimed novel.

Like all of Hosseini’s books, And the Mountains Echoed is set in Afghanistan and involves many different characters. Hosseini switches off each chapter talking about the lives of these people, while travelling between the years 1952 and 2010. In this sense, the reader is able to watch the characters grow, travel, learn and even die.

Hosseini writes about a 3-year-old girl named Pari and her 10-year-old brother, Abdullah, who were born into a poor family. Abdullah must watch Pari be sold to a wealthy childless couple, and the siblings don’t reunite for many, many years afterwards —causing pain for the both of them.

Hosseini also describes a character named Nila, a bright young woman who is involved in an unhappy marriage with an older man named Mr. Wahdati. It is this couple that inevitably adopts Pari and tears her apart from her family. Hosseini does a beautiful job of describing the interwoven lives of these characters (along with many others) and the joy as well as heartbreak that they experience.

2Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

In this book, Mitch Albom narrates the life of Morrie Schwartz, a retired sociology professor who taught Albom during his years as an undergraduate at Brandeis University. Sixteen years later, Albom reconnects with his role model after seeing him appear on NightlineMorrie had recently been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and went on the TV program to share his hardship with the world.

After seeing Morrie on TV, Albom begins to travel from his home in Michigan to Massachusetts every Tuesday for the next 14 weeks to visit Morrie. They eat lunch while talking about family, love and the meaning of life, and when the retired professor passes away, Albom turns his weekly visits into a book.

Throughout this short biography, Albom alters between capturing his Tuesdays with Morrie in great detail, while also providing stories about Morrie that Albom remembers from his college years. I love how he takes this approach in constructing Tuesdays With Morrie because it allows the reader to understand why Morrie was such an admirable and inspiring figure to Albom, as well as many other people.

3. The Pact by Jodi Picoult

Some of you may recognize Picoult for her other acclaimed books such as My Sister’s Keeper, House Rules and Nineteen Minutes. 

Picoult’s books seem to always involve aspects of law and medicine, intertwined with a captivating and dramatic plot line. The Pact is no different.

In this story, Emily and Chris are two teenagers who have grown up next to each other as neighbors, thus have done everything together their entire lives. It’s a shock to both of their parents when the young couple winds up in the hospital together, with Emily dead from a gunshot wound to the head. Chris is alive but under grave speculation as to whether he killed Emily or if they were involved in a suicide pact.

As the story unfolds, the reader finds out a little more about the main characters involved in the book, as well as exactly what happened on the night Emily died. This is a dark yet intriguing book that keeps the reader captivated until the very last page.

4. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help is another heartfelt page-turner. Unfortunately, some people only recognize The Help as a 2011 film featuring Emma Stone and Viola Davis. While this movie is phenomenal, it doesn’t come close to comparing to the novel that it was based on (as is the case with many books that are converted into films). Throughout this book, Stockett does an exceptional job of capturing racial struggles seen in Jackson, Miss. during the early 1960s.

Three women take on the role of narrating the story: Aibileen, an African-American maid who cooks, cleans and cares for the Leefolt household; Minny, an African- American maid who differs from her friend Aibileen because she has no filter when it comes to telling her employers exactly what she thinks of them (resulting in a loss of 19 jobs); and Skeeter, a recent college graduate born into a white family who captures the hardships of Aibileen, Minny, and several other African-American maids in a book titled The Help.

Stockett’s novel shows the struggles between the entitled whites and the underprivileged African-American people of the South. There is a great emphasis on trust throughout this book—something that Skeeter works very hard to acquire from the maids, in order to have any content to publish at all. Through this, surprising friendships are formed between unlikely pairs, and Skeeter reveals dark, and at times hilarious, secrets of prominent white families living in Jackson.

5The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

This is the type of book that’s written so beautifully, the reader is bound to feel both intelligent and sophisticated just by reading it (this may sound ridiculous, but I’m actually serious).

As I spent this past summer making my way through Tartt’s lengthy 771-page work, I never felt as though it was occupying too much of my time; rather, quite the opposite—I didn’t want it to end.

The Goldfinch follows the life of Theodore Decker, a young boy whose mother dies during a terrorist attack at an art museum in New York City. With an absent and alcoholic father, Theo floats between homes as time goes on. The story documents his experiences throughout the early stages of his life, including the people he meets, the places he stays and the challenges that he faces.

What I love about The Goldfinch is that it follows Theo throughout the years—the story highlights his life as he evolves from a preteen to a young man in his late twenties. This book encompasses both the harsh realities (drugs, theft and loss) and beauties (art and family) of life.

Of course, I could go on and on describing my favorite books—ones that I genuinely enjoyed reading after hearing so much about them. But for the sake of time and space, I will leave you with these five exceptional novels that I found were actually worth a great deal of praise. Now you know how to spend all that free time over winter break.

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Highly praised novels that are actually worth the hype