Here I am, sipping on green tea in a cosy sweater after I had just finished the last pages of Celine’s Journey to the End of the Night thinking about how to summarize my year. Of course I could talk about my progress in fitness or changes in nutrition but what is the closest to my heart and what I’ve dedicated the most of the time to this year is reading.
Even though I am usually reading a huge amount of books because I have to, I have immensely enjoyed most of them. Therefore, I have decided to make a list of the best books I have read this year.
I hope that I will, maybe, inspire you to read at least one of them.
George Eliot, Middlemarch
This is one of those books I would probably never read out of my own intensions. It is pretty long (800 pages) and the plot seems quite trivial (marriage and family matters in a small village). BUT once I got into it, I loved every single page.
The plot and characters are so realistic and well developed and the way Eliot portrays their struggles through life is spectacular. None of them achieve what they want and even if they do, they are not happy. Almost all the characters are being misunderstood and have different points of view. And the use of the narrative style who is on one part describing the events and struggles in this provincial town and on the other hand, stating general truths and observations about life is just astonishing.
NOTE: It has been our kitten who chewed the cover, not me.
“Certainly the determining acts of her life were not ideally beautiful. They were the mixed result of young and novel impulse struggling amidst the conditions of an imperfect social state, in which great feelings will often take the aspect of error, and great faith the aspect of illusion.”
Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
Last year I’ve taken a course in Russian literature and found how amazing it is. Almost all the significant works of Russian literature in eighteenth or nineteenth century somehow reflect the political situation and this makes them so interesting and very engaging to read.
Turgenev, in this book, describes the conflict between the older and the younger generation as well as the struggle between the feeling and the reason. This struggle is reflecting the historical moment as well as is eternally relevant. It expresses the struggle that people face when trying to associate with the new ideas and shows, on many occasions, how can it go fatally wrong.
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
I know many of you have heard the story but has anyone read the book? It has much more complex story as you might think and it has sooo many possible interpretations such as dealing with sexuality, childbirth, gender issues, homosexuality, struggle between reason and feeling, dangers of Victorian ambition, division between man himself and so on. It is so clever and at the same time very approachable, which is why I think that this is one of the classics that I believe is a must read for everybody.
“How mutable are our feelings, and how strange is that clinging love we have of life even in the excess of misery!”
George Douglas Brown, The House With The Green Shutters
Even though that the fact that I am studying Scottish as well as English literature kind of happened by chance, paradoxically, most of my favourites are the Scottish writers and some Scottish books I’ve read I found so fascinating and exceptional.
This is one of them. Brown is criticising the view on the Scottish pastoral life by observing the history and the tragic fall of the Gourlay’s family and the life in the village of Barbie. At the same time, he explores the darkest aspects of the human character, is cruelly honest and very satirical. If you are interested in naturalism I think that this book has it all. It is also often described in terms that ‘there’s too much dark for the white’.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper
Oh my God, this book is something else. It is surprisingly short (only around 30 pages) and describes how women were mistakenly treated to have a hysteria, ‘forced’ to stay at home and denied to be involved in any intellectual activities. The woman in this story is forced to stay in her room and by watching the yellow wallpaper in front of her, she starts having hallucination and gradually goes mad. It reveals the unfair treatment towards women in this period and the story ends up being quite chilling, psycho and scary. Sounds interesting? 🙂
“There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.”
Emilie Zola, Therese Raquin
This is the only fiction book from this list that I did not read for uni. After reading The House With The Green Shutters, I really got interested in naturalism and wanted to read more similar books that try to convey and study the dark side of the human character. Therefore, Emile Zola was an obvious choice and I went for the most famous one of his novels, Therese Raquin.
The way he mastered the story is just unbelievable. Even though the plot does not seem very special or original, the story and the development of characters as well as the description of their murderous thoughts and the consequent destruction of their psyche is so real I genuinely had shivers while reading it!
If you wanted me to recommend you only ONE book from this list, I would say, read Therese Raquin. Please. 🙂
Chris Kresser, Your Personal Paleo Diet [and] Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, It Starts With Food
If you told me a year ago that a non-fiction book is going to make it to this list, I would totally not believe you.
As this year I’ve spent quite some time studying and researching paleo, these two books indeed provided me with some very useful and insightful information and also some ‘fiction detox’ summer.
I want to say that I think that if someone wants to make changes in their diet (even paleo), it is essential that they do proper research first. And I would also encourage them to look at more sources than just one book. And here’s why.
It Starts With Food is written in a very comprehensible way and all the scienc-y stuff is really simply explained. And I think that it is an ideal starting point for anyone interested in paleo.
BUT, as a conscious literature student, I also think that it is written in a very persuasive way and its approach is quite narrow minded. And therefore, it can make people prejudiced against any other opinions.
Kresser’s Your Personal Paleo Diet is much more factual and educational and its style is not as smooth and reader-friendly, Chris is much more open to modifications in your approach to paleo diet.
So I am really glad that I have read both of them.
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
It always feels strange to read a book you’ve heard so much about from many different sources but never have actually read. With Oscar Wild and his Dorian Gray I was not disappointed. The books is filled with so many interesting ideas and thoughts that I felt like highlighting every line.
The story is quite emotional and when you know something about Wilde’s life and problems it gains another dimension. Reading The Picture of Dorian Gray is moving, upsetting, confusing and very sensual experience. But at the same time, it is not a tough read.
I am definitely going to read this special book again and I think that everybody should. 🙂
“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground
Don’t even get me started, I think that Dostoyevsky is a genius. I could go on forever telling you how amazing is his writing. Seriously.
Notes from Underground is a very strange book. It is not a story but a kind of confessional narrative of a madman or an exceptionally insightful intellectual, whichever way you decide to read it. I decided the latter. In this book, Dostoyevsky proposes some upsetting and quite controversial views on the man living in the nineteenth century Russia and they often say that it can be seen as a starting point philosophy for many of his consequent novels.
Even though it is quite dark and serious, it is very satirical and absolutely funny. Therefore, the narrator’s tone is very distinctive and, as I think, just plain genius.
“I swear to you gentlemen, that to be overly conscious is a sickness, a real, thorough sickness.”
Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Journey to the End of the Night
I feel like I am absolutely unable to explain to you, why I LOVE this book sooo much. 🙂 Let’s just say that it has become one of the best books I have EVER read.
Its view on the world is grim and it shows the ugly face of the first world war, English colonising mission in Africa, capitalism of the ‘ideal’ America as well as the life after coming back to France. His portrayal of the war is just dreadful but anything that happens after that isn’t particularly cheery at all. And at the same time, the war keeps coming back to him and even though he escaped, the war has never ended for him.
Despite being negative, its tone (I guess you can tell by now, I love this kind of stuff) satirizes everything around him. There is a lot of black humour, bitter truth and laughing through tears in this book.
Its style can remind you of Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 or E.M. Remarque’s All Quiet On the Western Front or even the MASH series. So if you like that kind of stuff I would highly recommend reading Celine.
“The sadness of the world has different ways of getting to people, but it seems to succeed almost every time.”
Overall, I think this has been a successful, enjoyable and enlightening reading year and I am already excited for the next one. I already know that the next semester will be filled with Romanticism, such as Jane Austen, Walter Scott, Coleridge, Wordsworth and so on, and Horror and Mystery stories, such as Doyle, Christie, Rankin, King, Stevenson as well as Dracula or Silence of the Lambs, and I absolutely cannot wait!! And yes, this is my university I am talking about, not my hobby. Although I often confuse the two. 🙂
What are your favourite books you’ve read this year?
Comments welcome both in English as well as po slovensky. 🙂
I wish you a new year that you can spend by doing things that you love.
Life is Good,