Books Entertainment

All-time favourite books

5 July 2014

The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

It all began at the Westgarth Horror Fest of 2001 (or thereabouts). It was a 24-hour horror movie marathon located a short 20-minute walk from my house. My parents strangely permitted me to attend such a morbid event at such a tender age. My friends and I had a wonderful time, even though I was to return home at 2am or so. The event ran from 7am on a Saturday morning to 7am the following morning.

My first favourite film of the event was Roman Polanski’s The Tenant, however this is a post on books and I digress.

The next best film was 1945’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, the first old movie other than The Wizard of Oz that I’d ever seen and loved, starring no one I really knew except a young Angela Lansbury (you know, the old lady from Murder, She Wrote).

I was enchanted. I have always been a bit of a creep and this film was creep personified (or, filmified). I discovered soon after that it was a book so after the Horror Fest I promptly went out and borrowed the book from the school library.

I was obsessed with this book and still am to this day. It is the only novel I have read more than once (although, not for 10 or so years now – perhaps it’s time to reunite). Also it makes me feel super smart to tell people that my favourite book is by Oscar Wilde.

Dorian Gray is about a really vain man whose narcissism kills him. Totally amazing. Please read.

Perfume, by Patrick Süskind

Just when I thought there was no book as creepy as Dorian Gray, out comes Patrick Süskind with this beauty. Another creepy book which suits my tastes just marvellously. Unfortunately I cannot recall why I picked this book up to begin with, but I assume it’s because the blurb sounded phenomenal. Turns out Kurt Cobain was a big fan too.

This book is about a cursed Frenchman named Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. I would love to name my son Jean-Baptiste but perhaps it is not such a good idea. JB develops an amazing sense of scent due to mother and abandonment issues and decides to kill women and make perfume out of their scents. The ending is all of the romanticism in the world combined, or at least that’s what I think.

I took this book to Spanish class one day as our assignment was to recite a review about our favourite book. Everyone thought I was strange after that class.

1984, by George Orwell

Holy crap. This book was endlessly recommended to me over and over by a communist I am familiar with. I read it whilst unemployed in Costa Rica, in conjunction with binge watching Breaking Bad (a good combination). Also at the time my old favourite band Muse had just released a song called United States of Eurasia which is totally about this book (and also includes a sample of my second favourite Chopin song at the end, hence this song was quite obviously written just for me).

So basically this book is about people controlling the lives and minds of humans. My favourite quote is:

Under the spreading chestnut tree

I sold you and you sold me

It will make more sense once you read it.

Orwell is a genius and seer.

The Book Thief, by Markus Zuzak

A new contender to my list. It is no secret that I am insanely obsessed with World War II and in particular The Holocaust. This book is absolutely beautiful, and one of the only books to make heartless Nicole shed a tear.

The story is narrated by death and follows the most beautiful little girl named Liesel who meets a beautiful little boy named Rudy and who steals books on the odd occasion. It is also about two nice men named Hans and Max.

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë

Woah. Jane Eyre is one amazing woman.

Although I was thoroughly disappointed with the much-too-gossipy-for-my-liking Pride and Prejudice (sorry world) and wrongly assumed that all old English society literature might be similar, I thought I’d still give Charlotte Brontë a go, just because the blurb sounded interesting and appealed to my feminist views.

I was so very wrong about this sort of English literature. This book is about an amazing woman who makes her own decisions. I was so proud of Jane Eyre and to this day she is my hero.

Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov

I picked this book up from an amazing second-hand book store in Costa Rica and read it during my 2-hour daily bus ride to work.

I wasn’t expecting to love this book given the subject – an older man falling in love with a female child. But it is just written so absolutely marvellously, cleverly and amusingly.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey

I purchased this book at a local scout hall’s sale of old library books for about $1. Its pages were stained an orangey-brown and quite often while reading I found rather horrible surprises sticking one page to another. I also found a Metro ticket, circa 1993, inserted as a bookmark deep into the book. Such nostalgia. This book was amazing but given its revolting state I decided to leave it on a train after finishing it as a nice surprise for someone else to delight in.

I am not sure why I decided to purchase this book in particular, given the lame-o movie tie-in front cover featuring a young Jack Nicholson (I do dislike such covers). Perhaps the old-school bright-orange of the cover redeemed this fact. Perhaps the fact that I’d heard the movie was amazing and imagined the book must be too. Perhaps the fact that it was $1.

Again, another book in which I was astounded that I fell in love with, given the subject. A mute man residing in a mental hospital narrates the book, and in particular he observes the newest addition to the hospital, a man who continuously undermines the idea of insanity.

This book is so good that I recently watched the movie for the first time and was 95% sure that I’d seen it already. But I hadn’t. The book is just that well-written.

The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood

This book I judged solely by its cover, and gladly so. It turned out to be a very good decision as now Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite authors. The cover of this book featured a 1950s styled woman, and at the time of consumption I was obsessed with the 1950s (I seem to have quite an obsessive personality really).

I got it for my 19th birthday, or thereabouts. I always thought I hated sci-fi, but Atwood always makes it interesting. Bravo.

This story is a story inside a story inside a story, involving sisters and a mysterious death.

The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

On an earlier day of my solo Europe trip back in ’07, I was lucky enough to meet Kate, who, it turns out, is pretty much me, but from Perth. Kate and I had the most fun in the world. It saddens me that she lives so far (only 4 hours by plane but that’s still $600 or so). She sat next to me on a bus because I was the only person sitting alone. We drank pure blue alcohol together all night in Austria. We ate Viennese hot dogs and sighed on Freud’s lounge. She made fun of me for breaking the karaoke machine whilst singing Me and Bobby McGee. We accidentally met some awesome Italian locals in Florence and had a fun time. We brought snow back from a Swiss mountain so that we’d have a makeshift “fridge” in our hotel sink to keep our Irish cream liqueur chilled (much to the disapproval of many a Swiss traveller on that very 2-hour train ride home). She’s the best.

Anyway, she was reading a novel during our time together by a Spanish author called The Shadow of the Wind. She finished it towards the end of our trip and said, “It’s amazing, please read it.” At the time I was not much of a reader and to tell you the truth I was probably still reading The Baby-Sitters Club around that time. But I gave this book a whirl. And it was amazing! If you are travelling to Barcelona any time soon, this book needs to be read. It’s about a guy who owns a bookshop and many a mysterious event ensues.

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas

Another new addition to the list. It took me three months of more-than-regular reading. Yes, it’s rather epic.

Why on earth would a simpleton like me decide to venture into reading a 1,300 page book, even longer than the epic Anna Karenina which was my record at the time?

a) When I met my current husband Alexander at a hostel, I also met an Alexandre, from Mexico, and for some reason I noted, “Oh, like the author?” and he said, “Yes, I was named after him”. So Alexandre Dumas reminds me of Alexandre from Mexico who reminds me of the beautiful man whom I met so so randomly from a country I’d never heard of 6 months earlier who ended up being my husband.

b) I like stories about revenge.

c) My super smart sister-in-law lists it as her favourite book so I thought it had to be good

d) With great embarrassment I must mention my love for the soap-opera called Revenge which is loosely based on TCOMC

So with these terrific reasons I finally embarked on my journey. I laughed. I cried (well, maybe with happiness). And most importantly, I revelled in my hero’s terrific, brutal, lasting and truly epic revenge.

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  • Reply Raised A Reader 5 July 2014 at 3:24 am

    1984, Jane Eyre, and The Book Thief are all great! Perfume is the kind of book that I really want to know what happens, but I don’t want to read, because I like being able to turn off my lights at night. Anyways, if you like creepiness and Jane Eyre, you’ll probably like Wuthering Heights, which is one of my favorites. There’s traces of the supernatural, death, love, hate, passion…you name it.

    • Reply Nicole 5 July 2014 at 9:59 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation! It’ll be my next read for sure!

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