Welcome to week six! I hope you are all still safe and healthy. After last week’s relatively depressing fare I wanted to treat you this week to some of the most moving books I’ve read since I started writing this blog. Some of them are funny, others full of hope, yet others are tragic. What they have in common is that they will not leave you indifferent. They will move and shake you like nothing else. They will make you reevaluate things. They will make you a slightly different human being when you finish them…or maybe that worked just for me, share in the comments!
A Horse Walks into a Bar – David Grossman
A winner of the Man Booker International Prize in 2017. I don’t know why, but I have this misconception in my mind that the ‘Booker books’ are necessarily difficult to read. It’s really difficult to justify. nd not true in this case. Because while this is a book that will take you through unraveling of someone’s personality. Which is unpleasant at the best of times. But the way Grossman does it is so masterful that he actually makes you laugh and cry almost simultaneously.
Another heartbreak of a book. But one that we should all read and even more so if you are white. The unspeakable tragedy of slavery and it’s toll is shown here in the focus of a single story. Making you feel the devastating effects all the more vividly. Morrison’s mastery in evoking the atmosphere will haunt you long after you finish this book. Because even if everything just happens in your mind, this mind can be changed beyond recognition by trauma. A book that is at the same time tender and brutal.
A riveting retelling of a myth that is usually relegated to a footnote or a single paragraph. Here Circe received her own voice, reclaims her story and fights for herself and her child. She is not always good, as all godly creatures in Greek mythology, she is prone to fits of anger and vengefulness. But at the same time, we see the hurt she had to go through. She is very human in all that happens and above all her suffering.
This book will have you gripping the cover, clenching your hands with tension. Even though you all know how it ends. It is Krakauer’s retelling of the fateful Mt Everest expeditions of 1996. Krakauer was a participant, so as much as he tries to be objective it is not possible. But that’s exactly what makes this account so amazing, it is personal. There is nothing more personal than almost dying, it’s not happening to anyone else, it is always happening to us. At the same time, Krakauer tries to grasp what makes him and others actually go through the ordeal of combing the mountains, because it really is anything but pleasant.
Another Booker prize winner (a different prize). And again my fear kicked in, it must be a difficult book to read if it got a Booker. o it sat for a while on the shelf. But when I finally discovered it I fell in love with it. Rarely does one find a narrator with so distinctive voice. So honest and yet so controlled. Giving us access to everything, but not giving us a single name, including her own. Sharply observing communities at war during the Troubles and still able to bring it all home. Make it all personal, because as historical as the events were it was people who were impacted, their everyday lives at stake. The unbelievable mix of normalized fear and terror with unyielding hope. Beautiful!
My Year of Rest and Relaxation – Ottessa Moshfegh
A book different than all the others. The premise is that our narrator will spend a year in a drug-induced sleep. Waking up every few days to eat something, but not interacting with anyone. Sounds like a dream? But how much do you have to hate the world to want to do that? Read and find out.
Letters to a Young Contrarian – Christopher Hitchens
Hitchens writes a series of letters to an imaginary young contrarian, explaining what it means to him to be a free-thinking rebel. He is extremely full of himself, overly confident to a point of being arrogant, but the message he is passing to the reader has never been more important than now. I may disagree with Hitchens on many things, but not on the key issue of this book – the importance of independent and free thought. It will excite you and it will make you angry.
By far my favorite book by Smith! It always makes me laugh. She points out the hypocrisy of her characters but in a funny and compassionate way. Always accepting that, in the end, they are human, so by default flawed, even, if they refuse to accept this. She writes effortlessly in a light flowing prose, telling us a story that we don’t want to leave.
Our Souls at Night – Kent Haruf
Probably the most tender book on the list. I bought it when I was in Denver, as Haruf is a Colorado writer. What a lovely surprise this has been. The book had me laugh, gently smile and cry both from sadness and anger. A book about how even when we’re adult other people usurp the right to control our lives and tell us what to do. A book about feelings, but one that strikes a perfect balance without becoming too weepy.
It is quite a brutal and violent book. Taylor tells us a story of a community living at The Shore, islands forming a natural barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and Virginia, often hit by storms, with locally specific wildlife and even wild ponies. The people here are close-knit but also hardened by the rough conditions they live in. Despite the hard life, there is something in The Shore that pulls back even those that thought they escaped it.
We Need to Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver
I don’t think I need to write a lot about this one, other than it is different from the movie and in many aspects better (I still think the movie was heart-shatteringly brilliant). It’s a book that will tear you to pieces.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson
And this one is a book that will put you back together. Only to trick you. A lovely, twisted story written by the master of suspenseful and haunted atmosphere. Merricat will always hold a special place in my heart.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? – Jeanette Winterson
So now that your heart is mended let’s break it again. I’ve read several books by Winterson so far and this is by far my favorite. This book was touching, emotional, painful and bringing smile to my face at the same time. It isn’t only an account of Winterson’s life, it shows us how she coped with a mother that believed her to be possessed, how she fought for herself, but also how this experience formed her.
Books for the Lockdown – Happy and Funny
Books for the Lockdown – Dystopian and Depressing
Books for the Lockdown – Wise and Calming
Books for the Lockdown – Death, Dying and Grieving
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