Moby Dick – Herman Mellville
‘Let them talk of their oriental summer climes of everlasting conservatories- give me the privilege of making my own summer with my own coals’.
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace is regarded by many as the definitive world novel. Tolstoy explores history and the meaning of individual life with immense psychological insight. This is not a book to be read absentmindedly! Take it up when you have a two or three weeks two to fill with something that will last a lifetime. Great writers like James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Thomas Mann, Proust, Nabokov and Faulkner heaped praise on Tolstoy. We rest our case.
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
Tolstoy explores existential life with enormous insight. Themes like sexual desire, passion, love, marriage, hypocrisy, fidelity, and living in close contact with the earth contrasted to city life, run like water and fire through this breathtaking book. You will need another week or two to honour this book! And then they tell us that his school teachers thought him to be incapable of any substance…
The Death of Ivan Ilych – Leo Tolstoi
In this book Tolstoi explores the consequences of living a superficial life, driven by ambition and social status and argues what then in the end is life and what is death. Ivan Ilyich Golovin, a judge, gradually exams his own life and a moment of ‘humane insight’ awaits him in his tormented state.
Divisadero – Michael Ondaatje
Poetically beautiful and wise, Ondaatje tells us a many layered story of two different families as their lives flow like rivers into each other. Take time to watch the goose pimples on your arms… Rich and rewarding. Jhumpa Lahiri writes that her life always stops when a new book of Ondaatje arrives. She is so right!
The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje
It is about war, about love, about idealism, about loss, about tragedy, about the final loss of innocence. Vintage Ondaatje.
Everything is Illuminated – Jonathan Safran Foer
A Jewish young man goes on a journey to find the woman that appears on a photo with his grandfather. A vicious anti Jew with his ‘cool’ grandson become his tour guides. The set for a wonderful book with an enormously humane thread. Wisdom following in its tracks.
All the Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy can portray evil without slobbering over it. It is worse than acid. It is more painful than an operation without anesthetics. If you are a fearless reader, try this. You will hate this man, but you will love him. This book was adapted into the film, All the Pretty Horses, directed by Billy Bob Thornton and starring PenPenélopelope Cruz and Matt Damon. Almost as chilling as the book.
Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
If you can handle Judge Holden in this disturbing book by McCarthy, you are not twenty years old anymore. How much evil can one man embody?
The Crossing – Cormac Mccarthy
Barren landscapes, the yearning of souls for something unthinkable, western gothic imagery and the darkness of the human mind, that’s what Cormac infuses us with.
No Country for Old Men – Cormac McCarthy
Fate and circumstance winding down into dark chaos, is what this book of Cormac McCarthy is all about. They had to make a film out of this. The twin souls of the Coen Brothers did just that. Resonating and kindred. Book and film. Skin shivering.
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
Read this book by McCarthy and go for a slow walk down your favourite lane. Are you still innocent enough for that? Or at least just brave enough?
Atonement – Ian McEwan
We will not tell you the story. But we might mention that McEwan can burn letters into paper and into your soul. Even when he dances through those paper thin pages. Atonement where nothing can be atoned. The slipping dream of the human species.
Enduring Love – Ian McEwan
Within the very first few moments reading this book by McEwan, you will hold your breath back and that is the way it will stay until the last page. Without doubt.
Saturday – Ian McEwan
How many minutes are there in a day? How many moments during a day can a human be aware that life is passing by? Fleetingly moving.
On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan
If we were just a little bit wiser! So we all say. Life cannot be grabbed in retrospect. Give all young ones this book and hope they will read it in time. Perhaps they will do better than us.
Solar – Ian McEwan
McEwan newest book. A comic approach to a very serious issue. Are we sluggish humans up to it to face this incoming calamity? Are there any sages around?
Never let me go – Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro does not believe in one dimensional characters and linear development when directing his symphony of books. Never let me go – is evolving from that grain and let its subjects struggle for life and freedom. Is this a book or is this real life without a surface?
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
To dedicate your life totally to something, someone, without acknowledging that small differing voice whispering from within you, come at a price. Reflection can be such a sad testimony. Melancholy clothed in velvet.
The Unconsoled – Kazuo Ishiguro
A difficult book to read, but that is what Joyce and Ishiguro require from us from time to time to become enlightened. Follow the pianist Ryder through his three warped days and then look at yourself in the mirror…
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Buendìa family’s history as life happens, culminates complex and intertwined. Worthy of the Nobel price he received.
Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
How long can one love and how fulfilling can the day’s end be? A boat trip into the horizon.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Deep psychological insight. Stuff of the soul, as Virginia Woolf said about Dostoevski. This book explores the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of a man who thinks that he has the moral right to murder another less worthy human being. Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov will dare to step into the private enclaves of your soul.
The Idiot – Fyodor Dostoevsky
Light and darkness. Dostoevsky brings through this book a good man into superficial society and take us on a painful journey when the dark princes of the status quo manipulate and exploit this decent man.
The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevski
The Brothers Karamazov are so real they want to dislodge themselves from the pages to come addressing you personally. They bring honest questioning of religious and ethical standpoints to the fore and they don’t want to leave without some answers. It is about compassion, faith, doubt, logic and reason. Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Martin Heidegger and Cormac McCarthy have expressed their admiration for Dostoevski according to Wikepedia, and all of them are/were heavy weights in their genres.
Slow Man – J.M. Coetzee
Slow Man written by the quiet man, J.M. Coetzee, explores the life of a man losing his leg and who realizes the essence of small everyday moments as it unfolds. That and the question what one will leave behind when the flowers won’t blossom for you anymore.
Waiting for the Barbarians J.M. Coetzee
The outsider caught on the inside where dogmatic loyalties prevent one to raise ethical complexities. Not I and thou, but I and I, and you and you. Tragedy will strike.
Life and Times of Michael K – J.M. Coetzee
For the thinking, feeling human being, this world can be rather absurd at the best of times. Michael K experiences this as the main character in this book, but some people feel that Coetzee and Franz Kafka have much in common with this gardener from Cape Town.
Disgrace – J.M. Coetzee
Salvation and ruin, freedom and captivity, arrogance and shame, surrealism and tragedy, are all themes flowing through Disgrace. Is there somewhere a small window that offers redemption?
Elizabeth Costello – J.M. Coetzee
Old age reduces the importance of things held dearly earlier on in life. Or then again, perhaps just put it all in a clearer perspective? Elizabeth Costello questions many things and she dares you to join her in this quest.
Youth – J.M. Coetzee
Alienated, in society, in his career, in his body, in his interaction with women, even within the boundaries of his soul, this character in Youth strokes with a pointed finger over the carcasses of life.
A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway
In war people suffer. Tragedy follows individuals, couples and nations. Hemingway with his vivid style knows how to portray this. It is about Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley, but it is also about all people that experience war.
The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
The Old Man and the Sea. A solitary man and a fish below the dark waters in a deadly embrace. A Classic book, a must read.
For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
This novel has the Spanish Civil War as background, but it shows us the brutality in all wars. This is what war does to people. Longing for life, fearing death, losing sanity.
The Book of Evidence – John Banville
There are people in society that are more fortunate than others, but have an implicit urge to have even more at the expense of whoever comes in the way.
Ghosts – John Banville
People on an island with time at hand to explore complexities without in the end tying it together.
The Sea – John Banville
Written almost poetically, the novel shares with us life in flux and the last page will leave you with a deeper wisdom as the waves have the last say about life.
The Infinities – John Banville
Banville prefers to depict unconventional realities and here we find an infinity of worlds that ordinary people barely can handle. The gods to be counted in.
The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen
Family dysfunction and being caught in an one dimensional reality. Funny and very scary.
Freedom – Jonathan Franzen
Most young people dream about marriage, then they do marry, then they have to cope with the reality of marriage and then they realize that middle age is creeping up to them. All that, and society in its own stark head light, is what Fransen throws us with. Disdain like a thread through the characters in this new book by Franzen.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera
We have only one life, argues Kundera in this book, and therefore everything is unbearably light. Brief. Some characters find life feather light and others feel the stone.
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting – Milan Kundera
In politics, relationships and in life as such we have been forgetting to defend ourselves. For the right reasons and for the wrong ones too.
Immortality – Milan Kundera
Life poignantly poised, but for a moment, then it flows on. How to capture the moment, any moment and thus prevent it from fading into nothingness.
Slowness – Milan Kundera
Through intertwining characters Kundera explores life in modern society, the effect of technology and the urge to keep sensuality alive.
Identity – Milan Kundera
Life does not provide us with permanence, it flows and it tears our projections and instinctual yearnings apart, especially in intimate relationships.
Ignorance – Milan Kundera
Can we face up to homecoming? Ignorance a weapon against painful realities and too much existential angst.
On Beauty – Zadie Smith
Ethnic and cultural differences provide all participants in society with smoked glasses to one sidedness. What then happens to beauty?
White Teeth – Zadie Smith
“What is past is prologue”. People differ and when different cultures meet, there is even more difference. What unifies earthlings?, is the question Smith asks.
Island – Dan Sleigh
White supremacy in a South African context, painted with an objective brush.