What is it about giants that capture our imaginations? Perhaps it’s just that they’re so big. There’s something awe-inspiring, frightening, and exciting about a creature that is so much bigger than the rest of us. Whether friendly or wicked, intelligent or bestial, giants have captured humanity’s imagination for centuries. That’s why today, I’ve put together a short list of some books featuring giants. If you’re at a loss for a place to start, I recommend picking up with the first book on this list, which I’m reading right now. (Don’t worry–it’s my own personal copy, so you won’t have to wait for me to return it!)
When I was a kid, The BFG was one of my favorite books. And even now, it still possesses a place of pride on my shelves. It was also special to me as a child because it was the first (and only) book I recommended to a very picky friend that she not only read but enjoyed immensely (and recommended to her other friends). The story is about Sophie, a young orphan who is literally snatched from her window one night by a giant that’s been wandering up and down her street. But, to her immense relief, the giant–who introduces himself as the Big Friendly Giant (or BFG) does not intend to eat her–he merely took her away because she had seen him, and he needed to make sure that she didn’t go blabbing around town that she had seen a giant. But, unfortunately, the BFG isn’t the only giant in Giant Country, and the rest are much bigger. And meaner. And they love nothing more than to make a meal of “human beans”. So, when Sophie realizes that the giants are planning a trip to England, to gobble up the unsuspecting residents, she hatches a bold plan to stop them–with the help of her new friend, The BFG.
This next book is another favorite of mine: I Kill Giants. Barbara Thorson is a weird kid. For one thing, she wears animal ears on her head. For another, she won’t stop talking about giants. But, Barbara isn’t just interested in reading about giants, or talking about them. She wants to kill them. She has plans, traps, and even possesses a sacred hammer that she keeps in a special bag in order to obliterate the scum from the earth. But, the reader is presented with a very important question–are giants actually real? No one else but Barbara seems to believe in them. And if giants aren’t real, then what is Barbara hiding? And what is that horrible nightmare on the second floor of her house? And if giants really aren’t real, then what is that monster coming out of the sea, threatening to swallow up everything in its path? This powerful, heartrending, but ultimately hopeful book explores grief, growing up, and letting go. Fair warning: it makes me bawl like a baby every time I read it, but it’s so good that I keep coming back to it, time after time after time.
Thirteen-year-old Conor wakes just after midnight to find a monster outside of his bedroom window. Now, Conor has been expecting a monster for a long time–he sees it in his nightmares, the nightmares that he’s been having almost every single night since his mother started her cancer treatments. But, this is not the same creature. In fact, it’s very different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous that Conor does not want to give– the truth. Like I Kill Giants, this is a powerful tale of grief and loss and growing up, but darker and more raw. Regardless, this is a powerful tale of the fierce love between a mother and her son, and the love that forces a person to confront the truth and to live and hope in spite of it. A Monster Calls is an emotional gut-punch, and a fascinating story that will sit with the reader long after you finish.
In this classic tale, Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant medical student discovers the power to create life. So, he creates a man out of various parts of dead bodies and imbues the resulting creation with life. But, when Victor sees what he has made–a giant man, designed to be perfect in every way–he’s not delighted or proud, but disgusted and horrified. Unable to bear what he has done, Frankenstein abandons his creation, who while very much a monster in appearance, is very much a man at heart. And the monster, feeling the full weight of his creator’s abandonment, follows behind him, driven by a bitter vendetta of revenge as he slowly destroys everything that Frankenstein holds dear. This powerful tale is considered by many to be one of the earliest examples of science fiction. Frankenstein has spawned countless movies, books, and other adaptations, and continues to frighten and inspire generations of readers today.
One of my all-time favorite movies is The Princess Bride. And the book is pretty spectacular, too. Framed as a narrative of a man trying to find an old favorite book (and then translating and editing it to make it more accessible to English-language readers), The Princess Bride is a twisty tale full of humor, adventure, and heart. The story itself is a tale of true love. Buttercup has fallen in love with Westley, a hired hand on her family farm. But, when Westley goes off to sea to seek his fortune (so he can return and marry her), his ship is captured by the dread pirate Roberts, who never leaves prisoners alive. Meanwhile, Buttercup, believing Westley dead, is forced into an engagement to Prince Humperdinck. In the weeks leading up to their wedding, Buttercup is kidnapped by a trio of rogues, including a swordsman, a conniving Sicilian, and a kind-hearted giant, who plot to kill her in order to start a war between two neighboring countries. But, before they can carry out the deed, they discover they are being followed by a mysterious man in black. I don’t want to say too much more (for fear of spoiling all the fun), but this is a delightful fantasy story that readers are sure to enjoy.
What’s scarier than a giant? How about a giant evil beard? The Gigantic Beard that was Evil is a dramatic graphic novel about just that. Dave’s life on the island of Here has been pretty amazing. It’s nice and ordered, neat to a fault, and everything is just as it should be. And for a fastidious man like Dave, that’s just about perfect. But, one day Dave, clean-cut and completely bald (except for one hair on the top of his head) begins to grow a beard–an unstoppable (and evil), though very impressive beard that he has no ability to control. Will anyone be able to stop it? You’ll have to read it to find out!
There are two types of giants in Gulliver’s Travels. This book is a collection of the adventures of one doctor, Lemuel Gulliver, travels to a series of different islands inhabited by all manner of strange people and creatures. During his time in Lilliput, the giant is Gulliver himself, who towers over the tiny inhabitants of the island. And later, during his travels to the island of Brobdingnag, Gulliver finds himself dwarfed by the giants who live there. His other adventures include the flying Island of Laputa, and the land of the Houyhnhnms, sentient, highly intelligent horses who live alongside the Yahoos, bestial, stupid creatures that Gulliver finds look a bit too human to be comfortable. This charming book has entertained readers for generations, ever since its publication in 1726.
Attack on Titan is one of the most popular manga series from the past decade. This substantial series is a post-apocalyptic tale of humanity’s struggle to survive under the looming shadow of a group of giant humanoids known as Titans. No one knows who the Titans are or where they come from, or even what their purposes are, but the people do know that they are hellbent on consuming all of mankind–literally. These terrifying creatures, unintelligent and unstoppable, have roamed the world for years, destroying and devouring everything in their path. The remaining humans live in a giant three-walled city (built in a series of rings within rings), designed to keep the people in and the Titans out. After a Titan breaches the wall and eats his mother, Aren Yeager joins the military, swearing his revenge on all the Titans, and vows to eradicate the threat once and for all. But, the solution is never as easy as it seems, and Aren and his friends will have to go through hell in order to discover the secret of the Titans.