Several months back I bought a book called 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I have the travel version of it and love reading about places I've been and planning the trips for the future. So I was really looking forward to what the literary experts had to say about what I've read and what I should read.
Nothing short of sheer panic set in. Several books which have been highly praised by traditional literary critics were cited in the books. These are the same books which my book group, trusting the literary critics, had agreed to read. And I have been sorely disappointed.
The book recommends The Plot Against America by Philip Roth which I just don't get. I'm halfway through and have decided that my time would be better spent reading something else. Just about anything else.
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen suffered a similar fate in my hands. Also notable are the omissions. Where is The Kite Runner? Why in the world would they select The Grapes of Wrath rather than East of Eden? Are they serious? Fingersmith by Sarah Waters is the most puzzling of all recommendations. Whilst I liked that novel I wouldn't put it in the top 1001 Top Books. Of All Time. That would be like including a John Grisham novel.
However, I was inspired by the fact that several authors had several entries. and one of those authors I have never ever read anything by him. Balancing the fear of reading something that is highly recommended by these literary critics but joyful at the prospect of discovering a new author I decided to see if I could find a short story collection and see how I got on.
Which led me to Like the Flowing River by Paulo Coelho. This is a book made of journal entries he made as he travelled around and various articles he has published in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines.
Paulo Coelho is Brazilian. He spends a bit of time living in Brazil and a bit of time living in France and a bit of time living in England. And he is a keen observer of the human condition. And a insightful pondere of what lies ahead of life. The introduction at the beginning of the book is worth reading alone.
I loved these stories. They could be blog posts. They are spiritual. They are funny. They are contemplative. They are quick and easy to read.
I am inspired to read more. Think I will pick Veronika Decides to Die. It comes highly recommended (by these literary critics) whom I don't quite trust entirely. Has anyone else read it?