Books of the bygone year
Seven books read last year, that you should read before the next.
A murder mystery that reads nothing like an Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel. Set in the Pacific Northwest, the memories of a small multitude of characters take us through an intricate, interconnected story of love, societal problems, and history. The complex plot is balanced by Guterson’s beautiful writing, which does the incomparable beauty of the land complete justice. This is a must read for any modern-lit fan.
The Idiot - Fyodor Dostoevsky
This is a most amazing story about Prince Myshkin, a Jesus figure, and his inability to exist in the world he was born into. His love for everyone, especially the burdened souls, make his character one of the best in the literary world. It is a depressing, heavy novel yet I found the Prince’s goodness to be stronger in my memory of the book than the statement made about his impossible character.
Trainspotting - Irvine Welsh
It takes a good few pages to master the Edinburgh colloquialisms, but it is well worth the feat. The chapters are narrated by different characters in a stream-of-conscious style telling the story of a group of addicts. It’s vulgar and you’ll learn a lot about heroin but it is a great commentary on Scottish society (and so much more!).
Cannery Row - John Steinbeck
Though it is one of his shorter novels, Cannery Row lacks none of Steinbeck’s genius. In little over 100 pages, an entire town-full of characters are developed. I fell in the love with Doc, his patience with the townsfolk who only wanted to do good by him. It’s a simple story that tells of could-be real life and the littler, simpler things people do for one another.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith
It’s a hard life for the Nolan family in 1900s Brooklyn but the relentlessness of Katie Nolan, the passionate pursuits of Francie Nolan, and the failings of Johnny Nolan in everything but loving his children make this bleak, dreary life look vibrant and full. My favorite part is what Francie does with her daily allowance of coffee: she holds the cup to feel the warmth and, without taking a sip, dumps the coffee right down the drain, the one luxury afforded to her in this life of hardship.
Far From the Madding Crowd - ThomasHardy
Where to begin! Thomas Hardy is incredibly poetic; his style of prose makes the otherwise simple and sometimes predictable plot into a masterpiece. Farmer Oak, the lead character, made his way into my heart within three pages and he won’t be leaving anytime soon. For all that is good, read this book!
My Ántonia - Willa Cather
It took me a while to get into this book, but when I did it became one of the years’ best. Jim Burden narrates the story of his move to Montana and the development of his friendship with a Bohemian girl, Ántonia. I thought it was reminiscent of a Western novel but without any of the cowboy action. I love books like this where a narrator tells a story about someone else but magnificently develops his own character in the process.