Monday, November 2, 2009

"A great book should leave you with many experiences & slightly exhausted at the end. You should live several lives while reading it" Styron, William


"1984" by George Orwell
"My Sister's Keeper" by Jodi Picoult
"The Tales of Beedle the Bard" by J.K. Rowling
"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee
"Bones to Ashes" by Kathy Reichs
"The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy
"Cloudstreet" by Tim Winton
"Rides a Dread Legion" by Raymond E Feist
"Catch 22" by Joseph Heller
"A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" by Ken Kesey
"Dune" by Frank Herbert
"Audrey Hepburn, an Elegant Spirit" by Sean Hepburn Ferrer
"The City of Falling Angels" by John Berendt
"The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
"Lucky Man" & "Always Looking Up" by Michael J Fox
"The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet" by Benjamin Hoff
"The Time Traveller's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger
"The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak - Loved this. Really, really well written and such an interesting premise. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I sobbed through the last 50 or so pages.
When I've explained the story to a few people they have mostly looked at me like "err... what?!" Yup, that's what happens when you tell people you are reading a story that's narrated by Death.
Death tells the story of a young girl - Liesel - who he sees on his travels through Germany during World War II. The girl and her brother are sent to live with a foster family in Munich. However, on the train her brother dies in his sleep. At the funeral Liesel finds a book in the snow - "The Gravedigger's Handbook" and takes it -even though she can't read she is fascinated by this book. Her new foster Papa finds the book one day and decides he will teach her to read. This starts her love-affair with books and words and she then goes on to steal more books as she can't afford to buy them. During this time her family also begins to hide a Jew in their basement and deal with the problems of being sympathetic for the Jews in a world where even the tiniest amount of pro-semitic feelings can get you severely punished.
Zusak's writing style is truly fantastic. Various interruptions from Death are included - e.g in the opening passage "Here is a small fact - you are going to die". Colour plays an important part in the imagery - Death describes every soul he collects in terms of the colours he sees; the red of the sky after a bombing, the pure white of snow. Red, white & black are possibly the most used colours; symbolising the colours of the swastika. Like Liesel (the Book Thief) you learn to love words, simply due to Zusak's talent with them.
I've read a few other reviews online and a lot say that they found the first 50 pages or so difficult to "get in to" and then after that they were hooked. They felt that these pages should have been "re-worked" so that they worked better. But I don't feel this is the case. I think it takes these pages to get used to the style - it's something totally different to what most people would usually read. The style of those pages is exactly the same as the rest of the book but once people are hooked on the story, the difficulties with the style disappear.
Even though you know that people died in this war, even though Death drops massive hints the whole way through the book (including some of who dies, but not how they die in entirety), the ending still managed to shock and obviously affect me. I had difficulty reading through my tears but had to keep reading because I
needed to know what happened.
I'm sure I would nominate most of the books I have read on this list as a "must-read" but this one is a definite. I would also love to see it as a HSC study book.


"The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying" by Sogyal Rinpoche
"Tokyo Cancelled" by Rana Dasgupta
"Einstein" by Walter Isaacson
"The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living" by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
"War & Peace" by Leo Tolstoy
"A Confession" by Leo Tolstoy
"Monet & The Impressionists" by George T M Shackelford & Terence Maloon
"The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins
"The Consolations of Philosophy" by Alain De Botton
"The Guernsey Literacy and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer
"The Beatles and Philosophy"
"Derrida: writing and difference"
"Breath" by Tim Winton

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