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  • Writer's pictureJ.B.E.McNally

My 10 favorite literature classics

Updated: Nov 17, 2018

They say the best way to elevate your genre writing to the next level is to consistently read literature at least one level above your own writing plane.

I have read a number of serious and entertaining books of distinction over recent times and have listed them here in this blog. They are not necessarily in order.

I will update this blog as I read new literature offerings out there.

1. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

Dickens Classic - A story of selfless sacrifice of one man for another in his quest to find his true self and at the same time rescue his friend and family from certain death during the French Revolution.

2. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The first in the 'cemetery of forgotten books' series, Set in 1945 following the Spanish Civil War and set in Barcelona. Daniel is mourning the loss of his mother as he works as an antique book dealer. A mysterious book by an unknown author, Julian Carax titled ‘The Shadow of the Wind’, is the last of its kind. Every other book has been systematically destroyed. Setting out on a quest to find the truth behind the book’s disappearance, he uncovers a trail of murder, doomed love and madness.

3. Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One of two of my favourites by the Nobel Prize winning author. Love in the Time of Cholera tells the tale of unrequited love one man has over a woman. Right from childhood through fifty years of waiting. Waiting for disease and other natural causes to take their toll. Waiting and trying to convince the stunning object of his affections to come around following her husband's demise. Their final journey on a boat along a South American river sees them finally together after all this time.

4. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Blends the natural with the supernatural in on one of the most magical reading experiences on earth. Establishing a a lot of what was to be his style and his tone, it would lead to Marquez making his mark with a Nobel Prize winning career.

Telling the story of of a mythical town named Macondo, it narrates the rise and fall of family, as it’s set to reflect the state of Latin America. Incorporating all the elements of lust, love, revolution and war. Smattered with fiction and fantasy, you feel yourself drawn into the isolation and introspection that was Macondo.

5. The Trial - Franz Kafka

One of the classics of twentieth century literature. A somewhat unassuming bank employee, Josef K. is confronted out of the blue by government representatives to accompany them for questioning on a nebulous crime against the state, of which Josef K got no explanation. One thing leads to another, questioning, the trial, a trumped up dystopian judiciary and eventually execution.

6. A Visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan

The book is a set of thirteen interrelated stories with a large set of characters all connected to Bennie Salazar, a record company executive, and his assistant, Sasha. The book centres on the mostly self-destructive characters, who, as they grow older, are sent in unforeseen, and sometimes unusual, directions by life.

A deserved winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize Egan uses unusual structure laying and one entire chapter is a power point presentation put together by Sasha's daughter about life at home with Sasha as an adult, having matured way beyond her hippy years as a wandering teen.

7. Manhattan Beach - Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan's latest book. In many ways whilst not as innovative in structure, I enjoyed this one even more than Goon Squad. Its characters were strong, and you felt like you were there with them, particularly Anna and Dexter. A parallel story of where Anna's father ended up was heart rending and sensitive. A fabulous piece of modern literature.

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles.

Years later, her father has disappeared, and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war

8. The Road - Cormac McCarthy

Pulitzer prize winner from 2007. The Road tells a bleak tell from the perspective of a father and son set loose on a chase for survival in post-apocalyptic America.

The father and young son walk alone through burned America, heading slowly for the coast. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. They have nothing but a pistol to defend themselves against the men who stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food - and each other.

9. Wolf Hall

In this staggeringly brilliant novel, Hilary Mantel brings the opulent, brutal world of the Tudors to bloody, glittering life. It is the backdrop to the rise and rise of Thomas Cromwell: lowborn boy, charmer, bully, master of deadly intrigue and, finally, most powerful of Henry VIII’s courtiers.

10. The Power - Naomi Alderman

All over the world women are discovering they have the power. With a flick of the fingers they can inflict terrible pain - even death. Suddenly, every man on the planet finds they've lost control. The Day of the Girls has arrived - but where will it end?

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