I am a writer, and part of being a great writer means reading--a lot.
Butreading has so many other benefits that people tend to forget, one of which being it works your brain in a different way than reading blogs (like this one) or magazines or social media posts. Reading a masterful novel and immersing yourself in the story is a workout for your brain. You'll be amazed how much richer your creativity will be after finishing a classic piece of literature.
Here are 5 of my favorite novels ever written:
1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Lolita was, and will forever be, an extremely controversial novel. It was written in the 1950s, and is the story of an older man who loves from afar a very young girl. Even in today's society, you can imagine people's response to an older narrator that speaks delicately of the temptations this teenage girl arouses in him. It makes sense then why in the 1950s this story raised hell.
Honestly, this book is tied for #1 for my favorite books. If you haven't read it, you must. It is far from the "creepy and inappropriate" tale my synopsis paints it to be. The narrator is darkly hilarious, and will leave you laughing and astounded that something so uncomfortable could be so rich with material. It's a beautiful story, to say the least.
2. Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth
Another uncomfortable but uncontrollably funny story, Portnoy's Complaint was written in 1969 and is a fictional story about what it was like growing up as a child in a Jewish household. Philip Roth, himself, was Jewish, so I'm sure you can imagine the storm this novel caused when it was published. Of course, he chalked it all up to fiction, but later admitted of course that he used his own upbringing as inspiration.
There is a reason this book has become an American classic. The writing style is brilliant: It is told from the perspective of a boy, many years later, on a therapist's couch, reflecting on his childhood. It is extremely self deprecating, and that is what makes it so fantastic.
If you haven't read it, you must.
3. The Old Man And The Sea by Ernest Hemingway
An American classic and Pulitzer Prize winner in 1953, The Old Man And The Sea is a novella and tells the tale of a fisherman and a young boy. In less than 130 pages, Hemingway has wrapped his characters so tightly in description and quirky traits that you can't help but wonder what the story is truly about--is it the fisherman, the boy, their relationship, the old man's relationship with the sea, etc.
This is a very short story, but it is intended to be read slowly. Its writing style speaks of the story as much as the words themselves. Its rhythm moves like a tide, its sentence structure vast with a depth and yet still so very simple. The book is a reflection of the sea, and should be taken as such.
You will emerge from this novel feeling renewed, that much I can promise you.
4. The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse
An obscure but magical story, The Glass Bead Game was published in 1943 in Switzerland. The author, Hermann Hesse, would go on to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946, for his "classical humanitarian ideals and high qualities of style."
The Glass Bead Game is not an easy read. It is a challenge because it is filled with so much: so many themes, so much symbolism, and so many deeply complex messages. It is about a futuristic world existing without all the flying cars and robots and blah blah. Its primary setting, Castalia, is instead a place where extreme intellectuals devote themselves to what is called "the glass bead game"--a highly complex combination of music, mathematics, history and sciences.
One of the key themes, of course, is the idea of mastery--and how far one will go to master their craft. It is a book that takes a few readings to fully understand, but even the first read will leave you more open minded than when you began.
5. The Firm by John Grisham
And of course, a candy read. The Firm, later adapted into a film, is the book that put John Grisham on the map. It wasn't until this book was published that his first book, A Time To Kill, really picked up traction--and then from there, the rest is history.
The Firm is a thick book that, I swear to you, I read in less than 24 hours, holding my breath the entire time. If there is one reason John Grisham has become such a successful author, it is the feeling he evoked in me, the reader, during The Firm. The story moves pages, and keeps you barreling towards the end the entire way. One part law, two parts mystery, you will be hooked from the first chapter.