Reading is one of my favourite past-times. There is so much you can learn from books, especially those that deal with self-development.
However, you can also learn a lot from reading fiction, and, arguably, you can learn even more sometimes.
I could list a whole host of novels that you should read, some famous, some not so, that you should read, but I have decided to limit this list to ten.
The novels below range from scientific thrillers to stories about man and beast and explorations of the human soul. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all of them, and can’t recommend them enough.
If you are looking to develop a reading habit, or dip your toes into some new books, this list should provide with a few new books that can add to your reading list!
While the film is widely regarded as one of the best ever made, the novel that formed the basis for the blockbuster is just as good. Jurassic Park is a tome on what happens when we create systems that are too complex to be controlled.
The novel takes place on Isla Nublar, where an intrepid entrepreneur, John Hammond has brought dinosaurs back from the dead after 65 million years. Wielding the immense potential of genetic engineering, the author, Michael Crichton looks at the implications of this for mankind.
The scientists behind the park have created so many dinosaurs they are unable to name all of them. Jurassic Park echoes Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in this regard, where Victor Frankenstein does know what to call his creation. Hammond’s and the scientists disregard for their creations has severe repercussions for all of those present on the island.
We are in thrall to the scientific community and the progress that they make, but we must also consider the ethical implications of that progress. To echo Jeff Goldblum’s character, Ian Malcolm from the film adaption in regards to pushing the boundaries of science, we must consider whether we should instead of if we could.
Alone in Berlin
Alone in Berlin is a novel that I have recently read and it is one that I thoroughly enjoyed. It tells the story of several characters caught up in an intricate web of events in Nazi Germany.
The story focuses on the Quangels who are disillusioned with the Nazi regime and begin their own form of protest by dropping postcards across the city. They have varying success while their exploits put themselves and others in grave danger in the face of the Nazi machine.
Remarkably, Alone in Berlin is based on a true story of a couple, who acting alone, became part of the German Resistance during the Second World War.
Their story shows that no matter how small, resistance in the face of evil is a necessity. The novel asks the question of whether it is better to risk your life to do what you know is right or go along with the regime to save your skin.
With populism on this rise, the message in Hans Follada’s novel is more relevant than ever.
A Clockwork Orange
Much like Jurrasic Park, the film version of A Clockwork Orange is much more well-known than the book. However, that does not diminish the novel in any way, it is an interesting read on whether it is better to choose to be bad or be forced to be good.
The story looks at the life of Alex, a fifteen-year-old boy who regularly commits acts of mindless violence. Eventually, his acts catch up with him and he falls into the hands of the dystopian government.
A Clockwork Orange focuses on one of the fundamental elements of humanity, that of free will. Alex freely chooses to commit acts of violence, but would society be better served if he were made into a law-abiding citizen, even if it was against his will?
The book poses ethical and philosophical questions which are still relevant today, namely whether it is better to sacrifice free will in favour of a stable state. It is a thought-provoking and essential read for anyone interested in deep philosophical questions and their implications for society.
The Road is a fantastic novel by the great American author Cormac McCarthy. It details the journey of a man and a boy, whose names are not revealed, in post-apocalyptic America.
The story is gruesome as the man and the boy try to survive amidst the carnage and avoid cannibals that have become commonplace in the world. One of the overriding themes of the book is that of love.
Despite the horrors that are all around them, the love between the man and the boy remains strong. The boy’s mother commits suicide before the events of the book and wants the man and the boy to do so too, but they refuse.
This raises questions of what love means to different people. Did the mother want the man and the boy to commit suicide because she loved them and didn’t want them to suffer in this desolate world? Or does the man love the boy so much that he cannot bring himself to do this, even though they will likely suffer sometime in the future?
The Road is an examination of life and its various facets in times of adversity and one that is worth reading if you want a deeper appreciation of the will of the human mind.
Nod is an unusual novel set in Vancouver where a global event causes the majority of the population to be unable to sleep. The book explores what happens to society when apocalyptic events hit.
Around one in ten thousand people can still sleep after the event, including several children. After six days of sleep deprivation, psychosis sets in and after four weeks the body will die.
The book explores how quickly society can break down in the event of a catastrophe. From things being normal a week earlier to chaos reigning a week later, Nod shows us how we are balancing on the precipice constantly without realising it.
We may think we are civilised, but when disaster strikes, it is not so easy to cling to these notions any more. How we react reveals more about our species than we realise.
Norwegian Wood is a fantastic novel by the great Japanese author Haruki Murakami. The book details the student life of Toru Watanabe from his perspective.
Throughout the novel, he is tormented by the death of those closest to him and his ability to deal with this as time progresses. The novel looks at how we process grief and its lingering effects long after it has occurred.
Watanabe spends the novel looking for some form of meaning in his life, unable to find it in relationships or in the student protests prevalent at the time, he stumbles from place to place to find his place in the world.
The book is a rumination of the struggle of maintaining the will to live while coming face to face with the inevitability of death. It tells us that despite this inevitability, we should make the most of our time on Earth, otherwise, we waste the precious gift that we have given.
Similar to Jurassic Park and A Clockwork Orange, Jaws is a novel that was later adapted into a famous film. While the book may not be as well-known as the film, it is still a good read.
The novel takes place in a town called Amity, a seaside resort town on Long Island. During one summer, the town becomes beseeched by a Great White Shark that attacks and kills humans with increasing frequencies.
During the story, we look at how the town deals with the events. The mayor wants to keep the beaches open despite the protestations of the Chief of Police because it will be bad for business.
The shark is built up into this grotesque and unstoppable monster, but the actions of some of those in the town are no better. The book calls into question whether it is the man-eating shark that is the biggest threat or the predatory humans that populate the island such as the mayor and reporters.
The Color Purple
The Color Purple is a brilliant novel, written by Alice Walker, which details the life of Celie, a poor, half-literate, black woman in rural Georgia in the early 1900s.
Her life at the beginning of the novel is torrid. Her father, Alphonso, beats and rapes her constantly, while Celie’s mother dies, cursing her on her deathbed in her dying moments.
Throughout the novel, we see how Celie progresses from the seeming inevitability of her awful life continuing, to living a life full of contentment at the end of the novel. This is portrayed in how her writing progresses from phonetic spellings to a more accomplished grasp of the English language
The Color Purple shows us that despite the cards we are dealt with in life, we always have the ability to change them and improve our situation.
The Beach is a famous novel, which again, was turned into a popular movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
The book tells the story of Richard, a young British backpacker who learns of a beautiful island that is inaccessible to tourists. The story details Richard’s quest to find the island and his life on it once he does.
Richard discovers a group of travellers living on the island. Initially reluctant to accept him, he eventually integrates himself in the group. However, the island does not turn out to be the paradise he imagined.
The novel is a riveting story of how our expectations often do not match up to reality. We also explore the realities of a utopian society and learn that in an imperfect world such an ideal may not be attainable.
Prey is another novel by Michael Crichton. Although it is not as famous as Jurassic Park, it is still an enthralling read.
The novel explores how advancements in technology do not always turn out for the best and that we should be cautious when it comes to scientific progress.
Prey specifically looks at nanotechnology, genetic engineering and artificial intelligence and the impacts it could have upon human society if it is not handled in the right manner.
In an age where we are struggling to keep up with the rapid of scientific achievement, this book is a timely reminder that we should consider the implications of our progress before it’s too late.
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