Monday, February 13, 2017

10 Books You Should Read Because Why Not?

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!
This is list is for the lonely hearts, the ones who tonight will 
seek the company of a book after a long day, and everyone else who
would like to read, read and read!

I keep seeing hundreds of lists of books that are a total 'must', and you should read them before school, or during, or after, or all the time!!! You should, in other words, feel really bad about not having read those books! Shame on you! And I always felt like... okay. I guess, that is true, but I do think that if I read The Lord Of The Rings after I am 30 years old, it would still make an impact. Same with Crime and Punishment or, the what is now a bestseller again in America, 1984 by Orwell. These books are timeless, they are still available for a reason and nobody - and I mean nobody - should make you feel bad about not having read them. Why? Because reading is fun! It is meant to be something you do out of pleasure, no wonder kids hate reading in schools... there is a sense of obligation that ruins it. Not to mention that many school, like the ones in Hungary, teach them chronologically and you might not be able to understand a book at 16 that you actually could love when you are 45! That is why I decided to compile a list of my 10 favorite books as a recommendation instead of claiming that they are super life changing books and you should have them on your shelf RIGHT NOW! If you are looking for something to read, maybe you'll find something here. Who knows? Happy reading!

10) Italo Calvino - Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore (If on a winter's night a traveler)

Strong start, this is a book by Italian writer Italo Calvino, published in 1979. In it you, the reader, goes on an adventure to retrieve a certain book, the one by Calvino, only to stumble onto newer and newer books that you never get to finish. Next to the tale of your adventures reader, you also get 10 different books, written in 10 different styles and belonging to 10 different literary categories. It really showcases the talent of this wonderful author. I am planning to write my BA thesis on this book, so I am invested in translations and literary criticism and I can say, it was praised for the right reasons. I recommend it to anyone who wishes to get to know more about Italian authors!

9) Charlotte Brontë - Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is the governess of Adele, a girl whom Mr Rochester is the guardian of. The latter becomes fond of Jane and the two fall in love, but she discovers that the house they live in holds a big secret... It was the summer of 2011, I saw the trailer for a new adaptation of this book and I decided that I was not gonna start my English studies without first having have read it. And I just could not put it down... During the family vacation I was told off for not enjoying family time but wanting to read and read... I adore this book so much. Years later I had an exam, oral one, and the teacher brought it up, I knew she hated it, she asked me "Why is this a feminist novel?" and I told her that I don't think it is, regarding today's standards. She was shocked, I can tell you that, and afterwards we had a great conversation about it and it was - up to today - the best exam I ever had. Jane is a complex character, she seems simple, but she isn't. Yes, when this came out it was unlikely for a governess to be the heroine, to be the one the master falls in love with, nonetheless, she does not function without her love and that is what does not make her a 21st century heroine. That having been said... the dialogues in this book are simply to die for! I have been rereading some chapters over and over again yearly! If you have not read it yet, please do!

8) William Shakespeare - Much Ado About Nothing

OK, you can argue with me, this isn't a book, however, plays are something to learn from! Don Pedro and his men reside in the house of Senior Leonato after the war, where two young men find a wife for themselves, amidst the evil jokes of Don John. This was my favorite play growing up, even today I have to get the original in my hands before writing a script! "Dear Beatrice, have you wept all this while?", each and every adaptation of this play is marvelous (except for the one by Joss Whedon... that movie was shit!). However, despite the adaptations it is wonderful to read Shakespeare in its original. Yes, the dramas and the tragedies are award winning of course, but because of that so many Shakespeare plays sometimes get forgotten... at my university, for example, the teachers keep focusing on three or four plays and I have friends who hate Shakespeare because of that and that always makes me sad... this brings up back to the 'must read' category that schools force you into. If you are gonna hate Shakespeare make sure you have seen more than one of the layers he can offer! Also read this play :)

7) Jay McInerney - Bright Lights, Big City

I actually saw the adaptation first, with Michael J. Fox, Kiefer Sutherland and Phoebe Cates. I found it by mistake among discounted DVDs and I have to say that I liked it a lot. It was different, very different from a lot of stories and the end, where the main character trades in his sunglasses for a loaf of bread to enjoy at the light of dawn... I saw myself there for a second. I got the book because I wanted to write about it for my American Literature class (you can read my essay here!), and I have to admit the book made me love the story even more. Admittedly, I was not left by my wife and tried very hard to replace her with drugs, but that is just the environment. The main character, more precisely, the city around him are what get you interested. How the night turns into days, in the city that never sleeps. Great book with a great adaptation as well. It is ultimately the story of how it gets worse before it gets better, but it does get better.

6) Margaret Atwood - The Penelopiad

I got this book as a gift from one of my best friends for my birthday. It was a great book. Think about all the books you had to read in school and hating them... just hate... continuously asking yourself why you have to read it and wonder if the characters in it enjoyed it at all? (OK, maybe that is just me connecting with the characters as I write a lot, but still, the question is there!) Well, here you go, the wife of Odysseus/Ulysses, Penelope, years after her death, having maintained her duties as a good wife decides to tell her version of the story. How she had to sit and wait for the husband who cheated to get her to marry him and then left her for ten years. It is a great twist on a classic that we were all forced to endure. I very much enjoyed this book, gives you a perspective into how skillful Margaret Atwood is and her knowledge of the classics. Fun reading from a great writer.

5) Pablo De Santis - El Enigma de Paris (The Paris Enigma)

An Argentine boy decides to take lessons from a great detective who sends him to the Exposition Universelle in Paris (1889). Many believe that he is a sidekick sent by the great detective to do reckon in his name, when he was infact trained to be a detective himself. Among the many stages at the expo there is one dedicated to the greatest detectives in the world, 12 of them, and the one from Paris becomes the victim of a killing. The main character investigates his death as the assistant of the Belgian detective, only to become the one who cracks the case. I've found this book by accident in a used English book store and has become one of my favorites. I love detective stories and this one was incredibly intricate, with several characters, but nobody was forgotten and nobody was left out of the story. Simply brilliant!

4) Susan Collins - The Hunger Games

In the dictatorship of Panem, children of the twelve districts are forced to fight for their lives in the Hunger Games. One year, however, a boy and a girl from district twelve decide to escape this hell together, but their victory only brings them more misery and the wrath of the dictator of Panem. A revolution begins at the end of the second book, and they become victorious in the end, but war has a lot of casualties. I read these three books in three days. I just could not put them down. I wanted to know what happens. I loved Katniss very much, I don't know why because she wined a lot and she was repetitive and that kind of behavior can get boring very fast. But I still cared for her. And the love triangle was built up much better than in many other books, and each character got from A to B, logical steps and for me personally a very satisfying ending. I have re-read them a couple of times, can't get enough of the dialogue in Catching Fire.

3) Kurt Vonnegut - Cat's Cradle

Our narrator, John, recounts how he met the sons of Felix Hoenikker, a Nobel laureate physicist who helped develop the atomic bomb. He is also responsible for a material called ice-nine which turns liquid into solid form. We find out in the end that the narrator is telling us this story from an island where he was stranded for life after an accident... I don't want to spoil it for you reader! I read this book in one sitting. It was assigned to us in an American Literature class and I will always be grateful for the teacher. I just couldn't stop until I finished. One of the most well written books in existence. Short, to the point, fantastic characters and a breath taking story... it gives you something to think about and that is what good books should do. That, and entertain you!

2) Stephen King - 11/22/63

Recommended to me because my thesis covered the Kennedy assassination, this became quickly one of my favorite books. Jake Epping travels back in time to try and stop the murder of President Kennedy, but in the meantime falls in love and almost risks everything, perhaps even the universe itself, to save her. The past keeps fighting back as Jake learns that the past does not want to be changed. This book made me fall in love with the writing of King and I learned a lot from him since then. I am not much into horror, there is a certain amount of thriller I am fine with, and this book was just that. I recommend it whole heartedly to anyone who likes time travel, historical fiction and is not a big fan of horror. (And the TV adaptation as well, as it is a wonderful mini-series! Read my review of it here!)

1) David Lodge - Small World

This was the book that got me into writing prose. Until then I mostly concentrated on dialogues, plays, scripts and this book made me want to write about the background of the characters. I reached a point where I wanted for the reader to see what I saw. I got lost in the details and it fascinated me, it still does! A good book does that to you, makes you want to grab pen and paper, even if you are not a writer, even if you just end up drawing something, still, you wish to create. And all of these books you just saw on my list do that to me, they make me want to create!
This book discusses the adventures of a young professor from Ireland who wishes to find a woman he met at a conference. During his travels to seek her out he meets people from all around the world, whom are all connected, either through their studies or area of research or simply by coincidence because the world is small! I read this book before starting my studies at the university and I enjoyed it immensely. It is the second book of Lodge's "Campus Trilogy", after Changing Places (1975) and before Nice Work (1988). I can still recall a lot or parts of it by heart and since then each year at a book festival here in Budapest I buy a book from David Lodge and I will do so until I collect them all! Lodge has to be my favorite author and I recommend his work to everyone!

This was my little list of books that changed my way of thinking, my inspiration towards writing and my wish to practice and practice until I can finally become just maybe 1/10 of the writer my favorites are. 

Let me know what you like to read, maybe recommend me something, just please, let it be shorter than 600 pages... I will have a lot to do this upcoming semester :)

Until the next item on my list!

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