Happy Tuesday everyone! It is the second day of the week. I hope everyone is doing well and is safe. Oh well, Tuesday also means one thing, a Top Ten Tuesday update! Top Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and is currently being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s given topic is Book Titles That Are Complete Sentences.
I previously mentioned that book covers and book titles are my top two reasons for purchasing a book. Surprisingly, I had a challenging time looking for books with titles that are complete sentences. I thought that I would breeze through but I was wrong. Nevertheless, here is my list.
Vietnamese writer Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s The Mountains Sing was one of my favorite reads in 2020. A family saga, it is the heartbreaking story of a mother, Dieu Lan, who has endured death, misfortune, and Vietnam’s tumultuous contemporary history to ensure the survival of her children. With resolve, a silent strength of character, and determination, she managed to hurdle every challenge thrown her way. Despite its graphic images and the pervasion of war and death, The Mountains Sing holds hope and the promise of a brighter future.
Another favorite read from 2020 is Nigerian writer Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀’s Stay With Me. Just like The Mountains Sing, this novel was my first book from Adébáyọ̀. Before encountering the book during the 2020 Big Bad Wolf Sale, I encountered several glowing reviews of the book that made me decide to try it. It navigated familiar territories such as the frailties of marriage and the pressure handed by tradition and family. However, Stay With Me is no mundane narrative. With acuity and precision, Adébáyọ̀ wrote a story that was at once heart-wrenching, heartwarming, relating, and tear-jerking.
I think it was in 2015 that I first encountered Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Even though I barely had an iota of what the book was about nor have I previously encountered Alire Saenz or any of his works, I bought the book without more ado. The book title and the literary awards seal the book was propped with were more than enough to convince me to purchase the book. Although I am no fan of young adult fiction, I am glad I bought and read the book because it was a subtly heartwarming story about love, acceptance, and identity.
Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of A Funny Story is a novel that I have long been curious about until I finally convinced myself to purchase a copy of the book in late 2018. As part of my 2019 Top 20 Reading List, I was riveted by its premise, its exploration of mental health through the story of fifteen-year-old Craig Gilner. Craig’s story reminds us of the follies of our time and how mental health awareness is a seminal concern that needs to be addressed. I was saddened when I learned that the author died of depression a couple of years after the book’s success.
There is a certain pleasure derived from reading classical works, especially ones that are toasts of their time. Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is no exception, more so because of its profound yet bold message that still resonates today. Her wonderfully crafted masterpiece is a masterpiece to behold. The book does deal with a dark and heavy subject but if one overcomes this, what unfolds is a rewarding story. Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of the most popular titles in the ambit of literature. It was just unfortunate that Neale Hurston was not able to witness how it influenced the contemporary.
Speaking of the contemporary, one of my more recent favorite reads is Vietnamese American writer Ocean Vuong’s debut novel. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is semi-autobiographical and explores the tumultuous relationship between a mother traumatized by the war and a son longing for her caresses. It grappled with how war leaves an indelible scar that goes beyond its time. It also explored identity and the immigrant experience. It was a melancholic tale elevated by the lyrical quality of Vuong’s prose. He certainly didn’t exhibit any difficulties translating his poetry into prose.
I first encountered Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn through must-read lists. It is, I learned, a popular title, thus, piquing my interest in the novel. This was despite the fact that I barely had any iota on what the book was about. Just like On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, the novel borrows elements from the author’s own life. Through Mary Frances “Francie” Nolan, Smith related her experience growing up in poverty in Brooklyn. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, despite the permeation of poverty and, at times, hopelessness, is a story brimming with hope. It is the quintessence of a Bildungsroman.
It has been some time since I read a work by fabled writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. His last work I read was Tender is the Night which I read last 2018 as part of my 2018 Top 20 Reading List. Of the four novels he wrote in his lifetime, Fitzgerald picked Tender is the Night as his favorite, above his more popular work The Great Gatsby. Assimilating elements of his own life, particularly his marriage, his fourth novel weaved an overwhelming sense of frustration and regret into the prose. It was an immersive read as one is caught up in the whirlwind of Dick Diver’s life.
From one literary classic to yet another literary classic, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest carries a title that is quite difficult to miss due to its uniqueness. Also one of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is definitely an accomplished work. A social commentary that brings into light the conditions of mental health institutions. On a more minute scale, the facility is a representation of society as a whole with McMurphy as the quintessence of the human spirit, breaking beyond barriers to show everyone that they are always something better.
Closing out my Top Ten post is another literary classic. Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter immediately piqued my interest the first time I encountered it. I just knew I have to read it so read it I did. It was also part of my 2018 Top 20 Reading List (coincidentally, some of the books in this update were also part of this reading list). Published when McCullers was only 23 years old, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is a depiction of American life in a small Georgian mill town during the 1930s through the story of a deaf-mute named John Singer. It is a spellbinding story of dreams and hopes of five individuals of varying backgrounds and with their own set of stories to tell. Ultimately, it related their heart’s greatest desires and longings, hence, the book’s title. I did find it underwhelming but it had many wonderful elements that made impression on me.
I did mention at the start that I did have a challenge picking books for this update. Apparently, what I needed to do was peruse my reading list for I do have quite a lot, some are even unread. I hope you enjoyed my list and I hope you have a great week ahead!