1. white oleander, janet fitch; I first read this book when I was twelve, the same age as the protagonist and narrator of the novel. the book has changed my life. influenced my writing style, my interests, my need to know and explore art, my love for california and the absurd that are human lives. I have two different copies, one in czech and one in english that I had stolen from the high school library. I felt the book has been through a lot with me as I spent most of my junior year in the library and it wouldn’t deserve to be left in a shitty high school library. so I stole it.
2. paint it black, janet fitch; I waited a long time for this book. I remember when I read an interview with janet in a magazine, and then at the end of it, it said, a new book coming up. I was so excited, so happy. then the book came out, I went to the first bookstore and bought it right away. and then, paint it black was put on my bookshelf and left there for almost a year, untouched. I was afraid to read it, in case I didn’t like it. I thought it would affect the connection I feel towards white oleander. but eventually I picked up the book and didn’t put it down until the last page. janet fitch would never disappoint me. her writing style, her characters, the narrative. I can never stop reading.
3. the history of love, nicole krauss; I would have never bought the book had it not been for tumblr. I know this sounds insane but it’s true. I kept reading through quotes and passages from the book on various pages and each time I thought I need to read this entire book. I feel connected to the main character because of her heritage; many languages are used in the book including russian, french and polish. being able to understand each and a few others makes me feel related to the characters. and the first few lines must be one of the best in the history. when they write my obituary. tomorrow. or the next day. it will say, leo gursky is survived by an apartment full of shit. reading this book is pure happiness.
4. on the road, jack kerouac; I started reading this book on the plane when I first flew to america a few years back. I fell in love with the freedom, the people and in general, what it means to be on the road, wandering but not lost. I think when I finished reading, that’s when I was able to decide what I want my life to be. I decided always to be on the road. also this novel began my never-ending love for the beat generation. I’m planning a road trip somewhere this year.
5. the unbearable lightness of being, milan kundera; I think some of you are not even surprised this one is on the list. although I lived in czech republic for almost fifteen years of my life, I only read kundera’s novels while in hong kong. this was another one of books I had taken away from my school library. (yeah, maybe you were right. I was the reason there weren’t any good books left.) but I have lost that copy a while ago. the ways in which this book is touching and swallowing are impossible to list. more than a love story it is a philosophical text. I found that I enjoyed the book much more on the second and third reading. perhaps because it takes time to absorb every aspect of it.
6. human traces, sebastian faulks; I bought this book randomly. I just picked it up and without looking at it, I decided to buy it. turned out to be one of the happiest accidents. a fictional story about the true beginning of psychology and its first serious experiments. well-developed characters and insights into a broken mind combined with the complexity of human relationships. the amount of research that has been done for this book by the author almost qualifies the novel as a textbook for psychology students. also made me conduct my own research in a different way.
7. beloved, toni morrison; I think I was the only student in my entire year to enjoy this book. and when it comes to literary techniques; symbolism, non-chronological order, repetition, characterization and all of that; I am familiar with it inside out. two years of IB made me read the novel ten times. but that was in the classroom. even when I was outside, I would still pick up beloved and read my favorite pages. I’ve done a lot of additional research about the geography of the area and the history in general. when I visited the african-american national museum in washington dc, beloved was on my mind the entire time. I think as a piece of literary work, beloved is one of the most important ones in the american history.
8. heavier than heaven, charles r. cross; I don’t have to explain this one, do I? biography of kurt cobain. one of the best biographies ever written. there was a time when this was my bible, I read it every day for months. eventually I had memorized entire paragraphs without even realizing it. this book went everywhere with me during my first year in hong kong. it was all I was reading; it was the only thing that would get me through the day. eventually some of the negative slowly started disappearing, but the book has remained as one of the most significant I have read.
9. a million little lies, james frey; I first opened this book in a bookstore in dubai and after reading the first pages whilst standing I was hooked. addicted. but I didn’t have enough dirhams to pay for it. but it was an airport bookstore, so as soon as I landed back in hong kong I bought my copy at the terminal. an honest (well, maybe not) account of drugged out, crime-ridden years, but mostly an insight into an addicted mind and the sacrifices and consequences that come with such choice of lifestyle. this book entirely satisfied my addiction to addictions and everything that goes with it. again, my own writing style has been influenced by frey’s and I’m thankful for that. my friend leonard and bright shiny morning also belong to this list.
I just like writing lists.