Whether they have impacted the world, inspired our beliefs, ignited our imaginations, given us a dose of humanity, made us learn, opened our minds, or simply made our hearts grow a little, the books below each fit the definition of ‘fabulous’ in different—and often myriad—ways. The spring sunshine is beginning to coax flowers from soil and humans from hibernation, and it’s the perfect time to grab one of these books and head for a café — preferably one with a bright patio.
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
The late Stephen Hawking was perhaps the greatest thinker of our time — and one of its most inspiring fighters. While still a young student at Oxford, Hawking began to notice changes in his body that were soon diagnosed as a motor neurone disease, which would eventually necessitate the use of a wheelchair. But to say that this presented limitations would be ableist and, well, categorically untrue; Hawking’s greatest tool, his mind, was still able to explore the far reaches of the galaxy and make strident contributions in cosmology and quantum mechanics. A Brief History Of Time presents an accessible window into the history and future of the universe, providing readers with an introductory understanding of space, time, and its vast and exciting complexities.
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai is another great thinker of our time and has a Nobel Peace Prize to her name — and she’s only twenty years of age, making her the youngest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in history. Born and raised in Pakistan, Malala became an activist at an early age, fighting for girls’ right to education and speaking out against the Taliban. At the age of fourteen, she was shot in the head by militants — and miraculously survived. Now a student at Oxford, Malala continues to fight for education around the world, and for those interested in leaning more about her inspiring journey, this book offers a window into her upbringing, her family, the attack, and—most importantly—the life that came after.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road paints a post-apocalyptic America that is vividly drawn and terrifyingly bleak — though not without hope. It tells the story of a father and son journeying across a near-decimated landscape, struggling to survive in the aftermath of an unspecified cataclysm that has nearly wiped out all life on Earth. McCarthy was inspired to write the novel while on a trip to El Paso, Texas, with his son; imagining what the city would look like in fifty or even a hundred years, he began writing notes about a father fighting to protect his child in a dangerous world. The book is dedicated to his son.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Outsiders is one of the seminal coming-of-age novels in modern literature. Every bit as remarkable as the story itself is the story of its creation; S.E. Hinton began writing the story when she was just fifteen, continued writing it as a junior in high school, and was eighteen when it was published. The story of two rival groups divided by socioeconomic status, The Outsiders received a controversial release; many pointed to its gang-related violence and adult content as inappropriate. However, literature loves a controversy, and that didn’t stop it from being adapted for both film and TV. Stay gold, Ponyboy.
The Big Short by Michael Lewis
Hindsight is 20/20, but the key players of Michael Lewis’ groundbreaking The Big Short had the unique ability to foresee the future — and a devastating future at that. This non-fiction book explores the United States housing bubble during the 2000s and those who predicted—and profited handsomely from—its implosion. The book has since been adapted for the screen and earned Adam McKay and Charles Randolph an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
This book is perhaps Shel Silverstein’s best-known and most beloved title. It tells the story of a young boy and an apple tree who, over the course of the boy’s life, gives selflessly of her gifts: bark, apples, wood. The boy profits from these gifts at various stages of his life and does not reciprocate with offerings of his own — and even so, the tree is happy to give of herself. The story is often seen as a parable about the beauty of selflessness. It stands as one of Publishers Weekly’s All-Time Best-Selling Children’s Books.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
The Glass Castle is a remarkable read for the indomitable spirit of its author and the absurdity and beauty of her upbringing. Sweeping in scope, this memoir tells the story of Jeannette Walls’ childhood with her brilliant, alcoholic father and scattered artist mother. Raised with her siblings in poverty and dysfunction, Walls recounts her life with vivid language and a great deal of love, never describing her parents’ choices or actions with judgement — she simply recounts, in stunning detail, her life and its gorgeous lessons.
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
This staggering novel deals with grief through a clever, funny, and endlessly touching prism. Fifteen-year-old Laurel, struggling with grief over the mysterious death of her sister, is tasked by a teacher with writing a letter to someone deceased. Laurel writes to Kurt Cobain, and from there she begins a one-sided correspondence with other dead figures, processing her own loss as she delves into their respective lives and loves and stories. Lovers of The Perks Of Being A Wildflower and The Fault In Our Stars are likely to devour this fresh tearjerker — Kleenex at the ready.
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Initially rejected by five London publishing houses, Canadian author Yann Martel’s The Life Of Pi went on to sell more than ten million copies worldwide. It was later adapted for the screen, and director Ang Lee’s sweeping, sun-drenched interpretation gave the world one of the most visually stunning films of all time. The story follows a young man named Pi, who, in a clever metafictional device, relates his story to Yann Martel. Stranded on a lifeboat after the sinking of a Japanese freighter en route to Canada, Pi finds himself alone, though not entirely — for he’s joined on the raft by a variety of zoo animals, including one very scary tiger. To say more would be to say too much; this charming, clever book has many surprises in store.
Are we Happy Yet? by Lisa Cypers Kamen
Finally, there’s no other way to conclude a list of absolutely fabulous books than with a guide to discovering your most fabulous life. In Are We Happy Yet, Lisa Cypers Kamen delves into the nature of what it means to be happy — sure, we all want it, but how do we get it? And why are some people happy while others are not? Kamen presents readers with eight simple and effective strategies for maintaining a “Happiness Factor” all day long. This spring, reach for this book, head for your favourite park bench, and get ready to tap into the happiness you deserve.