My favorite books
6 8.51. Vanity of Duluoz: An Adventurous Education, ... - Jack Kerouac
What is is about? The book describes the adventures of Kerouac's alter ego, Jack Duluoz, covering the period of his life between 1935 and 1946. The book includes reminiscences of the author's high school experiences in Lowell, Massachusetts, his education at Columbia University, and his subsequent naval service during World War II. It culminates with the beginnings of the beat movement. It was the last work published before Kerouac's death in 1969.
Personal note: It is not Kerouac most famous work but it is however my all-time favorite book. I think I have read it 3 times. I love the way it is written, the story is completely spellbinding and I could completely identify myself with the main character.
Quote: "If you dont [sic] say what you want, what's the sense of writing?"
6 8.82. I Shall Spit On Your Graves (J'irai cracher... - Boris Vian
What is is about? Published in Paris in 1946 as a hardboiled thriller loaded with sex and blood. The main character is a black albino who enters the white society to avenge himself.
Personal note: First of all, I just love the title. This author is more known for his feelgood books but this one is very violent and very dark. Not a very cheerful book but I found it just amazing.
Quote: "Jusqu'à ce moment-là, je n'avais pas pensé à toutes les complications dans lesquelles allait m'entraîner l'idée de démolir ces deux jeunes filles. " (translation: I didn't think about all the complications that will occur to me after destroying those two girls)
986 8.43. 1984 - George Orwell
What is is about? It is a dystopian novel by George Orwell about an oligarchical, collectivist society. Life in the Oceanian province of Airstrip One is a world of perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance, and incessant public mind control. The individual is always subordinated to the state, and it is in part this philosophy which allows the Party to manipulate and control humanity. In the Ministry of Truth (Minitrue, in Newspeak), protagonist Winston Smith is a civil servant responsible for perpetuating the Party's propaganda by revising historical records to render the Party omniscient and always correct, yet his meagre existence disillusions him to the point of seeking rebellion against Big Brother, eventually leading to his arrest, torture, and reconversion.
Personal note: It has been a while since I have read this book but it definitely left a great impression. A bleak and captivating version of the future, a great book. I haven't seen the movie version yet but I sure will one day.
Quote: "Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death."
4 8.54. La Condition Humaine (Collection Folio) - MALRAUX
What is is about? It is a novel about the failed communist revolution that occurred in Shanghai in 1927, and the existential quandaries facing a diverse group of people associated with the revolution. The novel occurs during a 21 day period mostly in Shanghai, China, and concerns mainly the socialist insurrectionists and people involved. The four protagonists are Ch’en Ta Erh (whose name is spelled Tchen in the French version of the book), Kyo Gisors, the Soviet emissary Katow, and Baron De Clappique. Their individual plights are intertwined throughout the book.
Personal note: Probably my favorite title "The Human Condition". I loved the combination of historical events, political topics and fiction. The main character is also a local guy and not some typical white guy hero. A great book.
Quote: "La pire souffrance est dans la solitude qui l'accompagne." (translation : the worst suffering is in the loneliness which goes with the suffering)
60 8.95. The Long Walk - Stephen King
What is is about? One hundred teenage boys participate in an annual walking contest called "The Long Walk," which is the "national sport". Each Walker must maintain a speed of at least four miles per hour; if he drops below that speed, he receives a verbal warning (which can be erased by walking for one hour without being warned). If a Walker with three warnings (given for every 30 seconds of being below speed) slows down again, he is "ticketed". The meaning of this term is intentionally kept vague at first, but it soon becomes clear that "buying a ticket" means to be shot dead by soldiers riding in half-tracks along the roadside. Walkers may be shot immediately for certain serious violations, such as trying to leave the road or attacking the half-track. The half-tracks use electronic equipment to precisely determine a Walker's speed.
Personal note: When I was about 15 years old, all my best friends were all reading Stephen King books at the same time. I couldn't believe that those books were that good. I ended up reading 6 of his books and indeed none of them were really impressive (Ok, The Shining was pretty cool...)... except for The Long Walk. This story was just great and I just loved the concept. Funny it hasn't been adapted in a movie. Maybe it is better that way considering that most of those adaptations are pretty lame... But I just read Frank Darabont has bought the rights and may adapt it one day. That could be awesome!
Quote: "Garraty wondered if it was embarrassing, being shot in front of people, and guessed by the time you got to that you probably didn't give a tin whistle."
9 8.76. Plexus: The Rosy Crucifixion II - Henry Miller
What is is about? It is the second book in Henry Miller's fictionalized account of his early life with his second wife, Mona. Plexus describes Miller's struggles to find himself as a writer; shares with the reader many of his strange and symbolic dreams; explores Miller's various relationships with many of his friends, for example Ulric, O'Mara, and Karen; details many of Miller's intellectual passions, amidst the framework of his relationship to "Mona", a character based on his second wife, June.
Personal note: It is a fascinating story. I loved the way it is written. I read Nexus (part 3) and at last the infamous Sexus (part 1) but my favorite remains Plexus.
Quote: "The days passed as in a dream, and the nights were the continuation of some other dream."
223 8.17. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer - Patrick Suskind
What is is about? Set in 18th century France, Perfume relates the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. Born lacking a personal odour (a fact other people find disquieting) but endowed with an incomparable sense of smell, he apprentices himself to a perfumer and becomes obsessed with procuring the perfect scent that will make him fully human. In the process, he creates perfumes—presumably based on pheromones—that powerfully manipulates human emotions, murdering 15 girls to take their scent.
Personal note: I just loved this book. How can you write about smell ? It sounds impossible but Suskind just did it. A great story which has been adapted in a great movie.
Quote: "And suddenly he knew that he had never found gratification in love, but always only in hatred – in hating and being hated."
344 8.28. The Stranger - Albert Camus
What is is about? The title character is Meursault, a French Algerian who seemingly irrationally kills an Arab man whom he recognises in French Algiers. The story is divided into Parts One and Two: Meursault's first-person narrative view before and after the murder, respectively.
Personal note: A rather bleak but so fascinating story. A total anti-hero tale with lots of philosophical meanings.
Quote: "On my way out, I was even going to shake his [the policeman's] hand, but just in time, I remembered that I had killed a man."
405 8.39. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
What is is about? It is the multi-generational story of the Buendía Family, whose patriarch, José Arcadio Buendía, founds the town of Macondo, the metaphoric Colombia. The non-linear story is narrated via different time frames, a technique derived from the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges.
Personal note: A mesmerizing saga. It is quite huge and describes a family, generation after generation up to 8 generations. The writing style is great and keeps you on the edge until the end.
Quote: "A person doesn't die when he should but when he can."
316 810. American Psycho - Bret Easton Ellis
What is is about? Set in Manhattan and beginning on April Fools' Day 1989, American Psycho spans roughly three years in the life of wealthy young investment banker Patrick Bateman. Bateman, 26 years old when the story begins, narrates his everyday activities, from his daily life among the upper-class elite of New York to his forays into murder by nightfall.
Personal note: What a book! Again, it is still very bleak and I won't say it is a feel-good book... But it is so spellbinding. Loved the movie aswell.
Quote: "She placed the file on top of the desk before asking, "Doin' the crossword?" dropping the g in "doing" -- A pathetic gesture of intimacy, an irritating stab at forced friendliness."
366 8.311. A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
What is is about? It is a dystopian novella, written from the perspective of a seemingly unapologetic protagonist. Alex, a young teenager living in near-future socialist England, leads his gang on nightly orgies of opportunistic, random violence.
Personal note: Like most of the people (I guess), I have first seen the film and then read the book. What's funny is that even if the movie is a rather good adaptation, there are still some differences, mainly the end. Anyway, they are both very interesting.
Quote: "The Korova milkbar sold milk-plus, milk plus vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultraviolence."
9 7.912. Voyage Au Bout De La Nuit (Folio) - Louis-Ferdinand Celine
What is is about? This semi-autobiographical work describes antihero Ferdinand Bardamu. Bardamu becomes a medical doctor and establishes a practice in a poor Paris suburb, the fictional La Garenne-Rancy. The novel also satirizes the medical profession and the vocation of scientific research. The disparate elements of the work are linked together by recurrent encounters with Léon Robinson, a hapless character whose experiences parallel, to some extent, those of Bardamu. As its title suggests, Voyage au bout de la nuit is a nihilistic novel of savage, exultant misanthropy, combined, however, with cynical humour. Céline expresses an almost unrelieved pessimism with regard to human nature, human institutions, society, and life in general.
Personal note: Again, a anti-hero... It is pretty dark stuff but I guess I love this kind of things. Hugely influential on modern literature. A great masterpiece.
Quote: "An unfamiliar city is a fine thing. That's the time and place when you can suppose that all the people you meet are nice. It's dream time."
736 8.213. The Hobbit - J. R. R. Tolkien
What is is about? It is a fantasy novel and children's book. It follows the quest of home-loving hobbit Bilbo Baggins to win a share of the treasure guarded by the dragon, Smaug. Bilbo's journey takes him from light-hearted, rural surroundings into darker, deeper territory. The story is told in the form of an episodic quest, and most chapters introduce a specific creature, or type of creature, of Tolkien's Wilderland. By accepting the disreputable, romantic, fey and adventurous side of his nature and applying his wits and common sense, Bilbo develops a new level of maturity, competence and wisdom.
Personal note: My father gave me this book when I was just a kid and I just loved it. When I was done, my father gave me then The Lord of the Rings trilogy but after 100 pages I got bored and just dropped it... I found The Hobbit was really exciting and I just loved it.
Quote: "They wondered what evil fate had befallen him, magic or dark monsters; and shuddered as they lay lost in the forest."
39 714. Stupid White Men ...And Other Sorry Excuses ... - Michael Moore_II
What is is about?Although the publishers were convinced it would be rejected by the American reading public after the September 11, 2001 attacks, it spent 50 consecutive weeks on the New York Times bestseller list (eight weeks at #1) for hardcover nonfiction. The book is highly critical of recent U.S. government policies in general, and the policies of the Bush administration in particular.
Personal note: I'm a big fan of Michael Moore's movies so when I had the opportunity to read one of his books, I didn't miss it. And I wasn't disappointed! Like his movies, it is at the same time very sharp and very funny at the same time. So, it is pretty informative but also very entertaining.
Quote: "White people scare the crap out of me. … I have never been attacked by a black person, never been evicted by a black person, never had my security deposit ripped off by a black landlord, never had a black landlord … never been pulled over by a black cop, never been sold a lemon by a black car salesman, never seen a black car salesman, never had a black person deny me a bank loan, never had a black person bury my movie, and I've never heard a black person say, 'We're going to eliminate ten thousand jobs here - have a nice day!"
366 8.215. Dune (Science Fiction) - Frank Herbert
What is is about? Set in the far future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar empire where planetary fiefdoms are controlled by noble houses that owe an allegiance to the Imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides (the heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and the heir of House Atreides) as he and his family accept control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the "spice" melange, the most important and valuable substance in the universe. The story explores the complex and multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the forces of the Empire confront each other for control of Arrakis and its "spice".
Personal note: A real science-fiction saga. I read it before watching the movie and it probably helped me to enjoy the movie more. A very captivating universe and characters. A great book.
Quote: "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
262 8.316. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
What is is about? It focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, an impoverished ex-student from St. Petersburg who formulates and executes a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker for her money. Raskolnikov argues that with the pawnbroker's money he can perform good deeds to counterbalance the crime, while ridding the world of a worthless parasite. This murder he also commits to test Raskolnikov's hypothesis that some people are naturally able to and also have the right to murder.
Personal note: Another anti-hero... A great tale of guilt, the story mostly deals with the mental struggle of the main character which I found very interesting. A very good classic.
Quote: "If he has a conscience he will suffer for his mistake. That will be punishment-as well as the prison."
691 817. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
What is is about? Set in London of AD 2540 (632 A.F. in the book), the novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology and sleep-learning that combine to change society. The future society is an embodiment of the ideals that form the basis of futurism.
Personal note: Another dystopian future tale. I'm rather a fan of 1984 but this one is pretty good too. Huxley has a very good writing style.
Quote: "What man has joined, nature is powerless to put asunder."
46 8.418. The New York Trilogy - Paul Auster
What is is about? The first story, City of Glass, features a detective-fiction writer become private investigator who descends into madness as he becomes embroiled in a case. The second story, Ghosts, is about a private eye called Blue, trained by Brown, who is investigating a man named Black on Orange Street for a client named White. The last one , The Locked Room, is the story of a writer who lacks the creativity to produce fiction.
Personal note: Those 3 stories are originally detective stories but it really goes beyond that, even touching metaphysics. 3 fascinating stories.
Quote: "Every life is inexplicable. No matter how many facts are told, no matter how many details are given, the essential thing resists telling."
422 7.819. On the Road - Jack Kerouac
What is is about? It is a largely autobiographical work that was based on the spontaneous road trips of Kerouac and his friends across mid-century America. It is often considered a defining work of the postwar Beat Generation that was inspired by jazz, poetry, and drug experiences. While many of the names and details of Kerouac's experiences are changed for the novel, hundreds of references in On the Road have real-world counterparts.
Personal note: It is Kerouac's most famous book. I'm rather a Vanity of Duluoz fan (see N.1) but this book is still very good too. By the way, the movie version is coming soon.
Quote: "Somewhere along the line I knew there'd be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me."
718 8.420. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rin... - J. R. R. Tolkien
What is is about? It is an epic fantasy novel abd a sequel to The Hobbit, but eventually developed into a much larger work. The novel begins in the Shire, as Frodo Baggins inherits the Ring from Bilbo. Both are unaware of its origin, but Gandalf the Grey, a wizard, learns of the Ring's history and advises Frodo to take it away from the Shire. Frodo leaves, taking his gardener and friend, Samwise Gamgee, and two cousins, Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took, as companions.
Personal note: As a kid, I found it quite boring (see N.11) but when I heard that the trilogy was adaptated by Peter Jackson, I decided to read the whole trilogy before watching the 1st movie. I did it and this time, I really loved it. The only low point is that, when I watched the movies, I already knew the whole story... But still definitely worth it!
Quote: "You say the ring is dangerous, far more dangerous than I guess. In what way?"
25 821. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
What is is about? It is the only published novel by Oscar Wilde.The novel tells of a young man named Dorian Gray, the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward. Basil is impressed by Dorian's beauty and becomes infatuated with him, believing his beauty is responsible for a new mode in his art. Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, a friend of Basil's, and becomes enthralled by Lord Henry's world view. Espousing a new hedonism, Lord Henry suggests the only things worth pursuing in life are beauty and fulfillment of the senses. Realizing that one day his beauty will fade, Dorian expresses a desire to sell his soul to ensure the portrait Basil has painted would age rather than himself. Dorian's wish is fulfilled, plunging him into debauched acts. The portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, with each sin displayed as a disfigurement of his form, or through a sign of aging.
Personal note: Most of the time, Oscar Wilde work is pretty sarcastic but still rather humoristic and cheerfull but this story is very dark and works more like a thriller/psychopath story. A fascinating book.
Quote: "But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face."
14 9.322. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium ... - Stieg Larsson
What is is about? December 2002, Mikael Blomkvist, publisher of the Swedish political magazine Millennium, loses a libel case involving allegations about billionaire industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström. He is sentenced to three months in prison, and ordered to pay hefty damages and costs. Soon afterwards, he is invited to meet Henrik Vanger, the retired CEO of the Vanger Corporation, unaware that Vanger has checked into his personal and professional history; the investigation of Blomkvist's circumstances has been carried out by Lisbeth Salander, an unusual young woman who works as a surveillance agent with Milton Security; even Salander's boss, Armansky, has doubts about her but is afraid to enquire too closely into her background.
Blomkvist is promised considerable financial reward and solid evidence against Wennerström, in exchange for writing the Vanger family history. Vanger believes that his great-niece, Harriet, was murdered by a member of the family 36 years earlier, and has spent the intervening years obsessively but unsuccessfully seeking the answer to the mystery. Harriet disappeared at a time when nearly every member of the family was present on the island where the Vanger estate is, but when the island was, temporarily, effectively cut off from the mainland by an accident blocking the only access bridge. Blomkvist moves to the island and begins his research into the history of the Vanger family and Harriet's disappearance.
Personal note: After watching the Swedish movie adapation and the American remake, I was really eager to read this book. Eventually, in my opinion, the Swedish movie remains the best version of this spellbinding story but I still enjoyed this book very much.
Quote: "Everyone has secrets. It's just a matter of finding out what they are."
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