Wednesday, October 22, 2014

from the bookshelf #2

A long time ago I wrote about some of my favorite books and since it has been so long (and because I have so many favorite books) I decided to put together another handful of books that had a strong affective effect on me for one reason or another. Please take a peek at my first book post, because those are some of my all time favorites - including my favorite book of all time - and all of those books are worth a look! There really is no rhyme or reason for this particular grouping, really I'm just sharing books that got some sort of deep, emotional response out of me - which are my favorite types of books.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
I think Margaret Atwood is a phenomenal writer over all and I honestly love every single one of her novels. I have found that most people know The Handmaid's Tale or even her MaddAddam books (i.e. Oryx and Crake and so on), but few people have read The Blind Assassin. She definitely deviates from her "signature" dystopian/speculative fiction in this novel, but I find the way she plays with narrative construction to be so brilliant and the writing itself to be so evocative that I like to push this one on other people.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Pardon my language - but @#$* this book. @#$* this book so much. You might wonder why I say that when I clearly listed it in a 'favorite book' post. The truth of the matter is that this book is so phenomenally well written and the subject matter is so gut-wrenching that it made me bawl like mad when I read it. I could also just be the biggest baby in the world, who knows. Regardless, it is one of the most deeply-stirring novels I have ever read and is one that is written from a narrative perspective that I find really unique, especially considering the novels that are being written currently. If you like WWII era novels (these are my jam) and if you feel like having your heart slowly ripped out, then please read this book.

Kokoro by Natsume Soseki
Natsume Soseki is Japan's most beloved authors and, in my opinion, probably the best. Kokoro is considered his masterpiece, while also being touted as the defining image of Japanese culture as it struggled to make sense of dramatic cultural and societal changes at the end of the Meiji era. In both English and Japanese it is exceedingly beautiful - anyone who wants to dabble into "world literature" (which everyone should do!) or more specifically Japanese literature outside of current pop writers, I highly recommend this book.

The Setting Sun by Osamu Dazai
If I had to pick one favorite Japanese novel, without a doubt I would say it was 斜陽 (The Setting Sun). Dazai is a particularly interesting figure for me because his writing comes out of the psychological turmoil of WWII Japan. The Setting Sun is considered by many to be his masterpiece and although he has other novels that are equally famous (人間失格 -"No Longer Human" for example), this is the novel that moved me the most. It was one of those novels that really made you feel the sorrow and confusion of the characters right in your chest - and I love that about this book.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
This is the most psychologically intense, insane, terrifying book I have ever read - I refuse to give any background on it but I highly recommend that you read it and immerse yourself in that world totally, because if you do it totally pays off. It's seriously an amazing book!

The Norton Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism
This one is a bit of an oddball, but let me explain. This was the anthology that first led me to understand what it is about literature that I am fascinated by. I learned to see how philosophy, semiotics, linguistics, culture, history, everything is tied to literary analysis and I learned by reading the works of thinkers who came before me. It's fantastic because it gives you a great run-down of all the greats of literary theory but none of it is watered down, so you are getting Althusser straight-up, as it were. Or if you are not interested in one area of theory, just skip it for another day! Before reading up on theory, I had no idea how to frame my questions, nor did I even know whether or not my questions were even worth pursuing. Even after years of study - including graduate focus - I still return to this big tome and each time it gives me more insight. 

Please share your favorites with me, too, I'm always looking for new reads :)

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