“If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.”–J.K. Rowling
Can it get any truer than that….Some of the best books of all time, touch us to our very core–partly because they integrate themes with our life and are understood by readers from a wide range of backgrounds and levels of experience. Themes of love, hate, death, life, and faith stir in us some of our most basic emotional responses.
Some books resonate with the audience and have continued to be all time favourite. The first two books that I list below are works of fiction , although the word fiction ~derived from the Latin fingo, fingere, finxi, fictum, “to form, create”, need not be entirely imaginary. I often feel it’s the authors experience which personifies the characters, who may have been real people, places, and events.
After all, the ability to create fiction and other artistic works is considered to be a fundamental aspect of human culture, one of the defining characteristics of humanity. Storytelling will always be a part of our lives, because it is build in the human plan.
So without any further ado, let’s begin . Though, I must point out that the listing is not in any order of my preference. I like them all, equally much: like a good mother !
- Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham
This is a semi-autobiographical novel and shows the author’s savage honesty and gift for storytelling . EM Forster wrote: “The final test of a novel will be our affection for it, as it is the test of our friends, of anything else that we cannot define.” He probably had this novel in mind .
Philip Carey is an orphan hungry for love and experience. He grows into an impressionable young man with a voracious appetite for adventure and knowledge. Like Maugham, who was a homosexual with a bad stammer, he is afflicted with a disabling deformity, a club foot. Raised by his clergyman uncle, the boy is imprisoned in late-Victorian vicarage life dreaming of his release from bondage, and praying to an indifferent God to have his disability healed. To escape, he leaves for Paris at age of eighteen to try his hand at art, enjoys a brief spell as a struggling but failing artist in Paris, and then returns home. Now begins the most poignant and memorable passage of the novel, Carey’s hopeless affair with Mildred, a waitress. Embarking on a disastrous relationship that will change his life forever.…
Marked by countless similarities is Maugham’s own life, a self-hating homosexual, his picture of Mildred as Philip’s love-object reflects his struggle to come in terms with his own sexuality.The book, in short, is a mash-up of fact and fiction, seasoned with his own emotions, even when some incidents are borrowed from elsewhere. Whatever the process of composition, it satisfied its author. “I found myself free from the pains and unhappy recollections that had tormented me,” he wrote later.
Three more from Somerset Maugham
The Moon and Sixpence (1919); Cakes and Ale (1930); The Razor’s Edge (1944).
2. The Bell Jar by Sylvia PlathThe Bell Jar (Modern Classics)
“The Bell Jar” is fiction that cannot escape being read in part as autobiography. It was published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas in England in 1963, one month before she committed suicide. It became tangled up almost immediately in the drama of her suicide, to the book’s detriment among the critics. However, republished under Plath’s own name in 1966, it became a modern classic.
Meet Esther Greenwood who is, she tells us, “supposed to be having the time of my life”. She is a is a bright, ambitious student at Smith College who begins to experience a mental breakdown while interning for a fashion magazine in New York. The reader discovers, in flashbacks, why Esther cannot give herself wholeheartedly to her new life in the city. With hindsight, it’s easy to pick up the smell of death from Esther’s account. Hardly a page goes by without a reference to a dead baby, a cadaver, or her late father (“dead since I was nine”). The other man in her life, Yale boyfriend Buddy Willard, troubles her spirit in other ways, too. The crises of identity, sexuality, and survival are grim, and often funny. Wit, irony, and intelligence as well as an inexplicable, withdrawn sadness separate Esther from her companions.
She struggles to write a novel and becomes increasingly despondent, making several half-hearted suicide attempts. She ultimately overdoses on sleeping pills but survives. Plath made clear connections between Esther’s dawning awareness of the limited female roles available to her and her increasing sense of isolation and paranoia. The contradictory expectations imposed upon women in relation to sexuality, motherhood, and intellectual achievement are linked to Esther’s sense of herself as fragmented.
Three more from Sylvia Plath
The Colossus (1960); Ariel (1965); Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams (1977).
3. The Great Influenza by John M. Barry(The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History) [By: Barry, John M] [Oct, 2009]
Every year, Bill Gates comes out with his personal reading recommendations. This book was one of the reading and it is something which all of us can relate to in the times of pandemic. The book was published in 2004 and the prophecy of a pandemic is clearly spelled out, clear as daylight! Fast-forward, 2020 and we find ourselves in a middle of a relentless pandemic which is like a super intelligent being mutating to survive. The author points out that the 1918 influenza virus was not simply one of havoc, death, and desolation, but of nature fighting a war against nature superimposed on a war against human society.
The toll of history’s worst epidemic surpasses all the military deaths in World War I and World War II combined. And it may have begun in the United States. The 1918 influenza pandemic, estimated to have killed 5 percent of the world’s total human population. The author examines the scientific, social, and political context of the pandemic, questioning the extend to which human error and wilful ignorance worsened the terrible consequences of the disease.
The influenza virus mutates rapidly, changing enough that the human immune system has difficulty recognizing and attacking it even from one season to the next. A pandemic occurs when an entirely new and virulent influenza virus, which the immune system has not previously seen, enters the population and spreads worldwide. Ordinary seasonal influenza viruses normally bind only to cells in the upper respiratory tract—the nose and throat—which is why they transmit easily. The 1918 pandemic virus infected cells in the upper respiratory tract, transmitting easily, but also deep in the lungs, damaging tissue and often leading to viral as well as bacterial pneumonias.
Wherever it began, the pandemic lasted just 15 months but was the deadliest disease outbreak in human history, killing between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide, according to the most widely cited analysis.
We are arguably as vulnerable—or more vulnerable—to another pandemic as we were in 1918. Today top public health experts routinely rank influenza as potentially the most dangerous “emerging” health threat we face. Earlier this year, upon leaving his post as head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden was asked what scared him the most, what kept him up at night. “The biggest concern is always for an influenza pandemic…[It] really is the worst-case scenario.” So the tragic events of 100 years ago have a surprising urgency—especially since the most crucial lessons to be learned from the disaster have yet to be absorbed. ~ Excerpt from the book .
Three more from John M. Berry
Rising Tide : The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927; Power Plays: Politics, Football, and Other Blood Sports; The Ambition and the Power : A True Story of Washington.
Chances are that there might be at least one read that will grab your attention. So go ahead and choose your pick. Happy Reading !
P.S. Do drop in a line if any of the above mentioned book you have already read or planning to read in future.
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.