Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read (30 Day Book Challenge #2)

There are so many books I could do for this topic, but I think I’ll post one that I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet in this edition of the 30 Day Book Challenge (and if I have, oops, oh well).

Captain Corelli's MandolinI wish more people would read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières. It’s one of my favourite novels of all time, which probably has something to do with my choice here, but there’s more to it than that. You see, there’s a film adaptation of this novel that is absolutely awful. Louis de Bernières himself isn’t that fond of it if my memory serves me correct, and I am yet to hear one person say a good thing about it. Sadly, for a lot of people that is their main contact with the story, and so they are reluctant to read the novel, which makes me sad because it is such a brilliant book. It’s funny and tragic all at the same time, as it weaves a love story during a time when invading armies would take over whole towns in Europe during WWII, and there is just that beauty that always exists in war stories when we see the best and worst of mankind simultaneously.

If you haven’t read this book, and you feel unsure because you’ve seen or heard about the movie, forget about the film and just read it. Trust me, it’s amazing.

What’s a book you wish more people would read?

The Booker Award and My Top 5 Books of all time

I still remember a long, long time ago (the 2nd of January, 2012) when I very first began this blog, and I was desperately wondering what direction the content would take. I very quickly realised that I wanted to make my blog about books and writing, and even though other things have found their way into my posts, such as music (in particular this month), but also random things I like (such as coffee and tea), I still feel overall that I write a books and writing blog, and that will indeed remain my focus for the foreseeable future.

So I must thank Literary Tiger for nominating me for the Booker Award, an award for blogs primarily about books (50% or more on books, reading and writing). One of the great things about book blogging is meeting so many other brilliant book bloggers out there, and Literary Tiger has a fantastic blog and a great taste in literature, and is without a doubt worth a visit if you have not yet managed to stumble across her posts.

As usual there’s some rules, but I quite like the third one:

1.  Nominate other blogs, as many as you want but 5-10 is always a good suggestion (but hey, I once nominated 32, so don’t take my advice necessarily).  Don’t forget to let your recipients know.

2.  Post the Booker Award picture.

3.  Share your top 5 books of all time.

And so, I give you…

MY TOP FIVE BOOKS OF ALL TIME (for the moment…because I mean, really, this sort of thing is bound to change as one travels through life and…OH this is still the heading. Right. Sorry):

1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – I’ve discussed this brilliantly absurd World War II based novel before, multiple times. This book made me howl with laughter, and was also the first book (in my memory at least) to make me cry. It moved me in a way a book hadn’t ever moved me before, and single-handedly re-inspired me to read more and, more importantly, to start writing fiction again. An amazing book, and one which will likely always claim the top spot in this list. If you haven’t read this, you absolutely must.

2. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières – Apparently the film adaptation of this is awful, which is a shame as I suspect that puts a lot of people off reading the book, when really it is magnificently written. Also set in World War II, it is the story of a Greek island community who has to deal with an Italian occupation during the war, and how one girl in the town falls in love with Captain Corelli, the musician captain of the Italians. It’s funny and heartbreaking all at the same time, and another book I am constantly lending out to friends.

3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Series by Douglas Adams – Yeah yeah, it’s technically five books (and yes I know there’s a sixth, but I just can’t bring myself to read it when it wasn’t written by Douglas Adams). A downright silly and bizarre series of science fiction books, which at first may come across as being too silly for their own good, but upon further reading and reflection are actually taking subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) swipes at society. All in a universe in which Earth flickers between existing and not existing, depending on which book you’re at. This isn’t for everyone, but I recommend at least trying it.

4. The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – This hypnotising gothic novel is set in post-civil war Barcelona, and based around a boy, Daniel Sempere, who is initiated into the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where upon initiation into this old forgotten library he has to choose a book to protect for life. When he falls in love with his book and tries to track down more books by the author, he finds out the author’s life is shrouded in mystery, and that a figure named after a character within the story has been burning all of the author’s books. The whole story within a story thing doesn’t always work, but this one is just spellbinding, as are all the books by this author.

5. The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss – Okay, so this is another series, a fantasy trilogy of which the third book is yet to be released. But the first two books, The Name Of The Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, both blew me away, and are undoubtedly my favourite fantasy novels. The story of Kvothe, adventurer, arcanist, musician and so much more, and why he has disappeared into obscurity, is one of those stories that stays in your mind long after you have read it, and the novels steer away from the usual conventions of the fantasy genre, making for a much more exciting and less predictable read. If you’re a fantasy fan, read these books. If you’re not, read these books.

The Nominations:

Books & Bowel Movements

Poetry by the clueless

Storyteller In The Digital Age

Book Club Babe

Books Speak Volumes

Writer’s Block

Bitsnbooks

These are all great blogs about books and writing and various other related topics, so check them out. And as always, this is by no means a definitive list, and I have left some people out who I know have been just nominated recently for these awards. But for many other great blog suggestions, check out my other awards posts, as well.

What are your top 5 books of all time?

30 Day Book Challenge Day 14 – Favourite Book by my Favourite Writer

For those of you who missed yesterday’s blog, to cut a long story short my favourite author is Louis de Bernières (have a look here if you missed this one). As I mentioned yesterday, my favourite book by my favourite author is not in fact my favourite book of all time, the title of which will be revealed at the end of these 30 blogs. However, my favourite novel by Louis de Bernières comes down to choosing between what are unarguably his two best novels, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and Birds Without Wings.

Captain Corelli's MandolinCaptain Corelli’s Mandolin, written in 1994, is set on the Greek Island of Cephallonia during the Italian and German occupation from World War Two. While it details the war itself, and some aspects of the political side to the war, essentially it is about the social side, and is a love story between Pelagia, the daughter of the local doctor, Dr Iannis, and Antonio Corelli, the captain of the occupying Italian force who despises the war, and loves music and life. As the story progresses we see the effects of the war on various levels, from the effect on the forces themselves to the towns, right down to the individuals who are all affected in different ways, and in many cases are also driven by love. It is stunning both in story but also in the style of writing, managing to balance the humorous with the tragic to produce a beautiful tale of love, loss and war. This book also won de Bernières the Commonwealth Writers Prize the following year.

Birds Without Wings, written in 2004, is the longest book written by de Bernières, with an epic story to match. Set in the fictional village of Eskibahçe in southwestern Anatolia (although based upon a real village in the area now in ruins), this story spans through World War One and the era of Turkish nationalism, and focuses upon this village where two cultures and religions have resided peacefully together for centuries, only to be ripped apart when war and revolution sweep through. While it is slow to build up, this helps the reader to really fall in love with the characters and town, only to watch their worlds and lives turned upside down, which makes it all the more heartbreaking. The story also focuses on the tragic love story of Philothei and Ibrahim, who, like other characters in the novel, become caught up in all the political events which they cannot control. Lastly, throughout the novel is a Birds Without Wingsrunning story about the rise of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, “father of the Turkish nation”, which lends to the historical side of the novel quite well. While there are themes that cross over between this book and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and even some characters that cross over (though at different ages, due to the two decades separating the stories), this book is much more ambitious in scale and in story, and encompasses a lot more, being told through various perspectives as the tale progresses.

So which one is my favourite? It is quite difficult to decide. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is by far the more famous and more successful of the two novels, and as I mentioned yesterday, is probably the novel you want to start with if you have never read any work by de Bernières. It is beautiful, and unforgettable. And yet, when I read Birds Without Wings it just moved me that little bit more, it toiled with my emotions more, and had me hooked – I read the second half of the book in a single sitting because I just couldn’t stop. And so, at the end of the day, it is Birds Without Wings that I would consider my favourite book by my favourite author, although both novels I have mentioned here are fantastic.

What’s your favourite novel by your favourite author? Is it the same as your favourite novel of all time?

30 Day Book Challenge Day 13 – My Favourite Writer

I think I have reached that age, in my mid twenties, where your all time favourite writers and books are pretty well cemented, and are unlikely to change, only to be added upon. I know for me, my favourite book (which isn’t by my favourite author, and so won’t be revealed until Day 30), will probably never change. Back to the topic though, my favourite writer is pretty set in stone for the time being. I have many that could be considered, such as Douglas Adams (who I discussed on Day 2), Carlos Ruiz Zafón (who I discussed on Day 1), Patrick Rothfuss (Day 1 again), and several others, such as P.G.Wodehouse, Oscar Wilde, Roald Dahl (who I discussed yesterday), and so on.

However, my favourite author is one of the only authors where I can proudly say I own all his books. His stories have been set in various places all over the world, and in fact he is somewhat known for his stories abroad. They have often looked at the human condition under various trying times, such as wars and conflicts, love and loss, changing times, politics, and more. Who am I talking about? This guy:

Louis de Bernières

Don’t worry, I was surprised when I first realised what this writer looked like. This is Louis de Bernières, my favourite writer. Don’t be fooled by his appearance, his stories are exciting, hilarious, charming, devastating, and ultimately beautiful and poignant.

He began his novel writing career in1990 with a trilogy of Latin America novels (which I discussed here in a bit more detail), and in 1994 published his most famous novel, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, a beautiful and funny story set in World War Two, which went on to win The Commonwealth Writers Prize for 1994. Since then he has published numerous short fiction works, as well as the play Sunday Morning at the Centre of the World, before returning to novels with Red Dog in 2001 (which has just been turned into a film), the magnificent World War One set Birds Without Wings in 2004, A Partisan’s Daughter in 2008, set in 1970s London, and Notwithstanding, in 2009, which is a collection of short stories all set around a fictional English village called Notwithstanding.

Louis de BernièresIf you’ve never had the pleasure of reading Louis de Bernières, I would suggest starting with Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and then going from there. But all his novels are great, and I am eagerly awaiting his next book! Tomorrow I’ll explain which of his books are my favourite, and why.

What’s your favourite author? Have you read all their books? Do you think they’re likely to ever ‘lose’ their position as your favourite author?

30 Day Book Challenge Day 3 – My Favourite Series

I keep waiting for a day with this challenge where there will be a clear cut winner, but it never seems to be that easy, and picking my favourite book series is no exception. I struggled immensely with this one, and surprised myself with the answer in the end, so before I get to my favourite series, I’d like to briefly discuss a couple of others that I have loved over the years.

First of all, I have to mention a series which has already been included before in this challenge (yesterday, I think), a series lovingly known as The Hitchhiker series by Douglas Adams. This sci-fi “trilogy in five parts”  pokes fun at, well, just about everything, and there is quite simply nobody who writes like Adams, making these books uniquely funny and insightful. For me personally, I read these first when I was a teenager and my reading habits were pretty bad (as they often are at that age), but this series helped me back into a good reading routine, and for that reason will always have a special place on my shelf (when none of my friends are borrowing it, which is rare).

Another series I love (though I must admit I haven’t read every book in the series) is the Jeeves and Wooster series of novels by the fabulous P.G.Wodehouse. Wodehouse was the master of playful language, and his stories about the silly aristocrat Bertie Wooster, and his ever present and ever helpful butler Jeeves, are some of the most charming tales you will ever read. I love to read Wodehouse when I just want to escape and lose myself in a good book, and luckily for us, the man wrote nearly 100 books in his lifetime, of which a significant portion form the Jeeves and Wooster series. If you’ve never read Wodehouse, I strongly suggest it, but warn you now: it is addictive.

My favourite book series, however, is one I perhaps didn’t even realise was my favourite until after I had read it, and many other books, and then gone back to it a while later. Louis de Bernieres, a writer famous for the beautiful Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, as well as Red Dog (which has become popular since the recent movie adaptation), started his writing career with a trilogy set in a fictional South American country, and it is this trilogy which, when I look back, is my favourite book series of all time. The titles alone had me interested, consisting of The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts, Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord, and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman. Each of these three books are set in the same area, and feature many of the same characters, but focus on different themes and events, the first focusing on guerilla warfare, the second on drug trafficking, and the last one on religious fanaticism. All three are amazing, especially when you consider these were the first books de Bernieres wrote, and it is no wonder he went on to become an award winning and best selling author. I would definitely recommend these to anybody without hesitation, as they are all stories which will stay with you long after you have read them.