Sorry for the two-week break- I've been going through the motions of Finals Week, and with the number of essays I've been writing, I haven't had the time or the creative energy to write for the blog. I'm nearly done with the semester now, so we should be back to regularly scheduled posts.
As some of you may know, I'm an English major, so I do a lot of reading. I've had a few DM requests to talk about my favorite books, so I've decided to dedicate a blog post to it. My dad was an English professor, so I grew up reading a lot- I was raised by a man with infinite literary knowledge, and a small library. My dad is the sort of guy who turns his walls into shelves, and fills them with books. When I was a little kid, I would read the titles, and when I got a little older, I started actually reading them. My father's library is one of my fondest memories.
The Stranger- Albert Camus
I can't do a list of favorite novels without talking about Camus- this is a French novel translated into English, originally called L'Étranger. It explores the idea of existentialism, which is a belief that I've held for a long time, now. It centers around a relatively indifferent protagonist, Mersault- after losing his mother, he ends up in a situation where he kills a man, and gets put to death. It asks questions regarding the meaninglessness of existence, and the absurdity of the universe.
When the world starts the overwhelm me, I like to turn to existentialism, and this novel. It reminds me that our lives don't have any definitive purpose, so I am free to determine what my purpose is. The Stranger reminds me the universe is absurd, and there's no point in taking things too seriously. I was 17 when I first read Camus, and he changed my perspective on things.
The Importance of Being Earnest- Oscar Wilde
I know the title says novels, but I'm using the term pretty liberally, and discussing all of my favorite reads. This is one of my favorite plays of all time- it's an easy read, and a really funny one.
To put the play simply, it is a comedy about two men and two women, and as comedies inevitable do, the four lovers get thrown together by the end. The premise of the play revolves around Jack, a man who lives a double life, living as Jack in the country, but Earnest in the city. This ends up causing some complications. The play can feel a bit like a Shakespearean comedy, with so many couples thrown together by the end, but it's a really fun play to read, and it has a happy ending.
The Sun Also Rises- Earnest Hemingway
The Sun Also Rises holds a very special place in my heart, as it was the first novel that made me fall in love with the idea of Spain. Because of this novel, I've always wanted to visit Pamplona and see the famous bull run. Last summer, I made my first trip to Barcelona, and got to lazily spend my days under the Spanish sun, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, and this is the closest I've come thus far to encompassing Hemingway.
The Sun Also Rises follows a set of friends and lovers, Cohn, Jake and Brett, and their lives in the 1920s as they mindlessly drift through Paris and Pamplona, to see the famous Running of the Bulls.
When I was younger, I went through a period where I became obsessed with the 20s, and everything that it’s authors had to offer. During this time is when I become infatuated with the idea of drifting through Europe- it made me desperately want to visit Paris. While I’ve read lots of it’s writers- Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Stein, Eliot- this novel is my absolute favorite encapsulation of the 1920s.
The Awakening- Kate Chopin
The Awakening was possibly the first feminist novel I read, and it’s message is incredibly powerful and progressive for its time, as it was written in the 1890s, decades before women in the US could even vote. It follows a wife and mother named Edna, and her spiritual, intellectual, and sexual awakening as a woman, as she realizes that she is more than a mother, and she belongs to herself- not her husband, not her children. The novel ends quite ambiguously, but the final scene has always made me cry. I always felt like Chopin had an incredible gift for capturing that sense of obligation and entrapment that women feel, and the beautiful liberation that Edna experiences in the end.
Shadow Tag- Louis Erdrich
This is a modern favorite, and one that I read recently. It follows an abusive marriage between a man and a woman, and their three kids. The wife, Irene, has two diaries- a Red Diary that she writes for her husband to see, because she knows that he has been reading her diary, but he doesn't know that she knows, and a second Blue Diary that holds her true thoughts, which she keeps in a safety deposit box. She uses the Red Diary as a form of manipulation, as she tries to get out of her abusive marriage and save the kids.
It's a deeply emotional novel, and one that cut me very deeply. As someone who escaped an abusive relationship last fall, many of the scenes were painfully vivid for me to read. There were many phrases, moments, turning points, where I felt like I was reading about myself. It broke my heart to read a novel that encapsulated my emotions so perfectly- the abusive husband, Gil, looked so much like my own abuser at times, with the same sort of irrational, possessive mentality. For those who have struggled with an abusive relationship, this novel is a brutally honest cleanse.
Interestingly enough, it coincidentally takes place in Minneapolis, which is where I live, which made the experience all the more vivid.
The Great Gatsby- F. Scott Fitzgerald
I wasn't going to include this novel, as it isn't really one of my favorite novels, but it feels impossible not to include it. I read The Great Gatsby for the first time when I was fifteen- at the time, I couldn't understand why it was considered one of the greatest novels of all time. Frustrated by this, I decided to read it every year, until I got it. Got what, you ask? I still have no idea. At nearly 21, I've now read this novel six times, and I plan to re-read it every year until I die.
I'm sure most people have read this novel, or at least know of it, but it's considered the "Great American Novel." It's about a writer, Nick, who moves East to New York and writes about his experiences, as he meets a mysterious man named Gatsby, and Nick's cousin Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom. It certainly touches on many of the ugly realities of the 1920s, with the stark differences between rich and poor, and the carelessness in many of the characters. I don't know if this novel is really a favorite, but I read it every year, so I suppose it must play some role. It's worth reading at least once, or 65 times, if you are me.
Other Honorable Mentions:
There are a lot of books I consider worth reading, but don't necessarily want to / need to go into the synopses of. As an English major, I've read a lot of classic literature, but I'm also going to leave some easier / newer reads. Here is an additional list of honorable mentions, if you are looking for something to read.
1984- George Orwell
Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austin (and my namesake, Elizabeth!)
The Giver- Lois Lowry
The Perks of Being a Wallflower- Stephen Chbosky (helped me through high school)
Looking for Alaska- John Greene
As time goes on, I'd like to expand this list, so this is not my definitive list of favorites. I love when summer comes along, because I get to start reading for fun again, and move away from the extensive lists of required reading. I plan on spending lots of time reading at the beach this summer- if you are a reader, I hope you get something out of this list!