BEST BOOKS AND FAV WRITERS OF 2018
Writing this post took forever, and not just because I'm not exactly sure how many books I read in 2018. I did try to keep a track on goodreads but sometimes I forget to add books that I'm reading there. I'd say that I probably read around 80 books last year, give or take a dozen. I do love to read, as readers of my blog might already know or suspect. Here comes a list of my last year favourites. The list is written in no particular order. The links are not affiliated ( I tried to join Amazon affiliate program in the past but they rejected me saying that my blog doesn't have enough views so yeah it's all regular links). In cases of classics the books are linked to sites such as Project Gutenberg or Oxford University where you can find free copies. In case of modern works, I linked them up to my own blog posts (when relevant), Wikipedia or the authors' sites.
I had a pretty good reading year, I'd say. Some of the books I read I actually discovered in my own home (my husband shares my love for 'real' as opposed to virtual books and I'm still exploring his vintage collection), some I bought and some I borrowed from the library. I discovered some new authors in 2018, rekindled my love for some classical ones ( Chekhov, Turgenev and Henry James, I'm looking at you). In addition, I loved reading contemporary Croatian writer Miro Gavran who is simply magnificent (small wonder he is the most translated Croatian writer). Anyhow, this is my best books of 2018 list (in no particular order):
One of the things that I absolutely adore about Chekhov is that he offers such a great insight into a feminine soul. The Three Sisters is perhaps the best known of Chekhov's plays. Written at the turn of the century, in 1900 and first performed in 1901, this drama tells the story of a family, most notably of three sisters. Chekhov's ability to understand every corner of a woman's soul never ceases to amaze me. This play focuses on the lives of three sisters: Olga, Maria (Masha) and Irina. Their brother Andrei plays a role in the play as well, but I think we can all agree that the ladies are central characters. The novel opens up in a small town, where sisters currently live. One of them (Olga) is dreaming of returning to Moscow, thus setting the melancholic tone of the play. An imaginary return to Moscow and escape from the province is a recurring theme in this play. The Tree Sisters does a wonderful job of portraying the isolation and the loneliness of the human spirit and is in that sense very modern. I can definitely recommend this play, it's such a great classic.
Truth be told, I first read this story many years ago but this year I have reread it: in Russian, Croatian and Italian. I simply can't get enough of it! I would have to agree with Nabokov in that this is one of the greatest short stories ever written. The Lady With the Dog breaks all the rules of short story form, but breaks them wonderfully. There is no plot in this story, is there? No resolution at the end. A simple narrative of two characters falling in love despite the best of their efforts. In many ways, The Lady with the Dog feels like a novel. The principal characters are as beautifully complex as the most successfully portrayed protagonists of best classical novels. Well, at least in my view, they are. Neither of our two protagonists is perfect, but together they are pretty close to perfection. Perfect in the sense they are willing to face their human weakness and surpass it. The psychological portray of these two was masterfully done. I found it very comforting to see that people can find love even in worst of times. Here we basically have a highly believable story about two individuals transformed by love. If that is not writing magic, I don't know what is. This is definitely one of the best love stories I have ever read, perhaps even the best one.
I'm not sure why it took me such a long time to finally reach for this classic, but better late then never, right? This story of three children discovering a secret garden and heeling themselves (as well as one adult) in the process is enough to warm anyone's heart. The writing is very simple but not devoid of warmth and humour. The characters are easy to relate to, especially the children. The ending is perhaps a bit predictable, but that doesn't take anything from the story because the story itself is filled with great lessons. There are some wonderful metaphors in this book and enough good writing to keep the reader's interest constantly. I have immensely enjoy this book. Moreover, I can certainly see why it is considered a timeless classic. It is one of those books that are worth the hype. Simply perfect for both kids and adults. I can't recommend The Secret Garden enough. It even cheer me up a bit, and I really appreciated that.
|This novel (set in future) follows a story of Maxim, a twenty old Earthling who in want of a better occupation explores space. Apparently, on Earth of his time (that doesn't sound the slightest bit like the society we live on), exploring space is something that is frowned upon, a hobby more fitting for a teenager, than a twenty year old guy. In fact, Maxim should (according to his parents and everyone else) find something better to do. Reflecting on his situation, Maxim suddenly makes a 'forced' discovery when he lands on an unknown planet. The problem? Well, he is sort of stuck there, as someone (who we will find out later) destroy his space ship. Maxim at first assumes that it is by mistake, that some animal got in there and broke the wires and etc. by accidents. Brothers Strugatsky are brilliant storytellers for sure. At first they reveal little about Maxim and this causes the reader to have a big question mark above his head. How can Maxim tell that the river is polluted? Why is he so carefree about being stranded in what appears to be wilderness? Why does Maxim imagine that he will be able to live in the forest and make friends with bears and wolves? Does he have some kind of super powers? We follow Maxim as he discovers and studies the society of this bleak planet, and with time things start to make more sense...and that they get complicated again. I believe that part, you know, when things get interesting in a novel, is called the plot:). Anyhow, I enjoyed the storytelling greatly. The plot was interesting and the narrative was well paced. The characters were wonderfully portrayed and really got under my skin.|
I feel like I can't recommend this book enough. It has been one of the most emotional reads of 2018, I can still feel this book in my heart of hearts. Reading Lolita in Tehran is such a rare mix of extraordinary philosophical writing, academic literature essays, national history and personal memoir, that it deserves to be called 'one of a kind'.This book works quite well as a mixed genre. I feel like the only review that would be worthy of such a novel would be a book itself, preferably one as intelligently and poetically written as Reading Lolita in Tehran. It was hard to tell what I found more fascinating about this book, the modern political history of Iran, the moral dilemma of wearing a veil or being forced to abandon teaching, the nearly impossible challenge of keeping high academic standards in a militant Islamic Republic, amazing literary essays or Nafisi's personal memories( and within them hidden the tales of her students and family members). Nafisi tells her tale from a distinctly female point of view. Most of the characters in the book are Iranian women, and I feel that this book is first and foremost about them, about what it means to be a women in Iran. There are some important male characters that feature in Nafisi's novel as well, such as the magician and her husband, but I think the author intended to give the voice to all the Iranian women, a voice that has been taken from them. It is a very brave narrative, raw, honest and beautiful.
I wrote an extremely long review for this one in this blog post of mine, so I've probably said all I have to say about it there. I think this novel came in the right place and time for me. There are some minor flaws in it, but on overall the writing is really superb, poetic and intense. I do recommend it.
I mentioned that I have discovered some lovely new writers last year. Sebastian Barry is one of them. The Secret Scripture was my first novel by Sebastian Barry. What impressed me the most about this book is the writing. I don't know quite how to put it, but the writing makes you feel like you're really there, going through what ever the characters are going through. Barry paints the lives of people he describes with great precision. He makes it easy to relate to the characters, perhaps because they have lived in such dire times. This book is almost completely free of judgement, but it's not free from pain. The Secret Scripture is a sad and tragic novel. At times, this book is even morbidly sad. You're left wondering how it is possible that there can be so much paint in this world. I'd say there are two main characters in this novel, even if the narrative focuses mainly on Roseanne, an old women who decides to write her autobiography- and works on it in secret (that's probably where the novel's title " The Secret Scripture" comes from). At any rate, two people tell their tale: an English Catholic man and an Protestant Irish woman. Roseanne Clear and doctor Gren. A patient and a psychiatrist. Roseanne is about a hundred years old when the novel opens. Doctor Gren realizes that he doesn't know much about his oldest patient. Soon the old psychiatric facility/hospital for mentally ill will be demolished, and he is forced to reevaluate his patients. Roseanne has lived in his institution for years, she was in a way 'imprisoned' for sixty year, yet he hasn't payed much attention to her. Prompted by his desire to redeem himself, dr. Green starts to visit Roseanne more often.
I got this lovely children's book as a gift. I often read it to kids in my family ( I don't have kids of my own, so that basically means baby cousins, nephew and nieces) and they all love it. You can read my full review of this book on my book blog. As the title would imply, the story of Anya is a story of a little girl on a quest for her wings. The story starts with her birth, and before reader knows it, Anya is old enough to set on an adventure of finding her wings. Anya and Her Wings is a story of bravery, acceptance, patience and understanding. This story has so many moral messages hidden within its pages. It teaches children to dream, but also to be patient, to develop empathy and understanding.
Superseal is a bilingual (Russian and English) story of a young seal that is anything besides ordinary. The writing style is simple, elegant and easy to understand. The plot follows the young seal as he learns more about his environment. Just like Anya, the young seal sets on an adventure! When our young seal learns from his father that his species is called ordinary seal, he is somewhat disappointed. The young seal goes to research his environment, he swims and encountered a boat filled with young boys. He informs them that he is a superseal. For some reason, he decides to introduce himself like that. From that point, the seal's learning adventure continues. Our talking (and quite eloquent) young seal encounters different boats and ships, and talks with people and mariners on them. Our young seal will learn a lot before the end of the day. Again, if you want to know more, you can read my full review on bookmagiclove, my book blog.
You all know the biblical story of Lazarus, right? Well, this version is nothing like it. Moreover, Lazarus (the short story) is unlike anything I've ever read before. Never have I read a tale that was so disturbing and twisted, and yet at the same time so brilliant and sensible. It's insane and it's amazing, it's an embodiment of darkness chained with words. This tale of Lazarus was so utterly convincing, that I felt that I couldn't have stopped reading it even if I tried. I've read dark, sinister and depressive tales before, but never have I read something similar. Moreover, reading this story felt completely unlike to reading any other story. I couldn't create a space between myself and the story, a space that almost always exists. You know how usually when you are reading a story, even if you're immersed into it, you can still reflect on it? There is that mental space you as reader posses, a private space that allows you to ponder the work you're reading. That space vanished when I started reading this story. It was as if I was captured in the story itself. What a compelling read it was! The writing is amazingly powerful and painfully precise. Every sentence carries extra weight until you feel completely overwhelmed. Lazarus is without a doubt one of the best short stories that I have ever read.
Chronologically, this book covers Gorky's teenage years. Encouraged by a kind but native Jewish friend, Gorky travels to his friend's home city in hope of being admitted to an University. When Gorky arrives at his home, he meets the mother of his friend who is trying to cook a lunch from bad meat. The mother seems suspicious of Gorky's chances. Soon Gorky realizes that the mother is not being mean, just realistic and that her bad mood is a reflection of their financial problems. It seems that Gorky's kind friend was too optimistic on his behalf. There is no chance Gorky will be able to study at University level, so to avoid living at the expense of the above mentioned friend and his impoverish mother, he finds a job.
Throughout his job changes, Gorky continues to study in his own way, by reading as many books as possible. Unable to study formally, Gorky relies on self- education and debates with all the smart people he can find. Gorky befriends students and some interesting thinkers and revolutionaries. Some of them even admire him, calling him a talented self-taught youth, and some want to help him, but Gorky continues to work, not wanting to be a burden to anyone. The jobs Gorky tries are both tiresome and depressive, 14 hour jobs that leave him little free time, from hard physical labour to being forced to witness theft, none of the work experience is pleasant but he endures it. Gorky struggles trying to bring together his philosophical aspirations and the dire reality he is surrounded with. Gorky questions everything, including himself- even going through a nerve crisis. All in all, this is such an interesting autobiography.
One of new authors I discovered this year was Bradley Horner, and my first book by him is this SF novel. The world created in Darkside Earther is a very interesting and dynamic one. I found parallels with our civilization, and that is what makes it so interesting. It is set in imaginable future- or at least it feels like it. The issues like overpopulation and immigrations were explored rather well. Some things never change. The balance of power is always a rather delicate thing and we have no reason to believe that the development of technology will put an end to political differences. It will probably just make them more complex. In this case that potential complexity was a source of an enjoyable plot and read. What I loved most about this novel was exactly the complexity of the world created. This is some wonderful world building. The organization of society, the transport, the political system, it is all well though trough. The people living on planet Earth are the ones most disadvantaged in this world (due to serious overpopulation). They all want out, but only capable workers are allowed to relocate to the Ring. Is there a way to do it, to reduce the population pressure of Earth by moving more people to the Ring? Not really, that much is clear from the start. It is one of the problems that don’t seem easily fixable. This is a fantastic science fiction novel, you can read more here.
The Nose is certainly one of the most famous stories. Considered a satirical masterpiece, it is certainly a very fine piece of writing Countless reviews and articles were written about The Nose. It is such a defining work of literature and for a good reason. The Nose tells a story of a man who has lost his nose. Well, not exactly lost. In fact, his nose left him to live a life of its own. The writing and the dialogues are simply brilliant. The Nose inspired not just other artists and critics, but other writers as well. This year I have also read Akutagawa's version of this story and it is an excellent spin on the original story. You can read my full review of Gogol's nose here.
Xinran worked as a journalist in China for many years and this book is a compilation of stories she either heard, gathered or experienced herself while living in postwar China. Wars are a terrible and tragic things, not just while they last, but in the years that follow. WW2 was so terrible, that I sometimes doubt our society will completely recover from it. Women, as a perhaps more vulnerable part of the society, are often the ones on whose shoulder it all breaks- the years of chaos and social instability. It is important to write about such things, to give women a change to speak. Many of them are being ‘strong’ for the sake of their families and their sense of duty, and talking care of everyone else women often forget to take care of themselves. That is why writers like Xiran, writers that tell these difficult stories, are so important. I spoke much of the sadness of the stories, and how devastating some of them were, but I should also say that some of them made me hopeful as well. One of the stories that will stay will me is the story of mothers who lost their children and family in a terrible earthquake but have, nevertheless, founded the courage to open and run an orphanage. They were never free from pain, they never forget what happened to them and what they lost- but they found the strength to take care of others. Women can be so strong, this book testifies to that. Still, the book doesn't seem to be that well rounded up. At times it can feel a bit chaotic and overwhelming, filled with so many stories. I would still recommend it, though.
I read an awful lot of Henry James this year. I've always loved him but I guess with time I learned to love him even more. This year I was more focused on his short stories, Four Meetings being one of them. The story is told by a male narrator that sounds suspiciously like Henry James himself. In other words, he is an American living in Europe. He meets a young woman, an American teacher that dreams of visiting Europe. She will be the heroine of this story. The four meetings (referred to in the title) will reveal her sad destiny. Every time our narrator meets her we learn more of her. This is basically a story in four scenic episodes (That would make for a brilliant mini series!). The ending of the story is not entirely clear, but we can guess it is not a happy one. Not a spoiler, is it? I mean it's Henry James, you know that it won't end up with - they lived happily ever after.
Henry James wrote some amazing women characters. Tragic heroines seem to be his specialty. The story is perhaps a bit predictable, but honestly I found it so easy to relate to it. It's a very touching story indeed. I could really sympathize with the heroine of this story. Bless her poor puritan heart. However, I don't feel sorry for her. I feel there is bravery in her innocence, something that I can't help but respect. Perhaps her illusions have a value of their own? Perhaps her fate is not so tragic? Perhaps it is better to believe in something that isn't true than to be vulgar? Who is really the victim? I had a lot of questions upon finishing this story, and I happen to think that's a sign of good writing.
I was so touched by this short story. I said to myself: This is the stuff Greek tragedies are made of. Potent, beautiful and heart-breaking! This is a story about a man who lives in anticipation of something terrible that is to come, but when it happens he misses it. A woman, his best friend, warns him of it but it's too late. Could I see the ending? Yes, I most certainly could but somehow it didn't spoil the enjoyment of this story one bit. To a modern mind, The Beast In the Jungle might seem overblown, too emotional and not very convincing but luckily I don't have a modern mind. I absolutely loved it and clung onto every page. I was moved to tears, even though I could anticipate just about everything from the very start. The ending felt so dramatic, even if it was (as I emphasized) only expected.
What an usual novel! If I understood well, Turgenev planned for Spring Torrents to be a short story, but at some point he changed his mind and turned it into a novel. I can't complain, because I think this books makes for a fine novel, even if a bit unorthodox one. One could argue that it is unbalanced. One could even make good points for it. The arrival of femme fatale on the scene feels a bit too sudden ' deux in machina', especially since it happens so late in story and there is no preparation for it. But what a femme fatale Maria Nikolaevna is! Her arrival not only completely turns the story around, it also happens very suddenly. Structurally, this could be the novel's flaw...and yet I'm not sure it wasn't indeed intended to come off as a shock. The way I see it, this is where the novel turns from romantic realism (and regular realism) towards naturalism. I'll explain what I mean a bit later on. In some ways similar to First Love and Asya, this is a novel that tells the story of a young man falling in love for the first time. Like many of Turgenev's works, Torrents of Spring is a framed narrative, told by an older character who remembers and retells his youthful experiences. The novel has an introductory part, in which our protagonist finds a cross that reminds him of the love of his life, transporting him into the past where our story starts, the story of Dmitri Pavlovich Sanin, a young Russian man travelling Europe. Almost by accident, Sanin saves a life of an Italian boy who happens to be the brother of a beautiful Gemma. Accepting the invitation of this Italian family who made Germany their home, Sanin misses his train and find himself delaying the continuation of his trip. Sanin is fascinated by this family and more importantly bewitched by the young and innocent Gemma. Unfortunately, Gemma is engaged to a rather boring German guy whom Gemma's mothers sees as a great marriage prospect. This is a novel with a number of twists and turns, a bit more eventful than other similar works of Turgenev in the sense there are (as I see it) two plots. First we follow the turbulent falling in love of young and deeply (almost annoyingly) moral Russian man into a beautiful and pure but engaged young Italian lady. Will they manage to fight for their love? Will they admit their feelings to others and themselves? Will Sanin manage to convince his sweetheart's mother that he is a potentially good son- in -law? And that's only the first part of the novel!
|First love. I’ve been rethinking this title, wondering does it perhaps apply as much as to the father of our protagonist as much to his love interest. The protagonist of this novel, young Vladimir, quietly adores his father, but is estranged from his (abusive) mother. Our parents are, without a doubt, the first objects of our affection. For a child, his or her parents are the centre of the world. The first women Vladimir falls in love with is a bit older than himself, but is completely unattainable, not so much because of the age difference but because she sees and treats him as a brother. In other words, she seems unresponsive to his romantic feelings. Did Freud ever read and commented on this one? I’m sure he would have loved it. I feel there is a lot of Freudian thinking softly woven into the work, especially as the novella develops. To be honest, I find it hard to talk about First Love without relieving the plot, because it is a very plot driven work, but I will try to do my best. Let’s just say that things take from there and evolve to be feel even more Freudian. First Love is a novella tells a story of a sixteen year old (Vladimir) falling in love with a popular twenty one year old girl. From the first time our protagonist’s beholds her, Zinaida is surrounded by men. Zinaida is a noble young lady and a pretty one too, so her poor material status seems of little importance. Is it so irrelevant, though? Maybe it is in the eyes of the man who want to marry her, but does it play a part in the way she sees herself? I can’t forget, for example, the way Zinaida behaved at dinner at Vladimir’s place. She was as silent as a mouse. This was a stark contrast with the way her personality shines through while she is with her suitors. From all I saw, it seemed to me that Zinaida is not only aware of her poor material status, but it also has a negative effect on her self-esteem. At any rate, she is not a negative character. That is what I love about this story. The character are complex and wonderfully human, not simply villeins or heroes. |
THE PROPHET BY KAHIL GIBRAN
I wasn't sure whether to include this one in my best book selection or not, but then I decided I must because it is such a unique book. The Prophet is absolutely a very inspiring read. One thing that rang especially true to me was its message about the importance of tolerance, about the importance of humanism that doesn't exclude individualism. Certainly, one could say that there are many wonderful messages in this book, and all wrapped up beautifully in words that are pure elegance. However, while I would certainly recommend this book to everyone, I would deem it more as a work akin to wisdom than as pure wisdom. More like a tribute to spiritual and philosophical writing, than as a deeply innovative philosophical /theological writing. Not that coming this close to wisdom is a small feet. It's not a five star book in my view, but it is certainly worth the hype. Worth reading for the beauty of its writing alone, and even more for its profoundness. In simple words, I loved every second of reading it, but I was left just a tiny bit unsatisfied.
Pearl S. Buck is another writer I discovered in 2018. This novel (my first work of hers) has touched me so deeply, that I cannot help feeling a strike of destiny in the way it came into my hands. I started reading it, blissfully unaware of both the plot and what it might be like. Pavilion of Women has proven to be such a beautiful reading surprise. I must have read it in one breath, or at least, that is what reading it felt like. Once I started it, I just couldn't stop reading. I cannot express how much I enjoyed this novel. It is a truly remarkable portrayal of a woman's soul. It's pure magic. Pavilion of Women has even managed to comfort me during a difficult hospital stay and I'm sure it's a novel I'll never forget. The novel's protagonist is Madam Wu. The subtitle of this novel is : A Novel of Life in the Women's Quarters, and that is what this book it about. The terms 'women's quarters' sounds historical, and indeed this book is set in the past, in a remote part of China before the outbreak of WW2. Besides following the life of Madam Wu, the protagonist, this novel also follows the life stories of other women who are close to her. The introduction of the novel describes both Madam Wu and her family dynamics. As she turns 40, Madam Wu longs for some 'me time'. On the surface, Madam Wu has everything she might want. A husband and children who love her, servants who worship her, a respected place in a community. Everyone seems to either admire or respect her. Madam Wu's family is the wealthiest in the area, and it seems to be a happy family. Madam Wu's sons are either married or too young to be married, but either way they seem respectable of their parents. One of Madam Wu's sons has married a girl older than himself, which poses technical problems in the selection of the daughter-in-law who will be in charge of the household once she turns 40, but there are no major problems, or so it seems. However, soon things get complicated and that is where the novel truly starts.
Gavran simply can't do no wrong. How We Broke Our Legs is one of the funniest books I've read so far. I passed this novel to to my husband, who found it very funny as well. We both enjoyed this book, so I can (for once) give you a double recommendation. Now, back to the subject of this book. It is written from a point of view of a child so the language is for most part very simple. There are two child narrators in this one. The first narrator is actually the father of the second narrator so obviously this novel covers two different time periods. The first period covered is the seventies and the second is the nineties. The story told takes place in Croatia, with the first part of the novel set in Slavonia (a region in Croatia) and the second part in Zagreb (Croatia's capital). A bit of background information that might also clarify some things- during the sixties Croatia was a socialistic republic of Croatia and as such a part of Yugoslavia, while during the nineties Croatia became an independent republic and is now a part of European Union. As I already said, the novel is told from a child's perspective so I was amazed how Gavran managed to reflect so well on the political and social events of the time. For example, the kid from the younger generation gets in trouble for mentioning innocent things (such as parents making fun of the communist regime) in a school essay. This book is focused on the characters and events of one family, but it can also be read as a social commentary. Great novel indeed. To summarize, How We Broke Our Legs is a wonderful family saga that recounts the story of a family that has a funny tradition. Every man in the family brakes his legs when he falls in love with the girl he is going to marry. It all starts with grandfather Stjepan who comes from Herzegovina to Slavonia to work in the fields. There Stephan (Stjepan) falls in love with the girl and upon her invitations spends the night in her room. The father of the girl catches them and Stjepan breaks his leg in an attempt to run away. The father of the bride does two things. Firstly, the father curses Stjepan with a peculiar curse - may all the men in his family from now on break their legs for women. Secondly, the father of the girl insists that Stjepan marries his daughter which Stjepan is happy to do (maybe because he was in love with her but perhaps also because he didn't mind getting married to a girl who is well off). All is well that ends well, right? What about the curse? The curse remains and it results in many funny situations. In reality, the curse is not so bad because it marks something positive, it is a clear sign that a man is that the family member in question has found the love of his life and is about to get married.
Published in 1929, The Time of Indifference (Gli indifferenti) is Moravia’s first novel. In many ways, this novel can be considered a masterpiece. At any rate, it is worth noting that The Time of Indifference is a novel that won Moravia fame and critical acclaim. It is certainly a very successful piece of writing. On surface it is a simple story, a tale of intrigue and betrayal, featuring only 5 characters (Mariagrazia, Leo, Carla, Michele and Lisa) and covering events over a short amount of time (only a few days really). However, there is more to this novel that meets the eye. Besides the basic plot, this novel is also a critique of aristocratic/ bourgeois society and a very successful one at that. It is also a very good study of character. Moravia very first novel is quite ambitious. Given its mature feel, it is hard to believe that the author was so young when he wrote it. I loved this novel and I can't recommend it enough.
Another author I discovered in 2018 was Pychon and I have to say: Sign me in for more Thomas Pynchon, please. This was my first reading of him, and I was honestly blown away. How is it possible that I haven't read him sooner? Well, it's never too late to discover a good writer. I'm actually happy that I dived into this novel blissful unaware of anything regrading the author, the time period it was written in or the novel itself. That made the reading all the more fun. The Crying of Lot 49 has proved to be such an exquisite literary surprise! If this novel is anything to go by, Thomas Pynchon has a really peculiar writing style. The narrative in this novel often felt chaotic, but I absolutely enjoyed its potent mix of wild humour, entertaining characters, delicious sarcasm, social commenting and alternative history! I didn't find it hard to follow at all. Maybe it was because of my mood at the time, but I found myself immersed in the novel.
What is reading really? Perhaps it is something as essentially human as: Hearing a story. What is writing really? Perhaps it is something as essentially human as: Story-telling. In Invisible cities, we have Kublai Khan listening to Marco Polo as he narrates a series of stories about different cities. There is something mathematical (and probably also symbolic) about the number and the organization of these stories, but what struck me the most is (besides the already mentioned beauty of the lyrical narrative) is the philosophical aspect of these stories. Invisible stories is certainly a book that is open to interpretations. Marco Polo might be making everything up. Kublai has no ways of knowing, does he? Kublai Khan might not believe him at all. On the other hand, perhaps Khan wants to believe him (or maybe it doesn't really matter to him either way). The conversations between Polo and Khan were perhaps the most interesting part of the book.
The relationship between the two set aside, this book discusses a great deal more. Why do we travel? How do we travel? Isn't travelling in time, a form of travelling as well? What kind of city do we live in? Can we live in different cities within the same city? In reference to this book, one play immediately comes to my mind and that is Orpheus Descending by Tennessee Williams. If you read that one, you might remember that famous saying that night and day people live in different cities and may never see or meet each other, meaning that people who have very different lifestyles may live in (experience) very different (versions of their) cities, even if technically speaking, they happen to live in the same city. Speaking of unique views, there is an Italian artist who specialized in painting Calvino's Invisible cities, so do check her out.
I take back what I said about 2018 not being a good year for me. If I have read so many amazing books, then it must have been a good year, even if there were some hard times. It doesn't do to be ungrateful, right? Maybe was a bit ungrateful in reflecting upon 2018, but I'm trying to change that. After some though, I'm certainly feeling grateful for having the chance to read so many great books this year. Naturally, I did put in the effort and tried to find time for reading but the fact that I was clearly able to (not something to be taken for grated!) to read, meaning well enough to actually concentrate at least at times is something I'm happy about. My health is not always good, so it is important to take advantage of the 'good days' to get some reading done. I read a lot of books by same authors this year, so not to be repetitive I didn't include all my favourite ones, just a random selection of best books.