Book Recommendations: Introspection and Growth
Recently, I’ve really been enjoying introspective novels and novellas about youth, growing up (emotionally and mentally) and change. As someone who has turned eighteen this year, I’ve had a lot of time to introspect and reflect on how I’ve changed. Here’s a list of five works that I really liked, and have left an impact on me. I’ll try not to reveal too much of the plot as that will take away from the suspense and impact of the stories.
- The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Originally published: 1973
“But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.”
The Ones Who Walk From Omelas is a short story that is described as ‘philosophical fiction’. Omelas is an utopian city but like most utopias, there’s darkness and destruction underlying its prosperity. What allows Omelas to continuously thrive is their dark tradition which is justified by it being for ‘the greater good’. The story is only four pages long and can be found online here.
- Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair’s Youth
Author: Hermann Hesse
Originally published: 1919
‘Who would be born must first destroy a world.’
Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair’s Youth is categorised as a Bildungsroman, which is a piece of literary work that explores one’s adolescent years or spiritual education. Like The Ones Who Walk From Omelas, Demian is narrated in first-person and follows the life of Emil Sinclair. The novel explores Sinclair’s struggle between two realms: the realm of light and the realm of illusion. His growth is aided by a mysterious classmate, Max Demian. With Demian’s help, Sinclair is made aware of the concept of the self which leads to a lot of introspection in this novel. The story can be found online here.
- A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Originally published: 2011
‘Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary.’
One of the more recently published novels, A Monster Calls is a heart-wrenching and beautiful novel accompanied with haunting yet enchanting illustrations. The young main character, Connor O’Malley is plagued with nightmares of losing his mother (who was a terminal illness). He is visited by a monster each night who seemingly torments him. However, monsters are not always as terrible as we make them out to be.
- The Go-Between
Author: L.P. Hartley
Originally published: 1953
‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.’
I had to read this novel for my first year at university (Literature in History module). The Go-Between is a coming-of-age novel that looks back on the memories of Leo Colston. Leo is caught between desperately wanting to become an adult yet clinging onto childhood. Some themes explored in this novel are nostalgia, the past and future, and memories. A go-between is a person who acts as a mediator; not only is Leo a go-between for people but connects the past and future. I admit The Go-Between is not for everyone but it’s an interesting read for those looking for a novel about growth.
- The Catcher in the Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
Originally published: 1951
‘I have to come out from somewhere and catch them'
Perhaps J.D. Salinger’s most famous novel, The Catcher in the Rye was originally banned in many schools. Themes explored in the novel are alienation, angst, loss of innocence, belonging and connection. This coming-of-age of novel follows the life of Holden Caulfield, a misunderstood and rebellious teenager. Holden is an extremely introspective individual and although quite a pessimist, Holden cares deeply for children and attempts to save them from losing their innocence. Regarded as one of the best novels of the twentieth century, The Catcher in the Rye is a necessity for this list.
There are so many other literary works out there about introspection and growth, I’ve shared just a few of my favourites. I hope you give these ones a read and enjoy them.