I am always a bit reluctant to recommend fiction- when a novel resonates with me, it is always personal. So please consider this list as a celebration of some of the books that enriched my life – and if you do feel tempted to read any of these, I hope you enjoy them.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo
I read this when I was 19 and staying in Paris – I remember being swept away with the beautiful descriptions of Paris, and its portrayal of flawed personalities. In a similar vein, I also loved the Count of Monte Cristo, by Dumas, beautiful language (even in translation) and a fast moving plot..
The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver
I loved this story of the childhood and adult life of fictional writer, Harrison Shepherd, set between Mexico (living with artists Rivera and Kahlo and exiled Bolshevik Trotsky) and in America (under the shadow of McCarthyism).
East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
I have read several of Steinbeck’s novels, but this was my favorite – a storyline that forced me to keep reading, and some incredible character development.
Shantaram, by Gregory Roberts
This is part true story, part fiction, about an Australian who escapes prison and flees to India, living in a Bombay and working in a Bombay slum. The first two thirds of the book is some of the best writing I’ve read (it started to drag on a bit in the final section set in Afghanistan), but overall it was a wonderful book.
Trinity, by Leon Uris
I devoured Leon Uris’s historical novels, set in the midst of conflict, in my final year of school and first year of university. Exodus and The Haj (set in Israel/Palestine) and Armageddon (set in Germany) were great, but my favorite was Trinity (and its sequel Redemption), set in Ireland. History brought to life, and engaging characters.
Matthew Flinders’ Cat, by Bryce Courtenay
An Australian novel by storyteller Bryce Courtenay, Matthew Flinders’ Cat is a beautiful story of the friendship that develops between a homeless man and a young boy in Sydney. I also loved Courtenay’s Four Fires, about a poor Irish family struggling in the countryside North of Melbourne.
The True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey
I generally struggle with literature, but this unique book captured me in the first page with its fresh language (written from the perspective of an uneducated bushranger) and depiction of the Australian countryside that I know well.
The Glass Palace, by Amitav Ghosh
A historical novel, telling the story of a poor boy in a Mandalay market stall, who follows the Burmese Royal Family into exile in India in the 1870s. Beautiful characters and language, about a fascinating part of the world.
Wonder, by R.J.Palacio
The story of 10 year old Auggie, who suffers from a severe facial deformity, told from a number of perspectives (all children). An incredibly moving book, both tragic and inspiring.
Harry Potter, by J.K.Rowling
No description needed.