Typically I write a lot about games here, but that isn’t my only passion. I’ve been an avid reader all my life as well as a reader with fairly eclectic tastes. Tagged in many a Facebook and Twitter game to discuss your favorite books I’m often met with comments of “huh, never heard of that one.” So thought I would discuss 5 books that I loved reading in the past. These are in no particular ranking, they are just listed. If you made me rank them in order this list would probably never exist as I don’t know if I could pick one over the others. They’re like children that way.
You may begin judging me now…
by: Ayn Rand
“I regret nothing. There have been things I missed, but I ask no questions, because I have loved it, such as it has been, even the moments of emptiness, even the unanswered-and that I loved it, that is the unanswered in my life.”
The first literary success of Ayn Rand published in 1943. It follows the story of Howard Roark a rebel architect. Roark is dismissed from his school for not following the designs and traditions of others. He moves to New York to work for a disgraced architect named Henry Cameron. The story follows his journey to prove that you have to follow your own heart and visions rather than what is set in stone before you.
Now Jess you may be saying when did you become a hardcore capitalist? Well I didn’t, I swear my bank account can prove it. I simply love the writing style of Rand as evidenced by the quote above. I don’t like the Objectivist philosophy much nor do I like how all the characters are literally walking ideals but guess what? Nothing is perfect. It’s still a power punch to the soul and it really showcases how art should be made…for you, not someone else. Anybody who has ever made something creative might understand some of the things happening.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
by: Jonathan Safran Foer
“It was one of the best days of my life, a day during which I lived my life and didn’t think about my life at all.”
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close follows 9 year old Oskar Schell whose father died during the World Trade Center attacks. He discovers a mysterious key and goes on a quest to discover the mysteries of his father’s death as well as the mysteries within himself.
Safran uses a mixed media approach in Extremely that I absolutely adored. It doesn’t feel contrived or gimmicky instead it is a way to help you visually engage and bring dramatic life to his characters. I can’t imagine any adaptation of the work quite capturing this same feel so I’ve stayed away from the Tom Hanks film based on it.
Jonathan Safran Foer has a way of writing that is unparalleled. When I read a book I love an author that can express an emotion I’m deeply familiar with but can’t express, that is Foer all over. Absolutely gut wrenching and a phenomenal read I plowed through this book in just a couple days. His other work “Everything is Illuminated” is equally stellar. Foer really knows how to express the human condition.
I hope one day to read all of his work but for the moment “Tree of Codes” and “Pocketbook” elude me due to price and rarity.
The Bell Jar
by: Sylvia Plath
“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”
The story follows Esther Greenwood a college student and aspiring writer. It chronicles her life from relationships, jobs, failures, and her eventual mental decline.
The Bell Jar has some of the darkest themes of all of my favorite books and Esther is by no means a good person, a lot of extremely flawed and outdated views abound here but I think it’s worth trying. Of course Esther struggles to find herself and her place as any early 20 something does, but her disillusionment, which resonated from the author as well, is her touchstone for us all. It’s a magnificent but difficult read with some of the most quotable prose. Plath was and is a literary gem.
Apathy and Other Small Victories
by: Paul Neilan
“It’s like someone who prays every night saying God’s a good listener. Just because you’re talking to us doesn’t mean we’re listening. With me and God, you never really know.”
Apathy and Other Small Victories is about Shane, a professional quitter. When he says that he doesn’t care, he means it. A woman is murdered and Shane is the only suspect, but he doesn’t worry about proving his innocence or fixing his terrible reputation. He sleeps in a bathroom stall, sleeps with his landlord’s wife, and steals salt shakers instead.
It’s a hilarious, but very dark humor read. It’s been awhile since I read this and there is probably a lot I have forgotten. I sadly no longer have my copy but I would pick it up again in a heartbeat. I remember I breezed through this book in 2 days laughing the whole way through. I guess you really can’t have manslaughter without the laughter.
The plot isn’t what you come to the book for, it’s the writing. There is a lot of risque material in it but the good outweighs the bad. Sadly this is the only book Paul Neilan has ever written.
The Book of Disquiet
by: Fernando Pessoa
“My past is everything I failed to be.”
Fernando Pessoa is a very strange case. He wrote under many different personalities, each a fully fledged person with backgrounds, likes and dislikes, as well as their own ideologies. The writing of each of them is shockingly distinct as well. The Book of Disquiet is a posthumous work of his from various writings and unpublished works that were found in a trunk after his death.
It’s hard to describe, it’s like reading a diary and a series of quotations from a nonexistent book all at once. It’s in short form paragraph style, but it tells so much. In some ways it works on levels that actual full novels simply can’t. I loved the insights that Pessoa shared, and this books is a gem. It has to be experienced for yourself. As Pessoa himself says in it “Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.”