Ah! Capitalism! What a time to be telling people to buy stuff (seen the last South Park episode?). No but seriously, if you must buy a book, you may gladly take my favorites as inspiration. I noticed I hadn’t written a “Fave Five” in a while, and since my friends have been using the “LivingSocial” application on Facebook (don’t even get me started – it’s gotten me so pissed today – nothing but painfully slow and won’t save any changes I make), I decided to try out picking the five books I love the most (because my list of series is way too long in comparison). So here they are listed again, only without the covers (which you really shouldn’t judge them by anyway), therefore with side notes.
- Ian McEwan – Atonement. Brilliant! The first part (187 pages) is about one day. One day, and yet it was the most suspenseful thing I had ever read. At the end of each chapter is a cliffhanger worse than in any series. And the perspective keeps changing from one character to another, so that each time you learn a little more but never the whole story. Part two (another 80 pages) suddenly takes place in World War II, this time being told from one single (male) perspective. The mind boggles in trying to piece it all together, and yet the characters are described so vividly that you can see the whole thing in your head. The second part is in that same time, only here we read what the main character is doing, back in London. In the forth and final part there is, again, a huge time jump. The first part took place in 1935, the last in 1999. But this is where it all comes together, in one big surprising finale (at least I didn’t expect it and it turned everything around again). In sum, it is a love story, but a beautifully told one, mixed with family intricacies and complex personalities.
- Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist. I read this when I was rather young, in French, and when I presented it in class my teacher was impressed, because it is a very layered – supposedly very complicated – book, meant for adults. But I like it just because each time I read it I learn something new. It has a strong cultural background, with Spanish and Arabic / Egyptian legends. It leads us through the spiritual journey of Santiago, a young Spanish shepherd, to fulfill his “Personal Legend”. It’s about hope, faith and fate… I should read it again sometime. It won the Guiness World Record for most translated book by a living author (67 languages), so that might be an argument on it’s own.
- Dave Eggers – A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I mean come on, the title alone makes you want to read this, doesn’t it? I’m actually currently reading this, so I won’t write a full commentary just yet, but I will say that the (40 page long!) preface won me over right away. I’ve read nothing like it. To quote Wikipedia: critics praised the book for its wild, vibrant prose, and it was described as “big, daring [and] manic-depressive” by The New York Times.The author jumps from one thing to another, seemingly unrelated, going off on tangents that last pages. I love it, because that’s also how I think, in my head, and how I would like to write – if people would follow. The main character is simply a very likeable guy from my point of view and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.
- Pierre Choderlos de Laclos – Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Again an intricate love story, again in French, again a classic. I strongly recommend – to anyone – to read this book. It is infinitely better than (any of) the movie(s), although Cruel Intentions was some nice entertainment as well. But ah, the prose! The époque! The decadence of the French aristocracy shortly before the French Revolution! And I love the epistolary style (composed entirely of letters), it really puts you into place. It is often claimed to be the source of the saying “Revenge is a dish best served cold” and has also been described as a vague, amoral story. *sigh* Lovely.
- Douglas Adams – The Ultimate Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. This anthology is five novels in one. It is sooooo long, but also sooooo funny. I think by now everyone knows the original story of Arthur Dent, and the unmistakable style of Douglas Adams. His writing is witty, playful, almost as hard to follow as that of Eggers – but that’s what makes me laugh. I really have no clue how someone can come up with such stories. They are at the same time way out there and interspersed with totally mundane details. Plus, I actually managed to read the whole 1000+ pages in German.