Apparantly it is World Book Day, or at least , that’s what my news feed told me earlier and it has been a while since I’ve confided my thoughts to this website. So, before you’re off to the library to celebrate WBD, here is a list of some of my favourite books. Yes, a few comics have been included but in my defence a) last time I checked, theunnamedcomic.net was still there to promote a comic and b) fuck you, it’s my list. Anyway, here is my personal and very, very subjective list.
“1984” – George Orwell
Honestly, this is such an iconic book that I find it hard to say anything about it that hasn’t been said earlier and much better than I ever could. I could write something about Big Brother, Newspeak adn all that but what moved me the most was how Orwell describes the people’s behaviour in a totalitarian regime and the ending… Highly recommended and unfortunately its theme is still very current, even after almost 70 years since its first publication.
“Steppenwolf” – Herman Hesse
This was a recent one but it just blew up in my face. Virtually without any effort, Hesse dissects the struggles of a man torn between his vigourous desires and apollonian manners, a lost sould who desperately tries to be strong. Oh, how he longs, how he yearns to be a force of nature only to be confronted by his weaknesses. In a matter of only a few hundred pages, the main character’s psyche is bared open in front of us, using Hesse’s superior prose as a sharp scalpel. A sublime read that will render all other expressionist books worthless.
“De Voorstad Groeit” – Louis Paul Boon
No offense if you don’t know this one. It is a Belgian title which I believe hasn’t even been translated to French. Louis Paul Boon went by as one of the most celebrated Flemish writers and albeit still one of the greats, his archaic style and reputation as a sleazebag have kept him from connecting to the younger generations. Which is a shame because “De Voorstad Groeit”, his very first book, is a pessimistic slice of life and a historical document about the earliest cases of gentrification. The title itself means as much as “the suburbs are growing” which was where the working class in Europe lived.
“Rhyme Stew” – Roald Dahl
If you ever have children, do them a huge favour and feed them Roald Dahl. They will be grateful and grow up to successful writers for independent comic books. Do not bother with the modern, neutered works where any mention of sexual desire has been erased. Do not listen to committees of old, wrinly grown ups who decide what your child will like and what not. Just go for “Rhyme Stew”. Granted, it is not a popular classic such as “BFG” or “The Fantastic Mr Fox” but this showcases all different sides of Dahl. The book is naughty, cute as a bug and scary, witty and sometimes even cruel, ev’rything that your spawn deems cool.
“De Wijsheid van de Honden” – George Luck (translated Dutch version)
This is a small but noteworthy introduction to the ancient school of “cynicism” and its most famous figures such as Antiphanes, Diogenes and Krates. I’m not entirely done with this one yet but apart from teaching the difference between “cynical” and “pessimist” it has already made me curious about the cynical philosophy. Maybe in this world where we are constantly selling ourself through social media we need cynicism. Maybe not but it is something to think about.
Before I move on to the next book, a quick note to end this. It wouldn’t be right to discuss this book without mentioning the translators Gerard Janssen and Goverdien Hauth-Grubben who have done an amazing job.
“The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage” – Sydney Padua
The most recent title on this list but it is such a wonderful book that had my toes curled from delight. Due to Lovelace’s shortlived life and Babbage’s chaotic project managment there is not really that much to tell but Padua approaches this problem in an original and witty manner by concucting a fictional universe where Lovelace and Babbage have built their analytical engine. Some people refer it to steampunk but the author is insistent on describing the book as “steam irony”.
“Ghost In The Shell” – Masamune Shirow
To be completely honest, I am not very big in manga and sometimes struggle with the pace. However, “Ghost In The Shell” is so ridiculously good that I had to include it here. Although not as pessimistic as “Brave New World” and “1984”, this still depicts a very somber outlook on the future where mankind and machinery are becoming more and more enthwined.
“Asterix Legionnaire” – Uderzo and Goscinny
In a world where caped lunatics and bimbos in bathing suits dominate the theaters, the shops and the conventions, could we please make time to appreciate the brilliance of the tandem Uderzo and Goscinny? Each album that these two produced is an elabortaed piece of work filled with almost untranslatable word jokes, slapstick, cameos, staging of worldfamous paintings and, despite being a work of fiction, the settings are historically accurate. You can re-read the Asterix-albums several times in your lifetime and still discover new things. I really could have picked any album but this one made me laugh the hardest as a child.