Sometimes people ask me to recommend a book. Of course, the unspoken second part of that sentence is “that you think I would like”, and I think I mostly fail them by recommending books that I like, not thinking so much about them, but too bad. I’m a fan of literature, not some pulp concierge.
Here are a few books that have affected me deeply, and I’d make sure they were on my proverbial desert island.
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This novel is beautiful and entrancing. I didn’t know what magical realism could be prior to reading this.
Pastoralia, by George Saunders. Saunders is master of the funny/poignant. Read them all, but “Pastoralia” and “The End of FIRPO in the World” are my favorites.
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, by Italo Calvino. This book blew me away with its structure and genius.
The Island of the Day Before, by Umberto Eco. Another entrancing book. It’s funny that it’s a novel about the alteration of time, because I totally disappeared into it while reading, and didn’t return to reality for an entire day.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by JRR Tolkien. The ultimate time-swallower.
Oblivion, by David Foster Wallace. I feel like an improved human being when I read this. Like DFW was slightly more evolved, and a few of his fragments found their way into my skull. And it’s easier to deal with than his bigger beasts like Infinite Jest.
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. Master class in realism.
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. A waking nightmare with a mildy hopeful ending. Tough to do, but he did it well.
Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. A novel that exists simultaneously in massive and intimate scales. Remarkable.
The Bible, by many. If you can look past the religious complexities for a moment, it’s a truly amazing collection of short stories.