Brenda’s Top 5 Books
Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert on literature or anything of the sort. But if you were to ask me what my top 5 favourite books were, this would be what I would recommend. I was not surprised to find that coming up with this list would be an arduous task, as Neil Gaiman once said, “Picking five favourite books is like picking the five body parts you’d most like not to lose.” With that, I begin this list with a novel by the man himself…
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman’s epic novel about gods and mythological creatures living in present day United States is perfect reading for stormy weather. I am a particular fan of the way in which he weaves the fantastical in with the modern, and his description of the protagonist’s long voyage on the hedonistic highways of America provide the perfect form of escapism. Gaiman creates an incredible universe of very colourful, powerful omnipotent beings, and manages to sneak in commentary about America’s obsession with media, celebrity and technology. What an overachiever.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Safran Foer’s abstract novel is told from the point of view of a nine-year old boy, Oskar Schell, who embarks on a mystery that takes him on an adventure all around New York City. This sounds rather twee, but really it is a novel that will break your heart in so many different ways. The events of the novel take place in the wake of the 9/11 disaster in which our hero’s father tragically perished in. The real triumph of this book is that it does not try too hard to pull on our metaphorical heartstrings; it certainly does not paint itself as a sob-story. Instead, it reminds us that we have to live and love as much as we can.
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
I am a huge fan of Murakami novels, and usually he errs on the side of surrealism when it comes to his body of work. (One particular short story that has stuck with me was one where a Shinagawan monkey steals people’s names and causes them to lose their identity and sense of self. Weird.) This is possibly his most famous novel, and perhaps his most realistic. It is a melancholy novel of longing, unrequited love and angst in Tokyo, and there is something about its sleepy nostalgia that really got under my skin. My suggestion is to read this one on a sunny day, just to balance out its gloomy qualities.
The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts by Louis de Bernièries
My history teacher in sixth form and I had an agreement in which we exchanged books to read, and that greatly expanded my literary experience. I gave him a Murakami novel, and he reciprocated by volleying yet another dose of the surreal in the form of this novel. Louis de Bernièries is probably most famous for his novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, another great book I’d recommend, but you could imagine my reaction when my teacher handed me this book. “Is this inappropriate?” I wondered, but I decided to give Mr. Howard the benefit of the doubt by actually giving the book a read. Within its pages I encountered magic, violence, great and terrible sex, and most surprising of all, a lovely, spicy sense of humour. This book is the first of the author’s Latin American trilogy and all the books are terrific, but nothing beats my first encounter with Don Emmanuel and indeed, his nether parts.
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Coming up with a list of top 5 books is an intensely personal task. Therefore I had no choice but to end it with this book. John Green’s name has now become the talk of the town, what with his novel The Fault in Our Stars being developed into a feature-length film and already creating buzz for breaking hearts everywhere by telling the tragic tale of two loved-up cancer-stricken teenagers. Green has always been adept in writing about the teenage experience in the light of great tragedy, and he does so perfectly in his debut novel, ‘Looking for Alaska’. I can’t speak too much of the plot, as it would give too much away, but it is about an awkward Holden Caulfield-esque boy called ‘Pudge’ and how he falls in love with ‘hurricane’ Alaska Young, a tempestuous and beautiful girl. Yes, this is a YA novel. Yes, there is typical teenage humour, awkward sexual situations and perhaps clichéd high school stereotypes. However, I picked this up at 16 and it punched me in the literary gut. Pick this book up, and if it doesn’t profoundly affect you, write in to me. I’d be very surprised.
What are your top 5 books?