An eclectic selection of twelve books, both fiction and non-fiction, that offer an unbeatable and unique reading experience.
1.The Girl who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
A coming of age story with a heart and soul, in a fantasy setting, replete with magic, love, loss, redemption, adventure and friendship. It is the stuff epic fairy tales are made of. At the center of the story lies an oppressed village that forcibly snatches a child away from its parents and sacrifices it to a witch every year by abandoning it in the nearby forest, compelled by the elders who govern and control the village. A witch who resides with a dragon and a swamp monster on the other side, rescues the abandoned child every year and transports it to another faraway village, to be raised in kind and loving homes. During one such yearly rescue errand, while transporting the child, the witch feeds the child moonlight instead of the usual starlight leading to an accidental granting of powerful magical powers. The witch decides to adopt and raise the child, naming her Luna and binding her magic from surfacing till she is at an age she can handle it. As Luna reaches that age, the magic within her breaks free to surge and it is upto her to tame and handle it even as a series of events unfold, unraveling the mysteries and secrets surrounding the village and the witch.
2. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
A heady mix of Dracula folklore and history, it captivates with its atmospheric narrative, slow buildup and is genuinely scary without relying on gore or cliched vampire romance.
3. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet
A fictional and deeply emotional and moving epic saga with a rich assortment of strongly carved characters and a plot that revolves around the construction of a cathedral in the 12th century English against a backdrop of anarchy, religious conflicts and political intrigue.
4. Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
Pick this up for the sheer brilliance, lucid narrative and astuteness with which the author has presented an interpretation of the theory of evolution from the viewpoint of a gene. It offers a fresh new perspective on what drives the evolutionary process. The numerous analogies are clever and apt and help decode and simplify the complex concepts and comprehend with ease.
5. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
A concise, compact, thought-provoking and meaningful summary of 200,000 of human history, chronicling the progression of the ape-like simple creature of the homo genus to an intellectual, opportunistic and complex being of the homo-sapien species, who rose to the top of the food chain.
6. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
This book offers a multi-layered reading experience which stimulates you with mystery, adventure, magic realism and a generous dose of shock value, all wrapped in a dreamlike surreal landscape.
7. Fox by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks
It is a fable that has a moving and dark theme, yet carries a beautiful allure that makes it a compelling read. With its powerful and haunting quality, it can sear itself into the reader’s memory.
The prose inspires vivid imagery in the mind with words left unsaid, while the illustrations speak louder than words.
8. Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
It is a fictional retelling of the Mahabharata mythology from Draupadi’s perspective. It makes the reader empathize with the tragic protagonist and other well-etched characters, with its poignant and powerful tone.
It is a perfectly intoxicating blend of the raw emotions, descriptions, thoughts to match the interpretation of Draupadi’s viewpoint.
9. Maus by Art Spiegelman
A path-breaking graphic novel that is historical fiction and both memoir and autobiographical in nature. It is one that proved that literature dealing with deep and serious topics can be expressed using a graphic/comic medium. It is a Pulitzer prize winner.
It unfolds with the author interviewing his father, a holocaust survivor about his life experiences from the days before the World War II to the end of the Holocaust, and a narrative of the author’s life in the present time frame, including his troubled relationship with his father. The dispassionate and straightforward storytelling style has a startling effect and that combined with the depiction of Jews as mice and German’s as cats, infuses the novel with a strange and haunting quality.
10. Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
A dystopian novel with a marked feminist slant, that manages to disturb and unsettle with a dark plot line that delves into how quickly and devastatingly a society can decline and regress from a progressive to an oppressive society in a heartbeat. It touches on the volatility of women’s status in society and the technical ease with which her financial freedom and basic rights can be swept away in the blink of an eye. The portrayal of the events chillingly feel real on account of the rich, raw, poignant and powerful narrative.
11. Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
A magical and charming tale that imparts powerful and sublime messages around personal destiny, hope, perseverance, true love and self-realization. It follows the journey of a shepherd boy who meets many impactful and colorful characters on the way who transform his thinking, till his quest culminates in a beautiful and stunning discovery that transcends the physical.
12. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
True to its name the epistolary novel is frivolous, eccentric and weird and a lot more. It is a story that is set in the period surrounding the WW2 timeline. Friendship, impact of war, life on a small quaint island, wit, humour and a love for literature are all seamlessly woven together in an old-fashioned exchange of letters to create a pleasant, sunny, poignant and memorable effect.
Thanks for reading till the end. Hope this helps identify your next read or revisit a book or books you have already read.
Have you read any of the above books and did they appeal to you?