Book Recommendations by Iulia Sprinceana
Favorite book in college:
José Saramago, “Blindness” –> what would you do if you suddenly went blind? What if the whole city went blind as if stricken by an epidemic? A fascinating story unfolding the fragile balance between humanity and barbarity that modern man must negotiate.
Favorite discipline-related book:
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, “Don Quixote” –> the first modern novel, a must read for all ages alike, following the adventures of the most celebrated Spanish “Don”. Decide for yourself if the adjective “quixotic”, derived from the protagonist’s name, is a proper attribute for our hero and his endeavors. After all, don’t we all search for what he is?
Book recommendation for students:
Gabriel García Márquez, “One Hundred Years of Solitude” -> a multi-generational portrait of love, hatred, loyalty and treason, set in the “magical” Colombian setting of fictional Macondo, which won its author the Nobel prize. Let yourself be carried away by its wonderful descriptions of inter-cultural encounters, family customs, and a host of extraordinary events. Ultimately a metaphor for Latin American history, the novel shows how history can be repetitive and hurtful when the human agent fails to comprehend the legacy of his ancestors.
Fyodor Dostoyevski, “The Brothers Karamazov” -> a literary masterpiece; a grappling mix of drama and humor, the story of three brothers and at the same time the political and religious panorama of the Russian empire at the end of the 19th century; a rich philosophical debate encompassing faith, doubt, free will, reason etc. and the all-time conflict between tradition and modernity. It will captivate you like no other book you’ve ever read.
Stendhal, “The Red and the Black” -> young, charming, ambitious, Julien Sorel has it all to succeed. But (how) will he resist the crude social atmosphere of Paris, ruled by hypocrisy and greed? A celebrated fictional character, Julien reflects the state of the French society after Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo, and thus links the social with the individual.
Albert Camus, “The Stranger” -> Why does someone kill another man? What is the connection between not crying at his mother’s funeral and the (trial for) murder? Camus delves into the apathy and dehumanization of man.
Samuel Beckett, “Waiting for Godot” -> since my encounter with Godot in college, I have been an avid reader of all his plays. Deemed a writer of the “theater of the absurd” – in short, drama lacking a plot and using nonsense and wordplay in its dialogue – Godot tackles here a critical aspect for humanity: waiting. Whether waiting for someone, to board the plane, to receive news or a package from home, or simply to learn your final grades, waiting is a foible, inflicted upon us by “modern gods” who test our resistance to a world without apparent meaning.
Theodore Dreiser, “An American Tragedy” -> – Like Stendhal’s Julien Sorel, young Clyde Griffiths aspires to a better life. The novel traces his rise and tragic fall, brought on by the mere desire to succeed. Where does the pursuit for status and power end? An intense narrative rich in description and vivid detail, that will also show you the socioeconomic panorama of early 20th century America.
Truman Capote, “In Cold Blood” -> a non-fiction novel tracing four Kansas murders in the mid-20th century, investigated by Capote for six years. Why did they kill and what effect did the murders generate in the community?
Umberto Eco, “The Name of the Rose” -> a historical murder mystery set in an Italian monastery in the 14th century, the novel superbly combines fiction, philosophy, biblical analysis, medieval studies and semiotics, Eco’s specialty. Can logical deduction solve the mystery of the murder?
Plautus, “Miles Gloriosus” (The Braggart Soldier) -> a classical Roman comedy depicting stock characters in a series of situations that test their ability to trick and conceal in order to find a solution.
One book you would have on a deserted island:
Alexandre Dumas, “The Count of Monte Cristo” -> a tale of injustice, revenge and retribution, featuring, of course, an island; yet, ultimately, a magnificent lesson of survival and adaptation in the harshest conditions.
Emile Zola, Honoré de Balzac, Charles Dickens, Emily Brontë, Federico García Lorca, Benito Pérez Galdós, Cervantes, Javier Marías, Jorge Luis Borges, Mario Vargas Llosa, Philip Roth, Graham Greene, Chuck Palahniuk, Fyodor Dostoyevski, A.P. Chekhov, Haruki Murakami
Juan Gabriel Vázquez, “El ruido de las cosas al caer” (The Sound of Things Falling) -> inspired by the crash of American Airlines flight 965 in the mountains of Colombia in 1995, this is a story of loss and re-encounter, set during the turbulent 1990s in Bogotá, Colombia, and recreating many decades of history of the infamous drug cartels and drug contraband between Colombia and the United States.
Maria Semple, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” -> Would you like to board on a cruise to Antarctica? I certainly would, after reading this novel. Unconventional in form (comprised of email exchanges, personal notes, memories, but also vivid dialogues), the book will take you from Seattle to Los Angeles and then to the coldest continent, seeking not only a missing person, but her life meaning.
Ron Rash, “One Foot in Eden” -> I chose this murder mystery (one of my favorite genres) eager to immerse in the region of my new home.
Judy Blume, “In the Unlikely Event” -> The title, a phrase we all hear while on a plane, waiting for takeoff, caught my attention and I decided to purchase it.
David Harvey, “Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism” -> Faithful to my college double major (Economics/Spanish), I am eager to read this promising analysis of current economic and global market affairs by a leading anthropologist and scholar.