The best books to remind you that wonder is still possible

Joseph Gergen Author Of Theo and Sprout: A Journey of Growth
By Joseph Gergen

Who am I?

I have always been passionate about wonder, starting with children’s stories filled with magical escapism and adventures, whether The Wind in the Willows or Alice in Wonderland. The first real book I tried to write was a magical adventure with sprites and elves. It was terrible. I stopped writing and pursued creating wonder in other forms like painting and furniture design, which have been called whimsical. I continue to pursue books that bring me a sense of wonder and when I finally returned to writing, I wanted to write a book that conveyed a sense of wonder. It took a few tries, but I think I got it right.

I wrote...

Theo and Sprout: A Journey of Growth

By Joseph Gergen,

Book cover of Theo and Sprout: A Journey of Growth

What is my book about?

Sprout says she’s there to help him. Theo, an introverted, teenage boy, is not so sure about that. He’s not sure about much of anything when Sprout unexpectedly shows up one morning. Is she a dream? A hallucination?

While Theo longs for some guidance through the perils of adolescence, the guidance he knew his family wouldn’t give him, he isn’t prepared for Sprout to present herself and offer it to him. Sprout comes and goes as she pleases and asks Theo to embrace the wonder of the situations she creates. Sprout just wants Theo to grow. Theo just wants to survive. Thus begin the adventures of Theo and Sprout.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Why did I love this book?

While I have no desire to return to being a naïve teenager, Charlie’s wide-eyed tale of adolescence tugged at the sentimentalist in me. Charlie’s life was less than perfect but he kept going back out into the world to discover new, wondrous things. Sometimes those adventures led him upward and sometimes they led him downward. Adults are not immune to ups and downs. I certainly am not. Charlie’s tale did remind me of some of my own teenage tales. Like the time I came in last at a track race and fell down and cried because I thought it was the worst thing ever (it was not). Or the time a cute girl asked where I lived and I felt wonderful for days. So Charlie’s tale reminded me that I could feel wonder and that I should set aside my cynicism sometimes and let that happen.

By Stephen Chbosky,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Perks of Being a Wallflower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A modern cult classic, a major motion picture and a timeless bestseller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story.

Charlie is not the biggest geek in high school, but he's by no means popular.

Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie is attempting to navigate through the uncharted territory of high school. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and music - when all one requires to feel infinite is that…

The Book Thief

By Markus Zusak,

Book cover of The Book Thief

Why did I love this book?

Despite the terrible backdrop of Nazis and WW2, we find Liesel engaging with the world and growing up through books, her father, her neighbors, and a hidden boy in the basement. And while she was perhaps too young to know that the world should be any different, she was intrepid, While I grew up in a peaceful world, I was paralyzingly shy and every venture into the world brought fear of social interaction. I wanted to be intrepid and I was not. While reading The Book Thief, I kept thinking I want to hang out with Liesel. I would have been brave enough to go out into the world with her by my side and let the wonder of the world come as it may. 

By Markus Zusak,

Why should I read it?

26 authors picked The Book Thief as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Life affirming, triumphant and tragic . . . masterfully told. . . but also a wonderful page-turner' Guardian
'Brilliant and hugely ambitious' New York Times
'Extraordinary' Telegraph


1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.


Life of Pi

By Yann Martel,

Book cover of Life of Pi

Why did I love this book?

Pi is literally thrown into a boat and asked to survive. As he tells his sometimes terrible and sometimes terrifying tale, Pi conveys the wonder at having survived and not the anguish of having almost repeatedly died. He reminded me that surviving a harrowing or unplanned adventure is a tale worth telling. Reminded me that I was 34 years old when I finally told myself I was tired of being afraid, that the unknown was an adventure that could be filled with wonder. Even the unknowns I did not get to choose. Reminded me that I need to remember that again.

By Yann Martel,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked Life of Pi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After the sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a wounded zebra, an orangutan—and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger.

Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi Patel, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with the tiger, Richard Parker, for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his…

Heart of Darkness

By Joseph Conrad,

Book cover of Heart of Darkness

Why did I love this book?

I loved how Marlowe retained a sense of wonder while steering himself into the darkness, while surrounded by those who did not wonder about it but only wanted to exploit it. I realized you could wonder about something without judging, or at the very least wonder through a lens of empathy. While I have always been empathetic, Marlowe made me realize perhaps I was often empathetic (and wonderous and sympathetic) to things I really already understood, and that for things that were in the darkness I substituted wonder for anxiety. Marlow’s wonder motivated me to look at the shadows with wonder too.

By Joseph Conrad,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Heart of Darkness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Although Polish by birth, Joseph Conrad (1857–1924) is regarded as one of the greatest writers in English, and Heart of Darkness, first published in 1902, is considered by many his "most famous, finest, and most enigmatic story." — Encyclopaedia Britannica. The tale concerns the journey of the narrator (Marlow) up the Congo River on behalf of a Belgian trading company. Far upriver, he encounters the mysterious Kurtz, an ivory trader who exercises an almost godlike sway over the inhabitants of the region. Both repelled and fascinated by the man, Marlow is brought face to face with the corruption and despair…

Book cover of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Why did I love this book?

Shakespeare’s unwitting dupes from Hamlet are thrown into the unknown when fate’s die is cast for them. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern know that something has changed, but they cannot put their finger on it. Flowing with the unknown instead of being afraid of it, they approach their new circumstance with wonder albeit with a little skepticism. I have always erred on the side of being naïve as opposed to cynical, but they taught me I could be in wonder without being naïve by employing a bit of rational observance. Of course, it didn’t hurt that their observations came about through rapid-fire, witty dialog.

By Tom Stoppard,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Acclaimed as a modern dramatic masterpiece, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead is the fabulously inventive tale of Hamlet as told from the worm’s-eve view of the bewildered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two minor characters in Shakespeare’s play. In Tom Stoppard’s best-known work, this Shakespearean Laurel and Hardy finally get a chance to take the lead role, but do so in a world where echoes of Waiting for Godot resound, where reality and illusion intermix, and where fate leads our two heroes to a tragic but inevitable end.

Tom Stoppard was catapulted into the front ranks of modem playwrights overnight when Rosencrantz…

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