Happy Birthday to me!!!
A completely self-indulgent list of books.
I like books. A lot.
Case in point: my freshman year of college was spent mostly creeping through bookstores, dishing out money I didn’t have, to distract myself from friends who didn’t exist. Ha.
TLDR; books are my most valued companions. Here are twenty-four of them which, far better or worse, have left their footprints all over my twenty four years:
1. Kokoro by Natsume Soseki
My favorite novel of all time. Soseki writes about “the heart of things,” the words and gestures which can drive us to tragedy, with stark simplicity. A book where the smallest of actions reap fatal consequences. I love this book so much I could never do it justice. SO JUST READ IT.
2. Summer Blonde by Adrian Tomine
Tomine writes like he’s eavesdropped on your life. His characters ring so painfully true, it feels voyeuristic. Summer Blonde was his breakout graphic novel, with short stories featuring small people doing small things to become something moree
3. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
So, I recently reread this and decided I don’t really like it anymore…but to eighteen-year-old me, it was EVERYTHING. It was my ultimate escapist fantasy, about a teenager who runs away from home to recreate himself…and he LIVES IN A COOL LIBRARY?! Maybe I should just move in to Chevalier’s…
4. Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea
One of Mishima’s lesser known works, I can’t quite tell you why I love it with such particular fervor. Apathy, sex, and cruelty inflicted by the insecurities of youth…this book hit with jarring rawness.
5. Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids by Kenzaburo Oe
6. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
8. Of Love And Other Demons Gabriel Garcia Marquez
9. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Otessa Moshfegh
I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction and when I do, I don’t often find myself enamored. (Pretentious asshole alert.) But Moshfegh’s recent bestseller was an un-put-downable novel which felt like looking into a cracked mirror. I relate more to this protagonist than any I’ve read in years—sans the inheritance and model good looks.
10. Solanin by Inio Asano
An ode to the quarter-age crisis. Beautifully drawn, laced with humor and melancholy, Solanin is the story of an office worker in her late twenties who realizes somehow, sometime go, she lost her dreams. So she does what we all want to do: quits her job and finds herself through rock n’ roll.
11. The Sound of the Mountain by Yasunari Kawabata
Kawabata writes with a quiet grace I’ve yet to encounter elsewhere. His novels are often likened to haikus, the language sparse but with heavy intention. The Sound of a Mountain is what Kawabata does best: an examination of mortality.
12. Blankets by Craig Thompson
A close companion to my crumbling teenage years. Craig Thompson’s Blankets is the quintessential coming-of-age story about a young boy who finds and—surprise!—loses love in order to learn to love himself.
13. D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths
Ugh, can I recommend this book enough? The collection which triggered my unhealthy childhood obsession with all things fairy tales and mythologies, the D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths is gorgeous and enchanting. The perfect introduction to Greek myths for readers of any age.
14. L'assommoir by Emile Zola
15. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
16. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
17. The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien
18. NO Longer Human by Osamu Dazai
The second best selling book of all time in Japan, Osamu Dazai has a passionate cult-following. No Longer Human is the heartwrenching, disturbing, often frustrating, ode to ennui which continues to haunt me years after reading it.
19. The Little Prince by Antoine de ST. Exupéry
Favorite book. Of. All. Time. If you haven’t read The Little Prince, this is the epiphany you’ve been waiting for. It moves the mind and also the heart. I actually felt vividly wiser and more optimistic upon reading the last page.
20. Martin Eden By Jack London
OMG a Jack London book that isn't about Alaska—and potentially, his best. Inspired by London's own listless life in San Francisco, Martin Eden is the writer's bittersweet journey told in all its glory and frustration. A book for any writer, at any age.
21. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
I don’t know if I actually really LIKE this collection of essays but Gay did for me what I suspect she did for many readers: opened up to me a world of thoughtful and accessible feminist writing. After Bad Feminist, I went on a binge, eating up all the feminist literature I could get.
22. We are Never Meeting in Real Life by samantha Irby
A book I couldn’t put down, Samantha Irby is cackle-out-loud hilarious. She moved me to tears (for several different reasons) and, more importantly, taught me to not take myself so goddamn seriously—as a person and a writer.
23. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
Engrossing from first-to-last, Orwell is completely in his element in this memoir about tramping through the underbelly of Europe's most famous cities. Orwell made me crave misadventure and showed me how to survive it with wit, wisdom, and humor.
24. Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
As a Vietnamese American I’ve purposely avoided almost all literature pertaining to the war. Because it makes me think about my parents and nothing breaks my heart more. But Nguyen’s Sympathizer was the first book about the Vietnamese American experience that helped me brave that lunge and made me hungrier for more Vietnamese American literature.