125 Things Meme: Prologue & Day 1

I read. A lot. A lot a lot. So much so that it's kinda insane to keep track. In fact, for a while, before they shut it down on facebook, I twas #67 out of 1.5 million users on Virtual Bookshelf for most books read.

As it is, I believe the rough count for books I've read since graduating high school is about 6k - and bear in mind that I've not been out of HS long enough to have a reunion yet and that my reading quantity has slowed down a lot in the last few years.

But anyway, between this, a perusing GoodReads, and an unhealthy obsession with memes I present to you (stolen and slightly edited from popkin16's version:

The Rules:

1. Pick a Thing.

2. Commit to blog about it 100 125 times.

So I present you with, over the course of the next 25 days, 5 books a day that absolutely everbody has to read once in his or her life. There's no particular order to the order I post them in, but the ones I post first are more likely to be the ones the jump into my head right away when I think of this topic than the ones that appear later. Blame the way my brain works on the order, not the books themselves.

So, let's begin.

1. A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Iriving:

I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.

In the summer of 1953, two eleven-year-old boys—best friends—are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy's mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn't believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God's instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul ball is extraordinary.

Why you should read it: This book changed my life. Litterally. I was 15 when I first read it and have done so several times since. It's a book about religion, and finding it, and discovering yourself and who you are along the way, but it's not religious. It's a book about death and growing up and... well, it might be my favourite book ever.

"There is a way to be of service to one’s country without being a fool; there is a way to be of use without being used – without being a servant of old men, and their ideas.”

2. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie:

Saleem Sinai is born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the very moment of India’s independence. Greeted by fireworks displays, cheering crowds, and Prime Minister Nehru himself, Saleem grows up to learn the ominous consequences of this coincidence. His every act is mirrored and magnified in events that sway the course of national affairs; his health and well-being are inextricably bound to those of his nation; his life is inseparable, at times indistinguishable, from the history of his country. Perhaps most remarkable are the telepathic powers linking him with India’s 1,000 other “midnight’s children,” all born in that initial hour and endowed with magical gifts.

This novel is at once a fascinating family saga and an astonishing evocation of a vast land and its people–a brilliant incarnation of the universal human comedy. Twenty-five years after its publication, Midnight’s Children stands apart as both an epochal work of fiction and a brilliant performance by one of the great literary voices of our time.

Why you should read it: I discovered Rushdie the spring of my senior year of HS, when I was required to right a term paper on a book and picked, randomly, from a list of selections The Satantic Verses because I thought it might be the best way to piss off my English teacher (we did not get along, the two of us). Anyway, I ened up loving The Satanic Verses, but Midnight's Children will always be my favourite Rushdie book. It's full of ideas, but not pretentiously so, and is, again, about growing up. But it's more than that. It's a book about self-discovery and nation-building and war and a family tangled in the bedrock of India's history and India itself.

“To understand just one life, you have to swallow the world.”

3. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez:

One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, and alive with unforgettable men and women -- brimming with truth, compassion, and a lyrical magic that strikes the soul -- this novel is a masterpiece in the art of fiction.

Why you should read it: Another book I discovered my senior year. This is an all-round wonderful, brilliant, and moving book, and by the time you get to the end of it you're holding your breath, as if on a precipice, and then you turn the final page, and it's... well, it's magical. It's a story of the deep profundity, meaningfullness, and meaninglessness of human life. Everyone should read it.

At dawn, worn out by the tormented vigil, he appeared in the cell an hour before the execution. "The farce is over, old friend," he said to Colonel Gerineldo Marquez. "Let's get out of here before the mosquitos in here execute you." Colonel Gerineldo Marquez could not express the disdain that was inspired in him by that attitude.
"No, Aureliano," he replied. "I'd rather be dead than see you changed into a tyrant."
"You won't see me," Colonel Aureliano Buendía said. "Put your shoes and help me get this shitty war over with."
When he said it he did not know that it was easier to start a war than to end one.

4. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham:

From an orphan with a clubfoot, Philip Carey grows into an impressionable young man with a voracious appetite for adventure and knowledge. Then he falls obsessively in love, embarking on a disastrous relationship that will change his life forever.

Why you should read it: The second book to completely change my life, discovered in the summer of '09, when my life was pretty much as fraked up as it's possible to be. It's another book about growing up, and coming to terms with who you are, and life, and about religion but not religious and, well, kind of like A Prayer For Owen Meany but set at the turn of the century. (I've tried explaining it this way to my mother, who loves the former but hates this book, but she doesn't see it.) Anyway, it's beautiful.

"He yearned above all things for experience and felt himself ridiculous because at his age he had not enjoyed that which all fiction taught him was the most important thing in life; but he had the unfortunate gift of seeing things as they were, and the reality which was offered him differed too terribly from the ideal of his dreams. He did not know how wide a country, arid and precipitous, must be crossed before the traveller through life comes to an acceptance of reality. It is an illusion that youth is happpy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched, for they are full of the truthless ideals which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real they are bruised and wounded."

5. Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton:

Cry, the Beloved Country is a beautifully told and profoundly compassionate story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son Absalom, set in the troubled and changing South Africa of the 1940s.

The book is written with such keen empathy and understanding that to read it is to share fully in the gravity of the characters' situations. It both touches your heart deeply and inspires a renewed faith in the dignity of mankind. Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic tale, passionately African, timeless and universal, and beyond all, selfless.

Why you should read it: I read this immediately after Of Human Bondage and, between them, I sincerely believe you can encompass so much of the human condition it's not even funny (actually, between the two, it's more likely you'll start crying unabashedly at the truth and the beauty of it, if that's your thing).

"But when the dawn will come, of our emancipation, from the fear of bondage and the bondage of fear, why, that is a secret."

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You make these sound so fascinating and deep :) I'm worried that I'm going to fall into a trap that I usually do: the books that sound deep and meaningful are the ones that I desperately want to read and love, and they're usually the ones I can't get through. Going to give these a try anyway, and cross my fingers that I manage to avoid the aforementioned habit.

But yes. I want to start with Midnight Children.
The are facinating and deep. Please do try. The last three proably aren't for you, if that's your problem, but A Prayer for Owen Meany and Midnight's Children are very accessiable books. Well, I think so at least. Please do give them a try.
A Prayer for Owen Meany and Midnight's Children are the two that I really want to try :D