My top 10:
John Steinbeck – East of Eden
It bears some kind of irony that I discovered this book during a time in my life when only quite rarely I felt the desire to read. In hindsight I’d say that I was probably suffering from some sort of depression, a kind of numbness, a state where letters don’t reach you and every word sounds the same. You know, the thing that happens, when you’re testing perfumes and after a while, every scent smells the same, because you cannot differ between them anymore and that’s how I felt towards the arts back then.
Why read about love, when I would probably not feel it ever again, why cry to a song, when sadness was not only in music, but was in everything else, the billboard anouncements on my way to the subway stations, the silence in my flat, when I came home, the beeping tone of the supermarkt check out scanner, the grey sky above a city that seemed to not want to give me shelter anymore.
And books, too, did not seem to give me shelter anymore. I did not manage to get into this state that is required to really enjoy a book. No calmness. No curiosity. And then East of Eden came along. I can’t remember why I bought it or where. But I remember that, at some point, page 70 or 120 or maybe 140 I suddenly felt something like… enjoyment. And altough life kept being sad for a while and most days still felt like a long, disturbing silence, for an hour a day I forgot.
Some parts of the book let me hold my breath in suspension, some parts brought tears to my eyes, because of the language that is Steinbeck’s, one that is full of wisdom and poetry and exactness and clarity at the same time. And how I love the setting. Somehow, as long as I can remember, I always felt drawn to the United States, was fond of their writers, their bands, their culture of outspokenness. This book is truly American, in the best way possible. The metaphors, the dialogues, the characters – everything in this book is so wonderfully composed and I would advise everyone to read it, because, in my opinion, it’s where you can find the beauty of literature in its purest form.
Ernest Hemingway – A Farewell To Arms
It was the first book by Hemingway that I’ve read and it remains my favourite of his to this day. I love Hemingways writing, it’s so reduced, but speaks of so much. Set (i.a.) at the borders between Italy, Austria and Switzerland – imagine the scenery – the story of A Farewell to Arms is one of love and disturbance, of war and escape.
WW1 somehow always provoked a weird, morbid fascination in me, the way a war makes a love story seem all the more urgent. I’ll never know why The Old Man And The Sea is often considered Hemingway’s best work, when – obviously – nothing comes close to A Farewell to Arms!
Simone de Beauvoir – Le Sang Des Autres
I love this woman! „La Deuxieme Sex“ (which, in German, is translated to something meaning „the other sex“ which is an awful translation, because it implies that there is a difference between the sexes, when that’s exactly what de Beauvoir was trying to disprove. She wanted to make clear that the biggest difference is in the hierarchy, so „second sex“ is what it should be) changed my life, but Le Sang des Autres is my favourite of hers. It’s so romantic and proposes so many philosophical questions and answers only a few of them, but that’s what makes it so charming and really makes you think.
I read it when I was 17 and was dealing with all these topics and questions that come up in this book. What am I responsible for and what stays of me when I’m gone?
Sylvia Plath – The Bell Jar
One of the saddest books ever written. I probably read it at a far too young age (I was 12), but it still had a very huge impact on me. If you want to know what if feels like to be a (sad) woman sometimes, read this book.
F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Beautiful And The Damned
I love the language of Fitzgerald so much! I feel like you could open a book by him on a random page, read one sentence and instantly know it’s him, because he has such a distinctive style of writing. The Beautiful and the Damned has some of my favourite lines in literature ever written. I really recommend this book, much more than Great Gatsby which, in my opinion, is only average compared to Fitzgerald’s other works.
Milan Kundera – The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí)
the most poetic book in the world ❤ ❤ ❤
James Baldwin – Giovanni’s Room
The way he writes about love. The way he is so empathetic towards the way men and women feel and describes their inner torments so astonishingly well. The way you always see his characters so clearly while reading, because he is shaping their personality so perfectly with his rich vocabulary. The way James Baldwin always makes me cry.
Gerald Kersh – The Dead Look On
I wrote this book down on my „books to read“ list ages ago. When I found that list again, I did not know how this book made it on there, or where I could have read or heard about it . I bought it anway, which was a really, really good decision. The Dead Look On has such a great story telling and is so heartbreakingly sad, I honestly thought about this book daily, even weeks after I’ve finished it. And especially in these times, when totalitarian systems are on the rise again in Europe, this book becomes even more important.
Truman Capote – In Cold Blood
I promise you that, once you start reading this book, you will not put it away until you’ve finished it.
Franz Kafka – Der Verschollene
Or literally anything else by Kafka.
(11. Hermann Hesse – Der Steppenwolf & Das Glasperlenspiel & Unterm Rad)