After a difficult election week, we’re turning inward for a little while to process all that is. And the need for beautiful books with writing that hits you in the heart feels like a life-affirming necessity right now. Here are ten tales with writing that is sure to grab hold of you.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
A boarding school in the English countryside and three former students who grow to learn what being human is really about.
“I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it’s just too much. The current’s too strong. They’ve got to let go, drift apart.”
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Twins whose lives are affected when their family crosses “the laws that lay down who should be loved and how. And how much.”
“History was like an old house at night. With all the lamps lit. And ancestor whispering inside. To understand history, we have to go inside and listen to what they’re saying. And to look at the books and the pictures on the wall. And smell the smells. But we can’t go in, because we’ve been locked out. And when we try and listen, all we hear is a whispering. And we cannot understand the whispering, because our minds have been invaded by a war. A war that we have won and lost. The very worst sort of war. A war that captures dreams and re-dreams them. A war that has made us adore our conquerors and despise ourselves.”
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
The fortunes and misfortunes of seven generations of the Buendía family.
“It’s enough for me to be sure that you and I exist at this moment.”
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
A missionary family moves from ’50s Georgia to postcolonial Africa.
“I attempted briefly to consecrate myself in the public library, believing every crack in my soul could be chinked with a book.”
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A blind French girl and German boy cross paths in occupied France during World War II.
“We rise again in the grass. In the flowers. In songs.”
The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen
The moving account of Matthiessen’s five-week pilgrimage through the Tibetan Plateau in the Himalayas and his search for the snow leopard.
“The secret of the mountain is that the mountains simply exist, as I do myself: the mountains exist simply, which I do not. The mountains have no ‘meaning,’ they are meaning; the mountains are. The sun is round. I ring with life, and the mountains ring, and when I can hear it, there is a ringing that we share. I understand all this, not in my mind but in my heart, knowing how meaningless it is to try to capture what cannot be expressed, knowing that mere words will remain when I read it all again, another day.”
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou’s poetic, inspiring, and heartbreaking autobiography.
“To be left alone on the tightrope of youthful unknowing is to experience the excruciating beauty of full freedom and the threat of eternal indecision.”
The Waves by Virginia Woolf
The stories of six children from birth to death, who are mysteriously united by an unseen seventh child named Percival.
“There was a star riding through clouds one night, & I said to the star, ‘Consume me’.”
White Oleander by Janet Fitch
The coming-of-age tale of young Astrid who copes with her difficult life while in a series of foster homes.
“Always learn poems by heart. They have to become the marrow in your bones. Like fluoride in the water, they’ll make your soul impervious to the world’s soft decay.”
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
Navigating memory, desire, and the hidden designs of cities through the eyes of an explorer, Marco Polo.
“Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.”