Sunday, 12 August 2012

Memorable books

I love to read - always have, always will. I consider myself a wannabe avid reader. However, my ever growing TBR list and the time I have available for reading simply don't relate, but I can still dream. At lunch with a friend yesterday, we got to talking about what we're both currently reading. My friend is the bookworm I long to be, with boxes of books she has read, wants to read or plans to reread. Reread? Such luxury!

She described a teen novel she is currently reading (and whose name escapes me) that she considered quite graphic - gruesomely so, to the point that she couldn't get certain images of decapitated bodies out of her head for the past week. We pondered the genre of teen fiction and wondered whether it was any different to some of classic books that are common novel studies in high school. I was thinking of Lord of the Flies by William Golding (which I absolutely hated). She said that she found A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess extremely disturbing to read; she would force herself to read a paragraph at a time. I agreed, saying that it took me a couple of months to read a page at a time and that I still find so much of the content disturbing today. Although neither of us actually liked A Clockwork Orange, we considered it to be a truly memorable book.

Last night, I got to thinking about other books I've read that have been truly memorable. They are not necessarily books I have loved but for various reasons are simply unforgettable. I made a quick list on my phone, then looked back through my blog tonight as I started writing this post. Lo and behold, I had completed the 15 books meme a couple of years ago where I had made a similar list. (Obviously the post itself was actually less than memorable for me, as I was only reminded of it when I went searching for book reviews I had written!) Interestingly enough, most of the books on last night's list were on my 15 books meme.

A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
Truly disturbing. I found the rape scenes described in almost unbearable detail but couldn't stop reading. The prison and rehabilitation sections were simply gruesome, as was adapting to life without being able to experience one's greatest (or only) pleasure. Psychologically tormenting.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis de Bernières
I don't think I have read any other book where I actually spontaneously laughed out loud then cried a few chapters later. Again, I found this to be a challenging read and think it took me a couple of months to finish, returning to it in between reading several other things. The empathy and humanness of the characters remains with me today. It's a shame the movie of the same name could not even come close to capturing this.

Wild Swans - Jung Chang
This is always one of my nominations for the Whitcoulls Top 100 list. I learned so much about life in communist China from reading Chang's account of her mother's and grandmother's lives. The courage and strength of the women trying to hold their families together in such trying circumstances is truly admirable.

Papillon - Henri Charrière
I found this book exhausting to read. With every thwarted attempt at escape, my hopes were raised and my spirits soared only to be dashed so cruelly as something inevitably went wrong and Papillon was back at square 1 (or worse) again. Another book that took me a long time to read as I needed to intersperse it with lighter content.

Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
It's sometimes hard to remember that this book is actually a novel. The story of a poor girl training to be a geisha gave readers a rare insight into the lives of Japanese women of a particular era. The characters were truly memorable; I could feel Sayuri's loneliness, her fear of Mother and her honour-bound drive to serve the life she was bought into. Another movie that could not capture the magic of the novel.

Mao's Last Dancer - Li Cunxin
Another autobiography set in communist China. We are introduced to a loving but poverty stricken family whose sixth son of seven is afforded a opportunity to join Madame Mao's prestigious Beijing Dance Academy. But, of course, not all that glitters is gold and with opportunity comes sacrifice. Li's first foray into the Western capitalist world is vastly different to the propaganda he and his countrymen were taught to believe.

What books would make it to your 'most memorable' list?

1 comment:

Dr.Mayurakshi said...


Captain Corelli's Mandolin has been on my TBR list since a long time. Hope to read it next month. A few of my memorable books (in no specific order):

1. Speak, memory- Nabokov
2.Words- Sartre
3. A Moveable Feast- Hemingway
4. Short Stories of Guy De Maupassant (my comfort read)
5. The Namesake- Jhumpa Lahiri
6. Waves-Virginia Woolf
7. We The Living- Ayn Rand
8. Snow-Pamuk
9. Speedpost- Shobhaa De (letters I could relate to)
10. Short Stories by Alice Munro
11. Remembrance of Things Past- Proust
12. Aunt Julia and The Scriptwriter- Mario Vargas Llosa
13. My Family and Other Animals- Durrell
14. Collected Stories-Saki
15. Great Expectations-Dickens

These have stayed on in my life, and I return to them every once in a while.