amanda

Fifteen Books

Stolen from anodyna and posted in lieu of fannish content.
This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

1. Give Me the World by Leila Hadley
Newly divorced Leila Hadley takes off to see the world with her four-year-old son and ends up sailing around the Pacific Ocean. All the more incredible because it's true, and she did it in the 1950s.
2. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
I'm reading this with my American lit class right now, and it poses some fascinating questions about what makes a person a man human and what our obligations are to one another.
3. The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Two men sit at a coffee shop in Lahore, Pakistan. One of them is a former immigrant to America, bitterly returned home after September 11 changed the landscape for Muslims in the United States. The other's identity is a secret that gradually unravels over the course of the book.
4. Red Azalea by Anchee Min
The Cultural Revolution through the eyes of a teenager who reminded me a lot of myself
5. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Blew my mind when I realized that maybe Gregor wasn't an insect after all
6. House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
The only magic realism that ever worked for me because I understood the symbolism so well.
7. Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller
Thomas Keller is my culinary god.
8. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X with Alex Haley
Malcolm X is the historical figure I admire most.
9. Tropical Fish: Tales of Entebbe
A kind of uneven short story collection, but I thought it was a great portrait of modern Uganda
10. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
The most quietly understated and emotionally resonant thing I've ever read.
11. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Poignant and heartbreaking, and it works on a literal level while packing in the symbolism as well. I really think it's about searching for God and understanding why we even bother to create if we're all going to die.
12. Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
Every day moments made beautiful.
13. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
One of the most unique things I've ever read. Give it a try even if you're not into graphic novels.
14. Cloud Atlas & Ghostwritten by David Mitchell
Lumped together because they're part of the same narrative experiment in interlinked stories that don't come together until the very end. I admire how adeptly Mitchell juggles different genres, dialects, and historic periods while creating extremely absorbing characters.
15. Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller
The creepiest thing I've ever read, full stop.
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Blew my mind when I realized that maybe Gregor wasn't an insect after all.

I am deeply intrigued here, because I've read The Metamorphosis ... five times? ... and I've never had this revelation myself.
We should probably talk sometime when I have not just consumed a bottle of wine, but I think it's completely allegorical and he's not an insect at all. I think Gregor became someone his family and/or society completely despises, even though it's true to who he is. And he has these moments of freedom, symbolically represented by crawling on the ceiling, but he can't give himself over to his new life completely because he craves his family's love more than anything. The apple lodged in his back are the words our parents speak to us that we just can't ever get over. I like reading it as an allegory for coming out, even though I know Kafka didn't intend that level of specificity. But it resonates so deeply with what I've seen here, the way people are treated like insects sometimes for being different. And it reads like an allegory for the Holocaust too, even though Kafka died long before it. But now I am rambling...
House of the Spirits! *hugs myself in remembered delight* And oh, The Autobiography of Malcom X would probably have been on my list too if I'd gone to 15.

Is it terrible of me that Never Let Me Go, for all its beauty and meaning, annoyed me a little because I wished (I have the same complaint about Margaret Atwood) that it could have been called science fiction, because that's what I saw in it, that SF-inal exploration of what's universal by changing aspects of the fictional universe from our norms?

Persepolis's first 10 pages were brilliance, and I need to get my hands back on a copy and read the rest.
I have the same complaint about Margaret Atwood (and the inverse joy in reading Michael Chabon, who admits he writes genre books).
I think your objection makes sense. I've always liked the category of speculative fiction though -- it tells me when I'm reading something just a little different from our own universe, but not different enough to contain spaceships and aliens. I like that level of specificity; I can choose what I'm in the mood for.

And yes, go find Persepolis! I read it in an hour at Barnes & Noble and loved it so much I got grants to buy a set for my classroom.
I think it's totally allegorical and Gregor isn't actually an insect -- he's just treated like one because being honest about who he really is inspires that level of revulsion from society. I wrote a longer, rambly comment to boosette upthread somewhere...
Oh, thanks for sharing yours! I'm putting a couple on my to-read list. Notes on a Scandal was quite creepy, yes. Interesting to read your mini-review of Never Let Me Go. I thought it was about finding meaning in life and arranging oneself with inevitable death and also, about what makes a human human. Never thought it was about god but now that you mentioned it, the visit in the ending does fit to that theme... Hm.