A thank you to the worlds that made mine better

As a high school student, I was never the person to pick up a book and read it simply because I wanted to. The pages felt like a prison, the words a punishment. 

Three years later, and that 17-year-old who hated novels is simply unrecognizable. 

I feel like my world has now been shaped by the characters I’ve met through these stories. The lessons embedded in the pages influence the way I live, and I find so much comfort in being transported to these imaginary worlds where the impossible is possible, and where reality is nothing more than a distant memory.

Now, I know there are people who will never be able to get into books, and I understand that. It’s not for everyone. However, I think it’s my job as a fanatic reader to try and persuade as many people as I can. Here are three books that have changed my life. My hope is that they will change yours too.

We Are the Ants

After being abducted by aliens, Henry has the choice to let the world end in 144 days or save all of humanity. To do so, all he has to do is push a big, red button. 

For many readers like myself, the answer is obvious. I’d push that button within a second. But Henry’s life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. His family is less than ideal and his heart is still healing from his boyfriend’s death. In his reality, the cons outweigh the pros. By pushing that button, he is forced to trudge through that miserable truth; but if he lets the world end, those wounds that have been buried so deep inside him will cease to exist.

So, Henry has one essential question to consider — Is the world worth saving?

It’s been four years since I read this book, so the details are a bit hazy, but what I do remember is how this story made me feel.

three novels Michelle Tian recommends
The book “You’ve Reached Sam” by Dustin Thao. Michelle Tian shares how three fiction books have influenced her life and recommends readers to check them out too. COURTESY OF MICHELLE TIAN

16-year-old me was, quite frankly, losing her sh*t. It felt like Henry had stepped out of the pages and shoved a pair of glasses onto my face that made me see the world with a different lens. I knew he was just a character, but his words, his thoughts and his personality had somehow weaved their way into who I was. Henry was a part of me, and that is still true to this day. 

You’ve Reached Sam

17-year-old Julie has life all sorted out after high school. She was going to move out of her hometown with her boyfriend Sam and attend college in the city. But then, Sam dies. 

Overwhelmed by grief and longing, Julie calls his cell phone just to hear his voice one last time. 

And Sam picks up. 

I don’t want to give too much away because it will detract from the experience, but I have only two words to say about this book. Tears. Everywhere.

I stayed up until 3 a.m. to finish it, sobbing hysterically in my room at the last three pages. It quite literally felt as if my heart had cracked open because it throbbed, and every breath I took hurt. I may be an emotional person, but it takes a lot for a book to make me cry. So, the fact that I cried enough tears to make an ocean speaks volumes.

Dustin Thao, the author of this book, did a remarkable job of exploring the aftereffects of grief and the agony that can come with second chances. It’s been less than a month since I finished this novel and while I no longer feel the need to cry every single day, my heart still aches when I think about it for too long. 

It Ends With Us

Lily Bloom’s life hasn’t always been easy, but she’s come a long way from her early years in Maine. She’s now in Boston to start her own business, and while romance has never been in her radar, that all changes when she meets a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid.

She thinks she’ll finally get that fairytale ending when they eventually start a relationship, but sometimes, things are simply too good to be true. 

This novel follows Lily’s journey and hers alone. While there are many important side characters that factor into her life, it’s crucial to remember that this book is a love letter to Lily and all the other people in the world who have found themselves in her shoes. 

I understand that description was vague, but it’s better to go into this novel completely blind. That’s what I did, and the emotional rollercoaster I went on while reading was simply incomparable. It made me unbelievably sad, but not in the conventional sense. 

Months after finishing the book, I still think about it everyday. Lily has definitely helped me become the person I am today, and I thank myself for spontaneously buying that book all the time. 

I saved the best for last, so if you only have the energy to buy one book, please make sure it’s “It Ends With Us.” But I highly recommend you to take a look at all of these books. Losing yourself in a life-changing story is something I hope everyone will be able to experience, and I have no doubt these novels will take you away to somewhere positively magical.

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