I was recently asked, so, off the top of my head….
‘Every Man Dies Alone‘ (H. Fallada)—What a tragic book. Written by Hans Fallada during a 24 day period after his release from a Nazi asylum, it’s based on a true story of a Berlin couple who takes a stand against Hitler and his regime. Most all of the characters were sympathetic to me, of course some more than others. It’s one of those I couldn’t stop thinking about long after I read its final page.
‘To Kill a Mockingbird‘ (H. Lee)—No explanation needed on this American classic, except my dad tried to get me to read it when I was a kid. Instead of waiting until college, I wish I’d listened to him sooner.
‘The Things They Carried‘ (T. O’Brien)–My favorite book. It’s pure magic. Told in semi-autobiographical, interwoven short stories about the Alpha Company, Tim O’Brien’s account of the Vietnam War, both at the front and at home, is special. My favorite of the stories are On the Rainy River and the title chapter, The Things They Carried.
Anything Hardy–What can I say, I love Thomas Hardy’s work. It’s bucolic at its best. But Hardy is more than pretty English countrysides and everyday characters. Virginia Woolf called him the greatest tragic writer among English novelists. Furthermore, I find both his prose and poetry beautiful and thoughtful, but most importantly I can identify with it. His ‘Neutral Tones‘ remains my favorite poem ever and just read this from ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ about a woman’s past being brought to light: “The figure near at hand suffers on such occasions, because it shows its sorriness without shade; while vague figures afar off are honoured, in that their distance makes artistic virtues of their stains.” Lyrical.
‘The Killer Angels‘ (J. Shaara)–A snapshot of the Civil War during the Gettysburg Battle, I loved the strategy and minute-by-minute account of how the most deadly battle in the U.S. unfolded. I walked away idolizing Col. Joshua Chamberlain and thinking what a pompous showoff J.E.B. Stuart was (I still don’t understand why the South immortalizes him).
‘The Three Musketeers‘ (A. Dumas)—I love being swept away by Alexandre Dumas’ swordplay and chivalry. I’ve not read one of his books I didn’t like. But the Musketeers are oddly comforting to me. I first read the book when I was down and out with the flu and it made me forget how miserable I was feeling. Now I can only think good things when I hear reference to Athos and the gang.
‘Into the Silence‘ (W. Anderson)–See previous Mallory post.
‘A Prayer for Owen Meany‘ (J. Irving)–I don’t know what it was about this book by John Irving, but I couldn’t put it down. I loved the time period in which it was told (the 1950s), I adored all of the vivid characters (not only the two boys it’s centered around, but their family, friends and townspeople, too) and the mystery of who is Owen Meany and why is he so special?