Wednesday, January 28, 2015

All the cool kids read.

Updated: July 2016

I love books.
Like, in a creepy, obsessive sort of way.
Like, I'd kill a man in order to raise Ray Bradbury from the dead to write another book.
Like, I'd sell a kidney for the 3rd Passage book to be out already (edit - it came out and it was just as fantastic as I thought it would be).
Like, yeah, you get it.
It's a serious problem.

Here are some of the books I've had in bag throughout my travels. If you're looking for something worthwhile, give one of them a shot.

My heart goes out to Cambodia. You know how when you listen to a band and that first album you listen of theirs is always your favorite and forms the bar that you grade everything that comes after it? So, Cambodia is like that for me, being my first country I solo visited. It changed me. The people changed me. And the history changed me - history that is chilling. I remember when this book came out and the title always felt like it punched my heart and soul every time I saw it on the shelf. It was simple and powerful and unlike any title I'd ever seen. The book is just as good as the title. It deserves to be read. It's rough though, I won't lie. Told through a child's eyes, the genocide that happened here is told in a way that is unlike anything I've ever read. But not enough people know about this genocide (I wrote about this before) and the more people that know about what happened here the better. I did my thesis on resilience, and this author shows that as bad as life gets - as horrible and as shitty as human beings can be - the human spirit is stronger. It can survive through the absolute worst situations, even though the scars never really fade away.

The Beach
Alex Garland

First off, don't watch the movie. Besides Leo's performance, the entire film is garbage (that love scene in the water with the glowing plankton? Ughhhhhhhhhhh). And the book does an excellent job portraying a descent into madness and the eternal search for "something new" and exciting. After India and Burma and Sri Lanka though, this book has taken on a new meaning for me. Thailand, and many, many other countries embrace tourism to an extent that forever changes their culture. I've mentioned before that tourism can feel like that Walmart that smashes into a small town. The busyness of lights and sounds and people is great, but it can get to be too much. We naturally seem to want peace and a place of our own. What I love is that the book isn't just about the search - the character does find paradise - but the dangers and downsides of dreams coming true. Dreams have consequences. This is Lord of the Flies on drugs and I love it. The ending is very different than the movie and it's shocking and worth the price of admission alone. It has more cannibalism than the movie, too, so that's always a plus.

In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India
Edward Luce

India, as mentioned, is madness. Its economy has been climbing and there are a ton of reasons for this. And although this is fantastic news, there are problems that are either growing or staying stagnant, such as literacy rate and poverty. This book tries to tackle the massive problems and successes of an entire subcontinent. India is huge, and each state is like a new country, so it's a huge undertaking. It's a fascinating read.

Fair warning, it's heavy stuff, so you might love it or it might end up being a better alternative to those Vicodins to fall asleep at night with. India is complicated and so is this book. Try to find the newly edited one.

The Plague
Albert Camus

Love me some existentialism (although, Camus hated this term) and needed to re-read this after finding it a random hostel. This classic book is about a small town that gets a case of the Bubonic plague, is quarantined, and its citizens must accept the fact that they most likely will all die in the worst, most painful way. Think about that for a moment. What would you do in that situation? Would you give up? Would you fight against the inevitable? Would you change your beliefs when witnessing and experiencing the worst of the worst? Or would you thrive on the struggle? Each character, vastly different, from the atheist to the pastor, fight death in their own way. It's not a book for everyone, but it is a book about everyone.

The Passage
Justin Cronin

Dear God, I love this book. I've read it twice now and it's getting better with each word. Brian, if you're reading this, thanks for getting me and everyone else at Borders hooked on this. It's magical writing and that rare book where I get so wrapped up in the characters that it destroys me, in real life, when something bad happens to them. Yes, it's about vampires, but it's not what you're thinking. Pinky promise. I've heard the term "popcorn fiction" but that's stupid and untrue. Not only does it pull at the heart strings, but it's as intelligent as most of the philosophy books I read. I think the book best portrays the concept of love and what it really means to love someone like a father, like a brother, and like a lover. And what it means to fight for that love, even in the most hopeless of situations.

Finding George Orwell in Burma
Emma Larkin

Burma has the nicest people in the world. There, I said it. And I stick by that like it's a scientific fact.

But behind the smiles is a lot of pain from a government that is ripped straight out of 1984. In fact, George Orwell used Burma as inspiration for that novel (which, for years, was banned) and Animal Farm. This is a beautiful book and really well written. Although I had read Orwell's books in school, I had no idea about his military past and the stories behind the ideas. I was always taught that his books were about Stalin, but that's not true at all (though, I see where the parallels are). It's a good dive into Burma history while exploring the tragic ramifications of a sneaky government built on power and control.

Doug Dorst/J.J. Abrams

I cannot believe I haven't mentioned this book. I got this book the first time I came to Thailand, and it's a massive, tome of a book that has interactive parts that require a whole table to use while reading it (maps and pictures and napkins and the list goes on). This book floored me. When I first nabbed it from a Thai bookstore, instead of experiencing the new world around me, I stayed at my hostel reading for hours and hours (much to the confusion of the staff). It took me a few months to get through it and took up a 1/4 of my bag. Room in a backpacker's bag is sacred, so I hope that tells you something. This is such a hard book to describe. It's a book written like an old, classic novel like Treasure Island mixed with juicy pulp mystery. But, there is another story written in the margins of the book about two college students who write back and forth to each other and slowly unravel a mystery and, uh, may or may not fall in love. In fact, this book is a romance at the heart, and it truly is one of the most special books I have ever had the privilege to read. It's a long, intensive read though so expect to have to dedicate time to it.

Currently Reading:

Shadows of the Wind
Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I'm a 1/3 of the way through the book and have already underlined over a
hundred different sentences that have knocked the wind from me. It's like one giant love-letter to the beauty and power of words (and to Barcelona). It reminds of when I first reading Les Miserables, and I - still to this day - don't know how Hugo was able to put words in such an order that made sentences and paragraphs works of art. Zafon crafts sentences that melt into you. I've also never cried and laughed so much in a book in recent memory. One of my old bosses at Borders, Marie, said it was the only book she ever re-read. I can't believe it has taken me this long to dive in. Unbelievable writing here. I don't even have to finish it to suggest with head-over-heels admiration. 

No comments:

Post a Comment