Five books everyone should read and why

  1. The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov

If you do not believe in love, read it. If you still do not believe in love, re-read it. This will do.

A stupendous, crazy story of love, magic, and devotion. Imagine the Devil himself decides to make an appearance on this planet. And what better place than Moscow? Naked maids, a flying hog, a speaking cat (named Behemoth), a mental asylum, people coming out of a mirror, Christ and Pontius Pilate, the grand ball at Satan’s with skeletons arriving in coffins and coming out of the fireplace — what else is there to wish for?

My personal favourite which I read every several years to remind myself that there’s magic and the inexplicable in the world, and that it ought to be honoured. There’s the duality of good and evil, and there is the all-conquering love.

(By ConfusedLarch. Source: DeviantArt.com)

2. À la recherche du temps perdu, Marcel Proust

If you feel like *eye rolling* followed by pressing the ‘tl; dr’ button, hold on — a button like that does not exist. Luckily.

1,267,069 words, 3,031 pages, 9,609,000 characters — that’s the numbers. Numbing numbers. And, just imagine, no Microsoft Word for the guy to type all of this up!

The longest novel ever written as recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records. It took me one year and a half to read it (with one-month breaks at times) and was a delight every step of the way. Swann’s Way.

(Source: the-curious-kitchen.com)

Imagine waking up in a room, still sleep-hazy, and not sure which place and stage of life you are in and trying to figure it out by looking around and seeking help from the surroundings. It is like a postparty feeling, minus the hangover. We all know this stupefying and, to certain degree, delightful feeling of being lost in time and space. This is the opening of the book.

What follows is the bit that everyone knows — the taste of madeleines dipped in tea at grandma’s (without her nagging: ‘Eat some more, my dear! You look so thin.’). I confess I started buying madeleines after I had read the book and I do not even like sugar (!).

The novel is full of recollections and reminiscences — it makes one painfully aware of the elapsing time and… missed opportunities. In addition to that, the mastery of the Proustian language is stupendous — a sentence 1.5 pages long is not uncommon. And if swooning was what we did in this day and age, this books would definitely be a reason for it.

3. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Everyone knows the opening sentence. Not everyone knows how great the novel is. My English Literature professor kept telling us, sleep-deprived, sponge-like, sophomore students, how once Margaret Thatcher (whatever you think of her does not matter for the time being) was asked about her impressive scope of vocabulary and its origins, to which she said she had read all books by Dickens. Indeed his books are mines of vocabulary, and there are no strikes in sight.

Taking place in the tempestuous times (not petticoat as Herrick advised!) of the French revolution, a classic that taught me words such as tumbril (good for transporting lifeless bodies) and a whetting-stone (and a bloody one, on which the great unwashed whetted their knives only to slaughter some more people the very next minute). It is not only a tale of London and Paris but also a tale of friendship and honour. One that you will find uplifting, encouraging, and hope-giving. IF you read it.

(Source: etsy.com)

4. Shakespeare, anything (sorry!)

(Source: independent.co.uk)

To think he’s rusty, you’d be mistaken. Once you get into the flow of his writing, it is like a gallopade. Look ma, no hands!

Very often poor Will is considered an old, inadequate chap, who is more irrelevant now than Fifty Shades of Awful. Well, take a look at this one and judge for yourself:

SONNET 135

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,

And Will to boot, and Will in overplus;

More than enough am I that vex thee still,

To thy sweet will making addition thus.

Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,

Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?

Shall will in others seem right gracious,

And in my will no fair acceptance shine?

The sea all water, yet receives rain still

And in abundance addeth to his store;

So thou, being rich in Will, add to thy Will

One will of mine, to make thy large Will more.

Let no unkind no fair beseechers kill;

Think all but one, and me in that one Will.

Saucy, funny, and entertaining. Will thou not agree?

5. La Nausée, Jean-Paul Sartre

I had so many to choose from for this one and would like to say sorry to my dear Henry Miller and his ultra-dense, filth-filled sentences, Elfriede Jelinek and her twisted Sprache, hardy Thomas and his bucolics, and William Faulkner teamed with John Steinbeck proudly standing in the American corner of my Literature Fight Club.

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JP gets the final place for his angsty, bespectacled, permasmoking, existentialist image and the waft of Frenchness about him (Godard anyone???). And his writings. AND the YOLO of yesteryears: Existence precedes essence. Plus, he declined the Nobel Prize for Literature and was the author of the famous line: Hell is other people (L’enfer, c’est les autres). Can he get any cooler?

I know Wikipedia says the book is a philosophical one (and a nauseating vision of Plato and his cave of shadows has just attacked your senses), but give it a try and you shall doubt Wikipedia (and Jimmy Wales’ appeal for your monies)!

The novel is about a guy, Antoine Roquentin, who writes a diary (as we all do) and experiences a multitude of personal issues such as self-doubt and self-hatred. And why not? Does it all have to be sunshine, flowers, love, and soya latte? He is displeased with his own existence and disgusted by it, like we all were on learning a kardashian released a selfie book. La Nausée is like the adult version of the Catcher in the Rye, one you would not be ashamed to admit you had read past your adolescence.

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As an avid reader and an aficionado of classic literature, this is my humble attempt at convincing you to read more, and to discover what classics have to offer. Not all of their ramblings are dull and boring! Masterful and elegantly-written mental pabulum is a pleasure to read. Give it a chance, enjoy it, savour it, and reach for more.

And I wish you all become like this little one — and I do not mean cuteness-wise: