As promised, here is the list of my top five books from the twenty-five that I have read so far. This ranking is completely subjective and is not an attempt to say a particular book is ‘greater’ than another. These are simply the five books I have most enjoyed over the past few months. I am also trying to pick the books I think my readers would be most interested in, so I am avoiding my nerdier history and philosophy selections. With no further ado, the list.
Wells Tower’s collection of short stories is full of pitiful characters in depressing situations that somehow leave you in a happy mood. Tower’s prose is outstanding. His sentences have an edge to them that few seasoned writers can boast. I am especially fond of the eponymous story, which follows a middle-aged Viking on one last plundering raid. Go buy this book and support a fresh voice on the American literary scene.
Le Carre’s gripping tale of Cold War spy Alec Leamas is a spy novel worthy of Hemingway. This is not James Bond using gadgets to defeat supervillains and seduce chesty double agents. This is the story of a real man used as a pawn in the cutthroat game of Cold War power politics. Read it and feel glad that your life is a bit less complicated than that of poor Mr. Leamas.
This is a novel that is almost painful to read. The utter lack of self-confidence on the part of the asylum patients is heartbreaking. Randall McMurphy is a tragic hero worthy of Shakespeare, losing his all for the sake of his comrades. The despicable “Big Nurse” Ratched is also a villain for the ages. I love the Jack Nicholson movie, but I enjoyed the book even more.
Continuing the theme of books that will break your heart, I have selected Solzhenitsyn’s classic story of a man fighting cancer and oppression in Soviet Russia. Despite the saddest of possible lives, Oleg Kostoglotov emerges as a hero who inspires us all with his unrelenting humanity. This is not a book for someone wanting a cheerful read, but is absolutely worth the effort.
And the final, number one, best book I have read so far is…
Gibran’s book is beyond words. Despite its brevity, The Prophet is overflowing with timeless wisdom that can be applied to all our lives. A bit philosophical for some tastes, this book is nevertheless a must read. It is also my dear, sweet great-grandmother’s favorite book. In case you aren’t aware, you don’t argue with the Granny.