1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -- Stieg Larsson
Framed as a kind of mystery novel, this book is so much more than that; to me, one of the most captivating things about this story was the way it focused on journalists, and more specifically, gutless financial journalists. Although the book is set in Sweden, this is also a problem in the US, and was probably a contribution to the global financial catastrophe of the last couple years (notably the book was written before any of that began to really take shape). One of the themes I was less enamored with in this book was, supposedly, violence towards women. Each section of the book is prefaced with a statistic on violence committed against women in Sweden. Theoretically this could be a fascinating theme, but Larsson presents it as a series of extremely gruesome sexual assaults which were off-putting and didn't seem to actually say much about the subject besides that rape is bad. This may account for why I didn't care much for Lisbeth Salander, although I loved just about every other character in the book, particularly Blomkvist and Armansky. Despite my misgivings about some parts, I'd give it an 8 out of 10 overall.
2. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland -- Lewis Carroll
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that everybody knows what this book is about, more or less. It's hard for me to believe, but I have never actually read this before. It is a wonderful book, and as far as I can tell is an endless assault on adults, formal schooling, and all the ways in which we oppress children. There is a lot more going on than that, certainly, but this was the general impression that stayed in my head. The serpent bit is definitely my favorite scene. 9/10.
3. Out of the Dust -- Karen Hesse
Another book intended mainly for children/young adults (in case you're wondering, I'm taking a course on children's literature). This was...not so great. Written kind of like a prose poem, it doesn't really use that form to do anything, except perhaps skate around actually having to write out all the details. Despite a supposedly uplifting ending, I found the whole thing depressing and a little on the preachy side. 4/10.