Thursday, October 3, 2013

10 Favorite Books

This is the second list I present in this blog, and hopefully more will follow in the coming weeks. As one can guess from the title this is a list of 10 favorite books, but not The List. I have read thousands of books over the years, some new, some old, and a few ancient, so one list would never do them justice. Below you will find books that I’ve read during the last few years, and which I’d place under the label of Modern Literature. Most probably I’ll compile another couple of lists under the same label, and also, at least, one consisting of classic titles. I know that some of my selections will look strange in your eyes, but every reader is different, and good fiction has many champions out there. Now, where shall I begin? Oh, this will do…

1.    Please Look After Mon by Kyung-sook Shin. I had this book on my eReader for a long time. I knew the story, I’ve read great reviews about it, but somehow I always chose something else over it. That was until that blessed day came when I started reading and everything changed, as I found myself in reader’s heaven. If you love stories with a heart, you’ll love this book. Read my review here.

 2.    The Secret Scripture and On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry. I know that I’m cheating by placing two books by the same author in the list, but Barry is such a good writer that I don’t have too much of a choice. I remember that when I’ve first read The Secret Scripture I kept thinking, ‘No, I’m not a writer,’ since if I were to compare myself to Mr. Barry, well… You can see my review in Greek (yeah, I know, this sucks) for the latter here, while you can read about On Canaan’s Side in English right here.

 3.    Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto. This is the book that made me fall in love with Japanese Literature. It consists of two novellas, the eponymous Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow. Yoshimoto is one of those writers that can easily find their ways into a reader’s heart. All her books, with the exception of Amrita, are quite short, but while reading them you always find yourself traveling into another world; a world full of thoughts, emotions, dreams, and magic. I apologize again but I don’t have a review in English. You can find one in Greek here, while you can read what I had to say about her latest book The Lake, if you follow this link.

 4.    Ocean Sea and Silk by Alessandro Baricco. Here I go cheating again. I am so so sorry. No, I am not. The truth is that I couldn’t choose between these books. The first I’ve read 14 years ago while staying at the island of Karpathos in Greece, and it got stuck in my head ever since. The second I’ve only read a couple of years ago and it rekindled my interest in Baricco’s work. Here we have an Italian author that is a master of emotions and one of the best storytellers to walk the shores of his land in the last century or so.

 5.    A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. A friend suggested Mr. Martin’s work to me a few years ago, and since I started reading him I never looked back. He is one of the finest storytellers of our times. His prose is beautiful and fluid, his action sequences are amazing, his plots are quite intriguing, while I also enjoy his sense of humor. I don’t think that many writers could produce a thick volume like A Feast for Crows, which is something like a link connecting two parts of the great story, and get away with it... in one piece. Anyway, if fantasy (and popular) fiction can be as good as this, then I say that I’m faithful fan of the genre(s).

 6.    Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle. Well, it’s always good if someone laughs every now and then, and if you read this book you’ll laugh a lot. Roddy Doyle is a great author, who’s not always at his best, but Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha is considered by some as a modern classic and I totally agree with them. Perhaps I should add a book or two as companion reads, but there’s plenty of time to do that in the future.

 7.    Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. I can’t explain why but this is my favorite Murakami novel. Everyone else is talking about Norwegian Wood or the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle but for me the author has reached the peak of his creativity with the book at hand. There’s no need to expand on it since you can read my review here.

 8.    No one belongs here more than you by Miranda July. Wow! What the fuck! Amazing! Yes, yes, yes! These are just a few of the expressions I’ve used while reading this great collection of short stories by the multitalented Miranda July. As I was going through her stories I felt as if she was talking directly to me, and I kept thinking that I should have been the author of most of them. As it seems Mrs. July lives in my head (and that’s not a good place to be; honestly).

9.    Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo. Pedro Páramo is one of those books that I call ballads; a novella that talks about people and their troubles, their everyday lives, their hopes and their fears, and about love. And much more. How much can you say in a few pages? Too much actually, if you know how to say it.Someone could call this book "experimental". Somebody else could say that it's "crazy." However, no one could possibly state that it is not an important one, since largely it is thanks to it that the magical realism of Latin America came to be.

10.    The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaňo. The late author was as good as they get. His knowledge was wide, his technique absolutely stunning, and his prose, at moments, simply breathtaking. The Savage Detectives is a book in love with books, but it’s also a journey, into the wilderness of a land and an era, into the joy and failures of youth, and into the abyss of the human soul. If you ever asked yourself, what is that special thing that makes literature great, all you have to do is read this novel and to get your answer.

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