Newest Review: ... who witnessed the bombing of Dresden. Sounds a bit weird? Well, it is put like that, but it's wonderfully constructed, with excellent wr... more
Ten Books I Love
Top Ten Fiction - General
Member Name: Mephit
Top Ten Fiction - General
Date: 25/07/11, updated on 25/07/11 (63 review reads)
Advantages: Books I like
These are ten of the books I really like. It was quite hard to pick them, and if you were to ask another day I might come up with different answers for some, but here we go:
'Catch-22' by Joseph Heller.
I think I must have read this book over a dozen times. My first attempt at reading it, I didn't understand it, I didn't get it at all. That was in my mid-teens. I read it again at college, and this time it clicked for me. It's an amazingly funny yet viscerally horrific novel about World War 2. The novel gets dark, so very dark that you think there's no way hope can return but somehow Heller pulls it back.
"Yossarian - the very sight of the name made him shudder. There were so many esses in it. It just had to be subversive. It was like the word subversive itself. It was like seditious and insidious too, and like socialist, suspicious, fascist and Communist."
'Labyrinths' by Jorge Luis Borges.
A collection of short stories that bend your mind. When I first read these it felt like windows popping open inside my head. I'm not usually a fan of short stories, but these are the exception. Amazing stuff.
"Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire."
'Slaughterhouse 5' by Kurt Vonnegut.
Another novel set in World War 2, this time interweaving s-f. Billy Pilgrim is a time-traveller, an alien abductee and ex-soldier who witnessed the bombing of Dresden. Sounds a bit weird? Well, it is put like that, but it's wonderfully constructed, with excellent writing. Again, some of the story is pretty disturbing, (ie. the events in Dresden), but I think it's a great book.
"Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why."
'The Yellow Wallpaper' by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
This is a short story or novella rather than a book, but I'm putting it in anyway. In this story, Gilman takes on the 'rest cure' enforced by her physician for her depression, which she felt made her mental health worse. Her protagonist is forced to spend her time in one room, and slowly but surely her grip on reality slips. Her descent into madness is told in her journal entries, with her obsession with the yellow wallpaper signposting it. It's an important early feminist text. I really love the story: it's just so atmospheric and draws you in so effectively.
"I don't like to look out of the windows even--there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast. I wonder if they all come out of that wall-paper as I did?"
'Cotillion' by Georgette Heyer.
Georgette Heyer's historical romances are my comfort reads of choice. They're like having a sly box of chocolates to yourself. In 'Cotillion', kind-hearted Freddy is suckered into a fake engagement with Kitty, ward of his irascible, miserly Uncle. She is desperate to escape her secluded existence and piqued by the neglect of rakish Jack, so cajoles Freddy into giving her this opportunity to sample the delights of Regency London. Heyer reliably produced very readable and witty stories, with likeable characters. 'Cotillion' is one of my favourites.
"No one could have called Mr. Standen quick-witted, but the possession of three sisters had considerably sharpened his instinct of self-preservation."
'Year of the Flood' by Margaret Atwood.
The book stands alone, but Atwood does pull together some of the threads from 'Oryx and Crake' (which I also loved). It's a novel set in the same post-apocalyptic world where strange mutant creatures roam and humankind has almost been eradicated. Like 'Oryx and Crake' the narrative is non-linear, but I found it easier to follow. It's told from the viewpoints of several characters, and it took a while for me to know which was which, but I found it an excellent satisfying read.
"Beware of words. Be careful what you write. Leave no trails."
'Jamaica Inn' by Daphne Du Maurier.
Du Maurier is another of my favourite authors. I think the chilling, evocative gothic stories she wrote were completely absorbing. I was hard-pressed to choose which one out of 'My Cousin Rachel', 'Rebecca' and 'Jamaica Inn' I prefer, but I went with 'Jamaica Inn' as it is so very firmly rooted in beloved Cornwall and the vicar of Altarnun is such a memorable character.
"Because I want to; because I must; because now and forever more this is where I belong to be."
'Guards! Guards!' by Terry Pratchett.
I love all Terry Pratchett but my favourites in his Disc-World series are always those that feature Vimes the city watch commander as a main character. So I picked 'Guards! Guards!' as the one, as it's the first where Vimes really gets an outing. Pratchett is always funny, always clever and very readable. In 'Guards! Guards!' an overly keen, adopted dwarf called Carrot comes to Ankh-Morpork to join the city guard and his enthusiasm for the job starts wearing onto the rest of the Watch.
"If there was anything that depressed him more than his own cynicism, it was that quite often it still wasn't as cynical as real life."
'New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster.
Paul Auster plays with the tropes of detective fiction and the immersion/dissolution of self in these three stories: City of Glass, Ghosts and the Locked Room. Each stands alone, but read together gain strength. It's brilliant postmodern writing.
"The story is not in the words; it's in the struggle."
'The Color Purple' by Alice Walker.
This is the harrowing but ultimately uplifting tale of a poor black woman's life in the USA's south in the '30s. Told from Celie's viewpoint in the form of letters to god, it's a fascinating book and I've loved it since I studied it in college.
"Well, us talk and talk about God, but I'm still adrift. Trying to chase that old white man out of my head. I been so busy thinking bout him I never truly notice nothing God make. Not a blade of corn (how it do that?) not the color purple (where it come from?)..."
And that's it, my ten. Thanks for reading.
Summary: Ten books I like