But while I was in the bookstore I was thinking about when Cindy asked me what my top 10 books would be. Sometimes I feel like I don't know what that list would be. I think it changes sometimes right after I read something that I really like. There are the books I really loved while I was growing up; Brave New World, Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird. If I had to pick just one book I love the most, it might be To Kill a Mockingbird, though Catcher in the Rye holds a very dear place in my heart. I liked 1984 very much and Brave New World. I adored Jane Eyre. Lately, I have loved Life of Pi. For something to end up on that all time favorites list it has to really resonate with me on a personal level and I have to feel that I want to devour the book and have a hard time putting it down and I have to hope the book will never end and I have to want to read it again, even though, this time, I know how it all ends. I've read Catcher in the Rye more times than I can count.
But to tell you what books I've learned to like, or that interested me in the past few years, new books I've read and really liked, other than Life of Pi, it gets a bit tougher. Mainly, it gets tougher because sometimes, they are hard to confess to really liking. But if I am being honest, these books spring to mind when I think of books I've really enjoyed, books that have really gotten inside my skin or inside my head, books I've thought about a lot after I've read them. And I realized today when I was perusing the aisles at the bookstore that all of these books have characters who are either unstable, mentally ill, or plain out crazy and in some cases, crazy and violent.
This isn't something I am really comfortable recommending to other people frankly. But it's honest I guess. And maybe, this is a list that appeals to someone who want to be a therapist, more than it appeals to anyone else. But here it is:
This crazy, joyful Louisiana family has its share of secrets--from alcoholism to incest--that are slowly revealed as each person has his or her say. Readers will be most interested in the oldest daughter, Siddalee, whose sheer irreverence and consuming curiosity propels the plot until she finally discovers how to forgive her family. Wells's keen sense of character and superb ear for voice unify the loose assemblage of tales of a family with disfunction and mental illness.
Dolores is a class-A emotional basket case, and why shouldn't she be? She's suffered almost every abuse and familial travesty that exists: Her father is a violent, philandering liar; her mother has the mental and emotional consistency of Jell-O; and the men in her life are probably the gender's most loathsome creatures. But Dolores is no quitter; she battles her woes with a sense of self-indulgence and gluttony rivaled only by Henry VIII. Hers is a dysfunctional Wonder Years, where growing up in the golden era was anything but ideal. While most kids her age were dealing with the monumental importance of the latest Beatles single and how college turned an older sibling into a long-haired hippie, Dolores was grappling with such issues as divorce, rape, and mental illness. Whether you're disgusted by her antics or moved by her pathetic ploys, you'll be drawn into Dolores's warped, hilarious, Mallomar-munching world.
Myla Goldberg gives us the eccentric Naumann family where Saul sees in Eliza the potential to fulfill the teachings of the Kabbalah scholar Abulafia, who taught that enlightenment could be reached through strategic alignments of letters and words. Eliza takes to this new discipline with a desperate, single-minded focus. At the same time, her brilliant but removed mother succumbs to a longtime secret vice and begins a descent into madness, and her brother joins the Hare Krishnas. Goldberg's insights into religious devotion, guilt, love, obsessive personalities and family dynamics ring true, and her use of spelling-as-metaphor makes a clever trope in a novel populated by literate scholars and voracious readers.
The Bell Jar tells the story of a gifted young woman's mental breakdown beginning during a summer internship as a junior editor at a magazine in New York City in the early 1950s. The real Plath committed suicide in 1963 and left behind this scathingly sad, honest and perfectly-written book, which remains one of the best-told tales of a woman's descent into insanity.
Featuring soap made from human fat, waiters at high-class restaurants who do unmentionable things to soup and an underground organization dedicated to inflicting a violent anarchy upon the land, Palahniuk's apocalyptic first novel is clearly not for the faint of heart. Mayhem ensues, beginning with the narrator's condo exploding and culminating with a terrorist attack on the world's tallest building. Writing in an ironic deadpan and including something to offend everyone, Palahniuk is a risky writer who takes chances galore, especially with a particularly bizarre plot twist he throws in late in the book. Caustic, psychotic, outrageous, bleakly funny, violent and always unsettling, Palahniuk's utterly original creation will make even the most jaded reader sit up and take notice.
In American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis imaginatively explores the incomprehensible depths of madness and captures the insanity of violence in our time or any other. Patrick Bateman moves among the young and trendy in 1980s Manhattan. Young, handsome, and well educated, bateman earns his fortune on Wall Street by day while spending his nights in ways we cannot begin to fathom. Expressing his true self through torture and murder, Bateman prefigures an apocalyptic horror that no society could bear to confront.
Now that I have you completely disturbed and worried about my (sometimes) choices in books, I will remind you that, I also very much love Jane Austen's novels. Particularly Emma. Which I highly recommend, the rest, read at your own risk!