Every summer, as an alternative to spending all my time playing video games, surfing the web & walking in circles aimlessly, I try to read some books. Last summer I focused on the Afghanistan, reading some books by Khaled Hosseini, along with a few unrelated things I thought interesting. While everything was worth while, it was all extremely depressing. In fact, if you ever want to be depressed, just ask for my full reading list from last summer! This summer however, I have read several delightful books, and while some of them are pretty hard hitting, I wouldn't consider them to be depressing. In fact, I've been so happy with the books I've read so far that I thought I'd list them here....
I started things off with a book I had been wanting to read for a while. It was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Originally published in Portuguese, it is one of those stories that while remarkably simple at the base level, is filled with meaning and metaphor far beyond what I could ever hope to grasp. It tells the tale of a young Spanish shepherd who receives a vision to go on a quest across Africa in order to find a treasure and fulfill his "personal legend". Along the way he encounters many people who teach him different lessons, mostly of how not to do things. It has one of the most brilliant twist endings that I've ever read, and it doesn't hurt for me to say that, because you will never guess what it is. I don't know if I necessarily agreed with all the philosophy in the book, but it was definitely thought provoking!
Next came the book that turned into the highlight of my summer and sent me on a long journey that I am still continuing: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Originally published in Swedish under the title "Men Who Hate Women", this book was penned by the Swedish journalist Stieg Larrson. He allegedly wrote it along with two other manuscripts working late at night. Mr. Larrson Tragically died before anyone new the greatness of what he had written. When going through his laptop however, three completed manuscripts were discovered. Thus, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was brought to life. It takes you on a wild ride through the Swedish underworld (who knew?!) starting as a journalistic political thriller, morphing into a murder mystery, and finally exploding into an espionage thriller of epic proportions! ---- A word of warning, this and Larrson's other novels contain an abundance of sex, violence & language bordering on the gratuitous. While some may want to avoid it for this reason, it does bring attention to several of the most serious issues in the world today, i.e. human trafficking and abuse, by showing a realistic portrayal of how horrible they are.
Next, on a suggestion by my Mom, I picked up the classic by Perl Buck: The Good Earth. With all the hundreds of historical fiction novels that I had to read in highschool, it is something of a wonder to me that I never read this. I was missing out. I've been very interested in China ever since we adopted my little sister from there. Even if you have no such interest however, you should enjoy this book, which tells the intriguing tale of a farmer rising through the ranks of Chinese society in the early days of the 20th century.
While good earth was excellent, before I had even finished it, I was on to the second novel in Stieg's posthumously published trilogy: The Girl Who Played with Fire. This book takes up where Dragon Tattoo left off, which you will be you will be very happy about if you fall in love with the characters from the first book the way I did. The Girl Who Played with Fire is a tad bit grittier, dealing more with the dark underside of human trafficking and drug smuggling, and ultimately exposing a conspiracy that stretches even farther than the first one, entangling the family members of the characters themselves!
After my second Larrson novel, I decided it was time for something to balance the Yang with the Ying, as it were. Thus, I started The Great Divorce by your friend and mine, C. S. Lewis. It's Lewis. Need I say more? I shouldn't have to, but just in case you're a doubter, The Great Divorce tells an imaginary tale that may or may not be close to reality, but at any rate gives us a picture of the difference between heaven and hell; good and evil. In the book, Lewis imagines himself having died and gone to hell, then having the opportunity to take a bus ride, along with some others to visit heaven. He brilliantly demonstrates how first, heaven and hell are real, and secondly, how hell is really just our natural state without God.
So, that's what I've read up till now. On my list to come is first Stieg's final novel, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, and then I don't know. Perhaps some non-fiction to compensate for all this fiction. Or maybe I'll go back and read some books from my high school days. We have like six crates filled with them in the basement, and it's sometimes interesting to read things you read long ago and see how your perspective has changed.
Anyhow, that's my summer reading list.