- Books, Literature, and Writing
Five Exceptional Books
Five exceptional books:
I love reading. It's what I was born to do. I think finding a great book is like a miracle and it surprises me every time. Like when you first here the White Album as a kid and think, My God, does anybody know about this? Book recommendations can be a tricky thing. Your friend Rick recommends The Mermaid Chair, by Sue Monk Kidd and suddenly you're not comfortable being his friend anymore. I had someone recommend The Book of Mormon once. And I read it. Anyone sitting down and reading that on a daily basis shouldn't be leaving the house. If someone recommends Lovecraft's cthulhu mythos, it gives you an idea about them. If they recommend The Notebook, it says something too. You have to stand by your favorites though, no matter what. That being said, here are five exceptional books I've read:
1) The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
Great read. She wrote two great novels, the other being The Secret History. She has the southern Gothic thing going and her characters are very complete, like Dickens, she creates actual universes, microcosms. Her style is a lot like Carson McCullers or Harper Lee. Great language too.
2) One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
If you haven't read this book yet you should. It's been on every list ever, I know, but it is worth mentioning again as it is a truly great and epic story. It is an amazing story full of brutal romantic lives and the most amazing names in literature. I read his autobiography, Living to Tell the Tale and his childhood, like his novels and short stories, has the most magical and timeless quality. I find that in Cormac McCarthy too, that element of not knowing when the book is taking place, could be right now, could be two or five hundred years ago, or maybe a hundred years from now. Or in some little slip of time that never happened at all.
3) The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
This is a big strange book, but it is worth the effort. I spent an entire summer reading this one, mostly out on the porch of the camp I stayed at, and it colored all my memories of that time. It was written in 1924, and it is translated from German, so sometimes while reading you wonder, is this as it seems or has something been changed in the various translations of time and language and culture to create this depth less odd. It has stayed with me in a very strong way. I often think of Hans out on his balcony taking his temperature and expertly wrapping up in his blanket. I also learned more new vocab from this book then any other I have ever read, ever. I keep a running list of any words I don't know and look them up in the evening and I had hundreds from this tome. Words like pleonasm, animadvert, and rodomontade. I also had to look up a lot of Latin phrases. And an entire section of dialog was in french in my translation, so I only gleaned the conversation, as I don't speak french. But this is really an incredible book. I'm hoping to rally enough gumption to hit Doctor Faustus next.
4) The Roald Dahl Omnibus by Roald Dahl
This is a superb collection of Roald Dahl's adult short stories, and it is so good. His writing is tight and crisp and extremely funny. Wicked and sharp I loved almost all of them, they have the dark humor of Lewis Black. I've always loved the short story and Dahl is a true master at making absolute gems. Perfect stories. I think it was Stephen King who said that novels are like long romances and the short story is like kissing a stranger in a dark coat closet, or something to that effect. Speaking of Steve-O, he has written some phenomenal short stories too, like "The Man in The Black Suit" and "The Reach".
5) The BorderTrilogy by Cormac McCarthy
Three books: All the Pretty Horse, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain. This is some of the best honed writing ever. The man is a genius. Brevity and honesty that are as masterfully expressed as I've ever witnessed. It's so good it makes you want to kill yourself. Really.
So. Five exceptional books. Happy reading.