I’m sure you all know by now that I love reading books and I have loved reading since I was a child. Books were my friends before my friends were even my friends and they continue to keep me company when no one else wants to. The only problem is besides the financial,sifting through for my favorites. Over the years I have read a grand many good books, most of which I truly enjoyed but the five that I’m about to discuss here are the ones that stood out for me because of some relevance to my life, a good plot, or both.
CAVEAT: This is not a book review. I am not here to criticize. I’m just here to talk about these books and why I love them so much. Don’t expect anything professional here. I am not a book critic. I repeat. I am not a book critic. I am simply sharing my feelings about these books.
1. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. SALINGER
I don’t claim to be unique or original or hipster or cool or whatever and yes I am aware that this book is overrated-god, if I had a penny for every bad review I saw of it on the net, I’d be wealthy. But all that aside the reason why this has been my all time favorite book is because of the main character Holden Caulfield. Now I know many adolescents and once upon a time teenagers will get me when I say that I did relate to him at one point in my life (occasionally still do), with what feeling alienated and cynical and being overly critical of everyone around me and unfortunately being the very thing (or becoming) that I hated. It was a very confusing and depressing time in my life when I felt that everyone around me had their shit together and I was here all sullen and sulking and complaining about the world. It was the time when I thought nobody would understand me but because of this book I was able to somehow find ‘someone” that felt the way I did even if he was just a fictional character.
Now on that note, those “feelings” still come around but now they don’t come as often as they used to do-the so called ‘Dark Ages” and ‘Dark Plagued Ages” of my life and although I don’t feel like Holden Caulfield anymore (except on certain occasions), I still treasure this book and will continue to, forever remembering it as the book that helped me get through my most emotionally tumultuous years.
ADDITIONAL FUN FACT: In honor of J.D. Salinger’s birthday, I make sure to read The Catcher In The Rye every January 1st!
2. THE BELL JAR by Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar is a lot like The Catcher in the Rye- the themes are similar, the feel of both books are alike. I recently told a friend whom I recommended the book to that it is ” Catcher in the Rye for 20 something college girls”. Usually the books I like the best are the ones that I can relate to-books that have touched me in a way, books whose characters I see myself in. One particular part in this book (not the exact words, just the gist of it) is when Esther is talking about being in Physics classes and passing and getting good grades but none of it meaning anything to her, she being asked what she wanted to be and her answering that she didn’t know. It was something that I had felt in the longest time and it was half saddening and half gladdening to know that someone had felt the same way and put it to words years ago.
Another bonus is the Fig Tree discussion she had with Buddy. I saw a comics version of it (will upload later!!!!) and it talks about all these figs that are supposed to represent the various goals she had for herself and she could only pick up so much lest they would all fall down. Now don’t think I’m trying to toot my own horn here by saying that I am Sylvia Plath but don’t deny that we all felt that way at one point: us wanting way too many things and having too little time to accomplish them all. Like we can only pick one. I want to be a writer, an artist, an actress (?), a director, a spoken word artist, a blogger, a dancer, a photographer and so many more but I know in my logical mind that I can only choose a few of those.
On that note I don’t know if the book helped me get better or not. The book was a hundred and ten percent relatable-perhaps too relatable that it’s basically holding up a mirror to you and telling you, ‘hey, this is what you are right now’. It did remind me a lot of how much farther to the deep end I had gone and I was just a few steps away from suicide (which I did not continue with). The book just triggers me in a way but it’s like an addiction-I know it sets off negative reactions in me yet I continue to read it.
3. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.
Ahh. Now this one. Where do I even begin with this book.
To sum it all up-it’s a book with such a simple plot yet such complex emotions can be felt while reading it. I don’t know what it is about Murakami and other Japanese authors but the ultra simplistic style of writing is made up for by heavy feelings. I don’t know man I just get all these pretty, breezy, city like aesthetics rumbling in my mind that are so beautiful yet so melancholic that I just literally DIE of sensory overload whenever I read this. Still, like all the other books that have impacted me emotionally, I continue to read it like the masochist that I am.
Anyways, I don’t really want to be a spoiler here for those who haven’t read it so I’ll just point out certain parts of the novel that really struck a chord in me.
a.) Whenever the narrator Watanabe describes himself as an ordinary person, a plain guy with no redeeming qualities.
b.) Watanabe falls in love with his dead best friend’s girlfriend who has serious, deep-seated issues of her own that caused her to just drift further and further away from reality and eventually ends up in a rehabilitation center for people just like her.
c.) He is an ordinary person who befriends strong minded, liberated, confident individuals like Midori Kobayashi, a free spirited, outgoing girl and Nagasawa, an ultra rich, intelligent, popular classmate of his.
d.) The countless 60s music references-KILL ME I LOVE EVERYTHING 60S-70S
e.) The part where Midori tells Watanabe about the Marxist group in school and how she wanted to join because she had read Das Kapital and felt strongly about it only to have the boys tell the girls to make rice balls for their meetings. Honestly what I liked about this part is where Midori ranted that these guys were only throwing around fancy words that were hot at the moment (as this was set at the backdrop of civil unrest in Japan) only to get attention from girls and be popular only to end up working for the very same capitalist companies they protested in their youth years later.
Since I am a boring person in real life and can identify with Toru Watanabe, sometimes I can’t help but wonder what it was like to be a Midori or a Nagasawa-to just be carefree and outgoing and not give a shit. In the book, Nagasawa says that sleeping with girls is just a game to him, that he would just meet them, fuck them, and leave them. To have that level of coldness coupled with that intelligence is something I wouldn’t mind having. That’s not to say of course that I relate more to Naoko than Midori but I wish I could lean more on the liberated side as I can get quite reserved at times, depending on who I’m with.
Toru’s dead best friend was everything that he wasn’t- confident, a good speaker, entertaining, funny which in my opinion is the cornerstone for his future friendships. He is usually drawn to people whose personalities are the opposite of his as they were drawn to him which gets me thinking, our first best friends really do set the standard for our future friends. I find myself looking for friends that are a lot like my best friend or at least have some qualities that remind me of her-that way it becomes more comfortable.
4. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Oh boy. Ohhh boy. Now this. This book. This book riiiiiight here.
This book right here was a roller coaster to read. I mean seriously. When I wanted to read this book I couldn’t find the standard version, all that was available in stores was the original scroll which was a lot longer. A year later, I go back to the same bookstore only to find that the EDITED AND RELEASED VERSION HAS BEEN RELEASED BY PENGUIN BOOKS OH MY GOD WHY JUST NOW?!? WHY DID YOU LET ME BUY THE UNEDITED VERSION THAT WAS SO GODDAMN LONG AND GODDAMN HARD TO READ?!? IT EVEN HAD THE ORIGINAL NAMES OF THE CHARACTERS THERE!!!!
also the new version is a few pesos cheaper than the original scroll one HOW COULD YOU DO THIS?!
Okay enough of that. Despite being lengthy and a roller coaster ride of a read, I did enjoy reading it but I have to be honest, I read it mostly because I wanted to study the writing style. As you all know Jack Kerouac belongs to the Beat Generation who are known for using this style-like the spontaneous, at the top of your head, first thought best thought, stream of consciousness style of writing. It was dazzling, truly. Just to see all these random words coming together to form a story is simply a beautiful sight. It’s a true aesthetic for me, playing with words and such, experimenting and all. If it didn’t make me want to go out on the open road, it at least prompted me to try new styles of writing.
The plot here is way too crazy if there is a plot at all. Actually it has no plot, it’s just about Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise going out on a crazy road trip and meeting all sorts of people-all of which based on actual people Kerouac knew. Again, it’s an aesthetics trip. You picture the open road and you picture travelling, you picture radio, you picture alcohol, you picture good times, you picture freedom.
Yes. This book represents freedom to me not only in its themes but in its writing style. I think we could all use a little bit of freedom nowadays (not that we are slaves) but sometimes as a writer people expect you to follow certain ‘rules’, people telling you that you have to write like this or you have to type like that, and that stories need to have a plot, stories have to be coherent, poems have to rhyme and such. This book is actually refreshing (keep a cup of coffee or a can of beer by your side when you read this-it’s even more fulfilling!) read when you feel so stumped about most of today’s literature. It has a unique, unparalleled spirit that’ll leave you mystified and captivated (a little spinny) at the end!
5. Queer, Naked Lunch, Junkie all by William S. Burroughs
I am sure you have caught on to me by now. You have now realized that I like the Beat writers. Well yeah I do. Most people will tell you that the writing is rubbish, it’s nonsense, it’s just silly and jumbled. Actually that is true. Pick up any Beat Generation work and it’s a bunch of words all thrown together and whatnot but since I am never one for the conventional types of writing, and since I like the weird and incomprehensible, it gets a pass. It’s just so free. I don’t know, but whenever I read something by the Holy Trinity of the Beat Generation (Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs) it’s just so entertaining because everything is spontaneous and I am one for spontaneity.
Anyways, since the theme is liberation, I like that Queer talks about homosexual relations in a time when homosexuality was being condemned and looked down upon, which is a sign of going against the rules, breaking tradition (which is another favorite theme of mine). This book cracked me up because of its cynical way of narration and the fact that Mr. Burroughs was just so blunt about everything, even the sexual details. It’s shocking just the same. Junkie offers a deeper insight on what it’s like to be hooked on junk. I read somewhere on the net (must’ve been Wikipedia, m not sure) that Burroughs used to go to med school which I think is the reason why he gets real scientific and specific when explaining the junk effects (the sciencey terms and all). Naked Lunch got a bit gross at times and is a little confusing to read. Again it has no plot. In fact, in the book, it says that you can start at any page in the books. It follows a nonlinear approach which again is comforting because I don’t like order and I’m having a hard time organizing stories.
So mainly I can say that WSB really has become my inspiration for writing. I hope to one day be able to write a book so random and so raw with the ability to shock people.
Tarantula by BOB DYLAN (yay!!!! Nobel Prize for Literature 2016 winner!!!)
I have been a fan of folk music in since I was a kid. I also have been a fan of poetry since I was a kid. You get folk and poetry put em all together you get Bob Dylan. I’m actually not at all surprised that I became a fan of Bob Dylan. Though I just recently (3 years?) gotten into Bob Dylan, like in depth listening, I knew it was just bound to happen. I was just headed that direction and I didn’t fight it. If you wanna know my favorite bands btw, I’ll do another entry on that.
So yeah, Dylan. It was always bound to happen. I remember listening to “Blowin in the Wind” as a kid and singing along to it in the car. That and ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’. I didn’t know those were his songs until my dad told me so and now that I know, like I said, it just follows.
For those of you who are questioning The Bob’s position in music and why he’s so popular and why he is the standard of a songwriter, it’s simple: he managed to merge music and poetry perfectly, beautifully, and also relate it to the turbulence of his times, calls to action through song so to speak. His music tackles topics far and wide ranging from social issues, to love, to religion, to politics, feelings-damn you name it! Seriously. If you haven’t heard a Dylan track I urge you to do it now. You are missing out on life if you haven’t listened to Dylan!!!!!
On the note of Dylan being a poet, yeah he is. He actually has a book entitled Tarantula which I saw years ago but went out of stock quick but because of him winning the Nobel Prize in 2016 (HOORAYY!!!), it was in bookstores all over-by the dozens! Like where were these when I had the money?! Okay enough of that. My cousin secretly slipped me some cash and I bought it the instance I saw it. Why not?
The book is reminiscent of Beat poetryYEAH BEAT AGAIN. IF U HATE ME BY NOW GTFO!.
The book is reminiscent of Beat poetry which Dylan says influenced his songwriting a great deal. The wordings are funny, random, whimsical, sometimes nonsensical. Playful in general which made it fun, confusing, and funny all at the same time. Like I said before, I am always for spontaneity and freedom and since this book embodies those, there’s no reason for me not to like it.
My favorite part? The ode to Lead Belly.
Look it up, Tarantula by Bob Dylan. I won’t advertise and guarantee satisfaction, but I was satisfied so yeah.
Anyways, that rounds up my top 5 (6) favorite books.