Now this is a hard one… when you read as many books as I do and you read mostly what you like, asking to choose only three titles is mind-boggling. After much thought, I’d have to say that these were the most enjoyable reads. You know, the kind of stories you get lost in and lose track of time, the author transports you to another universe where words sing to you and human nature unfolds before your very eyes. The most wonderful thing about these titles is that two of the authors are completely new to me and the third, I had only read one previous book from.
Three Horses by Erri de Luca
I picked this gem of a novella in a book sale and had no idea what to expect. Written by an Italian, I had my doubts, as my previous experience with Italian literature was never to my liking. I’m happy that my curious nature overcame my reservations because never have I read a book with narrative so poetically written that the story was more of a calm soothing song rather than words read. More remarkably though is that this is a translation, which means both the author and translator have done a remarkable job.
It’s the story of a man who survived Argentina’s Dirty War and reminisces about life, the people that come into contact with him, and of course, women and past lovers. And for those of you who may still have doubts, the opening line of the book is: ‘I only read used books.’ Need I say more?
The Outsider by Albert Camus
The second new author that 2011 introduced me to was Albert Camus, the Algerian born French author who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1957. I read this novella in one uninterrupted sitting. There was no way to possibly stop at any point without destroying the magic of the protagonist, Meursault.
Meursault’s conscious is explored by the society around him when, because of his lack of emotion, he’s tried for a random act of violence which circumstances bestow upon him. There’s something naively likable and frustratingly recognizable about Meursault that both the reader and the characters in the book can recognize. It’s Camus’ keen observations of the human moral compass that puts this story in par with literatures’ greatest stories about the human condition.
The Maples Stories by John Updike
I can’t help but love Updike’s astute observations and portrayals of human relationships and infidelities. Only the second book I read from Updike’s oeuvre, the 18 short stories are about the Maples that Updike wrote about throughout his career. Collected here in one volume, they read like wildfire with each short story feeling like a self-contained chapter.
We see the rise and fall of Joan and Richard Maples’ relationship with a few stories that act as flashbacks and a story that concludes with their divorce and their becoming grandparents. Updike reveals every nuance of their infidelity to each other, their love to each other and their frustration with each other. No holds barred from a master of the craft.
I hope you will have the opportunity to explore some of these wonderful titles and let me know your thoughts on them.