5 Must Reads for a hopeful February

As the platform Goodreads claims, there are thousands of books that you need to read – absolutely and mandatorily. However, if you take the limited lifetime of the average reader into account, the number of possible must-reads melts away considerably. Those who only manage to read one book a week belong to a tiny minority.

Well, there will always be a few readers left, and the following collection - as always extremely subjective - is intended for those remaining. Maybe it takes no more than these five books to understand the world. Or at least a little bit of it ...


Harper Lee - To Kill a Mocking Bird

America in the 30 years. In the idyllic childhood of the eight-year-old scout and her older brother Jem, the brutal reality of prejudice and racism pushes its way into their home. Scout's father Atticus, a philanthropic lawyer, is supposed to defend the black farm worker Tom Robinson, who allegedly raped a white girl. Bravely, Scout and her brother try to support their father's democratic sense of justice, and in doing so they themselves are put in great danger.

It is not surprising that this novel of the century is compulsory in the US schools. The story contains everything you need to know in order to understand life. And God knows it's not exaggerated. Those books are a gift to mankind …

But if you have absolutely no desire to read, you should at least watch the wonderful film adaptation with Gregory Peck.


Fyodor Dostoevsky - The Brothers Karamazov

Sigmund Freud called it the "greatest novel ever written" - Dostoevsky's monumental family chronicle "The Brothers Karamazov", first published in 1880. In a few other major novels in world literature, the immense wealth of motifs and downright magical narrative art are similarly virtuoso as here: Against the backdrop of a gripping crime story, the violent death of her despotic father, the fate of the unlikely brothers leads the reader deep into the oppressive abyss of the human soul.

I have to agree with Sigmund Freud. I read this huge novel a long time ago, lying in the grass outside the university, missing the lecture. However, there is no lecture, however clever, that comes close to the intelligence of this work. The three brothers, each representing a different world.

Simply stunning ...


John Irving - A Prayer for Owen Meany

In the summer of 1953, two 11-year-old boys - best friends - play a Little League baseball game in New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball killing his best friend's mother. Owen Meany believes that he didn't hit the ball accidentally. He believes that he is God's instrument. What happened to Owen after 1953 is extraordinary and terrifying. He is Irving's most heartbreaking hero.

It is difficult to choose from John Irving's work. Is it "Garp" or "The Cider House Rules" or maybe "A Son of the Circus"?

I chose Owen Meany, perhaps for the simple reason that the story more than once brought tears to my eyes. The ending is so heartbreaking that afterwards you feel vulnerable ...


Ian McEwan - Atonement (Atonement)

On the hottest day of summer 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis observes her sister Cecilia undressing and throwing herself into the fountain in the garden of her country house.

Robbie Turner, who, like Cecilia, has recently come down from Cambridge, also watches her. By the end of this day, the lives of all three will have changed forever, as Briony commits a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone.

Ian McEwan has written many great to outstanding novels, and since I found him particularly kind and intelligent at a lecture, he has become one of my heroes. But „Atonement“ is more than outstanding, it is his absolute masterpiece.

And again for the cinephiles we may point to the film adaptation: an equally strong masterpiece with Keira Knightly and James McAvoy.


John Steinbeck - East of Eden

Set in the rich farmlands of California's Salinas Valley, this powerful, often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons, whose generations hopelessly re-enact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry between Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of the absence of love.

My enthusiasm for this novel is unbroken. Maybe – besides „Hundred Years of Solitude“ – my favorite book of all time. The proof is simple, just read the chapter in which Samuel talks to his Chinese servant Lee about the meaning of the Hebrew word „Timschel“.

Timschel is translated in old editions of the Bible as Thou shalt But Lee and his ancient grandfathers doubt the translation and learn Hebrew to find out the true meaning of the word. And lo and behold, the correct translation is not Thou shalt but Thou mayest. It means that man has a choice. The way is open. And that changes everything ...

And here a few more suggestions for book freaks…

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