First off, Siddhartha. I'm the sort of person where if I am recommended one great book by someone I hound you until I get more. Thanks to a particular roommate I've read "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac (a new favorite author) and of course "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." So when she brought up Siddhartha, I didn't question, I bought the first copy I could find. A book that captured my full attention -- I found myself immersed in a culture, and landscape that I had never visited before and drank in every word. Unlike another, more contemporary, novel I've recently read that felt more like a poorly camouflaged self-help book, the events and scenes of Hermann Hesse's work allowed my own mind to form individual conclusions and discover something great on my own, without feeling as though I were being preached to.
Orwell's 1984. The night after I began reading 1984 I had a very bad dream. I was a Jew, having dinner as a guest of Hitler. I've never woken up so stressed out. A great novel that was very affecting and interesting in that it was written something like 65 years ago and is still very relevant today. I must admit it was a pretty depressing novel, the whole idea of 'newspeak' was torture for an English Literature major to deal with.
My nephew's 15th birthday is tomorrow. He's a giant, almost 6 feet if not already. He's not big into reading but he should be. So I bought him a book. Sherman Alexie's novel "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian." Hey, at least I didn't buy him socks. Of course, I had to read it for myself first. The story of a struggling young man trying to find a place that he can be a part of in this world, spoken from the boy's own perspective using his language and his artwork to express himself. I laughed and cried the entire way through this novel, it's a very good piece of literature. I'm pretty sure that it has been banned or challenged somewhere by now, as most great novels have. After reading it, I think it is the perfect gift I could give my nephew at this time. Junior talks directly to his audience, he doesn't talk down to them, he doesn't gloss over his life, or try to make things any prettier than they are in their true complexity -- something I think a reader struggling to be interested in reading and struggling with his own reality would appreciate.
I'm still reading Anna Karenina. My first time reading a Russian author and I love getting back into the classics. The style of writing is amazing and there's a reason I was obsessed for many years of all things in the classic literary canon. The genius Tolstoy has for "sketching the subtlest human gestures" is breathtaking and I can't get enough. The copy I have is something I found on one of the many bookshelfs in my parent's home. The binding has a slight crack in the middle and there's my mom's name on the inside cover and the date '92 written underneath. I was five. I know my mom went to the store shopped around, picked up this novel that she had read a year or so previously, opened the book to the approximate middle (creasing the binding) and inhaled the "new book scent." She never read this copy.