These books are listed in no particular order; it would be impossible for me to choose just one as my favourite! The books below are ones that have stuck with me ever since I’m read them, for one reason or the other. They’ve taught and guided me, made me laugh and cry, broken my heart and patched it back up, but more than anything they are just damned good books, full of words that spring to life before you.
The Satanic Verses – Salman Rushdie. Definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read, both in terms of enjoyment and intellectual enrichment. Though it took me a couple of tries to really get into it (I read the first chapter then left it untouched for months before I decided to try again) but once I was in there was no getting out. The mix and muddle of time, location, characters, faith and reality captivated, excited and intrigued me. One thing that really drew me into the book was the writing style. I love magical realism but had only ever really encountered it in Latin American literature before, and I was delighted by reading the old techniques within a new setting. The backdrops of the ancient story of Islam, India and Bollywood, and countryside England only made it ever more exciting, and I found the interweaving of religion, cultures, and reality fascinating.
P.S. if you liked this book try out Rushdie’s other books; I loved ‘The Enchantress of Florence’, ‘Shame’ and ‘The Moor’s Last Sigh’.
The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts – Louis de Bernieres. This book is part of a trilogy, and in fact I’d say that all three books are amongst my favourites. The other two, Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman are as magical, mysterious, heartbreaking and delightful as the first. I first read these when I was just 16, and have since read them twice or thrice, every time coming away with something different. The trilogy is non chronological, following various characters through important events that occur in their, and others around them, lives. The books are set in an imaginary country in Latin America – this was my first experience of magical realism – and, though quite lighthearted, deal with serious, mostly political, issues such as corruption, poverty, dictatorship, war, ethics, death, religion and love. The lyrical writings really gets your imagination going and I especially love the sub story of the village that leaves everything behind to follow a mysterious girl who wears nothing but butterflies.
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy. Ok, I admit it, I saw the film when I had just started reading the book. I had started the book and was a few chapters in and already getting confused with names when my mum asked if I wanted to go to the cinema to see the movie. Anyway, I think seeing the film made the book more enjoyable as I wasn’t focused on remembering names and places but could just enjoy the fantastic descriptive writing and internal monologues. This book is obviously a classic for a reason, described by Dostoyevsky as a ‘flawless as a work of art’. Aside from the brilliant writing and storytelling, the themes that this book explores are numerous, ranging from the unbreakable Russian social system at the time to gender, loneliness, morals and of course, love.
The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson. I was recommended this book by a fellow bartender and giggled the whole way through. Alan Karlsson is about to turn 100 years old in a nursing home when he decides to climb out of the window and as the title suggests, disappear. The book follows this story, of where Alan goes and who he meets, with the story of his life, which is filled with encounters with well known figures such as Harry Truman, Winston Churchill and Mao Zedong. Its a great book, filled with laughter, and though quite a long novel it’s hard to put down. Though not quite as serious as other books on this list, this novel has other, more comedic qualities and I think it very important that reading should be fun, too.
Life of Pi – Yann Martel. Another excellent book that I’ve read multiple times. Made famous by the fantastic and visually stunning film last year, this is definitely a favourite. It’s also a classic in my family – my sisters, mum and I all read it around the same time so we were able to share jokes and stories about it, and wonder which story was really true (or maybe, which we’d like to be true), so maybe I’m a bit biased. The book deals with heavy themes such as loss, grief and loneliness as well as spirituality and religion in a mainly lighthearted fashion, and explores how we, as humans, deal with those emotions. It’s a book that can make you question your relationships and your direction in life, and which may bring you thumping down to the realisation that not everything lasts forever. It’s also one of a few books where animals take centre stage and the novel questions and explores our relations to those animals, whether that be in terms of dominance and submissiveness or empathy and friendship.
So, there you have it. I thought long and hard about which books are really my favourites and so far this is it. For me a favourite book is, obviously, enjoyed thoroughly, but it also leaves a lasting impression. Following that logic I may I have just finished my next favourite book, and not quite know it yet…
Until next time!