It has been requested many times that I compile a little list with books that are special to me. There are so, so many, and I will precede it by saying that I am not an intellectual, and although I like thinking, I am far from being able to provide you with an exhaustive list of must-reads. These are books that I've come across that changed me, most of them very well known. Like anything else, books have a different effect on different people so I don't heartily recommend you all to go get these...many of these won't be of any interest to you in this time in your life. But some might.
Excuse my writing, I've been reading Shades of Grey and it's rubbing off. Wouldn't be surprised if I placed an Oh my. here and there.
I'm starting with classic novels:
"The Picture of Dorian Grey" - Oscar Wilde: Oscar Wilde is a genius and everything he writes and thinks transforms me. He's deeply philosophical.
"The Beautiful and Damned" - Scott Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald is always so refined in his writing it is a real pleasure to read him because he understands beauty, narcissism, hedonism and money. His characters are often aristocratic, moneyed, or otherwise privileged, often romantic dreamers and lovers of life.
"Dracula" - Bram Stoker: Flawed in many ways and yet, this story is not a logical one, it couldn't be. The pace is awkward, the subject is brilliant. Striking atmosphere and locations.
"Frankenstein": This is truly a horror story and is exhausting at times. It's nothing like you're told it's gonna be. It very much happens inside a person's head. It's mad, it's great.
"Orlando" - Virginia Woolf: This is not one I would revisit and yet I feel compelled to list it because it is so different to everything else I'm including here. The reflections on bisexuality are really interesting, and it is beautifully, beautifully written to the point that it's like poetry.
"120 Days of Sodom" - Marquis de Sade: This could be the best book ever written, because the Marquis is a hero of sexual freedom and he is just unapologetic about it, it is written with so much courage, it's outrageous in every way. It treats a subject that I'm particularly interested in, so of course that varies from person to person. But it really isn't even about the content: It's a discussion on morality. Instincts, existentialism, conflicts, values, addictions, obsession and a collection of mental disorders. It makes you question everything; things are not like we're told. It is deeply disturbing at times (it details torture), but it is also written with so much wit and humor, you can't help to laugh out loud in awe. The last part is very difficult to read, I could hardly tread through it.
"Shall we burn Sade" - Simone de Beavoir: This is an essay: Simone essentially goes into a dissertation about Sade and his contradictions. She brings up all the questions we have while reading his works, and discusses them with an intelligence, a tolerance that is rare and eye-opening.
"Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde": A very simple, very short story that's entertaining and a brilliant plot.
"20.000 Leagues under the sea" - Jules Verne: I had to mention something from Verne, it could have been Journey to the Centre of the Earth or Michael Strogoff, I've read a ton and I found them all very pleasant. These are accounts written in the form of a travel diary and although quite straightforward and characteristically descriptive (as was the trend at the time), with endless lists of words that can be tedious, they are fantastic adventure stories, his vision is way ahead of time.
Now some bits and bobs of different things:
"The Buddha in Daily Life" - This is focused on Nichiren Buddhist but is a perfect introduction to Buddhism in general, especially the first part. Buddhism is simply the study of life, accepting the way it is.
"Marilyn" by Andre de Dienes - One of my favourite books on Marilyn, what I like about this book is that a) it had a large photographic section full of photos of young Norma Jean, and b) it's written in the form of a diary in a very real, very intimate way. I have it in giant size so I have posters.
I am also a huge fan of vintage books on lifestyle and dress sense. These three come to mind: "The Lady's Book of Manners", "the Etiquette Handbook" and "The Little Dictionary of Fashion" by Christian Dior. The first two are both instructive and amusing, while the latter is very informative. Dior enumerates beautifully what clothes should be about, it's a great reference book.
"Women may marry men for their money, character or social position. Men marry women for their looks. All women know this and make the very best of their appearance" The Etiquette Handbook
"Elegance must be the right combination of distinction, naturalness, care and simplicity. Outside this, believe me, there is no elegance."
The Little Dictionary of Fashion, Christian Dior
And while we're at it
"The Shoes of Salvation" by Edward Morton is the funniest coffee table book ever.
For writing: Everybody should read the "Elements of Style" and keep it all in mind throughout their day. Successful communication is fundamental to society, it should be a priority.
If you like thinking, Roland Barthes's "Mythologies" is a collection of short essays and is fantastic
"Other Women" by Beverly Burch is quite an interesting book on sex and bisexual relationships. To be honest I have yet to come across one that blows my mind, but I wanted to mention something because it's one of the main subjects that I like to study and one that our society just doesn't understand or even admit. To sum it up:
"There is clearly more fluidity to sexual choice than theory allows. A model of sexual multiplicity is needed, one that considers differences between various homosexualities and heterosexualities"
And one of my favourite books on the Second World War is the very well-known "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich", by William L. Shirer, that I was introduced to in school, and have read and re-read to death.
I am very active with all the books I enjoy, i fold them, stick things on them, underline them and make notes, write about them...read what other people think about them. Essays are my favourite thing ever, I'm a little OCD about that. It's the one thing I hate about the Kindle; it's great for stories and novels but not for things you want to study.
I'd love to hear everybody's favourites, not just novels but anything.