The time for my favourite clichés about new dawns and chapters has come, and the time for rewinds along with it. My book journey this year has been one of thrill, tears and musing upon the experiences that I found in books. The following ten are the crème-de-la-crème; they are the books that I will carry with me whether for thee excitement they gave me, the emotions they imposed upon me, or the insight they provided.
10. The First Phone Call from Heaven – Mitch Albom
I have to admit, Albom is kind of losing his lustre, but this book is beautiful on so many levels. It is a typical Albom book; it explores an aspect of faith that I had not fully considered: It’s ability to transform; either to deliver from adversity or to enslave in ignorance.
9. Prayers for Bobby – Leroy Adams
I saw the movie; I cried, I cried, and I cried. I read the book, and oh I wept! The book opens with the suicide of a gay youth; throughout the reading experience, we delve into his story and the regrets of his mother who had opposed his sexual orientation deeming it an abomination. The book is not only the story of a gay young man, but also that of a mother coming to terms and accepting her ignorance that had cost her the life of her beloved son. It is a book about redemption, finding peace and acceptance of our own mistakes which dictate ours paths in life.
Mary, the mother, learns how powerful words and judgments can be, and uses those to try to make amends with her past in the hope of inspiring and changing lives by attempting to break the silence and ignorance that took her son.
“There are children, like Bobby, sitting in your congregations. Unknown to you, they will be listening as you echo “amen”, and that will soon silence their prayers. Their prayers to God for understanding and acceptance, and for your love; but your hatred and fear and ignorance of the word gay will silence those prayers. So, before you echo “amen” in your home and place of worship. Think. Think and remember… a child is listening.”
This quote is from both the book and movie. A tissue box would be handful when you get to that part.
8. The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
The second instalment of the Cormoran Strike surpasses the first in brilliance.
The novel follows the detective as he tries to resolve another crime while delving into the world of publishing. Full of the suspense required in a detective novel, it delivers its promise to any detective novel fan. Rowling delivers the mastery of language, characterisation and style.
7. The Maze Runner – James Dashner (The Maze Runner trilogy)
I read through the book in less that 24 hours, and finished the trilogy in less that five days. The fist book is my favourite; I literally could not get my eyes off of it. Many a time I would feel a rush of adrenalin, and my knuckles would literally go white from clutching the book too hard.
Dashner is no master in literary skill, that is for sure, but the series guarantees a thrill.
6. An Unnecessary Woman – Rabih Alameddine
An insight into the daily life of Aaliya, an elderly woman living alone in Beirut. The novel follows her stream of consciousness and offers us her world to explore with all its beauty and bitterness.
Aaliyah is religiously dedicated to her books, of which she chooses one to translate every year. The fruit of her labor then she piles and stores in a box, never to see the light of day. She is an introvert by choice after all that her youth has offered her from experience with dealing with others. Her family had turned its back on her, so she decides to face the world alone.
The novel does not romanticise old age, but instead reveals the intricate details about the physical and mental hardships that come with it. The mere act of making tea seems like cooking, and drinking it like eating.
The novel is beautiful, harrowing and haunting. My thoughts were with Aaliya every night before I went to bed, and she found her way into my world. By the end of the novel, she succeeded in transforming into a real person; she felt so real that I wish I could meet her, talk to her and walk with her in the streets of Beirut where she loves to wander.
5. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle (Time Series)
One of the two gems of classic children fantasy that had eluded me. It’s a brilliant series, imaginative, thought provoking and magical.
The series literally altered my view on the world, and felt more like a fantastical dream than a collection of novels. The books are an odyssey in space and in time; they made me travel to the limits of the galaxy and the beginning of humanity, expanding my imagination along.
I could barely put them down as I explored the essence of love, fear and all the emotions that make us human. If there is one series that could truly capture the meaning and limitlessness of being human, the Time series is it.
4. The Persian Boy – Mary Renault (Alexander the Great trilogy)
I had never known more of Alexander than the fact that he was Great. As I read the first book “Fire from Heaven” and moved on to “The Persian Boy” I became obsessed with him.
The fictionalisation of Alexander’s childhood in “Fire From Heaven” offers us much understanding about the Great Alexander who will begin his career in conquering the world in the second and brilliant book “The Persian Boy”.
Told from his lover’s Bagoas’ point of view, The Persian Boy is a magnificent account of the beauty and tragedy, vision and dream of Alexander — the man who wanted to acquire the world and nearly succeeded. The ferocity of his ambition and the obsession with that dream of greatness make Alexander one of the most tragic heroes of all-time. He is an example about greatness– that it starts with one single dream; only if one choose to follow with any cost can he achieve it.
Lyrical in style and constantly alluding to Achilles (another tragic hero I so admire), the novel is truly a piece of beauty that showed me how one man could shape or destroy the whole world.
3. Crown of Midnight / Heir of Fire – Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass books #2, 3)
The Throne of Glass series continues with the fierce Celaena whose iron strength starts to reveal itself a thick shell. We discover much of her past in these two instalments, and start to get an understanding that her journey is only but beginning.
Fast-paced and imaginative, the series succeeds in constructing a world I can easily delve into. I wonder how much time it will take for it to reach the success it deserves, and am confident movie rights are being bargained at the moment.
2.The Charioteer – Mary Renault
2014 was Mary Renault’s year for me just as 2012 was John Green’s. One of the most beautiful novels I’ve read so far, in style, theme and reference.
The title The Charioteer alludes to Plato’s Chariot allegory: “The charioteer of the human soul drives a pair of horses; one of these is noble and of noble breed, but the other quite the opposite in breed and character. Therefore in our case the driving is necessarily difficult and troublesome.”
The Charioteer represents intellect, reason, or the part of the soul that must guide the soul to truth; one horse represents rational or moral impulse or the positive part of passionate nature (e.g., righteous indignation); while the other represents the soul’s irrational passions, appetites, or concupiscent nature. The Charioteer directs the entire chariot/soul, trying to stop the horses from going different ways, and to proceed towards enlightenment.
But the novel is not the story of The Charioteer; it is the story of Laurie Odell, a young gay man trying to find himself in the midst of world war. He is torn between the innocent Andrew whom he meets at the hospital after Lauri’s leg injury; and the experienced Ralph Lanyon, his childhood crush with whom he had recently found himself reconnected and who introduces him to a society of gay men.
1. The Last Unicorn – Peter S. Beagle
The second children’s fantasy gem that had eluded me. I first read of the book on J.K. Rowling’s wikipedia page where she states that it is one of her all-time favourite books and inspirations. And now I know why.
It’s beautiful, whimsical and imaginative. Harrowing, and breathtaking. It offers an expedition of self-discovery alongside a unicorn who is trying to find his lost breed. I found myself reading with tears in my eyes, not because the book is sad, but because it’s so beautiful that I wondered at the ability of words to take us so far, raise us so high and make us explore and believe in the human spirit.
This book is for the generations to come, and those that have passed. It literally encompasses humanity in its attempt to find itself and make sense of its world through the magic of love and acceptance, and dreams of tomorrow and its prospects.
If I could give out one gift to my readers this year it would be an advice: Read The Last Unicorn. I leave you with an excerpt from what is now one of my favourite books of all-time.
“The true secret in being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot already be wed to the princess when he embarks on his adventures, nor can the boy knock on the witch’s door when she is already away on vacation. The wicked uncle cannot be found out and foiled before he does something wicked. Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a very long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story.” Peter S. Beagle – The Last Unicorn.