Taste in literature is very subjective. What I think is the most wonderful book in the world someone else might think is the worst book ever written. However, I believe there are some books you should read; books that will add something to your life. Some of these are books that I was originally "forced" to read in school but have come to love. It is hard to explain exactly why I enjoy these books so much some times.
I am a fan of language and how it sounds. I like novels with prose that soars; novels with language that is almost poetic. All of the mentioned books can be enjoyed just for the sound of the language. The plot sometimes is secondary.
These are 5 books I think you should read; you will be better for it:
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I was introduced to this book in college. I had seen the Robert Redford movie before and didn’t get it. I read this book once and I got it. I proceeded to read this book at least once a year for the next ten years. Fitzgerald was a master of the English language.
The book tells the story of Jay Gatsby who, while born poor, has become rich in order to win back the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan. However, he still finds her to be inaccessible.
He wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I first read this book in my high school English class; we even put a play on in which I played the kid who Scout beat up. This is another book that I have read numerous times. This was Harper Lee’s only novel.
The book tells the story of Scout, her brother Jem, and their father Atticus Finch who defends a black man accused of rape. The book is highly autobiographical.
Maycomb was a tired old town, even in 1932 when I first knew it. Somehow, it was hotter then. Men's stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning; ladies bathed before noon, after their 3 o'clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frosting from sweating and sweet talcum. The day was twenty-four hours long, but it seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go and nothing to buy... and no money to buy it with. Although Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself... That summer, I was six years old.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
When I first read this book I was blown away. The language in it was like nothing I had ever read before. It was exciting, breathtaking, and definitely poetic.
The book describes the many road trips that Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty take throughout the United States. What I enjoy most about this novel is the pace, the language, the description of freedom. It is largely autobiographical.
They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn...
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
I worked my way through the novels of John Steinbeck when I was in high school. This book captured my imagination more than any other. My admiration for the book only increased when I finally saw the film with James Dean. It was a very true adaptation.
The book tells the story of three generations of two families; the Hamilton’s and the Trask’s.
I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
I don’t remember how I first came to read this book. I just know that it is a book that touched me immediately and deeply. I read this book yearly for at least 10 years. James Joyce is known for his use of language and this book did not disappoint. It is definitely Joyce’s most accessible novel.
The novel tells the story of Stephen Dedalus and his childhood growing up in Ireland. It is a fictionalized account of Joyce’s own life.
His throat ached with a desire to cry aloud, the cry of a hawk or eagle on high, to cry piercingly of his deliverance to the winds. This was the call of life to his soul not the dull gross voice of the world of duties and despair, not the inhuman voice that had called him to the pale service of the altar. An instant of wild flight had delivered him and the cry of triumph which his lips withheld cleft his brain.
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