Nov 2, 2007

My Favourite Books

Chris at Stuff as Dreams are Made On is having a book giveaway: He is giving away a copy of each of his two favourite books (American Gods by Neil Gaiman and Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card), plus a copy of Scar Night by Alan Campbell. To be entered, just leave him a comment saying what your two favourite books are, or write a post about it in your journal and link to it in the comments.

One of my favourite books is Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Middlesex is the story of Cal, a hermaphrodite who grows up as a girl and is turned into a boy later in life. But more than that, it is a family saga, starting when Cal’s grandparents emigrated from Greece to Detroit, and following the family for three generations.

One of the reasons why I loved this book so much is how beautifully written it is. There is no author whose way with words I admire as much as Jeffrey Eugenides'. But of course it’s not only how he writes, it’s also what he writes about. Middlesex is part family saga, part fictional memoir, part historical novel, but most of all it is an extremely personal story about people’s deepest secrets, about their vulnerabilities, about their fears and the things that make them feel crippled. And this he conveys better than anyone. He writes about things like incest, gender dysphoria or teenage sexual experiences with such grace, such delicacy and such vulnerability that they become moving rather than shocking. Things that might be vulgar if written by another writer are beautiful in Jeffrey Eugenides’ hands.

At first glance one would think that the topic of this book is very specific, but what we find in it is, well, human emotions. I haven’t been through any of the things Cal went through, yet I could relate to his feelings a lot of the time. This is what the best literature does: it finds the universal in the particular.

My other favourite book is Death: The High Cost of Living, a comic by Neil Gaiman. To be honest I could also have picked Stardust or Neverwhere or Brief Lives or Anansi Boys or another one of Neil Gaiman’s books, but I had to go with one, and this one does hold a special place in my heart. It’s a Sandman spinoff, but you don’t need to have read the series to understand and enjoy the story. It's just that one of the main characters is Death of the Endless.

The book tells us how one day every century Death takes the form of a mortal girl, to better understand the lives she ultimately has to take. In New York City, Death meets a boy named Sexton, who is thinking of committing suicide. As they spend the day together, Sexton learns to appreciate the enormous privilege of being alive. The story is dark and sweet and uplifting all at the same time. Death is a truly memorable character, and reading it made me wish she were real so I could meet her. I think all of us could use a friend like her sometimes. This is more or less what Tori Amos says in her beautiful introduction to the book.

Apparently there is going to be a movie version of this book in the near future, and Neil himself is supposed to be directing it, with Guillermo Del Toro producing. I would be extremely worried if it were being done by anyone else, but this way there’s no way it won’t be great. I am really looking forward to it.


  1. Middlesex sounds really interesting. Will wait and see if it's on your challenge list for me.

  2. I've been wanting to read Middlesex all year and haven't gotten around to it, but it's definitely on the list for next year. It really does take a skillful writer to approach such a subject and turn it into a Pulitzer winning masterpiece rather than taboo. Can't wait to read it!

    I still haven't read The High Cost of Living either! I own The Time of Your Life, but I haven't even read that one :/ I plan on reading both next year as I've heard nothing but wonderful things about both of them. I would love to see a Death movie made! Particularly one directed by Neil himself...and with Del Toro producing?! It would be amazing!

    Thanks for sharing :)

  3. Rhinoa: Yep... it will be :P

    Chris: Do read it next year. It's part of the Pulitzer project, after all :P And read the Death book too! The two Death books tell separate stories, but I do recommend reading this one first, because the events in "The Time of Your Life" come after this one chronologically. That one is more connected with the main Sandman books, because it features Hazel and Foxglove from "A Game of You" as very important characters. But yeah, read them both :P I really hope the movie does happen... it would be amazing for sure!

  4. O.K., sold! Death will be moving right to the top of my wish sounds fabulous! And though I've, of course, heard of Middlesex, I've never really heard much about it. It sounds wonderful!

  5. I've been wanting to read Middlesex for the longest time! Now that I have a copy beside my pillows, I'm pretty sure I'd be able to breeze through it within the month. It's part of my pool as well for the Book Award Reading Challenge.

    And Death is just lovely, lovely. I hope the movie happens. If it does, I really hope Gaiman's involved. As an aside though, my favorite Endless is still Destruction.

  6. I have never read Middlesex. I bought it. But I just have never really thought I would like it. (Don't ask me why I bought it then!)

    One of these days maybe I will get to it. And yes, as far as I'm concerned, ANYTHING by Neil Gaiman would be great!

  7. Debi, I really hope you like them when you get to them!

    Lightheaded: I can't wait to read your thoughts on Middlesex :) I also really hope the movie happens. Destruction is wonderful, but if I had to pick a favourite Endless it'd be Death. Btw, I saw on Chris' blog that you picked "Possession" and "Small Gods" as your two favourites... wonderful choices. Those are two books I LOVE.

    Stephanie: Since you already own it, do give it a try. "Middlesex" is not for everyone, but you might like it. As for the Death book, I am pretty sure you will like it indeed!

  8. i read "death the high cost of living" a long time ago, and although i don't remember it very well, i remember liking it a lot! great choice! :)

    wouldn't a film version of it be just great! theres something very cinematic about death and the way gaiman writes her for me...


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