Confession: I went through a phase in uni of buying books for my shelf to make me look fucking smart. Turns out they are really boring or written in old English and I just don’t love reading enough to give them a go. Nevertheless they still hold a place on my shelf so I thought I would mention some of these pretentious AF beauties.
Here is a little more background. You know when you’re young and you really want to impress someone? Yeah, that is how I got my hands on these.
For a small period of time at uni, I was friends with a lot of english majors. As a book lover, I’ve read a strong array of different genres over the years so I can hold my own in a bookish conversation. However, these wonderful bastards used to love chatting about the monstrous classics they’d devoured. All of them were pretentious, all of them sounded boring but 18 year old me was crushing on a well read tattooed guy with a man bun – needless to say my bookshelf quickly filled up with some of these classics.
The only reason I haven’t gotten rid of them yet is because I spent some good money buying beautiful old editions of these books.
Of the books listed below, I have tried to read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand – they both sucked and I was defeated. I’m still playing the long game with War and Peace so assuming I live for another 60 years, we might get there eventually.
If you’ve read any of the below and actually enjoyed them, you are a legend and you have my vote (for whatever you need it for).
Click on the covers to go to their Goodreads page.
War and Peace
Tolstoy’s epic masterpiece intertwines the lives of private and public individuals during the time of the Napoleonic wars and the French invasion of Russia. The fortunes of the Rostovs and the Bolkonskys, of Pierre, Natasha, and Andrei, are intimately connected with the national history that is played out in parallel with their lives. Balls and soirees alternate with councils of war and the machinations of statesmen and generals, scenes of violent battles with everyday human passions in a work whose extraordinary imaginative power has never been surpassed.
The prodigious cast of characters, seem to act and move as if connected by threads of destiny as the novel relentlessly questions ideas of free will, fate, and providence. Yet Tolstoy’s portrayal of marital relations and scenes of domesticity is as truthful and poignant as the grand themes that underlie them.
When The Fountainhead was first published, Ayn Rand”s daringly original literary vision and her groundbreaking philosophy, Objectivism, won immediate worldwide interest and acclaim. This instant classic is the story of an intransigent young architect, his violent battle against conventional standards, and his explosive love affair with a beautiful woman who struggles to defeat him. This edition contains a special afterword by Rand’s literary executor, Leonard Peikoff, which includes excerpts from Ayn Rand’s own notes on the making of The Fountainhead. As fresh today as it was then, here is a novel about a hero-and about those who try to destroy him.
‘riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs’
Joyce’s final work, Finnegan’s Wake is his masterpiece of the night as Ulysses is of the day. Supreme linguistic virtuosity conjures up the dark underground worlds of sexuality and dream. Joyce undermines traditional storytelling and all official forms of English and confronts the different kinds of betrayal – cultural, political and sexual – that he saw at the heart of Irish history. Dazzlingly inventive, with passages of great lyrical beauty and humour, Finnegans Wake remains one of the most remarkable works of the twentieth century.
Ulysses chronicles the peripatetic appointments and encounters of Leopold Bloom in Dublin in the course of an ordinary day, 16 June 1904. Literature, as Joyce tells us through the character of Stephen Dedalus, ‘is the eternal affirmation of the spirit of man’. Written over a seven-year period, from 1914 to 1921, Ulysses has survived bowderlization, legal action and bitter controversy. An undisputed modernist classic, its ceaseless verbal inventiveness and astonishingly wide-ranging allusions confirm its standing as an imperishable monument to the human condition. Declan Kiberd says in his introduction Ulysses is ‘An endlessly open book of utopian epiphanies. It holds a mirror up to the colonial capital that was Dublin on 16 June 1904, but it also offers redemptive glimpses of a future world which might be made over in terms of those utopian moments.’
Set in an addicts’ halfway house and a tennis academy, and featuring the most endearingly screwed-up family to come along in recent fiction, Infinite Jest explores essential questions about what entertainment is and why it has come to so dominate our lives; about how our desire for entertainment affects our need to connect with other people; and about what the pleasures we choose say about who we are.
Equal parts philosophical quest and screwball comedy, Infinite Jest bends every rule of fiction without sacrificing for a moment its own entertainment value. It is an exuberant, uniquely American exploration of the passions that make us human—and one of those rare books that renew the idea of what a novel can do.