Cool People And The Books They Love #1

featuring Matthew K. Firpo, illustration by Ethem Onur Bilgiç, curated by BookSerf

We love books! And we love people who love books. That’s why we created the reader to reader book sharing platform Book Serf, so you can borrow directly from the owner of a book, and share your own books with passionate strangers.

We set out on a quest to talk with each person whose life and work we admire about the 10 books that most influenced them.

Matt is one of the founders of Magna Carta Media, a film production studio with a great aesthetic style. Here is a list of his 10 favourite books, with hook lines about each of them.

The English Patient — Michael Ondaatje

A singular read. I always ask someone if they’ve ever been in love, before they read this book. If the answer is “no”, I tell them to wait. This book cuts to the very core of what love means, to oneself, and to those who are loved. Set against the backdrop of the Second World War, a time of changing nations and great devastation — The English Patient explores the devastation of morality, and the cost of loving another. It’s a powerful work, and one of my absolute top favourites. As a filmmaker, the book also provides an interesting case — as the film adaptation runs long for movie standards, and yet the book can be read in a single day (or a single sitting in the case of my first reading). A lasting work.

A Soldier of the Great War — Mark Helprin

A wonder of magic, love, and a life well-lived. At the risk of creating an obvious theme here, this is a tale of great love, during the Great War. Following the incredible life of a septuagenarian professor of Aesthetics, Mark Helprin’s work is a tapestry of another time, focused on the very minutiae of life. It captures an entire human lifespan, the incredible, the impossible, and the otherwise — it’s the kind of book I read every few years, and yet means something completely different to me every time I do.

“It’s the kind of book I read every few years, and yet means something completely different to me every time I do.”

The Road — Cormac McCarthy

A crushing work of must-read fiction. I read it in a single sitting on a transcontinental flight, and it lingered with me for months after. A much-lauded (see: Pulitzer Prize-Winner) book, it captures a haunting vision of the future, one of ash and dust and bones. More than anything, it’s an exploration of the love between father and son, and the limits of survival — it’s a harrowing read that casts shadows long after it’s finished.

Galapagos — Kurt Vonnegut

Our first comparatively “light” work on the list, if an apocalyptic satire is your idea of light. A brilliant, biting, farcical work of Vonnegut in his prime — I could have filled this list entirely with the works of Kurt Vonnegut, but settled for the one I’ve most recently re-read. His collected works will always bear re-reading — but Galapagos is a wild, time-traveling, rule-breaking romp through how the world dies, and yet lives on. Set in Ecuador (and the titular Galapagos Islands) during the end of the civilised world, it’s a classic of wit and forward-thinking, that jumps through time and space like so many pages of a book.

“I could have filled this list entirely with the works of Kurt Vonnegut.”

Cloud Atlas — David Mitchell

A beautiful, fascinating take on multi-linear storytelling, and voice — it’s a brilliant read, and deeply explores themes of humanity, tragedy, and the human soul. Written as a series of broken “missives,” some letters, some journals, some simply omniscient stories, we jump through millennia, connected only by the threads of theme and soul. It’s a brilliant read that asks of it’s reader — challenging you as it inspires.

A Farewell to Arms — Ernest Hemingway

My first “classic” on the list — it’s a brooding, important work written from first hand experience of a terrible war. Hemingway inspired generations, those who try to write like him and those who try to live like him are many — start with the original.

“I read the entire pantheon of Fleming’s Bond series in less than a month.”

Casino Royale — Ian Fleming

If you’ve never read a James Bond novel, you should. They won’t win awards for much of anything, but they read like you wouldn’t believe — the language jumps off the page at you, a time when the good guys were still good and the bad guys were still German. Pure pulp fiction, the immortal character of James Bond is worth getting to know first-hand — I read the entire pantheon of Fleming’s Bond series in less than a month. Short, whip-sharp adventures of beautiful women and nefarious villains — wrapped up in cutting dialogue and endlessly quotable scenarios of daring.

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials Trilogy) — Phillip Pullman

A stunning work of fantasy, billed as a children’s book but far from it. It follows a young girl named Lyra on a dark quest to save her friend, that evolves into a trilogy that explores the very death of God. Inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost, the series was written as a sort of rebuttal to C.S. Lewis’ Narnia — a Rousseauian adventure of witches, talking bears-of-war, and truth-telling compasses. It’s a sprawling read that can be enjoyed by children, as much as it can be analysed, reflected on, and explored by adults.

The Magicians — Lev Grossman

A biting, cynical Harry Potter for grown ups. I read this in a matter of days, at a very particular time in my life. Set in a world like ours, but with secret universities for magicians (think, college) the book explores a realists view of magic. A work of meta-fiction, The Magicians looks at fantasy worlds and why we as readers enjoy them, while creating a fascinating and original fantasy world of it’s own. It skilfully turns some classic mono-mythic tropes on their head. It also has one of the heaviest endings I’ve read in recent modern fiction. A telling exploration of growing up lost, and the cost of moving on.

Wyrms — Orson Scott Card

As a great admirer of Orson Scott Card’s brilliant science-fiction work (but critic of his personal bigotry), Wyrms is one of his lesser-known, always brilliant, science-fantasy reads. With a young princess in the lead, she’s a child genius who sets out on an epic quest across her brutal planet to discover the source of an ancient evil. Also very strongly allegorical, dealing with lust, caution, and most of all free will — it’s a fascinating work that paints a vivid picture of a world vastly different then our own.

Recently we started asking book lovers their favorite 3 books and visualizing the results on the walls of beautiful İstanbul. If you’d like to participate here’s the link. And here’s the video:

And about the series Cool People And The Books They Love: We are looking for cool people all over the world to ask about their favorite books.

Any tips? =)

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