I have read a lot of books that I enjoyed. I sometimes also encounter books that I did not enjoy at all. Now and then, I read books that I loved. Very occasionally, I read a book that changed me. This is the kind of book that gives you a very sad feeling when you are turning the last few pages, although you really want to know the ending, because it makes you feel like you are losing one of your best friends/ you are forced to step out of a world that became your home/ you are not ready to be in the ‘real’ world yet. I think my list of these kind of books contains about 30 to 50 books. The following four pieces of literature are definitely on that list, these are the ones that really got me thinking:
Note: Harry Potter is always the #1 on every single one of my lists, I think it is better for the sake of every one that I leave this one out. It will never stop appearing in each and everyone of my blogs once I start writing about Potter.
1. One, No One & One Hundred Thousand by Luigi Pirandello
I have to admit, it took me a while to start reading this one. From what I have heard, it seemed to me like it was just a cranky story written by a cranky Italian writer, about a sorehead old Italian man. I WAS SO WRONG. Well, I was kind of right, it is about a sorehead cranky Italian man, but I did truly love it. I finally started reading the first pages of the book when I realized I could really identify with the main character. Which was something I found to be quite remarkable, because I was identifying with a cranky Italian man who seemingly experienced some sort of mid-life crisis.
I hate spoilers (who doesn’t?) so I will give an example from those first few pages. The novel starts with Moscarda looking at his nose in the mirror when his wife makes a comment about the way in which his nose tilts. In short, this makes him really insecure and he starts noticing a lot of his own flaws. He starts looking at himself in the mirror for hours and asking other people about his nose. All of which, leads to him concluding that: “others saw me as one who was not I as I knew myself, one whom they could know only through watching me from outside with eyes that weren’t mine.”
For a few days I was a little obsessed with this idea. I was wondering what do people actually see when they look at me? Would it be a totally different person from the one I see in the mirror? Recently I read an article about some researcher stating that we would not even recognize our own clone walking by, it got me thinking about Pirandello’s novel instantly. Who are we viewed from eyes that aren’t ours?
2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of my favourite writers. I love every single piece of her work, but this one got me thinking on many levels. In short, the novel describes how two young Nigerians fall in love, both move to other countries (America and England) and how they both try to move on and survive in these western countries. Although immigration is a subject that is always – and everwhere- very present, this novel made me understand in a way I never understood. Although I can never truly know what immigrants like the novels protagonists Ifemelu and Obinze thoroughly live-through; it did gave me a lot of ‘a-ha’ moments. Some things just never cross your mind, until something made them cross your mind. This happened quite a few times while I was reading the novel.
For example, protagonist Ifemelu writes a blog about being a (what she calls) “non-American black” in America. In one of her blogs Ifemelu writes: : “Dear non-American Black, when you make the choice to come to America, you become black. Stop arguing. Stop saying I’m Jamaican or I’m Ghanaian. America doesn’t care. So what if you weren’t black in your country? You´re in America now.” This really got me thinking, the thought had never crossed my mind. Off course she only became black when she went to live in America! Now, it occurs to me like something very obvious, but it was not something I had ever thought about before reading Americanah. How oblivious was I? And how many other things are so obviously obvious, although I have no single clue about them? I felt like a horrible person. Nevertheless, I was also grateful that the novel gave me the chance to discover the oblivious person in me.
3. Saturday by Ian McEwan
There are a few more of Ian McEwan’s novels on my list (Atonement is also one of my favourites), but this one was like a mirror to me. I find it particularly hard to describe what this one is about, because every little piece of information seems like a spoiler to me. So, (very) shortly, this novels describes exactly one day (Saturday!) of the life of Henry Perowne. Perowne is a neurosurgeon, husband and father who lives in London. Also, -as a result of 9/11 and the war in Iraq – Perowne is very troubled about the state of the world, particularly afraid his family might be under threat. It is very hard to explain how exactly this novel got me thinking without spoiling the ending, but I’ll give it my best try.
Like Perowne (and many other people), I am also very easily scared and saddened by the state of the world. Therefore, it wasn’t very hard to identify with the man while reading Saturday. The ending made me realize that it is so useless to worry that much (nothing wrong with a little worrying, but I am pretty good in getting carried away a bit too much) about something you can never control. Since, I try to think about Perowne when i feel like I worry too much.
4. Currently reading: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garbiel García Márquez
I am currently reading this one, but the novel already convinced me of its power to get me thinking. I will not discuss this one in this post, because I will definitely write a review when finished. I do have to say that I find it to be kind of a tough read (I had to reread some of the sections, especially because of the extreme amount of names), but from what I have read so far it is totally worth it!