AN ANTHOLOGY OF THOUGHT & EMOTION... Un'antologia di pensieri & emozioni

Books to read after you're dead...

Books are deeply personal things. Each of us form unique bonds with the characters we read about, relate to storylines and personalities in different ways and enjoy all sorts of genres from crime to romance, gothic to fantasy.  If I go to my desk and think long and hard about the books that are closest to my heart, I can come up with a list of 42 novels to "read before you die", novels that mean the most to me, from the classics to less well-known stories deserving of a wider audience: here's the link: 
👉How and What to Read


However, and on second thought, there are more than 42 on my shelves, just as good as the 42 novels I listed previously. I just can't leave them out... so here they come:
My bookshelves
The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon

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Richard Zimler
Overlook Press, 2000 - Fiction - 318 pages

Just a few years earlier, Jews living in Portugal were dragged to the baptismal font and forced to convert to Christianity. Many of these New Christians persevered in their Jewish prayers and rituals in secret and at great risk; the hidden, arcane practices of the kabbalists, a mystical sect of Jews, continued as well. One such secret Jew was Berekiah Zarco, an intelligent young manuscript illuminator. Inflamed by love and revenge, he searches, in the crucible of the raging pogrom, for the killer of his beloved uncle Abraham, a renowned kabbalist and manuscript illuminator, discovered murdered in a hidden synagogue along with a young girl in dishabille. Risking his life in streets seething with mayhem, Berekiah tracks down answers among Christians, New Christians, Jews, and the fellow kabbalists of his uncle, whose secret language and codes by turns light and obscure the way to the truth he seeks. A marvelous story, a challenging mystery, and a telling tale of the evils of intolerance, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon both compels and entertains. Also beautiful and dramatic is another novel from Zimler, The Warsaw Anagrams.


Ravelstein

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Saul Bellow
Penguin UK, 4 Apr 2013 - Fiction - 240 pages

Abe Ravelstein is a brilliant professor at a prominent midwestern university and a man who glories in training the movers and shakers of the political world. He has lived grandly and ferociously-and much beyond his means. His close friend Chick has suggested that he put forth a book of his convictions about the ideas which sustain humankind, or kill it, and much to Ravelstein's own surprise, he does and becomes a millionaire. Ravelstein suggests in turn that Chick write a memoir or a life of him, and during the course of a celebratory trip to Paris the two share thoughts on mortality, philosophy and history, loves and friends, old and new, and vaudeville routines from the remote past. The mood turns more somber once they have returned to the Midwest and Ravelstein succumbs to AIDS and Chick himself nearly dies.


Random House, 27 May 2009 - Fiction - 288 pages

Thank You, Jeeves is the first novel to feature the incomparable valet Jeeves and his hapless charge Bertie Wooster - and you've hardly started to turn the pages when he resigns over Bertie's dedicated but somewhat untuneful playing of the banjo. In high dudgeon, Bertie disappears to the country as a guest of his chum Chuffy - only to find his peace shattered by the arrival of his ex-fiancée Pauline Stoker, her formidable father and the eminent loony-doctor Sir Roderick Glossop. When Chuffy falls in love with Pauline and Bertie seems to be caught in flagrante, a situation boils up which only Jeeves (whether employed or not) can simmer down...
A display of sustained comic brilliance, this novel shows Wodehouse rising to the top of his game.


Michel Houellebecq
Random House, 8 Sep 2016 - Fiction - 256 pages

As the 2022 French Presidential election looms, two candidates emerge as favourites: Marine Le Pen of the Front National, and the charismatic Muhammed Ben Abbes of the growing Muslim Fraternity. Forming a controversial alliance with the political left to block the Front National’s alarming ascendency, Ben Abbes sweeps to power, and overnight the country is transformed. This proves to be the death knell of French secularism, as Islamic law comes into force: women are veiled, polygamy is encouraged and, for our narrator François – misanthropic, middle-aged and alienated – life is set on a new course. Submission is a devastating satire, comic and melancholy by turns, and a profound meditation on faith and meaning in Western society.


The Chosen

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Chaim Potok
Fawcett Crest, 1982 - Fiction - 271 pages

"Anyone who finds it is finding a jewel. Its themes are profound and universal."
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

It is the now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a link to an unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither will ever retreat from again....



👉Freely available to download at openlibrary.org


Old Masters: A Comedy

Thomas Bernhard
University of Chicago Press, 1992 - Fiction - 156 pages

In this exuberantly satirical novel, the tutor Atzbacher has been summoned by his friend Reger to meet him in a Viennese museum. While Reger gazes at a Tintoretto portrait, Atzbacher – who fears Reger's plans to kill himself – gives us a portrait of the musicologist: his wisdom, his devotion to his wife, and his love-hate relationship with art. With characteristically acerbic wit, Bernhard exposes the pretensions and aspirations of humanity in a novel at once pessimistic and strangely exhilarating.
~ "Bernhard's . . . most enjoyable novel."–Robert Craft, New York Review of Books.
~ "Bernhard is one of the masters of contemporary European fiction."–George Steiner
👉 Check my portal to Thomas Bernhard.



Fugitive Pieces

Anne Michaels
A&C Black, 15 Jun 2009 - Fiction - 320 pages

Jakob Beer is seven years old when he is rescued from the muddy ruins of a buried village in Nazi-occupied Poland. Of his family, he is the only one who has survived. Under the guidance of the Greek geologist Athos, Jakob must steel himself to excavate the horrors of his own history.
A novel of astounding beauty and wisdom, Fugitive Pieces is a profound meditation on the resilience of the human spirit and love's ability to resurrect even the most damaged of hearts.




Portnoy's Complaint

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Random House7 Sep 2010 - Fiction - 272 pages
Portnoy's Complaint n. [after Alexander Portnoy (1933-)]

A disorder in which strongly-felt ethical and altruistic impulses are perpetually warring with extreme sexual longings, often of a perverse nature. Spielvogel says: 'Acts of exhibitionism, voyeurism, fetishism, auto-eroticism and oral coitus are plentiful; as a consequence of the patient's "morality," however, neither fantasy nor act issues in genuine sexual gratification, but rather in overriding feelings of shame, and the dread of retribution, particularly in the form of castration.' (Spielvogel, O. 'The Puzzled Penis', Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, Vol. XXIV, p.909). It is believed by Spielvogel that many of the symptoms can be traced to the bonds obtaining in the mother-child relationship.



The Pianist

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Wladyslaw Szpilman
Hachette UK, 8 Dec 2011 - Biography & Autobiography - 224 pages

   The bestselling memoir of a Jewish pianist who survived the war in Warsaw against all odds.
   'We are drawn in to share his surprise and then disbelief at the horrifying progress of events, all conveyed with an understated intimacy and dailiness that render them painfully close... riveting' OBSERVER
   On September 23, 1939, Wladyslaw Szpilman played Chopin's Nocturne in C-sharp minor live on the radio as shells exploded outside – so loudly that he couldn't hear his piano. It was the last live music broadcast from Warsaw: That day, a German bomb hit the station, and Polish Radio went off the air.
   Though he lost his entire family, Szpilman survived in hiding. In the end, his life was saved by a German officer who heard him play the same Chopin Nocturne on a piano found among the rubble. Written immediately after the war and suppressed for decades, THE PIANIST is a stunning testament to human endurance and the redemptive power of fellow feeling.
   'The images drawn are unusually sharp and clear... but its moral tone is even more striking: Szpilman refuses to make a hero or a demon out of anyone' LITERARY REVIEW


Inspector Montalbano: The first three novels in the series

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Andrea Camilleri
Pan Macmillan, 6 Dec 2012 - Fiction - 832 pages

Inspector Montalbano: The first three novels in the series contains The Shape of Water, The Terracotta Dog and The Snack Thief, from Andrea Camilleri's bestselling Inspector Montalbano series.

This three-book compilation features:
    The Shape of Water: On a waste ground in Vigàta, the Sicilian town's dark underbelly flourishes: drug dealers and prostitutes plying their trade. But when the body of Silvio Luparello, one of the local movers and shakers, is discovered there, Inspector Montalbano must investigate; and despite pressure from his commissioner, a local judge and bishop - he is determined to unearth the truth . . .
    The Terracotta Dog: When two lovers, dead for over fifty years, are discovered in a mountain cave watched over by a life-size terracotta dog, Inspector Montalbano's investigation will take him on a journey through Sicily's past and into a family's dark heart amid the horrors of World War II.
    The Snack Thief: When an elderly man is stabbed to death in an elevator and a crewman on an Italian fishing trawler is machine-gunned by a Tunisian patrol boat off Sicily's coast, only Inspector Montalbano suspects a link between the two incidents . . .
👉 For the Italian originals, check the Italian publisher Sellerio: http://sellerio.it/it/catalogo/Altri-Casi-Commissario-Montalbano/Camilleri/4923


Kalooki Nights

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Howard Jacobson
Random House, 15 Dec 2010 - Fiction - 480 pages

Life should have been sunny for Max Glickman, growing up in Crumpsall Park in peacetime, with his mother's glamorous card evenings to look forward to, and photographs of his father's favourite boxers on the walls. But other voices whisper seductively to him of Buchenwald, extermination, and the impossibility of forgetting.  Fixated on the crimes which have been committed against his people, but unable to live among them, Max moves away, marries out, and draws cartoon histories of Jewish suffering in which no one, least of all the Jews, is much interested. But it's a life. Or it seems a life until Max's long-disregarded childhood friend, Manny Washinsky, is released from prison. Little by little, as he picks up his old connection with Manny, trying to understand the circumstances in which he made a Buchenwald of his own home, Max is drawn into Manny's family history - above all his brother's tragic love affair with a girl who is half German. But more than that, he is drawn back into the Holocaust obsessions from which he realises there can be, and should be, no release. There is wild, angry, even uproarious laughter in this novel, but it is laughter on the edge. It is the comedy of cataclysm.


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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014 - Fiction - 579 pages

    Umberto Eco's first novel, an international sensation and winner of the Premio Strega and the Prix Medicis Etranger awards.
    The year is 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective. His tools are the logic of Aristotle, the theology of Aquinas, the empirical insights of Roger Bacon all sharpened to a glistening edge by wry humor and a ferocious curiosity. He collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey, where the most interesting things happen at night.
    'Like the labyrinthine library at its heart, this brilliant novel has many cunning passages and secret chambers . . . Fascinating . . . ingenious . . . dazzling.' Newsweek
    UMBERTO ECO is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including the best-selling novels The Prague Cemetery and Foucault's Pendulum, Numero Zero, and most recently, the essay collection Inventing the Enemy.
👉 For an Italian appraisal of the Italian original, check this Google link: Umberto Eco e Il nome della rosa




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Olympia Press1 Aug 2004 - Fiction - 432 pages

Henry Miller's collaboration with the Obelisk press in the 1930s produced three phenomenal works still much-loved to this day. The groundbreaking Tropic of Cancer published by Jack Kahane in 1934 after Anais Nin helped cover costs, its followup Tropic of Capricorn, finally printed in 1939, and Black Spring, a collection of vignettes and tales from 1936. These three works, later republished by the Olympia Press in Paris announced the arrival of a bold, pugilistic, voice on the literary scene, one whose artistic roar echos to this day.
Love'em all!


The Devil at Large: Erica Jong on Henry Miller

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Grove Press6 Mar 1994 - Literary Criticism - 329 pages

...And, speaking of Henry Miller, here is Erica's take:
In the perfect match of author and subject, poet and novelist Erica Jong charts the life and legacy of Henry Miller, the archetypal sensualist whose notorious Tropic of Cancer and subsequent books ultimately changed the boundaries of literature.
By Erica Jong, I also loved her Fear of Fifty: A Midlife Memoir (1994).
Great poetess too!






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W. W. Norton & Company17 Feb 1996 - Fiction - 126 pages

    “This fine version, with David Cronenberg’s inspired introduction and the new translator’s beguiling afterword, is, I suspect, the most disturbing though the most comforting of all so far; others will follow, but don’t hesitate: this is the transforming text for you.”—Richard Howard
    Franz Kafka’s 1915 novella of unexplained horror and nightmarish transformation became a worldwide classic and remains a century later one of the most widely read works of fiction in the world. It is the story of traveling salesman Gregor Samsa, who wakes one morning to find himself transformed into a monstrous insect. This hugely influential work inspired George Orwell, Albert Camus, Jorge Louis Borges, and Ray Bradbury, while continuing to unsettle millions of readers.
In her new translation of Kafka’s masterpiece, Susan Bernofsky strives to capture both the humor and the humanity in this macabre tale, underscoring the ways in which Gregor Samsa’s grotesque metamorphosis is just the physical manifestation of his longstanding spiritual impoverishment.


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Dean, 1883 - Fiction - 184 pages

Treasure Island, published in 1883, popularized the now familiar characters of pirates and brought them to rum-swilling life. When an old sailor named Billy Bones dies in the inn belonging to young Jim Hawkins’s parents, he leaves a greasy old map on which an “X” marks the spot where treasure is buried. Jim joins the crew of a ship in pursuit of Bones’s treasure, and on the seas meets up with Long John Silver, a peg-legged pirate who has infiltrated their ranks. Jim must survive mutinies and counter-mutinies, face hand-to-hand combat with drunken sailors, and outwit double-crossing thieves before the treasure can be his. A book I can never forget...
👉 You can read this book online in its 1883 edition!


If This Is A Man/The Truce

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Hachette UK23 Jan 2014 - History - 400 pages

With the moral stamina and intellectual pose of a twentieth-century Titan, this slightly built, dutiful, unassuming chemist set out systematically to remember the German hell on earth, steadfastly to think it through, and then to render it comprehensible in lucid, unpretentious prose. He was profoundly in touch with the minutest workings of the most endearing human events and with the most contempible. What has survived in Levi's writing isn't just his memory of the unbearable, but also, in THE PERIODIC TABLE and THE WRENCH, his delight in what made the world exquisite to him. He was himself a "magically endearing man, the most delicately forceful enchanter I've ever known." — Philip Roth


Night

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux7 Feb 2012 - Biography & Autobiography - 144 pages
A New Translation From The French By Marion Wiesel

Night is Elie Wiesel's masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. This new translation by Marion Wiesel, Elie's wife and frequent translator, presents this seminal memoir in the language and spirit truest to the author's original intent. And in a substantive new preface, Elie reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man's capacity for inhumanity to man.
    Night offers much more than a litany of the daily terrors, everyday perversions, and rampant sadism at Auschwitz and Buchenwald; it also eloquently addresses many of the philosophical as well as personal questions implicit in any serious consideration of what the Holocaust was, what it meant, and what its legacy is and will be.~ I had this book autographed when I met Elie Wiesel in 2001.


When I Lived in Modern Times

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Granta Books, 2011 - Historical fiction - 260 pages

It is April 1946. Evelyn Sert, twenty years old, a hairdresser from Soho, sails for Palestine, where Jewish refugees and idealists are gathering from across Europe to start a new life in a brand-new country. In the glittering, cosmopolitan, Bauhaus city of Tel Aviv, anything seems possible – the new self, new Jew, new woman are all feasible. Evelyn, adept at disguises, reinvents herself as the bleached-blonde Priscilla Jones. Immersed in a world of passionate idealism, she finds love, and with Johnny, her lover, finds herself at the heart of a very dangerous game.


(this list is updated from time to time: feel free to email me your suggestions) 👀