Inspiring Books Make Choice Tanning Partners

Oregon Daily Emerald
University of Oregon, Eugene

All over campus, students have begun flooding the grassy knolls and lawns to toss the Frisbee, soak up the sun or attempt finishing some homework before trudging off to class. One of my favorite things to do in the sunshine is read a good book, and although it’s difficult to find a desire to actually read for pleasure during the academic year, there are some books that are simply worth it. Here are a few of my suggestions of great books to get lost in on beautiful spring days.

“The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield

I was so terribly disappointed when I heard that Hollywood made this beautiful and inspiring book into a movie. (I have not seen it, so I can’t serve as a proper critic, and Redfield did co-write the screenplay). The plot of “The Celestine Prophecy” is a spiritual journey.

It’s not the typical self-exploration book, as it follows a character on an expedition to the jungles of Peru in search of the Manuscript, an ancient document that contains nine key Insights to life. While the story is adventuresome and exciting, it’s really about finding the connections from this book to your own life. It’s so incredibly personal that I fear the movie will spoil this book for future generations of readers. I highly recommend reading “The Celestine Prophecy” before seeing it on the big screen.

“Life of Pi” by Yann Martel

Oh, yes, Hollywood has put its stamp on this book, too (filming is set to begin this summer, with a release date sometime next year). “Life of Pi” follows the young Piscine “Pi” Patel, a religiously curious son of a zookeeper, as he embarks on an accidental journey across the Pacific Ocean after the boat his family and his father’s zoo animals were on capsizes. He is the lone human survivor and finds himself on a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan, an injured zebra and a 400-pound Bengal tiger. Slowly, the animals fight to stay atop the boat’s select food chain, while Pi just fights to survive. Before he knows it, he’s alone with the tiger and the beautiful story of friendship and survival continues. This is a book that must be read to the very end.

“Jonathan Livingston Seagull” and “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah” by Richard Bach

“Jonathan Livingston Seagull” is a quick read (only 128 pages), but tells a wonderful story about a seagull that wants to fly faster than any seagull has ever flown before, and in his attempts, teaches readers a thing or two about achieving dreams. He goes against his flock and even gets banished from his family when he won’t simply stay within his boundaries, but discovers a life so beautiful that he finds true happiness. “Illusions,” also by Bach, is an unforgettable tale of a biplane pilot (named Richard Bach) who meets a mysterious stranger in a field one day. This stranger, known as Donald Shimoda, can fly his plane without gas, make impossible landings and teaches Bach that searching outside of oneself for something like a messiah is unnecessary, as it can be found inside each and every person.

“Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes

This too is a movie, titled “Charly,” which I have not seen. But if it has half the emotional impact of “Flowers for Algernon,” it’s a hard-core tear-jerker. I cried — no, bawled — my way through the last few pages, gasping for breath but too involved to put the book down. Charlie is a mentally disabled adult who goes under the knife for a new, controversial procedure to help him live normally within society. The procedure had been done on a mouse, Algernon, who showed remarkable improvements in his mental abilities after the surgery. Charlie reacts in much the same manner, but slowly begins deteriorating. His fall is heartbreaking but lovely, inspiring but depressing. It’s a beautiful book that cannot be missed — just make sure you have a box of tissues handy.

“She’s Come Undone” by Wally Lamb

When I first picked up this book, I was incredibly intimidated, as it contains 480 pages. But I soon became enthralled with the story of Dolores Price, an unconventional heroine who readers strongly hate at times, but who ultimately tells a beautiful and captivating story. It’s a part of Oprah’s Book Club (which is a great place to get started if you have no idea what book you want to read – Oprah has some fantastic recommendations, although many are geared toward women). “She’s Come Undone” is tragic, addresses many heavy issues such as rape, divorce, mental illness and obesity, and is simply an extraordinary read.

“The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint Exupery

If you’re in the mood for something quick and easy but insightful and enjoyable, “The Little Prince” is a perfect fit. This tale of a, well, little prince, can easily be read in less than an hour. It’s an amazing story for children, the young at heart, or for those who simply want to read a great book.

So enjoy the sunshine with a good book. You’ll find that there’s nothing like getting lost in a story while adding a little pigment to your skin. And now that I’ve shared my picks with you, let me know: What are some of the great books you’ve enjoyed? I’m always looking for the next story to change my perspective on life.