I was going to title this post “Life-changing reads” but decided that that wasn’t quite right. I’m not sure that any book has quite changed my life though many have opened my eyes to other ways of seeing and being in the world.
May marked my third year of blogging and I started this post then, thinking to mark the moment by reflecting on the books that have most impacted me (in some way or another). Somehow life got in the way, and I am only getting back to it now. I think it’s still worth doing – for my benefit, if not for anyone else’s. It’s going to be hard to keep my list short – as you litbloggers and litblog readers will surely understand. So here goes, in alphabetical order by author – it’s hard enough limiting the number (to a self-imposed arbitrary number of ten) without ranking them too!
Margaret Atwood‘s The handmaid’s tale: Such an astonishing evocation of what might happen should extremist fundamentalist views be taken to their, hmm, logical conclusion. The book functions as both a wake-up call – we can never rest on our laurels while injustice and inequality remain in our world – and a great read.
Jane Austen‘s Pride and prejudice: A great read on multiple levels that introduced me to Austen. I love all Austen’s novels and really can’t pick a favourite, but this is the one that started it all. I can read (and have read) her books multiple times – and every time I find something new. Can’t ask more than that from a writer I reckon.
Albert Camus‘ The plague: Oh, this one fed my youthful idealism, except I don’t think I’ve ever grown out of the belief that Camus’ Rieux is right when he says “that there are more things to admire in men than to despise”. I have read this three times, and will read it again. (My review)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez‘s Chronicle of a death foretold: It’s all about the tone. I love the way this story is told. I’ve read and enjoyed other books by Garcia Marquez but this is the one that stays in my brain.
Kazuo Ishiguro‘s The remains of the day: This one’s all about the tone too – and the unreliable narrator. There’s a wry humour to the butler’s narrow-minded focus on things that don’t matter while being completely oblivious to the things that do. I have gone on to read all (but one, so far) of Ishiguro’s oeuvre.
Elizabeth Jolley‘s The newspaper of Claremont Street: I loved the black humour here. It reminded me of a (very) modern Jane Austen. I’m sure Austen would have loved Jolley. After all, I love them both.
Rohinton Mistry‘s A fine balance: This book showed me how a grim book can still offer hope (though not all readers agree with me). What else can I say? If you haven’t read it, I say do!
Junichiro Tanizaki‘s The Makioka sisters: I didn’t know much about Japan when I read this in the early 1990s, but what I knew was that it was a pretty homogenous society. And, it is, but The Makioka sisters showed me a more diverse society than I had imagined. This is not the main subject of the book, but it was eye-opening for me. I also enjoyed it as a thoughtful analysis of Japan on the cusp of change from a traditional to a modern society , particularly in relation to the lives of women. Oh, and it is an engrossing story.
Patrick White‘s Voss: What can I say? Voss introduced me to Patrick White. It spoke to my teenage sense of the romance of grand ideas and of doomed love in language that was intense but accessible. I went on to read more Patrick White – and am still reading him. I’ve some still to read, and some I’ve read more than once. Such is the life of a reader…
Three of these books – Pride and prejudice, The plague and Voss – I read in my teens. I shall be forever grateful to them for the introduction they provided to the world of literature and what it can mean to one’s life.
I’d love to hear about the books that resonate most with you. (And I’m sure that, for some of your choices at least, I’ll say, “Oh yes, that too!”)