Thursday, 15 May 2008

My Top Ten Books: The First Five

As I said earlier, I’m doing a blog for iChannel this month, and one of the things they asked for was a list of my ten favourite books. What a task to come up with them!

Here are the first five fiction ones, with a short explanation of zhy I chose each:

Dobryd by Ann Charney

The first sentence of this gem is “By the time I was five years old I had spent half my life hidden away in a barn loft.” It begins as the Russians are liberating Poland, and the young narrator of this novel-that-is-perhaps-truer-than-fiction is taken outside for the first time in years. It ends as she and her family take the train north from New York to Canada. It is a ravishing book, written in a deceptively simple style, one which should be on school reading lists for its story, for its message and for its beauty.

Ulysses by James Joyce

This vast epoch can be seen as a dead end in literary experimentation, but also as a whole literary universe. I read it for the first time in an English class, with the professor guiding us through. That is perhaps the best way, but doing it on one’s own is worth attempting. Since that first experience I’ve read it twice more, and been astounded every time

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

In general though I like realistic fiction, and this book about a family who spends a crucial period in Congo is a brilliant and accessible story which explores the relation of Americans with Africa and with their souls.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

O’Brien’s short story collection about the Viet Nam war is the best book to come out of that terrible conflict. A must read for anyone who wants to understand the second half of the 20th century. It also throws light on what is happening now.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Roy has written little fiction, having devoted herself to political and environmental causes since its publication.. But the novel is a marvelous story which evokes Kerala, colonialism and consuming passion.

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