This week’s topic for T5W is your Top 5 Required Readings.
5. Once – Morris Gleitzman
I was lucky enough to go to an international school from the age of 11 to 18. Every year in English class, we were assigned a book on the Shoah, the Jewish genocide by Nazis during WWII. Once is one of them.
I was assigned Once when I was 12. It is a short novel that tells the story of a Polish boy named Felix who is desperate to find his book-keeper parents after he witnesses Nazis burning books. On his quest, he meets a girl called Zelda whose parents are dead. He decides to protect her and distract her from her tragedy by telling her stories.
To be honest, my memories of this novel are quite hazy because it’s been ten years, but I remember how much I enjoyed reading it at the time. It’s a heartbreaking tale but it retains the sweetness and innocence you can expect from a book where the main characters are children trying to make their way in a terrible context. This context is not made obvious in the novel because the story is told from Felix’s point of view, the point of view of a boy who is too young to understand what is really happening.
4. Animal Farm – George Orwell
I was assigned Animal Farm a couple of times throughout my student life and was even in a play adaptation (I played the cat and a singing chicken…don’t ask).
This story is a brilliant allegorical satire of the 1917 Russian Revolution. The political intricacies are represented through the interactions between farm animals who have reclaimed power over their owners. This is a quick read as well as a funny and instructive one. If you haven’t done so already, please pick it up.
(I’m still planning on reading 1984 sometime soon but I didn’t bring my copy with me to London so it might be a bit tricky.)
3. Macbeth – William Shakespeare
Along with the WWII novel, every year in English class we had to read a Shakespeare play. Let me tell you, the first two were a struggle but I grew to love the challenge and eventually the plays. Although I’m sorry to say I was not a big fan of Romeo and Juliet (but you can make me watch that Leonardo Dicaprio movie anytime), I greatly enjoyed the other works I read from the master of word play William Shakespeare.
My favourite Shakespeare play has to be MacBeth. I read it when I was 15 and my English teacher was this really cool American dude. He made us learn and act out the dagger monologue (which I still remember to this day) and managed to make Shakespeare fun for a bunch of angsty teenagers. This play is a tragedy filled with creepy witches, a crazy wife and an egotistical knight. It’s great. It’s a dark and powerful read that I definitely recommend you dive into.
2. Voyage au bout de la nuit (Journey to the end of the night) – Louis-Ferdinand Celine
I was assigned this book when I was 17 for my French class and when I saw the size of it, I got scared (and rightfully so). This semi-autobiographical novel retraces the life of Bardamu through WWI, the colonies, working for the Ford Motor Company in the US and becoming a doctor in a destitute Paris suburb.
What I loved about this novel is the way it makes you travel and how you get to see the main character develop through all his (mis)adventures. I think I was one of the only people in my class to actually get through the book and I don’t regret it. The descriptions are gripping and the story will stay with you for a very long time.
The author of this book is a very questionable human being (look it up; he’s one pretty horrible man) but this book remains to this day on my top 10 favourite novels of all times.
1. Death of a salesman – Arthur Miller
I’ve been wanting to write a post about this work for a long time now but never got around to it. I was scared I wouldn’t do it justice and I probably won’t today but I had to mention it in this T5W.
In this play, Miller portrays the life of Willy Loman, a desperate travelling salesman who feels like he has not given his family all it deserved. Drained by his work and the tension between him and one of his son, he is faced with many demons.
I don’t want to give you much more details about the plot because it’s not the most important aspect of this play. What really resonated with me was the theme of the broken American Dream and how it compares to the bleak reality the Loman family is living. Moreover, I was really touched by the way the family tensions actually emphasises the love that they all feel for each other.
Finally, the way Miller uses words is just beautiful. If I had my copy with you, I could show you how I went crazy with the highlighting because every sentence is written to perfection.
That’s it for today. Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think?
Please link your T5W posts below, I’d love to take a look at them.
If you want to check out my other T5W, here they are: