I remember the summer before I went to university very well. At the time, I was working a summer job at the local cinema and trying to fill my free time with friends and other enjoyments. One of the things I did a lot during my last year in high school was reading. As I know many of you are going on holiday and would like to read something during your travels, I will proudly present you with 5 books I think most would enjoy. Ready, set, go!
Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point
The only non-fiction book in this entire list, I would dare say that this is probably my favourite book. In the tipping point, Gladwell explores several things that can lead to just a small idea getting to the ‘tipping point’ and essentially growing into a big trend, whether it is an economic trend or a social trend or a fashion trend, Gladwell manages to explain what is it that makes something really ‘stick’. This has been one of the most insightful books I’ve ever read and I don’t think I have ever recovered from it, as I still view the world differently because of it. Whenever I see something new pop up I can’t help but think of the rules that Gladwell set up in this book.
Favourite quote: “Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push – in just the right place – it can be tipped.”
Turkish Delight by Jan Wolkers
I will forever fight to defend this book from the accusations of it being just another softcore porn novel. I had to read this book for my reading list in my senior year and I firmly believe it is so much more than that. Wolkers explores the relationship between the main character and Olga. It goes into their meeting until their inevitable parting and I don’t think I’ve ever read another book which explores the woes of a true relationship like this one does. While it is not for the faint of heart ( it does include a few graphic sex scenes) I think these parts are what make it a story that is all the more realistic.
Favourite quote: “Because pity is the biggest enemy of love”
Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood
Murakami’s work is usually characterised by absurdness melting seamlessly into reality, taking you into a fantasy world that seems just real enough that it makes you wonder if you are the one that’s actually insane. This work, however deviates from his other works by presenting a more simple, basic love story. Even then, this book remains a favourite of mine, because it accurately explains the woes of adolescences and struggling with finding yourself and looking for your own meaning through other people. In Norwegian wood, the protagonist Watanabe struggles to find meaning in his life after his best friend commits suicide. After some years he runs into Naoko, who was the girlfriend of his best friend and Naoko and Watanabe develop a deeply intimate relationship, but Naoko struggles to overcome the pain left behind with death of Watanabe’s best friend. Watanabe tries hard to support Naoko through her grief, but it turns out to be more difficult than he had thought…
Arthur Japin’s in Lucia’s eyes
Another book I had to read for my reading list in my senior year, in Lucia’s eyes, tells the story of the first love of notorious playboy Giacomo Casanova, through the (you guessed it) eyes of his first love. Lucia and Giacomo first meet when Lucia is in her teens and she charms him. Giacomo however considers Lucia to be too young and wants to wait until she’s older. Giacomo has to leave town but he promises Lucia that he’ll return in half a year and then they can be together. Lucia however suffers from a disease which leaves half her face disfigured. Not wanting Giacomo to see her now imperfect face, Lucia decides to run away. Years later, Lucia is working as a prostitute at a brothel in Amsterdam. She has become very popular due to wearing a mask, which makes her very mysterious to the customers. There, she meets Giacomo again and what happens afterwards, well, why don’t you read it and find out? This book explores what it means to sacrifice your own happiness for the (supposed) greater good and really makes you put the decisions you make in perspective.
Favourite quote: “Everything comes down to this: the reason for every word I have written and every word I will write. I am recounting my life for you so that you may know this secret without the pain of discovering it: We are unhappy because we think that love is something we require from someone else. Our salvation depends on a simple gesture that is nonetheless the most difficult act we can perform: We must give away the thing we most long for. Not to receive but to give.”
Demian: stories of Emil Sinclair’s youth by Herman Hesse
Not your classic coming of age novel, Hesse explores the temptations we find ourselves in when we start growing up and stop living inside our bubbles in which everything is always good and start seeing the world for what it really is. In the book, the protagonist Emil is prompted by his classmate Demian to stop looking at the world superficially and to start seeing things as they are. This eventually leads to Emil coming to a realization of self. A concept thoroughly explored in this novel is the idea of duality: things as they are and things as we see them do not have to exist separately. Interestingly enough, the author explores some of the troubles of his own youth through this book, which makes it feel at times almost autobiographical. If you’re prepared to spend a lot of time self-reflecting, this is definitely worth the read!
Favourite quote: “The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy a world. The bird flies to God. That God’s name is Abraxas.”