Let’s get real. It is very difficult to maintain a hobby in our age. Not all of us have the strength to look up from our phones when it is inducing addiction through social validation. We’re too busy keeping up with the latest memes and checking likes and views or even just staring at our wallpaper to avoid conversations to allow ourselves to indulge in something that is not conducive to the house of cards that is our image online. I’ll tell you the truth. 2018 wasn’t really a busy year for me. And I am not immensely proud of having allowed social media to suck me into its labyrinth and consume hours of my life that I probably could’ve spent doing something that makes me happy, even if not very productive. Though this post is not an action plan to substitute my frivolous scrolling addiction with reading (which I claim is my hobby. Check my Facebook for proof), I wanted to put it out there as an acknowledgement of a problem most of us have but choose to avoid reflecting on.
There are many (though not as many as I wish) remarkable books I allowed myself to read when I wasn’t scrolling up and down my Instagram feed, admiring people who seem to be leading lives they love one filter at a time and crying over Golden Retrievers and Beagles and otters (yes, otters. And oh, hamsters!). Below is the list of all the books that have been a joy to read and under them is a list of authors and books I’d like to read in the remaining days of 2018. I have attached a form at the end of the first list and I want you guys to take the time out of your “busy schedules” (come on, you’re scrolling. So reflecting on good books is better than scrolling all the way down your neighbour’s pedicure to your cousin’s new favourite place to have cheesy fries.) to fill it out and help my indecisive head to decide which of these books I should review first. If you haven’t read these books, you can decide what you’d like to read about first from my summaries below.
- The Waves by Virginia Woolf.
It took me time to get used to her style of writing and I had to reread certain paragraphs multiple times to grasp their meaning. For an unprepared reader, it could be baffling to get through the first thirty pages of the book but once one gets a hang of it, all of it unfolds as a simplistic genius. Virginia Woolf is popular for her use of the stream of consciousness as a narrative device Imagine a story that builds itself not over the occurrence of events and emotions as they are expressed or touched on the surface, but on the basis of the flow of the characters’ thoughts- raw and unblemished by paraphrases or narration. The story is based on six characters- 3 men and 3 women.
The author does not build their presence through the conventional narration of events but through the expression of their stream of consciousness. The depth of the characters becomes more evident with each page and each thought. The story gives a stunning insight into mysteries and untold moments known only to the characters ( and ourselves). It describes through the voice of their minds when they feel most isolated or most connected, moments that are most transfigured, lost or unknowable. Each phase of their lives begins with the description of a coast in England and the position of the sun in the sky- possibly analogous to their growth as people. It is a tale of love, friendship, jealousy and loss livable through the innermost recesses of the characters’ ‘heart’.
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Kazuo Ishiguro’s works had been on my To Be Read list ever since he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017. The premise of this novel, though not established clearly in the beginning, is poignant and has an argumentative rigour to it.
It begins in Hailsham- a boarding school where students are kept away from the influence of the city and encouraged to relentlessly indulge themselves in the cultures of the world through literature and art. It is very important that the readers read the book with a blank canvas for a mind because in my opinion, if they are already aware of underlying facts, it might create a strong bias on their ability to enjoy this book. The readers have to do their bit and allow themselves to be carried through the story in darkness until the mystery unravels itself.
Never Let Me Go is a beautiful tale on the adversaries of human relationships- be it friendships or love. Emotions are portrayed beautifully while the story challenges our morals and entitlement, forcing us to rethink existence and make us wonder if all else exists to serve our purpose and greed.
- The Outsider by Albert Camus
Meursault is detached. He will not act a certain way to please people for acceptance or deliverance. This is a story about a law-abiding, introverted man who is tried for committing an act of violence- so far, so good. But he soon realizes that he is not only being tried for the crime but also for not feeling any remorse for it. He is being punished for not feeling a certain way the society finds appropriate. He is being tried for not feeling sorry for the loss of his mother and for committing a crime he could make justifications for. He is being tried for not breaking down and regretting his actions and trying to evoke the sympathy of the jury.
What follows is Camus’s encapsulation of an abomination that society is. He is an atheist and for him, there is no absolute truth and the society is essentially ludicrous. All exist in the relative factuality the human mind places on the present moment. Albert Camus, through equal use of dark humour and profound monologues, questions the “followers” and throws light on its treatment of “the outsider(s)”.
- The Paper Men by William Golding
This is the first book by William Golding that I have ever read and is apparently one of his lesser renowned works. That makes me look forward to reading his other works (Lord of the Flies is definitely on my list now). The story is about writer Wilfred Barclay and his questionable prominence. He has had highs and lows in his writing career and is dealing with multiple issues in his life. His new works aren’t gaining as many accolades as his first book had and his marriage has fallen apart. He is evading his emotional problems by physically running from one place to another. He is an alcoholic being pursued by the young Professor of Literature who is hell-bent on gaining rights to his works and writing his biography. But Barclay has secrets under his carpet and he means to keep them hidden.
Throughout the story, the reader comes across moving insights on loneliness, paranoia, fear, alcoholism, sexual desire and ambition. It is about the human need to establish oneself in the society and be respected to be able to feel at peace.
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
This novel is semi-autobiographical and was published under a pseudonym (Victoria Lucas). Esther Greenwood is a talented, young woman who is unimpressed by the glamour of New York City, a place that girls her age usually idolize. The story follows Esther through the rapid deterioration of her state of mind and has vivid descriptions of fear, disorientation and despondency that usually accompany the conditions of what could be depression or bipolar disorder. Esther can relate with her impulsive and witty friend Doreen but she also understands the goody-goody one called Betsy and her need to always do what is right.
I consider the plot of this novel one of the bravest ever because it takes courage to put your own story on the paper, even if under a different name. The physical evidence of sorrow can be tormenting. I’ve always admired Sylvia Plath’s poetry and therefore this courageous endeavour makes The Bell Jar one of my favourite books of all time.
6. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
This novel has been one of my only breaks from the classics’ marathon I seem to have had this year. To be honest, I decided to read this book so that I could watch Meryl Streep playing Miranda Priestly, the impossible boss that could make “Cruella De Vil look like a fluffy bunny” in the movie adaptation. I later found out that a lot of people (and I mean a lot of them) thought that the movie is far better than the book. Undoubtedly, a movie about glamour that has Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and Simon Baker for a cast cannot go wrong but I didn’t think the book should be made to take a back seat because of it. The book has deeper insights on the kind of power the glamour industry has over, say, the-lesser-glamorous-rest-of-us. Some supporting characters in the movie have been given an altogether different essence (more about it in the actual review) from the book and there aren’t as many examples of the kind of hold Miranda Priestly has over the society (like all those gifts she received from the magnates of the fashion industry for Christmas).
This is a fast-paced story about a girl’s internal conflict as she tries in vain to balance her work and personal life. The book innocently questions the priority one gives to career and recognition in pursuit of happiness and wonders if it is all worth it. How long until Andrea Sachs finally begins wondering if her ambitions are worth tolerating the “Boss from Hell” or will she, like the robots around her, develop a thick skin (one that can never be thick enough to be able to handle Miranda) and work for what she had always wanted- a job at the New York Times?
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights serves as a device for reflection on human sorrows. Heathcliff and Catherine, the central characters of the book, lack all attributes of conventional protagonists (the heroes). The wilderness of its setting adds to the intensity of the feverishly passionate, intense to a point of wickedness (love?) story. There are hardly any pleasant instances in the story. Most of it is disturbingly violent and ceaselessly vindictive. Nothing about the main characters is likeable and their actions are strictly unforgivable. Whether or not they can be justified pretty much depends on the reader’s disposition.
Wuthering Heights can be an emotionally demanding book as it is set across several decades and multiple generations of the Earnshaw, Linton and Heathcliff families. The very thought of such viciousness prevailing through the years and generations can grow tiresome since it is a long story. Yet the passion is moving and the plot, gripping. Bronte portrayed some really complicated characters with effortless grace and balanced the roguery with heartwarming descriptions of pure, innocent emotions. The final line of this book will remain inscribed in my mind for years to come.
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde is the coolest. Period.
TPODG is a beautiful study on man’s obsession with the visually pleasing and the shallowness that comes with it when unaccompanied by a regard for humanity. Who is to say what is right and what is wrong? The complete disregard for societal notions by Lord Henry and his influence on the young, beautiful and gullible Dorian Gray is a treat to flip through. The pages are few but each line is like a powerful challenge to what the society considers appropriate. The gripping philosophy built upon the moral disintegration of a vulnerable, young man is perplexing and might leave the reader in a state of despair. Like Wuthering Heights, this book stirred a lot of controversies and in fact, served against him and resulted in his imprisonment for homosexual liaisons. I absolutely admire his outrageous attack on the society’s shallowness and hedonistic principles and I spent hours pondering over the simple arguments he has beautifully placed (majorly through Lord Henry).
- Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey has an unadorned brilliance to it. Catherine Morland is a naive, seventeen-year-old girl who is immeasurably ignorant of the ways of the world. She immerses herself in the world of novels and is surprised when her theories about people that she formed from them disagree with reality. Her naivety is the author’s platform to call your attention to the shallow, greedy nature of the rich and the eternal generational gaps that are perpetually impossible to deal with. I love how Austen pokes fun at gothic horror books.
Her works are proof that literature has the power to speak to all transcend all boundaries and speak to different eras and dissimilar cultures. The satire is biting and what is not to love about our wonderful hero Henry Tilney?
- Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to find that he has metamorphosed into a gigantic bug. His first thought on this realization is that he’s going to miss work. When he transforms into a bug and can thus not provide anymore, the attitude of his family changes. He’s looked upon as a burden and this slowly changes Gregor’s own perception of himself. He becomes withdrawn, tries to stay out of everyone’s way and finally dies in grave loneliness and his corpse is found in a sorry condition.
Franz Kafka, in one of his most renowned works, takes a dig at the implications of the all-consuming dependency of the working class on their jobs, creating a system of such corrupt necessity that it pulls them from the bed despite all maladies.
That’s my list of 2018 so far, folks! Help me decide which of these amazing books I should review first by quickly filling out this form here.
My TBR for the rest of 2018:
I once had a phase during my school years when I used to be obsessed with mysteries and thrillers. Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple and Robert Langdon were my kind of people. Ever since I left school, I can say there has been an expansion in my areas of interest and I’ve been reading more than just the one particular genre. This year, I recognize my newly found love for classics. I’ve read a few of them before but 2018 has been the year. I still haven’t read enough of them but I love what classics can do to my perception. So I plan to read more books from authors I’ve already known and loved or just heard a lot about. Feel free to recommend books you’ve read from my list of authors below and don’t be surprised if you find names that don’t necessarily fall under the genre of classics. Like I said, it’s about expanding my horizon!
- Charles Dickens
- Tom Hardy
- Mark Twain
- Khaled Hosseini
- Khalil Gibran
- Haruki Murakami
- Rainbow Rowell
- Daphne Du Maurier
- Douglas Adams
I’m currently (as of week 3 of September 2018) reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and I know just how much I’m going to want to read more of her books. I also dropped reading The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami after I came across a vividly disturbing imagery from a few of its pages. I plan to pick it up again soon because I realized that a book that can evoke such strong emotions not just with descriptions of violence but the trauma that follows war is too great of an experience to be missed on.
That’s all for this post, guys. Tell me all about the books you’ve read by all the authors mentioned in this post. Tell me about your favourite books and why you loved them. I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. You can also drop an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, please let me know if you guys want me to start a reading challenge in October and if so, what genre you want it to be. Drop in your ideas and we’ll see what works best for our ever-growing family here at Quaintrelle Vibes! Thank you so much for all the love even when I haven’t been all that active this year. I will strive to deliver more.