When people say 'OMG this is one of my faaavourite books!!!', what exactly do they mean? Do they mean that they love how it made them feel, or how it made them think...or laugh, or cry? It can mean an endless number of things, but one thing we must all remember is that each time we read a book - whether its YA Fiction or Dante (yeah I don't see much middle ground) - is that we are never the same person after finishing it.
The moment we begin to see the characters in books as people around us, and the words they speak as paraphrased from non-fictional people, that is the moment when we will actually begin to learn from books. So that is enough of my pedagogy...here are a few of my 'favourite' books that changed my world, and will hopefully change yours too…
1. IT - Stephen King
When it comes to misunderstood authors, Stephen King probably tops that list. Yes, I am saying that this world-famous auteur of horror is not who the magazine columnists and book critics make him out to be. His epic novel IT is one of the most intense and by far one of the longest reads for me. It has long since its publication been overshadowed by its more popular movie counterparts - the first movie version was released in the year 1990 and the remake was recently released in the year 2018. Although the movies have done some justice to the novel, one simply cannot compare the three-hour-long adaptation to the eight (or so) hour long read.
Where other people see the themes of horror, love and death, I see fear and friendship. This novel is as much about scary clowns and sewers as Harry Potter is about Wizards. In essence, those are the superficial themes of a novel, and not the ones that truly help you understand what the writer had in mind when he or she sat down to write. Do you really think that a writer thinks - ‘I am going to scare my readers now by introducing the character of a hideous clown so that they understand that my novel is that of the horror genre’? Or do you believe they think - ‘Clowns are people dressed and painted but what if there is no person behind the clown and what if it is simply some character’s nightmare. What if horror has no mask.’?
I am not going to say what every other blog or book review says. I will not give a synopsis of the plot or talk about how ‘breathtaking’ and ‘indulging’ this book is. I am writing this to tell you - “Constant Reader” (kudos to you if you get this reference) - that IT is a novel about friendship, love, fear, childhood, adulthood, and every other emotion and stage of life you can think of. It is a book complete in itself. It is as close to reality as it is far from it. Each character has been given a life so strong by King that even you have found yourself out of pages to read - all good things must come to an end - the characters still live on in your mind.
2. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
Each novel I have chosen to put in this list not only holds something unique to me, but also to its specific genre. This story - for example - is narrated by Death. Yes, Death with a capital ‘d’. Everyone’s fear and everyone’s friend. He dances in your shadow and gifts you painful little reminders of your mortality until he meets you at your end. Death is a pitiful character in this novel. He forms an emotional attachment with a young girl and watches her as she goes through many challenges in life, meets people, and makes family out of them.
What you will find in this book that almost no other novel can give you is that there is no ‘good guy’ or ‘bad guy’, no hero or villain, because everyone is a hero to someone and a villain to someone else. No other novel I have read until now has showed me the duality of each and every person in the world the way ‘The Book Thief’ has.
Give it a read, and you will find that this isn’t one of those novels that you can call ‘not my type’. It is everyone’s type because it talks of humanity, life, death, and the purest and simplest form of love.
3. The Gospel According to Larry - Janet Tashjian
How many political fiction books have you read? Five? Ten? None? Whether you like that genre, dislike it, or hate it, I cannot guarantee that this novel will make you like it more, but it will definitely fascinate you. It made me question almost every purchase I made, the value of every item I own, whether I even need that item in my life or was it just my consumerist mindset that made me think I needed it.
Larry is a character liked by half the world and disliked by the other half. The half that like him want to know him and the half that dislike him want to own him. It is quite funny how people can be owned in today’s world, isn’t it? All you need to do is give yourself into the endless cycle of consumerism.
People with a voice who hide behind the luxury of anonymity that the internet gives them, are only powerful until others see the face behind the words. That is when you become vulnerable to the world - a victim.
4. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Money, wealth, riches. I can find numerous words to describe the theme of this book but not one word that can describe the feeling that Fitzgerald’s classic gave me. It has just the right amount of sadness, dramatics, and lunacy that come with being on either side of the coin - rich or poor. The jazz age in New York was a heated mess the summer that Nick (the narrator through the novel) met Jay Gatsby. His name has as much mystery in it as his wallet had money.
This book provides one with the perfect balance between observer and participant, between love and hatred. People are exactly who they say they are, but so very different at the same time.
5. Franny and Zooey - J. D. Salinger
Have you ever felt sadness and wondered why? Have you ever had a midlife crisis at the age of 20? Questioned everything told and taught to you?
Meet Franny and Zooey Glass - siblings and fellow humans. They are every bit as dramatic as they are mellow. Each way they turn holds disappointment and everyone they follow eventually stop leading. They have no hands to hold but each other’s and no hearts to break but their own. This novel will show you that it is okay to feel unwanted, as long as you want yourself. I don’t believe that any other survival skill tops that in today’s world.