Dr. Gordon’s All-Time Favourite Books

Dr. Gordon’s All-Time Favourite Books

1. Angela’s Ashes – Frank McCourt

In Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt, the narrator, recounts his life from the beginning to the end. His mother, named Angela, gets pregnant with him. Soon after, Frank’s mother marries his father, named Malachy. Malachy is a drunkard, while Angela is a depressed woman. Frank spends his childhood in deprivation, but the family finds its own way to entertain itself. Over the period of the next few years, Angela has two sons named Alphonsus and Michael.

When Frank turns ten, he receives Confirmation and falls victim to typhoid fever. During his stay in the hospital, he finds contentment in Shakespeare’s works, which enhances his language and storytelling skills. Malachy goes to England to find work and send money to his family, but fails to do so. Then Frank finds himself working for a bunch of people. At one point, the McCourts are sent away from their residence, which forces them to move in with Laman, Angela’s cousin. Angela begins a sexual relationship with Laman. Frank too begins a sexual relationship with one of his customers named Theresa. Unfortunately, she passes away. After managing to save sufficient money, Frank moves to New York. In the end, Frank seems hopeful about his future.

2. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

Maya’s parents had gotten a divorce after which she and her younger brother, Bailey, were sent to Stamps to live with their grandmother, who they referred to as Momma. Right from her childhood, Angelou had been subjected to various forms of discrimination.

When Maya turned eight, her father took her and Bailey to live with her mother and her boyfriend, Mr. Freeman. During her stay, she was repeatedly raped by Mr. Freeman which scarred her. She could not talk about this with anyone because of Mr. Freeman’s threat to hurt Bailey if she opened her mouth. The guilt and shame led her to become a mute.

To resolve this problem, Maya and Bailey were sent back to live with Momma, who introduced her to Bertha Flowers who gave her books of literature in the hope of regaining her voice. Afterwards, Momma sent Maya and Bailey to live with Vivian and Daddy Clidell. During this period, she also ran away from home in a hope of discovering her true self. At sixteen, she got pregnant but was too afraid to tell anyone. The story concludes with Maya telling her readers about how far she has come and how self-assured she has become.

3. Anne of Green Gables – Lucy Maud Montgomery

Unmarried and old, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert are siblings that reside in Avonlea of Prince Edward Island. Due to their ever increasing age and the workload in their farm, Matthew decides to adopt an orphan boy who could help around. However, the orphanage sends a girl named Anne, who makes a soft spot in Matthew’s heart, making him keep her.

Anne grows up as a happy, lively, and outspoken child, often unaware of how her words or actions may affect people around her. While at school, Anne finds herself in a feud with a boy named Gilbert, the only other pupil in the class that is as smart as herself. Anne attends Queen Academy, moving on to earn herself the Avery Scholarship that will provide her with funds for four years of college. Wishing to make Matthew and Marilla proud by conveying the news to them, Anne goes back to Green Gables. However, Matthew dies due to a heart attack and Marilla may go blind. These reasons cause Anne to decide to give up on her chance of attending college; she decides to stay back, take care of Marilla, and educate the children in Avonlea.

4. Book of Negroes – Lawrence Hill

During the British Revolution, a group of white men forced entry into Aminata’s home, killing her parents in the process and imprisoning her. Also known as Meena, Aminata was forced to go to England, where she met a boy named Chekura. Both of them were sold off as slaves. The man who bought Meena raped her, and she had no choice but to continue to live in that situation. Over time, she learnt English in secret.

One day, she finally escaped. She and Chekura got secretly married, had a baby girl, before getting separated again. Aminata was then sold off to a Jewish inspector. However, both the man and his wife treated Meena well and also took care of her baby girl. But one day, Meena found out that the couple had taken her daughter and fled to England. Meena then moved to New York. As a reward for serving the British during the revolutionary war, she wrote down the ages and names of people who were so desperately trying to find their way back to Nova Scotia. Towards the end of her life, at a fragile age, the abolitionists treated Meena with curiosity and respect. In the midst of all this that she found her daughter.

5. The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls

This is a story of Jeannette Walls and her family, who were always short of cash and rations, which forced them to move multiple times. Having grown up in a desert, Jeannette loved to explore the natural features around the desert. The Walls had to shift to Welch later, due to Jeannette’s father’s alcoholism, which left them with no funds.

The Walls siblings understand that Welch was different, which makes them yearn for their former home. Due to times being severely bad, the children begin to understand that they need to move away from their parents. Soon enough, all the siblings relocate to New York, trying to forget their lives in Welch.

At some point, Jeannette’s parents travel to Manhattan, with only a van in their acquisition. Soon enough, the parents, Rex and Rose Mary, are shown to have become homeless again. After that, even after several tries, the Walls siblings cannot take care of their parents. This results in Rex and Rose Mary becoming squatters who shift from one abandoned residence to another. This continues till Rex passes away due to a heart attack. At the end of the book, Jeannette has come to accept her past, not having to lie about it anymore.

6. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks was a black woman, who died in 1951 due to cervical cancer. A sample of Henrietta’s skin cells was taken prior to her death, which proved to be immensely useful for progress made in modern medical science. Rebecca’s interest in Henrietta began just after she’d enrolled in a community college for a biology class. While partaking in that class, Rebecca’s teacher, named Donald Defler, gave a lecture on human cells. He mentioned that the cell reproduction could go haywire due to cancer. He also said that there was only one set of cells that behaved differently when it came to cell reproduction in a tissue culture, which belonged to Henrietta, a cell line that was referred to as HeLa. HeLa was being used by scientists all over the world, now being sold for profit. The catch of the story was that all of this was being done without Henrietta’s consent; the doctors had never asked her for permission. Not only was Henrietta’s family informed of the HeLa cell line as late as 25 years, they were also kept away from the profits being made from the cells. Therefore, Rebecca wrote Henrietta’s story down, befriending Deborah Lacks, the daughter of Henrietta.

7. The Tender Bar: A Memoir – J. R. Moehringer

Moehringer used to live with his mother in her father’s home, located in Manhasset. From an early age, he felt the absence of his father. His grandfather, who always remained drunk, did not help the situation. As a result, he always felt a deep gaping hole which should have been filled with a fatherly figure. This happens when Uncle Charlie enters into his life and takes him into a local pub where he used to work as a bartender. Upon visiting that pub, he was instantly captivated by the atmosphere. Slowly, he created his own world in that dingy pub. But when the time came to bid farewell to the pub, he could not do it. Torn between the love for his dear mother and his obsession with the pub, he tried to forge a middle path. Even when he was selling housewares at Lord &Taylor, he wished to go back to the pub.

Even though this book talks about the different phases of a boy’s life, it also shows how till the end, boys do remain lost, even after turning into grown men.

8. The Double Helix – James D. Watson

James Watson is the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA. At the start of the book, he was sent to Copenhagen for his post-doctoral work on bacterial genetics and viruses, funded by a Fellowship from the USA. However, James wished to study X-ray crystallography in Cambridge. Eventually, he moved to Cambridge and met Francis Crick.

The Double Helix is about James, Crick, Rosalind Franklin, Linus Pauling, and Maurice Wilkins. It is seen that Rosalind can be difficult to work with. However, James eventually figures out that Rosalind’s behavior is the result of the partiality she had faced while studying science in Cambridge. From then onwards, James’s and Rosalind’s relationship improves. However, she then passes away at the tender age of 37, due to cancer.

The Double Helix then moves forward with James and Francis making use of models to help envisage the DNA molecule properly. It seems that Linus was also working on a model of his own, where the DNA strand was shown to have three strands. James and Frank hurried and finished their model before Linus could fix the mistake in his, which earned them their success. Linus came in to the Cambridge and heartily congratulated them on their accomplishment.

9. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

Chiyo is a girl whose mother passes away due to illness. Chiyo and her family reside in Yoroido, where the biggest company is owned by Mr. Tanaka. Mr. Tanaka meets Chiyo and invites the sisters to come over to live with him. At Mr. Tanaka’s house, the sisters find that a doctor has been invited. The doctor examines the girls and announces that they are intact, after which Chiyo is sold to an okiya to be trained to become a geisha. However, Satsu is sold to a house where she is to be taught to please men physically.

In the okiya, Chiyo receives a new name - Sayuri. Sayuri is taught several forms of arts to entertain people. Once she completes these lessons, she begins to dress up as an apprentice geisha. Then, an “older sister” prepares Sayuri for the mizuage ceremony, a ritual where her virginity will be sold to the highest bidder. After that, Sayuri is free to try to attract a danna, a man who will pay her with gifts in exchange of her company. Sayuri dreams of attracting the Chairman, a single man that she seems to have grown fond of.

10. Born to Run: A hidden tribe, Superathletes, and the greatest race the world has ever seen – Christopher McDougall

Born to Run is a story of an adventure which came into existence from a simple question – why does my foot hurt? In an attempt to find an answer to this question, Christopher sets out on a journey. In this, he aims to find a tribe which is made up of the greatest runners in history. In North America, there exists a area where Tahamura Indians seem to live. In them lies a special ability which allows them to run continuously for hundreds of miles without the need of stopping to catch their breath or take rest. So what is it that gives them such superhuman-like power? This is what McDougall aims to find out in his book.

Their mysterious composure and health makes them absolutely immune to diseases. This is what keeps them fit all the time. And with the help of a lone ranger, who goes by the name of Caballo Blanco, he was able to decipher the secrets behind the speed of the Tahamura tribe. Not only that, he was also able to find an athlete within himself – something which he did not know existed in him. In addition, he geared up to train himself for the biggest race of his life.