I'm the first to admit that the following list is about as ecletic as it gets, not least for its mixture of fiction and non-fiction and for the timespan it covers. Nevertheless these are all books, which for one reason or another have truly touched me, and because I’m an historian-type I’ve also arranged them chronologically for your delectation. How thoughtful of me.
Seen as the Roman response to Homer’s epic poem Odyssey, Virgil’s "Aeneid" is just as remarkable in terms of length and scope. Following the flight of Aeneas and his fellow Trojans from Troy, Virgil’s epic creates a 'foundation myth' for the race that would eventually found Rome. Aeneid’s journey from Troy to his eventual landing in Italy is just as epic and compelling as Odysseus’ journey back to Greece in Odyssey, and to be honest with you, "Aeneid" moved me much more than Odyssey ever did. Don’t miss out on reading it!
by Ibn Battutah, edited by Tim Mackintosh-Smith
Everyone knows Marco Polo, and they marvel at his incredible 13th century travels around the Orient, but few have heard of Islamic scholar Ibn Battutah, and the journey he made during the following century. Covering three times the distance of Marco Polo and lasting a jaw-dropping 29 years, "The Travels of Ibn Battutah" give a remarkable account of a journey that encompasses the entirety of the known Islamic world at the time, and beyond. Ibn Battutah’s profound observational skills, and his ability to write with such grace and prowess make this an absolute must-read.
by Knut Hamsun
Penned at the end of the 19th century, this novel follows the struggle of a starving writer as he descends into madness on the fictional streets of Kristiana. If you’re looking for a story that really takes the reader on a psychological roller-coaster ride, then this is it. Powerful! Profound! And completely unforgettable! Hamsun’s "Hunger" is a true classic of literary fiction.
by John Steinbeck
I’ve only recently began reading the works of John Steinbeck, but already, after 5 novels, I’m mesmerized by his profound talent. "Cannery Row" is the finest I’ve read so far. The characters, the setting, and Steinbeck’s remarkable prose all combine to create a work that’s wholly memorable, even to the point where the characters and the place continue to live on in your head — seriously, I’m not kidding!
by Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway spent a period of his formative writing years in the 1920s, living with his wife in Paris, and these are his collected memoirs from that time. These memoirs are truly magical. Not only do they give the reader a valuable insight into the writer’s Paris of the 1920s, which name drops many of the primary writers of the period, they also offer an intimate glimpse into Hemingway’s relationship with his first wife Hadley. Liquid gold!
by Richard Lourie
The bookshops are packed with badly written books on serial killers which either glorify their deeds or take delight in focusing on the gory details. However, this one is different. It’s a honest and frank account of the six-year hunt for Andrei Chikatilo, the notorious ‘Russian Ripper’, primarily from the perspective of the head of the investigation, Issa Kostoev. No glamour. No glitz. Just the remarkable, and often gruesome tale of a detective’s hunt for one of the Soviet Union’s most notorious killers. This is realism at the bleeding edge!
by Cormac McCarthy
Bringing my list bang up to date is this 2007 Pulitzer Prize Winner from Cormac McCarthy. This is an amazing tale of a father and son’s fight for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. Everything about this novel is desolate and bleak, including McCarthy’s style of writing which, ‘cringingly’ for grammar teachers, omits much of the punctuation. However it’s a novel you just can’t put down until it’s finished. Definitely one that will keep you reading with that flashlight, well into the night.
Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime. more...
About Robert Burdock
A graduate from the University of St. Andrews (with a degree in Medieval History and Archaeology), Robert is an avid reader who hails from the ‘bonnie banks’ of Scotland. Possessing an insatiable passion for books, one that has been nurtured since childhood, Robert has recently ventured into the world of ‘book only’ blogging and he is enjoying the experience immensely.
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