Books to read: Fiction for Beginners

Image result for book exhibit

If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ’em!

John Waters

I don’t agree whole-heartedly with most quotes, but this is one quote I can throw my weight behind without any doubt. A person who has not read any books is just another drone in the pack, something that mindlessly follows the crowd without any opinion or ideology to call his own.

In this day and age, reading books has become something of a rarity amongst most people, who are too busy with their Instagram and Snapchat and what have you. Without books to stimulate the mind and foster thinking, everyone just mindlessly follows the next big thing with glee and gusto, until someone disapproves of that train of thought and says, “Hey, my train is way better” and they jump onto that, nary a thought as to why they did what they did.

And of course, in this attention deficit age of ours where information flies past us at a rate that overwhelms us to a great degree, books allow us to slow down and savour the world that the writer has created, or think about the opinions that the writer puts forth, or just have a nostalgic smile or a tear over a story that might have mirrored our own.

Look, I can write a big, bleeding post as to why everyone should read books, but I’ll put up the bullet points for you.

  • You gain knowledge that would have taken years of experience on your part. Experience is still king, but it helps to know which paths failed and succeeded so that your journey might be more fruitful.
  • It allows for critical thinking and helps you to frame opinions that make you stand unique from the crowd of the same bleats and moos.
  • Your english improves like hell. Just read some good books and see your English rise to Shakespeare’s level. Or somewhat close to it.
  • Your drug addled, dopamine numbed brain would really thank you for doing something that actually stimulates it, rather than numb it.
  • You get to learn of different cultures and the thinking of people all over the world without having to book a ticket to those countries.
  • You can make friends. Books are one of the many gateways for introverts or people with social anxiety to make friends. So read some books.

While there was a time that getting a book meant shelling out some money and finding a good spot for it lest the rat or yeast damage it, nowadays tablets, e-book readers and smartphones have made it easy for people to just download and read on the go. Both paperback and e-books have their advantages, so screw anyone who is a paperback snob.

So let’s start with fiction. Yes, there are some people who will tell you that reading fiction is a huge waste of time, that could have been utilized doing stuff (The stuff never gets explained to me). While non-fiction books have their place in this world, the literary world would be much poorer without stories to bowl us over or make us ponder. Fiction gives us the world view of the author in question. We can see the world through the lens of the author, and think about the questions he might have posed for us.

So, I’ll list a couple of books that are easy for beginners to read, but at the same time make them search for good books. If you have any suggestions, feel free to comment your favourites below.

Harry Potter by J.K Rowling

I couldn’t start off this list with The Lord of the Rings without making most first readers throw the book in fear, either for the sheer size of the tome or the prose that accompanies the tome.

So, the Harry Potter books it is.

I’ve never been a big fan of Young Adult novels, it’s either gloomy crappy dystopian setting with segregation of classes based on some stupid shit with some chosen one type, male or female, with a prophecy where they are at the center and they are aided by a close set of diverse friends and of course, there will always be a bloody love triangle, especially if you are a female protagonist for some goddamn reason or a tale where pretentious teenagers think they are being very smart and spout lines they think are philosophical, but don’t make sense. (*Cough* John Green *Cough*)

Harry Potter is very much guilty for kick-starting the first bloody template, but at least it did in a way that didn’t offend the senses. Other books don’t hold the distinction of creating a world that kids, teens and even adults wanted to inhabit. Great characters, good world building and a gradual arc make the Harry Potter series worth reading for any age.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Based somewhat on the author’s childhood in Afghanistan, The Kite Runner is a heart-wrenching tale of family, friendship, betrayal, redemption and loyalty. The story takes place in two time settings, one in 1970’s Afghanistan and one in present day, where our protagonist Amir must make amends for a crime he committed during his childhood, all the while coming face to face with the personal demons he had left behind.

I had no idea that Afghanistan in the 70’s was a mostly peaceful and beautiful land (at least the upper echelons of Afghanistan). It’s my view that stories are much more richer when the story in question mirrors your own to a considerable degree, and Hosseini crafts a masterful book that will make you feel joy, sorrow, anger, disgust and hope all in a span of a few pages, no less.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Ah yes, the book that’s makes philosophers out of anyone who will read it, or at least they think they become philosophers when they read it, and whose lines would have been quoted a zillion times over in social media feeds and statuses. I guess there must be much better works of Paulo Coelho, but this book always tops the list of books to be read for some damned reason. It’s not all that great in my opinion, but for beginners, this book is a perfect gateway if you wish to read philosophy.

Concerning the travels of a shepherd who saw a place in his dreams, The Alchemist would lift up your spirits, if they are ever down, I think. I tried it and I wasn’t washed away in it’s wisdom, but that’s just me. The prose is definitely beautiful to read and the story has something of a mystical feel to it, considering it’s about the universe and all. This book must have done something right, otherwise most people wouldn’t be singing it’s paens from the high heavens.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Trust me, I wanted to put a John Buchan, a John le Carre or a Jeffrey Archer here, but most of their works would definitely scare off first time readers, then I remembered that there will always be a Agatha Christie book for people wanting to get their fix for thrilling whodunnits, whether they be a seasoned veteran of the thriller genre or just some one who is starting out their journey into thriller fiction.

While “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” is usually considered her best work among her fans, Murder on the Orient Express is popular for a reason. With Agatha Christie novels, there is none of the extensive world building that most modern thrillers indulge (or over-indulge) in, but in place of that, you get a snappy whodunnit taking place aboard a train, a bunch of suspects, an iconic detective and all of this is wrapped up with a bloody good twist that will have you go, “Hot Damn!” for ages to come.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Okay, this is a personal favorite of mine. While Haruki Murakami made a name for himself writing weird, quirky tales that demand you have a round of LSD or acid to make sense of the world or plot, he does write normal tales regarding love, life, friendship and our purpose in life. This is my personal favorite, which tells the story of a guy who has to choose between his late best friend’s girlfriend or a free spirited girl who entered his life recently.

As far as story goes, it’s definitely no Wuthering Heights, but the way Murakami writes characters and the first person narration of the protagonist lends the novel an easy feel, as if you could be narrating this as a life story to your friend or a good friend could be narrating this as his life story. Of course, par for the course in Murakami novels, there will be mentions of music and cats. There will always be cats.

1984 by George Orwell

I’m sorry, but I have to write a para introducing 1984 of all novels??

It’s influential, it rings true in this age of fake news, surveillance and blatant attempts by internet corporations to wring money out of your personal data for what it’s worth, more than ever before, it’s the novel that everyone parrots whenever some internet giant decides to screw with your privacy and rights, it’s the activist’s, armchair or otherwise, favorite weapon against censorship, totalitarianism, constant surveillance and a repressive authority that will stop at nothing to make you sheep. It popularized terms like Big Brother and 2 + 2 = 5

There’s a good reason that even 70 years after it’s publication, this novel sells like hot pancakes. Even if you don’t read the other novels on this list, you will take it on yourself to read at least this novel. Remember I said something about learning to think for yourself? This novel is influential in that department.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

There are a shit ton of books dealing with World War II, Holocaust and it’s effects on the world at large, the Jewish community in particular. While there are some gruesome books out there, “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” will shock you more than most. It does not contain the same level of violence or madness that most other books go into detail, but it succeeds in wrenching heart strings despite the visible lack of violence.

Telling the story of a son of a Nazi general and a Jewish boy caught in a concentration camp, a friendship grows between them despite a fence seperating them. Both aren’t aware of the fate that awaits them. It’s the innocence of the boys that outlasts the madness that will really make you cry at the end of the book. There is a good movie adaptation of this, but I suggest you read the book. It’s a good (well, relatively speaking) start into the horrors of World War II.

For now, these are the books that I can think of, off the top of my head. This will be a continuing series, with my next list focusing on non-fiction.

Until then,

An ever improving geek.