Have you ever been recommended a book where the person starts with, “Boy do I have a book for you, you’ll love it…”? Without even buying or reading the book, I often stop to think what impression the person has of me that would make them recommend it. After reading the recommended book, the statement [about yourself] becomes obviously clearer, if not always accurate. In an effort for better accuracy in your recommendations, I thought it would be appropriate to start with books I have devoured and loved.
And, on this note, I have long maintained my TOP TEN favorite book list. The usual suspects litter the list and, I now confide, my original list was far too “classic” (Anna Karenina, Tale of Two Cities, The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe…). I am now feeling some kind of literary maturity and have been garnering a new definition of what are my favorite books–and why. Moreover, any such list should be organic and dynamic, allowing for introspection, if not extrospection.
For a start, there doesn’t have to be ten. There are as many as I can justify. So here goes:
– Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell 2004. A thriller, if largely through a mountain of syntax, Cloud Atlas is innovative writing combined with a gripping storyline and a vital social message.
– Time’s Arrow, by Martin Amis 1991. An exercise in patience well rewarded for this uncanny short novel on a very sensitive subject; with clever underlying messages devolved via the reversal of time, discourse and plot.
–First Love, by Ivan Turgenev 1860. Maybe I like this novella more because of a nostalgia (of the time I read the book) than excellence of the book itself, but First Love is captivating prose, even in translation, and has a twist at the end that challenges our initial perceptions.
–Dr Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak 1958. A better book than film, even if I love the film, too. This book is one reason why I like to write myself, and certainly contributed to the reason why I wanted to learn Russian.
–The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand 1943. Aged poorly in terms of writing, but seminal in terms of my own life philosophy. Howard Roark is a model.
–The World According to Garp, by John Irving 1978. Best of Irving. Sense of humor, sense of humanity, sense of hope.
–Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce 1916. Magical lyrical prose. His best work.
–Damage, by Josephine Hart 1991. Not well known, but wicked and painfully insightful, written in 1st person for greater guilt. One quote to stir your interest from the protagonist (if not pure agonist):
“Former GP now MP, I thought I was enjoying middle age. But nothing in a life anaesthetized by success, wealth and contentment has prepared me for my encounter with Ann Barton. Femme fatale, innocent catalyst for disaster or instrument of pure evil, she wrenches me into hyper-consciousness with a lethal dose of my own, hitherto hidden, frenziedly addictive medicine.”
What books would you recommend now?