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To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927, L) – Known as one of those difficult landmark novels of modernism, this is a novel that tackles on life’s difficult questions. Simply put, it’s about the Ramsays’ trip to the lighthouse postponed for nearly a decade. We all know that, but what we need to know are the little miracles that the author has created in depicting the lives and thoughts of the novel’s characters.
True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (2000, L) – Who is Ned Kelly? Is he a hero or a villain? If you are interested to read an alternate history of the infamous person, read this. Caveat emptor: this is written as if an illiterate person wrote it. Well, it is supposed to be an autobiography of Ned Kelly himself. As it goes with most autobiographies, this is one that seeks for the truth.
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada) by Pablo Neruda (1924, M) – The author wrote this collection of poems when he was only 19. The poems have an elemental feel to it since they not only tackle about love for a person but also about love for nature. The words flow easily and they appeal to the emotions. This is a canon read for all the poem hunters out there.
Ulverton by Adam Thorpe (1992, H) – This novel, despite its obscurity, is already hailed as a contemporary classic only two decades after its first publication. It is about the town of Ulverton. Yes, the protagonist is the town itself. We see its history and the changes that it undergoes through chapters that are told in different voices and different forms. This is a novel like no other.
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (1993, L) – The author’s début novel is about a group of boys who are fascinated with the Lisbon girls. These boys have loved these girls from a distance, even after they, the sisters, committed mass suicide. The prose reflects how haunted the boys are, and there is no doubt that the reader will be just as haunted.
White Noise by Don DeLillo (1985, L) – A chemical spill prompts the residents of a town to evacuate. Jack Gladney, a professor of Hitler studies, are among the evacuees. As he evacuates his family, he discovers something about his wife, Babette. As the reader follows the plot, thoughts on consumerism, family values, violence, and the fear of death are pondered upon.
White Teeth by Zadie Smith (2000, L) – A funny and heartwarming novel about the families of best friends Samad Iqbal and Archie Jones, it uses teeth as the framework of its plot and themes. From teething to root canals, canines to molars, it’s all about teeth. And heritage, race, chance, coincidence, religion, madness, and did I mention that this is just the author’s first novel?
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (2008, L) – Balram is the head of a taxi service company in India. Before that, he was a chauffeur himself, until he commits a murder. Written with a tinge of dark humor, the novel explores the grave corruption and harrowing poverty in India, and it also takes on issues of religion, the caste system, and moral degradation.
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (1966, L) – If you’ve read Jane Eyre (and this list expects that you have already read it), you must know about that mad woman Mr. Rochester married and hid somewhere in his house. If ever you’re interested to know the history of that woman, read this and let yourself become mad with the beautiful rendering of that woman’s troubled past.
Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver (1976, H) – It’s a little hard to choose which Carver collection to put in here. I could have put the Collected Stories, but since I don’t have that yet, this first collection is not a bad choice. The author’s signature minimalist style (scenes from daily lives, terse prose, abrupt endings) can be traced back to this collection that deals with the disillusionment of suburban people.
Stay tuned for Part 10.
Format: [Title] ([Original Title]) by [Author] ([Publication Year, LSS Meter Level])
This is part of the Literary Snobbery Series (LSS).