You can never have too many book lists. I’ve got five books to cover you for the rest of 2014, because somehow it’s already (almost the end of!) August. Cuddle up, grab the wine and snacks; you’ve got some far off lands to explore.
August: Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
Sophie discovers a series of mysterious philosophy lessons in her mailbox and before long she finds herself on a wild philosophical journey. From Socrates to Sartre, we’re as much a part of the twisted plot as she is, as you’ll learn in the end. No spoilers, but it’s kind of esoteric.
She’s only 14, but philosophy can be enjoyed by all ages, so don’t judge a book by its cover and write this one off as a children’s story!
High school philosophy class was my favorite, and long after it school was out for the summer I remember reading the text book while tanning in my backyard. Sophie’s World does it even better with sunny adventures and all the magic of childhood wonder.
Verdict: Read it in a park and soak up the last pieces of summertime warmth with a little philosophical journey.
September: Just Kids by Patti Smith
Don’t even think this is a love story. Patti has what I call a “velvety soul;” she’s mythical, deeply reflective, and she doesn’t care what others think. She revels in her life’s mélange of love, art, and self-exploration, all of which intersect at that magical time of youthful enlightenment. Her artistic journey unravels onto each page alongside a story of unconventional love, the type that has no choice but to last a lifetime.
Artists, writers, and musicians, buy this book and cherish it, give it to another artist when you’re done.
Isn’t September the most romantic month? It’s a bit chillier, there’s Pumpkin Spice Lattes, sweaters, and the smell of leaves. Or is that the smell of books? Fall’s made for nostalgic stories like this.
Verdict: Get yourself a warm drink, a light sweater, and read this baby on a chilly fall day.
October: Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Céline’s semi-autobiographical story follows Ferdinand Bardamu from WWI, to colonial Africa, post-war America, and back to Paris where he establishes a medical practice. But not so simple, along the way he encounters the desperation that only a war can inspire and the violence to go with it. It feels like you’re sitting in a bar with him, listening as he retells his story with sarcastic quips and hard-edged writing style.
I really loved this story, and flipping to the final page made me sad. It’s a war story, but it’s more a story about the human aspect of war.
He’s dying of fever in Africa, and then he’s deeply disappointed by life in the Parisian suburbs. It’s everyone, but it’s so human. I’m still having a hard time explaining exactly why I like this book.
Once the days are shorter, I love falling into more serious books. It just seems right to save the gorgeous darkness for October. It’s not as depressing as it is rousing, mysterious, and cynical. Just the way I like my Halloween month.
Verdict: Thanksgiving is calling and it wants you to read a book that’ll make you thankful to not be in a war right now.
November: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Honestly, I’m reading this book right now. How can one recommend a book they haven’t finished? I don’t know, but that has to be the sign of a good book, no? It’s big, complex, and you get completely wrapped up in the story. It even has quaint intros to each chapter like “In which we are introduced to the whore…” Very Jules Verne-y.
Inside of an elaborate backstory, complete with astrological charts and a character list, bleeds a story of murder, theft, mistaken identity, and sly detective work. Each main character spends his time as the protagonist and sometimes the antagonist. Everyone is involved in the crimes, and everyone is investigating the crimes. As a writer, I appreciate her technique for being a little different and her ability to tell a 19th century story in a 21st century way.
What else is there to do in the first real month of winter (in Canada, at least) besides staying inside and read a long, warm book? I love coming home on weeknights and just lazing around rotating between snacking and book reading, when I’m too content to even realize it’s -15 outside.
Verdict: Pass the first month of winter lost in a book of 1,000 different stories. It pairs nicely with a new blanket and tea.
December: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Catherine and Heathcliff were raised as siblings in a miserable household until they fell in intense love and Catherine married the neighbor. She dies of a broken heart and he goes on to seek wicked revenge on everyone. He digs up her grave and lies beside her. He forces her daughter to marry his son. There is absolutely no shame in her darkness, because the Brontë sisters know dark is beautiful.
Peace is finally delivered to the tragic family when Catherine’s daughter and the son of Heathcliff’s enemy fall in love, thus breaking the cycle of misery and wicked revenge.
A guy once told me to me less of a “dark weirdo” but stories like this make me proud to be dark.
Maybe it seems a little too depressing to read about tragic love stories at a time of the year when we’re prone to feeling alone. But really, I think it’s beautiful. A story of revenge is sure to take your mind off of your sorrows and into the bitterly cold heart of Heathcliff.
Verdict: Not a good Christmas read, but pick it up when you’re Christmas shopping and treat yourself to probably the most poetic and intense love story you’ll ever read.