If you’re going to be stuck inside on a cold, windy day, you may as well turn on some good music, make yourself a cup of hot chocolate, and read an interesting book. Reading is a good indoor activity because a good book will transport you to distant places. It can take you forward and backward in time. It can even take you to a world that can only exist in someone’s vivid imagination.
I love to read, and here are nine books that I have truly enjoyed and that I would call favorites. They are here, in no particular order.
1. Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson. This book was published in 2013. The main character, Ursula Todd, was born in 1910. During the course of the novel, she is born and she dies, repeatedly. She experiences, after her repeated births and deaths, a sensation of deja vu, as if she had been in a place before but she couldn’t identify when. She tries to alter the course of her life and of history. In one of her lives, she shoots Adolf Hitler before he was able to ascend to power. This is one of the most original, creative books that I have ever read.
2. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This book was published in 1967, and it tells the story of seven generations of the Buendia in the town of Macondo, in Colombia. Many bizarre things occur in Macondo, such as an epidemic of insomnia. People are unable to escape from history and are forced to repeat it over and over again. This novel is a great example of the writing style known as magic realism.
3. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. This book was published in 2014, and it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2015. The stories of the two main characters in the book, Marie-Laure and Werner, run parallel to each other. Marie-Laure is a French girl who is blind, whose father teaches her to be independent and to enjoy solving puzzles and reading Braille books. Werner is a German boy, an orphan who has a talent for building and repairing radios. Their lives intersect during World War II, when Germany occupies France.
4. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston. This book was published in 1937. It is the story of Janie Crawford, a woman who is seeking true love. She marries three times. She escapes from an abusive relationship, and she eventually finds her true love. The book is set in Eatonville, Florida, the first all-black town in the United States. The story deals with issues of racism and sexism, as experienced by Janie in her life and experiences.
5. The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende. This novel was published in 1982. It chronicles the Trueba family in Chile. There are a variety of interesting characters, including Clara del Valle, who is a clairvoyant and who can predict the future and who can talk to dead people and spirits. This novel is also an example of magic realism.
6. The Clan of the Cave Bear, by Jean Auel. This book, which was published in 1980, is set in prehistoric times and the main character, Ayla, is a cro-magnon woman who is brought up by Neanderthals. It is a dramatic and vivid story of life in times that most of us can’t possibly imagine. It is the first in a series, titled “Earth’s Children.”
7. The Tin Drum, by Gunter Grass. This book was published in 1959. It is the story of a boy named Oskar Matzerath, who was born in Danzig (Gdansk) in 1924. He quickly decided never to grow after he reached the age of three, when he was given a tin drum. As a very small person, who played his tin drum to excess, he was an observer of the horrors of Nazism and to the brutal violence of World War II. Oskar tried to disrupt the brutality with his drumming, as well as with his shrill, high pitched voice, that was capable of breaking glass.
8. Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward. This book was published in 2011, and, in that same year, it won the National Book Award. It is set in Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina. The main character is a pregnant teenager named Esch. Other characters include Esch’s family, the boy who got her pregnant but who stopped talking to her, pit bull dog puppies, and the hurricane. It is a beautifully written book and, in a short time, Esch finds out who she is and who her child will be.
9. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson. This book was published posthumously in 2005. It is a thriller about a disgraced magazine publisher, who works with a female hacker to try to solve murders. It is the first part of the Millennium series. The writing is tight and the plot is fast moving and exciting. The characters are well rounded. After you finish this book, you’ll want to read all of the sequels.