My Top 10 favorite books

Jake Lankford, Staff Writer

What if I told you that one of my favorite books isn’t a surrealistic train wreck?

Though all of you may know me to review books, almost none of you know my absolute favorites. Some you may have heard of, some I have reviewed and some you are just now learning about. These are in no particular order, they’re just the books that stood out to me in a good way.

10. “Nadja,” André Breton
This was the Valentine’s Day review and I still think that it is an awesome book. Centering on an awkward 10-day romance between the characters André and Nadja, this is a novel that subverts every trope in romance to poetic and surrealistic effect. Though it does drag at some parts and is awkward to read at others, this is still a stellar read and I highly recommend it.

9. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee
Shocking, I know, but hear me out. Lee’s unflinching portrait of racism, injustice and prejudice in the American South is an unforgettable, powerful read that resonates to this day. Lee tells the story of Atticus Finch and his two children, Scout and Jem, as they come face-to-face with the prejudice that pervades their small town of Maycomb, Alabama. This is because of Atticus’s decision to defend a black man, Tom Robinson. Powerful, tense, funny and sad, Lee’s novel is one that should be read by any and everybody.

8. “Naked Lunch,” William S. Burroughs
This book is undefinable, to say the least. It has no set plot; it’s just a series of loosely connected vignettes and scenes that relay some truly horrifying and shocking scenes. Characters flit in and out of existence, the majority of the sentences are word salad, and it jumps from one scene to the next, often in just one or two pages. Though it may seem disjointed, “Naked Lunch” is actually an incredibly conceptual, poetic and darkly comedic read that has a ton of reread value.

7. “1984,” George Orwell
Orwell’s shocking, disturbing classic of surveillance, dystopia and squalor has some disturbing parallels in today’s society. Don’t let that put you off, because it’s still an incredibly gripping read. Centering on characters Winston and Julia as they fall in love and plot to rebel against their oppressive government, “1984” paints a picture of forbidden love and dystopia that is near-impossible to forget once you turn that last page. In my opinion, this is also one of the greatest forbidden love stories I have ever read, and its tragic ending will stick with you for a long time afterward.

6. “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World,” Haruki Murakami
A cult classic of science fiction-fantasy, this is a book that is meant to be discussed and analyzed. Centering on two unnamed narrators as they are forced to come to terms with their changing worlds, “Hard-Boiled Wonderland” flows effortlessly between a cyberpunk, noir narrative and a fantasy dystopia in such a way that creates one of the most unique, unforgettable atmospheres in literature. It also has one unforgettable plot twist that will really throw you for a loop.

5. “Blue of Noon,” Georges Bataille
Here’s the thing, you either love or hate Bataille. There is no in between. Bataille’s work is either incredibly shocking or incredibly conceptual, often being a combination of both. “Blue of Noon” is one of his more conceptual works and has its fair share of shocking moments. “Blue of Noon” is set during Europe’s vulnerable period between WWI and WWII when fascism was starting to become the mode of government for several countries. The book relies heavily on symbolism and feels like a historical fiction written in a fever dream, but don’t let that put you off from reading it. “Blue of Noon” is a little hard to find, but it can be bought relatively cheap on Amazon.

4. “Cosmos,” Witold Gombrowicz
The subject of my first review, this book is still one of my personal favorites. Gombrowicz relates the story of two young men, Witold and Fuks, as they “investigate” a dead sparrow that was hung by its neck. The story quickly goes off the rails as they find “clues” in frivolous objects, try to find meaning in every one of them, and deal with the incredibly strange family who runs the boardinghouse Witold and Fuks stay at. Though it is strange, it is actually a relatable story about finding sense in the nonsensical.

3. “The Devil of Nanking,” Mo Hayder
Hayder’s historical crime novel about the Nanking Massacre is not what you think it is. Centering on two characters as they are forced to come to terms with the Nanking Massacre and unearth its secrets, this incredibly gripping novel has so many twists and turns that it will leave you with whiplash once you turn the last page. Hayder also knows how to take control of every last facet in the book, from its fully developed characters to its incredible atmosphere, which is apparent from the very first page of the book. It’s not for everyone, but if you can handle its content, “The Devil of Nanking” is an amazing read.

2. “Nightwood,” Djuna Barnes
T.S. Eliot proclaimed in his introduction that this is a book “so good that only sensibilities trained on poetry can fully appreciate it.” “Nightwood” also had James Joyce and William S. Burroughs as fans, so this book is popular with some big names. Barnes’s novel about Robin Vote and the people she destroys is incredibly poetic and is hard to follow at some points, but don’t let this stop you. Just let Barnes’s language wash over you as you traverse the strange, shadowy world she creates.

1. “The Stranger,” Albert Camus
Short, sweet, succinct and to the point, Camus’s minimalist, laconic and eerily poetic novel about the absurd, detached hero Meursault is an incredibly striking, relatable read. Meursault’s narration is monotone and detached, but his senioritis-esque attitude is one we will find ourselves in from time to time. Meursault cares about very little in life and it’s this attitude that drives him to commit a murder on a beach out of sheer curiosity. Sure, our senioritis won’t drive us to commit murder, but still, Meursault is someone we can relate with.

There. Now you know my favorite books. Did some of them shock you? Were you expecting some of them? Though some are harder to find than others, some are much more obscure than others, and some are just plain weird, all of them deserve a place on your reading list, no matter if you’ve read them already or they don’t necessarily appeal to you. Don’t judge a book by its cover, just read it for yourself. Don’t let a friend’s description put you off, read it yourself. Finally, read books outside of your comfort zone. You may be shocked at what you enjoy reading.

I hope I was able to put some ideas on your summer reading list.