This is a "best of" book list with a twist. Over my lifetime, I don't think it's hyperbole to say that I've read several thousand books - great thrillers, great fantasy, great sci-fi, great horror and so on. But this is a list of some of the books that tugged the hardest at my emotions ... both joy and sadness! Your mileage may vary, of course, but, for what it's worth, here are my favourites!
"Of Mice and Men" tells the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two itinerant field workers in 1930s depression era California. Milton, a cynical, intelligent man, by a combination of habit, intent, solicitude, friendship, love, loneliness and, one might even say, bad luck, has allowed himself to become the surrogate father or brother for his companion traveler, Lennie Small, a retarded adult with the social skills and gracelessness of a young child, trapped in the body of an enormous and physically powerful man.
See the full review, "A powerful exploration of loneliness and helplessness!".
A compelling contemporary history of the travails of poverty-stricken, war torn Afghanistan and a heart-wrenching poignant family history touching on friendship, love, loyalty, culture shock, ethnicity, character, cowardice and bravery.
See the full review, "Saddening, uplifting and moving".
A stirring tale of the sacrifices of two women, their love for their children and the awesome strength and support they give to one another in their refusal to bend and break in the hurricane of diversity that seeks to destroy them in the wreckage of war torn Kabul, Afghanistan.
See the full review, "A powerful story of female life in 20th century Afghanistan!".
Do you remember all of those aggravating literary clichés you read so often on book covers and publicity blurbs? Haunting, compelling, uplifting, powerful, deeply moving and gut-wrenching? Well, it's hardly overstating the case to suggest that The Book Thief has earned every last one of them. The narrator (we call him "Death" - a unique and most appropriate choice under the circumstances) tells the story of 9 year old Liesel Meminger's life in 1930s pre-war Germany, a small and beautiful girl who has the courage to stand up to the might of Adolf Hitler.
See the full review, "In which a beautiful small girl defies the might of Hitler!".
A touching, involving allegorical story of the lives of a band of rabbits in the dirt and scrub of the English countryside, complete with its own folk history and language. As much about freedom, ethics, and human nature as it is about a bunch of bunnies looking for a warm hidey-hole and some mates, Watership Down will continue to make the transition from classroom desk to bedside table for many generations to come.
This warm, joyous and often hilarious first-person chronicle of a young animal doctor shines with love of life. Anyone who has ever loved a pet and lost a pet will appreciate both the joy and the pathos of this fine collection of stories.
First and foremost, a romance and a love story - love of parents, love of wives, love of friends, love of children and love of life. But Niffenegger has not neglected to remind us life also includes servings of sadness and loss in many, many forms - drugs and alcohol; fear of failure; illness, death and grieving; and, of course, loneliness, longing and absence.
"My Sister's Keeper" addresses issues in a non-judgmental fashion from a wide variety of perspectives without attempting to take sides or present pat answers that simply don't exist. It touches on genetic engineering; the insane demands made upon a parent's time and energy in dealing with children's illnesses; the extent to which children may act out for better or for worse in a demand for a parent's love and attention; the difficulty of determining whether a 13 year old minor is capable of making adult decisions about the medical disposition of her own body; the existence of boundaries to the demands a parent may make of a child; and the differences between moral, ethical and legal rights.
See the full review, "There are differences between "ethical", "legal" and "moral" rights and responsbilities".
Stunning, wrenching, harrowing and inspiring, The Book of Negroes is the fictionalized story of Aminata Diallo, a free African girl turned into a woman and a slave. A truly impressive work from a geographical, historical and, of course, a strictly human perspective.
See the full review, "A powerful indictment of Canada's part in the history of slavery!".
An indictment, an unashamed confession, and a triumphant vindication of human dignity, Black Boy, Richard Wright's autobiographical tale of his boyhood in the USA deep south, is one of the most powerful books written in the 20th century.