Top 5 Wednesdays: Books That Are Not Set in Or Inspired By the Western World

One of my main regrets about my time in university was choosing not to take more classes about the histories of other countries, especially those in Asia. I majored in Psychology, but I had briefly considered doing a double-major in history. Ultimately, I decided against it because I was worried it would be too complicated to fit in all my required courses for both programs and still have room for a few electives. Plus, history and psychology would have been quite the workload! Although I still had the option of taking history classes, my focus was mostly on ancient civilizations and Europe. There were several classes in Asian history that really interested me, but most of them either conflicted with my schedule or were set for 8:30 in the morning which would mean waking up at 6 am to catch my bus to school. I was interested in the class, but definitely not interested enough to wake up so early! I am really not a morning person.

I have always been interested in reading and learning about other cultures, especially countries like Japan and China. Although I’ve never really studied them properly, I find historical fiction (when it’s done well) can be fascinating and through some of those books, I have learned so much about other cultures. I was pretty excited to see this week’s topic to get a chance to discuss some of my favourite books set outside the Western world. Like many readers, I have not read nearly as many non-Western books as I have read books set in Europe or especially the US, but I have many waiting on my TBR!

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

374147I’d heard about this book a long time before I ever decided to read it, and it has ended up becoming one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. This book is about a young girl named Chiyo who is taken from home and sold to work as a geisha around the time of WWII. I was very interested by the look into Japanese culture and especially the lives of the geisha. If I’m honest, I’m still a little confused about how much of this book is fact vs. fiction. Years after reading it, I learned there was a lawsuit initiated by one of the geisha that Arthur Golden interviewed for information as well as claims that the book was inaccurate. Either way, I thought this was a fascinating book and a compelling story.  Like all historical fiction, I think it needs to be seen as a starting point to learn more, and not solid fact.

2) Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

5960325Although I’ve always been interested in China, I know very little about the country’s history. I picked up this book because my mom read it and highly recommended it. It is about two sisters living in Shanghai who are sold as wives to American men after their father loses everything by gambling. The book follows Pearl and May as the travel from China to America, and is a powerful story both on a historical and a family dynamics level.  I went into this book not expecting very much, and it ended up being one of my favourites of the year when I read it. The main characters both seemed so real that I often forgot that the book was fictional.

3) With the Light series by Keiko Tobe

withthelight_1I’ve mentioned this series a few times before, but since it seems to be quite obscure, I thought it was worth mentioning again! This is a manga series about a Japanese family who are raising a young son diagnosed with autism. The series consists of 8 volumes that cover from the time the child is born, through his diagnosis, and into his teenage years. The series covers all kinds of issues including how children with disabilities and their families are treated by the school system, society in general, and even their own family members! Unfortunately, the author passed away and the final volume was published posthumously. I am ashamed to admit I have not completed this series yet, despite two attempts! My first try, the library was missing several of the volumes so I was forced to stop mid-way. On the second try, I read the first two and then got caught up in my reading challenge and didn’t have time to read anything additional. I’m hoping to be able to get back to it soon!

4) Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

126381This is a book I read very recently, about a teenage girl named Kambili who has grown up in Nigeria. Kambili and her brother are sent to live with their aunt, who is much more liberal than their strict and religious father, where they begin to discover a different way of life. I went into this book knowing practically nothing about life in Africa in any country, and I thought it was a very interesting look at how religious and political influences affected people’s lives. I was especially interested in the contrast between those who had converted to Christianity, and how negatively they viewed the African traditions still practiced by many. I thought it was a very interesting look at the impact of the West on another country.

5) The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

77203This was one of the only books that I was required to read in high school that I actually enjoyed. It follows the life of Amir, the son of a wealthy family in Afghanistan whose best friend is the Hassan, the son of his family’s servant. This book was a very compelling story of the two boys and how their class differences affected the course of their lives. Like the other books on this list, I enjoyed it because it introduced the culture in a very human context that really brought it to life. This has always stood out as one of the most powerful books that I read in school, and I’m glad the teacher chose it other commonly used classics. It’s probably been about 10 years since I read it, although I recently read the graphic novel version to refresh myself on the story (and I would recommend that version as well. It did an excellent job of capturing the story in a limited-text format).

Top 5 Wednesdays: Top 5 Children’s Books

I don’t care how old I am, I still love reading children’s books and watching my favourite childhood movies. There’s something comforting about revisiting old, familiar favourites and re-experiencing the story from a different perspective. I know a lot of adults tend to scoff at the idea of reading books intended for younger audiences, but there are many great children’s books out there that have just as much appeal for adults.

I have always been a huge fan of popular children’s series like Berenstain Bears, Frog & Toad, and the Little Critter books. I also adored anything by Robert Munsch, and of course all of the classics by Dr. Seuss. I still have the majority of my children’s books in a box in my basement because I refuse to part with any of them!

As tempting as it was to go the easy route and list the usual suspects like Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events, I decided to go for books aimed a little younger. I think picture books are very underrated, and there are quite a few that I think would be fun and worthwhile for everyone.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Purple, Green and Yellow (Robert Munsch)

201434This was one of my all-time favourite books when I was in elementary school. Robert Munsch is a brilliant children’s author, and this book is one of the best. It is about a young girl named Brigid who begs her parents to buy her progressively fancier sets of markers, on the condition that she only draws on paper. Of course, Brigid gets into trouble and colours all over everything, including herself. I’ve always loved this book for the colourful illustrations and the simple but hilarious storyline. Of all the books on this list, this is probably the one that has the least “message” to deliver, but it is a thoroughly entertaining book.

2) Chester’s Way (Kevin Henkes)

20692I would also highly recommend the brilliant Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes, but since I have already written about that (here), I decided to pick another one of his books. This book is about two friends named Chester and Wilson who have always done things a certain way. When they meet their new neighbour Lilly for the first time, they are surprised by how different she is and try to avoid her. Kevin Henkes books are illustrated with adorable mice as characters, and carry wonderful messages. This book is about learning to accept other people’s differences, and that it is still possible to be friends with someone different.

3) Odd Duck (Cecil Castellucci)

16002008This is a children’s book that only ever read as an adult, and it was actually one that my mom discovered and recommended while working at the library. This book is about a duck named Theodora who is very happy with her normal life, which is mostly just like all the other ducks but she has a few unusual quirks. Like with Chester’s Way, Theodora meets an unusual new neighbour named Chad who is very different from her. Theodora and Chad become friends, with each seeing the other as the odd one. This book carries one of my favourite messages — that normal is relative, and it is important for everyone to be themselves. Even reading this as an adult, it was a great and very meaningful book.

4) When Elephant Met Giraffe (Paul Gude)

513vzs0ko4l-_sx258_bo1204203200_When Elephant Met Giraffe is another book that I’m sure I’ve discussed before, and another that I read only as an adult. I discovered this book at the library while looking for something to read to some of my participants at work, including one who is obsessed with elephants. This book consists of three stories that all focused on what it means to be a good friend. It seems to be a running theme with the books I’m recommending that they focus on friends learning to manage being very different. In this book, talkative Elephant is offended because Giraffe is silent until he learns that giraffes actually can’t speak. Instead of letting that get in the way, Elephant figures out how to make friends with Giraffe anyway. My favourite of the three stories is the third one, where they decided to play with costumes but can’t agree on what to play. It is a simple, straightforward, and adorable book!

5) Me Too! by Mercer Mayer

1342091I debated for a long time whether to include any Little Critter or Berenstain Bears books on this list, because there were so many to choose from. I decided to choose one that stood out to me most, but I would highly recommend any of the books from these two series! I’ve always loved the Little Critter series because of how cute the illustrations and the stories are. This one specifically is about how annoying it is to constantly need to share everything with a younger sibling. Being the younger sister myself, I can’t say I necessarily relate to the story but I thought it was a great and realistic view of sibling dynamics at an appropriate level even for young children. It tells them that it’s okay to be annoyed with your sibling sometimes, and that it will pass. It is so important for children to understand that more negative feelings are normal and okay, instead of books trying to cover them up.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Top 5 Books Without Romances

Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed a lot of annoyance over the frequent use of a variety of romance tropes: insta-love, love triangles, etc. What has always been a lot harder to find are books, especially YA books, that don’t include much or any romance at all. There is a real lack of platonic friendships, especially that involve opposite-sex characters. I’ve always found it a bit strange, since growing up, most of my friends were boys and it was always platonic.

Personally, I have no problem with romance plotlines in books as long as they make sense and fit the characters. I don’t like when characters are paired off haphazardly just so everyone has a partner. I’m not really a fan of insta-love because I find it difficult to buy into that strong of a relationship developing so quickly. Sure, they might be attracted to each other, but to love each other so deeply they are willing to die when they just met yesterday? I don’t think so. I don’t even mind love triangles much when they are necessary and developed well, although it is really annoying when a character (ie. Bella Swan) suddenly has everyone in love with them. I would love to see more books that focus on friendships instead. It was a real challenge to find books that worked for this topic!

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Highly Illogical Behaviour by John Corey Whaley

26109391Technically there is a bit of romance in this since two of the characters are already an established couple, but I tend not to really consider that a romance because we don’t see it developing. This book is about a teenage boy named Solomon who has agoraphobia and isolates himself at home after a very public meltdown. His classmate Lisa decides to take him on as a project and brings in her boyfriend Clark to help Solomon make friends and become more comfortable. There is a character who develops a crush on another character, but it never really develops past that so I also would not consider it a romance story. It is a great book and one I would highly recommend.

2) The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz

23447923This is one of the only books I can remember reading that included a friendship between teenagers that never went past the platonic stage. The book is about a boy named Salvador who was adopted by a single Mexican-American father who is also gay. To be honest, this wasn’t my favourite book since I found it a little slow and directionless, but I really appreciated how well the friendship between Salvador and his best friends was handled. It was really nice to see an author create a friendship that was so real and natural, and did not feel compelled to make it romantic.

3) The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

2998Is it cheating to include a book where the characters are a bit too young to be interested in romance? This book is about a young orphan named Mary Lennox who is forced to move in with her distant uncle, and soon discovers that there are many secrets hidden in his huge house, including a mysterious locked garden. This has always been one of my favourite books, and I love the interactions between Mary, Colin and Dickon. I’ve actually always just assumed that Mary and Dickon fell in love when they grew up. This is easily one of my favourite classics.

4) Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola

24727085It might be a bit of a strange choice for this topic, but there is definitely no romance here. This book is about a girl named Masha who wants applies for a job as the Baba Yaga’s Assistant to get away from her new stepmother and annoying stepsister. If I remember correctly, Masha is also a little on the younger side so it makes sense that there was no romance. It focuses primarily on Masha’s trials to become the assistant, but also on the stepsister-relationship. It was definitely one of my favourite books of the year so far, and it is rare that I love graphic novels!

5) Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

18816603I actually read this quite a while ago, so although I don’t remember any romance, it’s possible there was some. In any case, it was not the main focus of the book. This book is about a young girl named Jenna who is searching for her mother, Alice, who disappeared 10 years ago while researching elephants. Jenna partners with a psychic named Serenity and a private detective named Virgil to help her figure out the mystery of what happens to her mother. This was an incredible book that combined an excellent family story with some very interesting research about elephants. I would highly recommend it!

Top 5 Wednesdays: Top Hate to Love Relationships

Although romances are an extremely common element in books, they are not always an aspect that people enjoy. Recently, I have seen quite a few online comments who are quick to identify relationship-related tropes as some of their most hated parts of a book. Love triangles and insta-love seem to be the most widely hated tropes, but personally I don’t mind them much as long as they are written well. The one trope that most people actually seem to enjoy is a “hate to love” relationship, where the two people involved start out as rivals or enemies, but ultimately end up falling in love.

When looking back at some of the books I’ve read to find examples for this post, I found surprisingly few even though this is a trope I tend to enjoy. One of my all-time favourite couples, who are definitely a hate-to-love relationship, are Buffy and Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think these kinds of relationships tend to be more interesting because there is an extra layer of complexity to them. It is not quite as simple as “A and B meet, fall madly in love, and live happily ever after.” Instead, there is usually a lot more character development, and often some amazing witty banter.

**Disclaimer: Given the nature of the topic, it is pretty much inevitable that there will be spoilers about who ends up with who. I actually think many of my choices are fairly obvious, but there is one who might be spoilers for those who haven’t read the Shatter Me series yet. I will leave that one for last, so if you haven’t read it yet and don’t want to be spoiled, please skip that last part.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice)

1885This book seems to be the quintessential example of a hate-to-love relationship. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy can’t stand each other when they first meet. He snubs her at a dance and makes rude comments about her appearance, which she then holds against him as evidence of his arrogance. At the same time, he is hesitant to admit his feelings for her because of her lower social standing, and especially higher society’s negative opinion of Elizabeth’s family. Throughout the book, Elizabeth tends to find Darcy arrogant and condescending, only changing her mind later after his superiority complex is confronted and as she learns the reasons for some of his more objectionable actions. I have always found this couple very interesting, and it is definitely a key example of a hate-to-love relationship.

2) Lucy and Joshua (The Hating Game)

25883848I feel like I’ve been talking about this book a lot lately, but it was one of my favourites of the year so far! I almost never read these kinds of fluffy romance books, but this one was so much better than I expected. It is obvious immediately even from the title what will happen, but I loved reading about the interactions between Lucy and Joshua, who are rivals up for the same promotion at a publishing company. After their two companies merge, they are forced to share office space and end up in constant competition with each other through little “games” they play to try and one-up each other. It is predictable, but it was a very fun and entertaining read. They definitely had a lot of witty banter, and I thought their relationship worked surprisingly well.

3) Anne and Gilbert (Anne of Green Gables)

8127This one is more of a one-sided hate than the others mentioned above, but I think it still fits. Even though the characters are young in the first book, it progresses into a much more mature relationship later on in the series. In the first book, Anne despises Gilbert because he pulls her hair and calls her “carrots,” playing on one of her biggest insecurities. She spends the rest of the book holding a major grudge against him, refusing to speak to him or even mention his name, while at the same time actively competing to best him in every way possible. It seemed that Gilbert fell for Anne almost from the start, so I’m not sure if it is a true hate-to-love relationship, but considering how Anne treats him for so much of the first book, I would say it qualifies. Anne and Gilbert are an interesting match.

4) Lou and Will (Me Before You)

me-before-you-jojo-moyes-cover-195x300Can it count as a ship when the couple doesn’t really get together? I know I’m in the relative minority who loves this book, but I thought Lou and Will had a very interesting dynamic. When they first meet, Will hates Lou for her over-the-top, kind of eccentric, and overly sunny attitude, and I think there is definitely some resentment there about her “wasting” her life not doing much while he was so limited himself. Lou hates Will at first for his rudeness and anger, which although understandable given his situation, still makes him very unpleasant to be around. Over time, they learn to understand each other and be a bit more open-minded. I absolutely loved their interactions and the friendship that developed between them. It is still one of my favourite books of the past few years.

5) Juliette and Warner (Unravel Me)

13104080To be fair, I haven’t finished this series yet so I’m not 100% sure whether this relationship actually happens, but given some of what I’ve heard online about it, it seems that this is the favourite ship from the series. I didn’t get a very strong sense of it from the first book, but it definitely took off in Unravel Me. Juliette is a teenager whose touch causes immense pain or even death to anyone she touches, and Warner is the son of the Supreme Commander of the Reestablishment, an organization that is trying to recreate and “improve” the world. Warner initially wants to use Juliette as a weapon for his cause but has also fallen in love with her and thinks they could make a kind of power couple ruling over the new world. In Unravel Me, the relationship develops a bit further with Juliette constantly conflicted about her feelings for Warner, who she always thought she hated. I would love to see how it plays out in the next book.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Top 5 Unlikeable Protagonists

In general, characters and character development is the most appealing part of a book for me. Even when the plot is mediocre, I tend to like the book if the characters are interesting. I have never really subscribed to the whole idea that a protagonist needs to be a likeable person. Sometimes the most interesting characters to read about are those who are more complex, even when they are not a very likeable person. We all naturally seem to have an aversion toward certain kinds of characters, which usually mirror the kind of people we don’t like much in real life. It is often easier to relate to characters who we like, especially when they remind us of ourselves of others we know well. However, I think in many cases, the unlikeable characters make the most interesting stories and often end up being characters that you root for. I don’t think you need to necessarily like the character on a personal level to get engaged in their story.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Reshma Kapoor from Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia

enter-title-here-book-coverTo me, Reshma Kapoor is the epitome of the unlikeable protagonist. She is an extremely ambitious and competitive high school senior who is trying to write and publish a book in an attempt to get into the prestigious college of her choice. In an attempt to make her book more interesting, Reshma decides to try to get more “normal” high school experiences. Although it seems like it will be a very fluffy and light story, it ends up being an amazing exploration of pressure, mental health, and some of the flaws in the academic system. Reshma is conniving, selfish and not afraid to step on others to get what she wants — and yet I still found myself rooting for her and fully engaged with her story. It was by far one of the most unique YA books I’ve ever read, and I would highly recommend it.

2) Light Yagami from the Death Note series, by Tsugumi Ohba

81idnjn-r3lI have not read a lot of manga, and I have to admit that I am basing this mostly off the anime series, which I adored! I have read the first couple of books of the manga series and they seem almost the same so I would imagine Light’s character is similar. Light is a bored high school student who discovers a Death Note, which is a notebook that was dropped by a shinigami (death god), giving him the power to kill. Light is an incredibly intelligent person who starts out relatively likeable, however he quickly gets caught up in the power of the Death Note and begins to take advantage of it. In the series, he is pitted against a brilliant but eccentric detective named L who tries to uncover Light’s identity and stop him. Light is another compelling protagonist who you can’t help but root for, even when you don’t agree with his actions.

3) Rachel from The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

girlonthetrainI seem to be one of the minority, at least in my Goodreads groups, who really loved this book. I devoured it when I read it two years ago, and I loved the characters even if they weren’t the most likeable. The story is a mystery/thriller about a woman named Rachel who takes a commuter train every day, where she passes by a couple who she imagines have an ideal life. On the train one day, Rachel sees something shocking involving this couple and takes it open herself to uncover what happened. If I’m honest, I don’t really remember the characters being too unlikeable because they seemed pretty real to me. Rachel is an alcoholic, who is can be selfish, obsessive and annoying, and the other major characters also had some irritating qualities. I didn’t mind it because I thought it brought them to life, but one of the most common complaints I’ve seen about this book is how horrible the characters are.

4) Alex from The Female of the Speices by Mindy McGinnis

25812109I read this book fairly recently, and while I definitely didn’t love it as much as everyone else seemed to, I think Alex can easily count as an unlikeable protagonist. The book is about Alex, a girl who sought vigilante justice for her sister’s murder three years earlier and who isolates herself from others due to her violent instincts, until her senior year where she befriends a couple of other students. Essentially, Alex was used as a means of challenging rape culture and the way women treat each other but she was quite an unlikeable character. She was loyal and protective, but also aggressive and I sometimes found it irritating how unrealistic she was. I found it hard to believe that a girl her age could take revenge so effectively and without anyone knowing. She definitely didn’t seem to be  the kind of person I would like much.

5) Samantha from Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

6482837This is another book that I read not too long ago, and I had such a hard time getting into it because of the main character. Samantha was part of the popular crowd, and she and her friends were catty and shallow bullies. The story focuses on Sam’s chance to relive the last day of her life after she dies in a car accident, giving her the chance to try and change the outcome each time. Sam and her friends were definitely very realistic characters, but it was hard for me to enjoy reading about her. A lot of her behaviour seemed absolutely ridiculous to me, and unlike other books with popular main characters, Sam did not seem to have any qualms about the way she treated others. It improved by the end, of course, but for most of the book I found her very annoying.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Top Side Ships

As I mentioned in my previous Top 5 Wednesday post about minor characters (found here), it can be tough sometimes to remember side characters unless they are very well-developed. Side characters are a little easier for me than minor characters since some of them play quite a substantial role in the story. When it comes to shipping characters, I tend to stick pretty close to the canon versions. Generally, I tend to assume that the authors wrote the characters/ships intentionally, so it can be tough for me to ship them with anyone else. J.K. Rowling’s announcement that Hermione should have ended up with Harry instead of Ron really threw me since to me, nothing in the books pointed in that direction. I would assume if she went that way with it, the books would have looked quite different. It’s even more rare for me to ship side characters, since many of them don’t seem to have a strong potential love interest. It took quite a bit of thinking to figure out my top five side ships.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Lupin and Tonks (Harry Potter)

What would one of these lists be without the obligatory Harry Potter reference? Lupin and Tonks seem to be quite a divisive couple. Some fans love them together, and others think they were thrown together out of nowhere. What I found most interesting about this couple is that while we didn’t get to see their relationship develop at all, they also instantly made sense to me as a couple. They went through so much together, and their devotion to each other was undeniable. The way they ended was horrible, but I just loved reading about their relationship.

2) Finnick and Annie (Catching Fire/Mockingjay)

I mentioned Annie in my “minor characters” post as well, but I was especially interested by the relationship between Finnick and Annie. In order to garner favour, Finnick was forced to flirt (and more), so it was hard for me at first to accept the idea that he was so devoted to one person. It was not until later that we learn he was forced to do everything in order to protect Annie. I loved how Finnick stood by her even after her breakdown, and his willingness to put the people he cares about ahead of himself. As I mentioned in my previous post, I wish we could have learned more about them.

3) Fiona and Hugh (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children)

In general, Fiona was a character that really interested me in this series because of the allusion to a very interesting backstory. Fiona and Hugh’s relationship was not mentioned very often, but the few references to them were some beautiful scenes. I also thought it was pretty cool how Fiona and Hugh’s peculiarities matched with each other. Fiona can grow plants, and Hugh can control bees. I would love to find out the backstories for these two characters, and especially to know how they got together in the first place.

4) Jane and Mr. Bingley (Pride and Prejudice)

This was one of the first “real” classics that I ever read, and it quickly became one of my favourites. As much as I loved Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, I was equally interested by Jane and Mr. Bingley. When I read the introduction before getting into the book, I was fascinated by a comment about how Jane almost lost out on the relationship because she didn’t understand how to play the social games properly — she didn’t know how to show Mr. Bingley she was interested, so he assumed she wasn’t. I thought their romance was very sweet, and it was one of my favourite fictional relationships.

5) Amy and Laurie (Little Women)

I can still remember being devastated when Jo turned down Laurie the first time I read Little Women. His marriage to Amy seemed so sudden, but the more I read the book, the more I came to realize how well they fit. They had a relationship that was based on a very solid foundation of long-term friendship and respect. Like Jo, Amy is not afraid to be blunt and honest with Laurie, but unlike Jo she did so in a way that pushed and challenged him but without causing an argument.  They brought out the best in each other, and fit very well together.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Books for Your Hogwarts House

I guess it’s no secret by now that I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter series, given how they manage to sneak their way into almost every Top 5 Wednesday post. When I first heard of the Pottermore website, I thought it was going to be some kind of interactive RPG-style world, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that I actually decided to join it. At some point, I will have to find the time to go back and read all the extra backstories and additional content J.K. Rowling has added on there. One of the first things I did once joining the site was go to the Sorting Hat, where I was promptly (and inexplicably) sorted into Slytherin. It was definitely a surprising result, since I never really related very strongly to Slytherin traits. According to Pottermore, Slytherins are “cunning, ambitious, resourceful, shrewd, determined.”  The only one of those I even partially relate to is determined since I can be pretty stubborn, but I am definitely not particularly ambitious or cunning. I’ve always associated Slytherin with a tendency to be manipulative and tricky, which are skills I don’t have.

It got even worse when I explored the website’s list of famous Slytherin characters, and saw all the expected names there: Malfoy and his sidekicks, Snape, Bellatrix Lestrange, and worst of all, Dolores Umbridge! If I had to choose for myself, I would have said I’m somewhere between a Ravenclaw and a Hufflepuff. Even though I have no clue how I ended up in Slytherin, I decided to stick with it for this week’s topic anyway.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Wicked by Gregory Maguire

37442The Slytherin house is generally viewed quite negatively since it has produced so many Dark wizards, but it is also a house where I would think people tend to get judged too quickly. In Wicked, a retelling of the origins of the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba is judged from birth due to her green skin, and grows up neglected by her father and rejected by her peers. However, she is passionate about her causes and loyal to those she cares about, and is determined to succeed in any mission she undertakes. I thought this book represents Slytherin because it includes a protagonist who shows many of the House traits, while also representing the tendency for people in Slytherin to be misunderstood or judged too quickly.

2) Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

19351043Aside from the colour scheme of the book and one of it’s main characters matching the House colours, it is also a book that once again shows that sometimes there is a lot more to a villain than we might think. Nimona is an impulsive shapeshifter who joins Ballister Blackheart, a villain seeking to prove that the heroes in the world may not be as good as everyone thinks. I read this book as part of my reading challenge earlier this year, and it quickly became one of my favourites. This book represents more of the Snape kind of Slytherin, where the line between hero and villain becomes blurred. It’s a very fun book to read, and I would love to see more of these characters.

3) Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

249747This was actually the first book that came to mind when I was choosing books to represent Slytherin, but I was hesitant to include it because it’s been so long since I read it. I never really got into the series, but I would love to give it another chance. This book is about a 12-year-old genius and criminal mastermind who kidnaps a fairy, which I think was to get ransom money to rebuild his family fortune. Artemis as a character reminds me a bit of Malfoy, since both were part of a well-established family and are dedicated to preserving their family’s ways, even if those ways aren’t so good. Artemis is a very determined, resourceful and manipulative character, who I think would definitely be a Slytherin.

4) Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar

22188One of the traits I associate most strongly with Slytherin is the tendency to be a bit self-centered and look out for their own interests above anyone else’s. It’s been years since I read any of this series, but the characters in Gossip Girl all have a tendency to be selfish, manipulative, and sneaky. The book focuses on a few teenagers living in New York. Blair Waldorf, one of the main characters especially seems to be extremely ambitious, but also conniving when it comes to getting what she wants. I actually stopped reading the series originally because I got tired of the characters all being so self-centred, but I think I’d like to give it another chance.

5) Macbeth by Shakespeare

8852I had a really hard time coming up with a fifth option for this, especially because I was trying to go for a book that I haven’t mentioned before. Otherwise, Defending Jacob and We Need to Talk About Kevin would have been good contenders. Instead, I decided to go for one of the most ambitious and determined characters I’ve ever read — Lady Macbeth. Although Macbeth himself wanted to be king, if I remember correctly, it was his wife that really pushed him to move forward with his plot and actually follow it through. I haven’t read this book since high school, but the one thing that I still remember most clearly from it is the lengths the characters would go to in order to get what they wanted.