- A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
This is a wonderful book. What else can I say? Go and read it!
Quote from the cover of the British edition:
In the tiny flat of the widowed Dina Dalal, Ishvar and Omprakash Darji, tailors who have been forced from their village into the city, and Maneck Kolah, a young student from a hill-station near the Himalayas, are painfully constructing new lives which become entwined in circumstances no one could have foreseen. Set in mid-1970s India, A Fine Balance is a subtle and compelling narrative about these four unlikely characters who come together soon after the government declares a ‘State of Internal Emergency’.
Almost as good as this book is another novel by the same author: Such a Long Journey.
- The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Do I have to say anything about these books? They’re simply among the best tales ever told. I don’t know if anyone has ever taken so much effort to create languages, letters and a whole history for a book. Of all the books I’ve read, only Memory, Sorrow and Thorn by Tad Williams comes close to it.
- Memory, Sorrow and Thorn Trilogy by Tad Williams
This trilogy has often been compared to The Lord of the Rings, and justly so. Although Williams has not done as much “background research” for his books as Tolkien has, the story itself can compete with The Lord of the Rings. Sometimes, it is easier to read because there is less background you have to know in order to understand what’s going on.
- Otherland by Tad Williams
This is the new series by Tad Williams. With Otherland, Tad Williams has created another world as rich in characters, events and fantasies as he did in the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy, but it is set in the modern world, the 21st century. It shows where the Internet might take us all.
I think it is amazing how full of creativity Tad Williams is. Does he ever read books or watch TV? Everything must seem boring to him compared to his own stories…
I had the pleasure to meet Tad Williams twice when he was touring Germany, introducing his books. The first time was in 1998, and his more recent visit to my home town Bonn was in October 2000. You can read about it here. There are a few photos of him, too.
- The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
This book has been called “Ken Follett’s masterpiece”. Since I haven’t read any of his other books (except for Night over Water and A Place called Freedom), I can’t really say whether this is true, but this is one of the books I enjoyed reading most. It is the story of a 12th century mason and his dream to build a cathedral, but stretches over several generations of his family.
- A Son of the Circus by John Irving
I have read several novels by John Irving, for example The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules, or A Widow for One Year, but i have chosen this book for my list because I liked it best. I can’t really say why – maybe it’s because the story is set in India, or because its protagonist is so sympathethic and likable.
- Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
A great autobiography novel in which the author tells of his childhood in Ireland. I saw the movie after I read the book. If you saw the film and liked it, you will like the book even more – many of the little stories in the book were left out in the film.
- The Situation Is Hopeless, but Not Serious (The Pursuit of Unhappiness) by Paul Watzlawick
I’ve read this book in German, but I suppose it’s just as good in English. The author helps you to become an unhappy person if you want to, but of couse you can also read it the other way round, not follow his advice and become happier! It sure makes you think about yourself and how you manage to make yourself unhappy.
- Physician Trilogy by Noah Gordon
The Physician and Shaman both tell a story about an extraordinary doctor. The first one is born in London in the 11th century and has to travel around the world to Ispahan and disguise himself as a Jew in order to fulfill his dream and become a doctor, not just a barber-surgeon like his master.
The second novel actually is about a doctor and his son, who becomes a doctor himself despite being deaf. The story is set in the USA in the 19th century, so it is a whole different setting than in the first novel.
I don’t include the third book of the trilogy, Choices, here on purpose because it is not as unique as the first and second parts. To me, it seems like Noah Gordon was in a hurry to finish his trilogy and therefore has written an average novel. But maybe it only seems not as good as the other parts because the story takes place in the 20th century and therefore is not as exotic as the others.
- The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
When I was abou 14 years old, I received a novel by Jules Verne as a birthday gift, and he has been one of my favorite authors ever since. Because of that, a list of my favorite books cannot be complete without a book by the first science fiction writer. I like his books because he has foreseen many technical inventions that had not yet been made when he wrote his novels. Most of them seem a little amusing to us, for example his idea to shoot men onto the moon with a huge cannon.
I have read The Mysterious Island at least seven or eight times, maybe even more often, and still enjoy it. Five men flee from the secession war in the USA in a balloon and find themselves on an uninhabited island in the Pacific. For several years, they live like Robinson…
Please note I’m not an Amazon affiliate. Other online book shops may be as good or as bad as Amazon.com. I only point to them because I “borrowed” the pictures of the book covers from their site.