Books that attempt to capture that massive depth of human history, perspective, frailty, struggle, triumph, strife and death. But the deeper I delve into the work of authors, I often realize it’s not just one writer’s book, but quite often two that astound. Bookends, as it were, separated by years of artistic struggle and insight.
Therefore, masterpieces like Harper Lee’s To Kill and Mockingbird or William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, or Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, or Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being, books that rocked me, struck me dumb, altered my DNA, I omit from my list of greatest novels because...
's just one book.
In this age, when copious amounts of information are available at my fingertips, it’s not enough to just read one single book and judge merit, one has the benefit to experience the breadth of an author’s life work through interviews, critic’s reviews, interactive displays, maps, charts, unpublished rough drafts, personal letters, etc. I just want more. So, this being said, here’s my list of greatest novels (combined) every written. Take a look, email me what you think:
1. Homer’s The Iliad & The Odyssey
So, I re-read Herodotus and Plato and Aristotle and Boethius, Proust and Mann, Austen and Nabokov, Faulkner and Huxley, Woolf and Fitzgerald, but nothing prepared me for re-reading Tolstoy, and particularly War and Peace.
When I first read Tolstoy, much like the bumbling character Bezukhov, I was a young lad laying prostrate on my college library second floor. There was no internet, so finding anything about the Napoleonic wars meant filling out library request transfer forms or to scroll microfilm in the basement. Truly…unsexy.
But on this latest reading, I was able to discover so many things: Battle plans for Austerlitz. Rifle styles of infantry men. Napoleon’s letters to Josephine. Prussian maps. Architecture plans for old Moscow. Kutuzov’s portraits. It was unbelievable. There’s even video of Tolstoy himself cutting wood. Tolstoy, on You Tube! He looks like an adorable lawn gnome.
I’ve often thought, that my most decadent pleasure is to read a book and then watch the movie. I don’t even care if the movie is good or true to the story, I just love seeing it visually. But now with the internet, historical fiction explodes with possibilities.