On this lazy Sunday afternoon of this Labor Day Weekend, I was thinking back to many a Sunday afternoons where I’d escape into a good book. This escape is incomparable. You can travel anywhere, without the cost or hassle of airlines. You can even be in two places at the same time, if you try hard enough. You can carry on intimate conversations with individuals across generations. These unseen generations can furthermore bring you into the past, or fling you into the future. And whichever way you are brought, somehow you are still at the very same time in the present, sitting there curled up with that book. And some books will engross you to the point of losing yourself completely. Sometimes losing self, and transforming into a completely different character. And the sad reality of it is that when i stop and think of all the amazing and wonderful books i’ve read, it has been many years since i’ve felt the same way I did while reading those books. I suppose that’s what happens. We grow older, which in turn speeds up how fast the weeks go by. The change in speed of time, changes our priorities. It is as if we don’t even have a single hour to set aside to escape. And so i’d love to break this cycle of reading to remember, so that I can go back and read to forget.
In no particular order, here are ten of my favorite books I’ve lost myself in:
1. This Side of Paradise- F. Scott Fitzgerald
This was one of my favorite books I read as a young adult. It seemed to do the best job of attempting to struggle with this fine line of immature adolescence and tender manhood. This book ends with one of my favorite ending lines I’ve ever read: “I know myself, but that is all.” ((You can read it for free online))
2. The Sun Also Rises- Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway embodies all of what literary ellipsis is. To me, I feel that there is nothing better than this notion that emotions are so tremendous that there are no words to adequately describe them.
3. Love in the Time of Cholera- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Aside from this being one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read, I love the fact that this book is more complex than most people think. It isn’t just a Hollywood style love story about love triumphing over all. If you take the time to ingest what is going on, you see that Ariza does the same thing many people who fall victim to love do. Ariza also is the victim of his surroundings and what others consider “ideal happiness.” I also am engrossed at this idea of love being a literal “illness.” ((Note: I have an upcoming post on this book))
4. A Farewell to Arms- Ernest Hemingway
I used to think that if I ever lived a life worthy of writing into a semi-authobiographical work, it would have to be as well-written as this Hemingway novel.
5. Demian- Hermann Hesse
The first book I read (oddly in Elementary School) which challenged me into thinking about opposing forces, within one’s consciousness. In some odd way, it encouraged me to challenge the status quo. This book embodies the realization of self.
6. Brothers Karamazov- Fyodor Dostoevsky
This was one of the most challenging books i’ve ever read. Not in the way that Ulysses is difficult, but rather one can get through it, but to really struggle with the numerous ethical debates surrounding faith, existence, and reasoning. No other work of fiction has tugged at the foundations of my mind, the way this did.
7. A Severe Mercy- Sheldon Vanauken (+ C.S. Lewis)
Hollywood romance is cliche. If you want to read something truly heart-wrenching and worth calling love, read this.
8. Travels with Charley- John Steinbeck
This is more a travelogue than a novel, but nonetheless reads effortlessly and inspires you to understand why everyone talks about taking road trips. I’m assuming that if Steinbeck had gone with other human beings rather than his dog, the travelogue would have played out much more differently… and by differently, i’d side with interesting different, but in a bad way.
9. The Catcher in the Rye- J.D. Salinger
I hate that High School required reading lists often tend to destroy the potential of certain books. (i.e. Great Gatsby). Luckily when I read this book, it was not required, and I was able to enjoy it aside from all the allusions that people spoke about. Yeah, sure, the loss of innocence was felt, but aside from that, I often think that some books are just meant to be read and meant to affect you in whatever ways they do. This is one of those books.
10. The History of Love- Nicole Krauss
“Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.” Yes. It’s like that part in the book where you can totally understand that part where you might see a girl who is absolutely beautiful. One part of your mind thinks: ‘Please don’t look at me.’ And part of you thinks: ‘Look at me.’ The quotes in this book will both blow your mind and both excite and depress your heart at the very same time.