Week 2: The Books that Speak to Me

by Alena Naiden

It is always a challenge to tell weeds from wheat, and the task to name three the most influential books is pretty tough because I feel that by calling something more important, I reduce the value of the rest. Nevertheless, I’ll try to stop on only three books that are crucial to my life.

One o such books is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest written by Ken Kesey. The author, a person from the beat generation, wrote it after working in a mental health facility, and the patients in the book are presented as people who are rejected by society because they don’t fit in. The book is much more than a story about a nuthouse to me; it made me think about the freedom and the beauty of a human mind that is suppressed so often, either by society, authorities or by ourselves.


Another book I can call one of the most important to me is a novel that I’m reading right now, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I haven’t even finished it yet, but I can say that this is just an amazing book that makes me feel so alive, think about so many questions, and enjoy the rich taste of words. One of the themes in the novel is what it is to be a human, and — like in Dandelion Wine, — Bradbury’s talent to describe the world in a way that a reader can touch and smell everything by himself makes me so happy to live. Another motive in the book is censorship, or, more precisely, the danger of the fight for the rights; if everyone tries to protect the group he belongs to, it can lead to a world where you can’t do or speak about anything without offending someone. All in all, it is a very impressive novel with so many facets, and each of them is just fascinating.


The last book that is special to me is The Stranger by Albert Camus. My warm relationship with existentialism started after reading it, and I was amazed by how different the book was from anything I read before. The novel brings up questions about artificiality of moral, about borders between freedom and permissiveness, and about people’s absolute loneliness that existentialists feel so deeply. Camus summarized this novel by a phrase: “In our society any man who does not weep at his mother’s funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death.” (Camus, 1) Such unexpected and courageous thoughts, that were almost revolutionary to my world then, and piercing melancholy of the novel were and are speaking to my mind and soul, and isn’t it the greatest part of reading?


1.. Camus. Oeuvres Completes. V. 1. Gallimard, 2006. P. 215.

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