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By Ray Garcia   “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” by Grady Hendrix “By the power of Phil Collins, I rebuke you!” Going with the spooky October mood, this peculiarly paranormal novel reminds us of the power of friendship while rattling readers to their core. Abby and Gretchen are best friends in high school. From singing along to Madonna at sleepovers to drinking beer under the stars, these two take the reader through life as a teen in the 80s. However, when the girls just want to have fun, everything changes on a drug-induced summer night that results in a demonic affair. Abby must keep her sanity if her friendship with a very possessed Gretchen is to withstand the ultimate test of good versus evil. For me, the defining trait of Hendrix’s, “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” is its ability to torment the reader with its demented scenes while being able to maintain the fun, retro feel throughout the novel. If you’re a fan of classic teen horror films like I am, then this just might be the book for you. “The Book of Joy” by Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams “There’s a Tibetan saying: ‘Wherever you have friends, that’s your country, and wherever you receive love, that’s your home.” At times, the arduous and stressful moments within our college careers become too much to bear. It may feel as if nothing is certain, and that remaining optimistic for the future is futile. In spite of those challenging times in life, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop have come together to deliver their shared wisdom on joy, and how to achieve inner peace. The friendship between the two spiritual leaders warms the heart of the reader as they delve into what joy is, the obstacles one faces in the pursuit of joy and the eight pillars that can aid them in their journey. This novel reads like a casual conversation, and with the seemingly endless knowledge that Gyatso and Tutu have to offer, it makes the read much more enjoyable. Throughout every page, there is pertinent information on how we can change in our daily life – whether it’s our perspective, attitude or reaction towards various situations and people around us. I promise, it doesn’t feel like a self-help book. It’s like getting long awaited advice from very good friends. “You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense” by Charles Bukowski “I looked at the closed door and at the doorknob and strangely I didn’t feel alone.” Amidst the hectic nature on a college campus, it’s not hard to feel alone. Even when you’re surrounded by family, friends, classmates, etc., sometimes you can’t help but feel lonely, and that’s okay. Bukowski’s poetry displays the pain and suffering that comes with the trials of life. In his poem “rift,” he retells a tale where his dissociated state affects those around him, to the point where they leave, thus causing the reader to enter their own existential crisis. Similarly, Bukowski’s poem “escape,” explores the practice of accepting one’s need to escape from everyone and everything, and not taking responsibility for how others might interpret that. Within each respected poem, he cuts deep into the parts of the human psyche that many of us choose to ignore. In facing our demons, Bukowski’s work allows us to embrace the sadness and loneliness, and to use those emotions as a drive to carry on. “The Bastard of Istanbul” by Elif Shafak “Either grant me the bliss of the ignorant or give me the strength to bear the knowledge.” Soon enough we find a novel that not only educates, but empowers us as human beings. Shafak’s “The Bastard of Istanbul” tells a controversial story of breaking tradition (gender roles, religious/cultural ideals,) overcoming the past and supporting those you care about. Armanoush is an Armenian-American who lives in San Francisco. Asya is Turkish, and she lives in Istanbul, Turkey. These two are cousins who meet for the first time when Armanoush secretly travels to Istanbul to uncover her Armenian roots. Throughout the visit, they find themselves discovering more about each other’s ethnic history while discovering a dark part of their family’s history that brings them closer together. In this journey of self-discovery and individual empowerment, the novel asserts the power within the ability of choice, and translates that by providing strong and spirited womxn as our main characters. Shafak reminds us of how haunting our past can be, and warns of the dangers in cultural norms, but ultimately inspires her readers to embrace the struggle instead of cracking under pressure. “Room” by Emma Donoghue “The world is always changing brightness and hotness and soundness, I never know how it's going to be the next minute.” Sometimes, you feel trapped. Stuck between a rock and a hard place. However, it is up to you to decide if you’re going to fight for your chance to really live. In a comparable manner, Donoghue’s “Room” is a heart-breaking yet invigorating story of a mother and son struggling to survive as captives to the man who kidnapped them. The story is told through the point of view of 5-year-old Jack. His mother was kidnapped as a teen, and has since been kept hostage in a room. After seven years in the room, his mother gave up on the outside world. And so, the two live on, depending on one another and waiting for their chance to escape, hoping for a life outside of the room. This powerful novel emphasizes the idea that even when we feel alone or trapped, there is more out there than we know. Our world is what we perceive it to be, and with encouragement from those we depend on, we can escape from our own prisons and explore what the world has to offer.  

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