I guess we’ve all been there: the dreaded reading slump. There are times when I can’t seem to find anything to read and I start panicking: did I perhaps read all of the good books out there?
When I happen to feel like this, I recall the following novels I read in the past… and I wish I hadn’t read them yet:
“Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Genre: science fiction, dystopia
Why: This novel is all about regrets and not being able to understand the reality you live in. Reading it felt like receiving a punch in the stomach in slow motion, and yet the pain it describes raises your spirits. I consider “Never Let Me Go” the most haunting and heart-breaking novel I ever read. That Nobel Prize was well deserved!
And so we stood together like that, at the top of that field for what seemed like ages, not saying anything, just holding each other, while the wind kept blowing and blowing at us, tugging our clothes, and for a moment, it seemed like we were holding onto each other because that was the only way to stop us from being swept away into the night.
“Norwegian Wood” by Haruki Murakami
Genre: coming-of-age, romance
Why: this book has a special spot in my heart, it was my personal rite of passage. Until then, I didn’t have a favorite writer. What I like about Murakami are his references to music and the way his characters’ everyday moments become a ritual. Murakami has a different sensibility than most Western writers and in my opinion he is the only one who as mastered the art of open endings.
But who can say what’s best? That’s why you need to grab whatever chance you have of happiness where you find it, and not worry about other people too much. My experience tells me that we get no more than two or three such chances in a life time, and if we let them go, we regret it for the rest of our lives.
“The Count of Montecristo” by Alexandre Dumas.
Genre: classics, historical.
Why: because it has, in my opinion, the most badass and complex character of all the classics I read so far. In fact, Edmond Dantes is so enigmatic that I think this book should be read twice. When I was a kid, I regarded Dantes as a hero who, no matter what, always found the strength and courage to stand up to anything or anyone. In the end he gets his well-deserved revenge.
But… is he, really? Reading it for the second time in my 20s made me change my mind. He’s a tragic character who looses is naivety during his imprisonment. Afterwards, he still remains a prisoner of his own past and struggles to realise that the best revenge, in most cases, is indifference.
I have always had more dread of a pen, a bottle of ink, and a sheet of paper than of a sword or pistol.
“The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield.
Genre: mystery, metafiction
Why: Premise: Usually, I do not like mystery books, but every rule has its exception, right? Well, this novel was mine!
It tells the story of a young librarian who is hired by the successful and charismatic novelist Vida Winter to write her memoirs. It involves mysteries, mind-blowing plot-twists, and it has a bit of a gothic flavour. I loved how the story was conceived as a book inside another book: the encounters between the shy librarian and the assertive and cynical Ms. Winter, who enjoys deceiving her biographer, and flashbacks consisting of her memoirs.
All children mythologise their birth. It is a universal trait. You want to know someone? Heart, mind and soul? Ask him to tell you about when he was born. What you get won’t be the truth: it will be a story. And nothing is more telling than a story.
“The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett.
Why: I’m a sucker for well-written historical novel. Do you know whose fault it is? Exactly, it’s Mr. Follett’s. While I’m aware that there are other historical novels with more “literary merit”, whatever that is, I chose this book since it was the one which ignited my love for this literary genre, when I was 17 years old or so.
It has everything: the descriptions of how brutal could life be in the Middle Ages, convincing antagonists and, most of all, the trope of the star-crossed-lovers.
All right, calm down! I know I promised you five books, but there is no way I could cross this masterpiece out of the list.
The complete “Harry Potter” series.
Why: Like for most of us ’90s kids, the “Harry Potter” saga was what made us fall in love with literature and with the pleasure of reading. This saga has been in many ways my best friend, because I grew up and matured along its characters.
I read each of the seven books multiple times during my childhood and adolescence, the record being the seven times I read “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”. Nowadays I still pick up the books from time to time because, apart from all that magical knick-knacks, talking hats and nasty uncles, I know that I can always find some wisdom in there.
If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.
From: “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (2000)
Now it’s your turn! I’d love to know what you think about my choices and what books you’d love to read again for the first time!