Reading has been a favourite pastime since I was a little girl. Losing myself in a good book has been one of my greatest pleasures.
I will get through a book at a fast pace, especially if I am enjoying it. I have read fewer books than usual in the past year because I’ve been unable to concentrate, but have been getting back up to speed again during the past couple of months – mainly due to new releases by two of my favourite authors, Haruki Murakami and David Mitchell.
There was a bit of a blip with the Mitchell book a couple of days ago when about a quarter of the way through a character by the name of Hugo was introduced. That did rather take the shine off it for a while, and I put it down for a day or so. Luckily the book is written in a first-person narrative, meaning the name is mentioned only occasionally so I’m just about able to overcome the author’s lack of consideration for my sensitivities and enjoy the book again.
My other half is also a keen reader, and we find it difficult to part with our favourite books (the books we have found disappointing are donated to the charity shop), resulting in us amassing quite a collection of books.
The photo below shows some of our collection:
You’ll find books of most genres on our shelves. There is a lot of science fiction; dystopian futures; classics; fantasy; sports, and history – reflecting both our interests. We’re not keen on crime and thrillers, and I tend to stay away from chick lit (though I did enjoy Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada, mainly because some of it reminded me of my very first job, in the film industry. Thankfully, though, the tasks I was given weren’t quite as extreme as those given to Andi).
So, when last week I was nominated to take part in the latest Facebook challenge to be doing the rounds, I was faced with a bit of a quandary. The challenge asks you to list ten books that have stayed with you for whatever reason, and in no particular order. You are asked to not think too much about it, and the books can be any you like – not necessarily great works of literature (the ones you’re ‘supposed’ to read).
There was much umming and ahing about my list of ten, and probably more thinking than you’re supposed to. It was good to think about the books and why they have stayed with me. The exercise was also another part of reinforcing what makes me happy and what makes me, me.
I had a real urge to write why the books have stayed with me but I was a goody two-shoes and obeyed the rules. Rather than write the world’s longest-ever Facebook status, I thought I’d blog about it, instead.
Here are books 1 to 5:
1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami
My other half introduced me to Murakami not long after we got together, and this is the first book of his that I read.
It has stayed with me because I had never read anything like it before. A simple summary of the plot is a middle-aged salaryman’s cat disappears; he gets strange phone calls; his wife leaves him, and he meets an old soldier who was involved in Japanese atrocities in China during World War Two.
This seemingly random list of happenings is tied together very well in the novel.
Without wanting to give too much more of the plot away, some very strange things happen. What I like most about it is the very philosophical way the protagonist deals with these very strange things. While he is a bit ‘meh’ about the bizarre happenings, the novel crept under my skin. It asks questions about the difference between reality and imagination – how can you tell the difference, and does it matter?
2. The Dark Room – Rachel Seiffert
This book has three separate stories. The first is set in late 1930s Berlin, seen through the eyes of a young photographer’s assistant. He can see changes happening in Berlin – many people leaving via the train stations. He wants to be involved in the war, but his malformed arm prevents him from being a soldier. The second story follows the daughter of high-ranking Nazis at the end of the war. Her parents are arrested by the Allies, and she has to take her siblings on a journey across Germany to her grandmother’s house. This segment was adapted in to an excellent film, Lore, that was released last year.
The final segment is set in the present day. A man is aware his grandfather was in Belorussia during the war, and becomes obsessed with finding out whether he was involved in atrocities.
My undergraduate degree is in history and my specialist area was Nazi Germany. While fictional, the book is based on real events, and it has stayed with me because it portrays normal people’s role in the war, and their relationship to the atrocities. It also helps remind us that the war in general, and the Holocaust in particular should never be forgotten.
There isn’t a photo of this book because I read it while backpacking in Australia and as much as I love books, they’re heavy to carry.
3. World War Z – Max Brooks
You may have seen the film adaptation starring Brad Pitt that was released last year. While the film was good in its own right and ogling Brad Pitt is never a bad thing in my book, the source material is so different.
In the book, Brad Pitt’s character is a reporter touring the world a few years after the zombie apocalypse to interview survivors. Their accounts of how the epidemic spreads, and what they have done to survive is fascinating. I devoured it whole (pun intended).
My interest in the zombie genre stems not from the gore, but from the human psychology angle. To me, it generates some compelling debate: What would you do in such a situation? How would you survive? This post explains more about it.
4. Alone in Berlin – Hans Fallada
I happened upon this book in Waterstones while browsing one day. I had never heard of the author before, but with my interest in the period I had to read it.
What a book. The book is a contemporary account of ordinary people’s lives in Berlin during the second world war. So many books written after the war have a knowing nod with the benefit of the full knowledge of the horrors and atrocities of the Holocaust. This book, by contrast, offers a glimpse into what it was like to be aware that awful things were happening, but how difficult it was to take any meaningful action against it – and how careful you needed to be to avoid interrogation and arrest, whoever you were.
This book is based on a true story: a couple whose son is killed in action make their own peaceful protest against the war by leaving postcards bearing anti-Nazi slogans around the city. The story follows the Gestapo man investigating who is making the postcards, as well as other ordinary people who are doing the best they can under extreme circumstances. Other characters include people who tried to help Jews, and people who had to be a member of the Nazi party in order to keep their jobs.
Anyone who is interested in the period should check out any of Fallada’s work. His earlier books are an absorbing insight in to the Weimar Republic, life during hyperinflation and offer clues about how Nazism was able to gather so much support.
There isn’t a picture of the book because a friend is currently borrowing it.
5. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
As suggested by the book’s cover, I bought the TV adaptation tie-in edition after watching the series. While I read all the Austen novels, I never got round to reading any Bronte work during my earlier years.
Having already watched the TV series, as well as earlier film adaptations I knew the plot. This didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book – I lapped it up. What stayed with me isn’t the romance between Jane and Mr Rochester, compelling though that is (and, dear readers, she married him).
Instead, my lasting impression is Jane’s strength of character in the face of great adversity, her unwillingness to bend her morals or beliefs, and her determination to follow her own path (within the social constraints).
Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?
Please keep an eye out for part 2 of the books that have stayed with me.