Part 1 – My unputdownable books

October 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

I love lists. If I could, I would list everything. Actually, I do. I’m like Jack Black in “High Fidelity”, but less fat and hysterical.

Because I’m also trying to force myself to write, since it’s the thing I love doing most but need to really engage on doing it more frequently, I have decided to list my favourite books ever and so.

It’s a very difficult thing to do and I’ll probably write another blog after that discussing why the hell am I talking about favourite books if I went on my Twitter the other day and had a rant about not being able to differentiate style. All in all, I like lists and they make me happy.

So, here it goes. There are some pretty obvious titles and some you might cringe when you see it or think “whatever”…but it’s an honest list and none of these books are there to try to make me look cool and wise and whatever.
These are books that made me wonder, that made me immerse completely in their worlds and not just books I liked or became obsessed with (like Twilight). I think obsession comes from something lacking in your life at the time you find the subject of obsession and not because of quality and identification. I can read these books in this list as many times as I want and they won’t ever be considered worse (as it happens when I re-read Twilight after the obsessive period).

I debated much on including The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter series. I didn’t mostly because, even though I adore with all my heart, I don’t think they are perfect books. I believe Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a brilliantly written book, but I’m biased by the fact I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and that I grew up reading the series. Well, The Lord of the Rings is an epic of epic epicness, but Tolkien drags on a lot on the whole geography, which never was my main interest in literature. I’m much more of a Silmarillion fan anyway.

The list is not in a order of preference, because THAT’S TOO MUCH. I can’t decide. I tried to write with the least amount of spoilers as possible

– AMERICAN GODS, by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is brilliant. He’s a geek and a proud man that lives inside a mythological world. He writes wonderfully and has a great sense of humour. Sadly, almost no one in the UK knows who he is. Hardly ever I ran into people who knew him, even though he did write the Sandman series (for which he’s most famous for) and his book Stardust was turned into a film recently.

Anyway, Gaiman is one of those people I would absolutely love to sit down and have a tea with. The first book I read by him was actually c0-written with Terry Pratchett and it’s called “Good Omens”. It’s great, even if it gets lost in the end a little bit. It has a lot of mythological characters and brings them into a human level.

Now, I love that. I love when authors take religious and characters that come from different tales and twist and turn and make them into people. Neil Gaiman is THE man for the job when it comes to that. That’s basically what “American Gods” is about. Hundreds of mythological gods and goddesses brought down to Earth (more specifically America) and forced to live forgotten lives, because people don’t have faith in them any more (and gods obviously feed of faith). Gaiman takes Shadow – our main character who just left prison – through a road trip with Mr Wednesday (GREAT CHARACTER), running into and meeting gods from several countries (from Egypt to Nordic myths).

It’s a basis for great story telling, with hilarious and sarcastic jokes. Thoroughly gripping and so great I wanted to read again as soon as it was over.

– 1984, by George Orwell

I’m going to be honest with you. I’ve read 1984 quite a while ago. Still, it has made such an impression that I often caught myself thinking about it. The main character is a dull man for most of it, unable to make a stand, but given his situation and the world he lives in, who can really blame the guy? We live in a much freer world and things come and go and hardly anyone ever does anything about it. In his advantage, he’s curious. Curiosity killed the cat, as they say, but was it worth?

Also, the love interest and I share the same first name.

Well, everyone knows about 1984 and what it’s about (No? Well, it’s a world where everyone is constantly under CCTV and surveillance. Kind of like the UK). Enough has been said about it and by people far more qualified than me. It’s an astounding reverberation of how privacy and security can be divided by blurred lines and when individuality has to be abandoned for a greater good for the society.

The brilliant part is that one of the biggest impacts the book left me was the final. Where in the end, does it really matter if you are in love? Human behaviour in extreme situations never ceases to amaze me and makes me consider what would someone do if they were there? What would I do? Would I betray? Would I rather die? Would you?

It’s a haunting story of conformism, which scares me shitless because it’s so true

– A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, by Anthony Burgess

I know many people who have seen the film based on this book and directed by Kubrick. There are many people obsessed with it and it’s rebellious characteristic, it’s cruelty and it’s discussion of what the government has the power to inflict on the worst members of the society. The violence thrills the audience and there’s a cult going around similar to those that love The Big Lebowski. Anyhow, I always thought it was a brilliant film, amazingly directed, but it failed to hit the spot. Now, the book is something else entirely.

Sadly, I know very few people that have read the book. And is in the book, my friends, that the difference lies.

Kubrick wasn’t the best person to adapt books if you are an author or die-hard fan looking for likeness. There’s a story saying that Burgess (or was it Stephen King) hated so much the movie that when the book was adapted to theatre (or radio – don’t remember now), said author inserted a scene where a man described much like Kubrick was himself is killed by a character. Pretty heavy stuff.

So, the book. Well, it’s a hard read because of all the slang, but in the end, it becomes part of it and it flows once you get used to it. Even if it doesn’t become THAT familiar, I believe it’s the use of that which creates a barrier between reader and the narrator, Alex.

There was supposed to be 21 chapters, representing the age 21 (a bit of Wikipedia there for you), the milestone when people become grown ups. You don’t really need to know that to appreciate the beauty of the last chapter. It makes all the fucking difference and I hate Kubrick for taking it out from the movie. It’s COMPLETELY different tale once that part is omitted. A better tale, in my opinion. It’s actually quite silly when you finish reading it. I can’t say much, but you’re more than welcome to drop me a line or two if you want to discuss it.

– ANNA KARENINA, by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina was not only the first book of Russian literature I came across (after failing a read at Crime and Punishment), but it was also the first book I thought “this is one of the best books I have ever read” as soon as I started it.

It tells the story of the aristocratic class and the character whom the book is named after isn’t very likeable for most part of it and it’s not even there from the beginning. However, Anna Karenina is a force of nature and a strong character. She fights conventions and makes a lot of mistakes out of love, lust and whatever else that moves her. Even if you don’t approve of her actions, it’s impossible to be cold to her personality.

The book is another great tale of jealousy and failed marriage. It makes fun of aristocratic behaviour and their passions and desires. It talks of selfishness and hypocrisy like few books I’ve read, in a way that usually is by making you laugh and only after the book is over you can ponder about those actions.

It’s characters are all stunning and multi-coloured. It’s size has scared me a few times I thought about reading once again, but better than all is that until today, after almost 9 years since I’ve read the book, everytime I go to near a train, I remember it.

– EAST OF EDEN, by John Steinbeck.

Probably my favourite book ever. Steinbeck is probably my favourite author ever.

I’m not a religious person, but this book is not a religious in the sense of trying to call you for religion. Think of it like a Lord of the Rings set in America in the beginning of the 20th century.
It follows the epic story of two families, the Hamiltons and the Trasks and how they come to be connected. It’s in fact Steinbeck’s own family history. Full of amazing and brilliant characters, not only Samuel Hamilton – who would be the all wise man and represents all that’s good – or Cathy Ames – the villain, standing for pure evil and monstrosity -, but also the brilliant Lee and my favourite, Tom Hamilton, one of Samuel’s son. He’s told to have greatness in him and a lot of potential and because of that he’s absolutely lost. I believe I relate to him more than to any other character.

Anyway, East of Eden is a story about good and evil. About nature and nurture. It’s a testimony on how you’re raised can affect your attitude and debates whether there’s such a thing as being born evil. It uses the story of Cain and Abel (and the book has many Biblical references, which I think rather interesting) to make one think about free will and timshel (from old English, thou mayest).

Timshel is perhaps the most important concept in the book, but most of all, it’s a great story told beautifully and with great dialogues. Steinbeck believed this to be his masterpiece, even though many people say it’s “Grapes of Wrath”. I agree with him.

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