Ever felt yourself at odds with the rest of the world? When you don’t know why the world is the way it is. When you are not able to relate to this obnoxious nature of mankind and the predefined rules set in this world and the only thoughts dominating your minds are: What the heck is wrong with the world? Then you have landed on the right post.
Because here I will be discussing about the 5 must read books that talk about people who experienced same things as we are going through, that are as follows:
1. The Stranger by Albert Camus:
This 100-page literary masterpiece by the Nobel laureate Camus tells the story of a French Algerian man named Meursault who is indifferent to his traditional culture and values. He is so much detached from the world that he is not able to express any grief on his mother’s funeral.
” Mother died today, or yesterday; I can’t be sure.”
With these lines begins the story of Meursault who is an ordinary man but his indifference to the world makes him extraordinary. To him people are either interesting or just annoying. A day after his mother’s death he gets involve into a sexual relationship with a woman and then with a series of events he even turns out to be murderer of an Arab man. The book is divided into two parts, the first talks about his life before the murder and second when he is sentenced to jail where he is able to live his life freely because of his detached nature. And also how he ends up finding his happiness in his indifference to the world.
Camus was even quoted saying that, ‘In our society any man who does not weep at his mother’s funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death.’ , that was a paradox in itself. This short work not only highlights his philosophy of existentialism and absurdity but also talks about human psyche and atheism. The way Camus has written this classic with so much precision and lucidity, makes it clear that you don’t need to write voluptuous content to win a Nobel prize.
“I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world finding it so much like myself.”
2. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata:
This is an eerie Japanese novel by Sayaka Murata. It’s a story of a 36- year old unmarried woman named Keiko, who works in an ordinary convenience store and finds her meaning of life in that. She is so satisfied with her life and meagre earnings that she doesn’t desire anything else. She is devoid of any desire of marriage or growth in her life. In childhood, she is shown as a strange kid, who could even stab a crying child to make it stop crying.
Her solutions are simple and devoid of any emotion, but this makes her look strange in front of her parents and finally she finds something she fits well in i.e. working in a store, which also satisfies her parents. But not for too long as when she finally find herself satisfied working there, they(including society) are again worried that why doesn’t she gets married or why doesn’t she change her job. With the pressure of which, she even acts getting to a relationship with a strange man. This short and quirky novel will cut through your conscience so deeply, touching the themes of existentialism, human isolation with humour.
In other words, this is not an ordinary story, it’s in a way a love story between a misfit and a store. In Japan, working in a store is seen as the most boring job. And when somebody finds so much meaning out of it, going against what people are thinking, what more could you expect? The writer Sayaka Murata was herself a part time worker in a convenience store so nobody could write it so perfectly. I loved this book so much that I wanted it to never end. This adorable book could be read and re-read millions of times.
“This society hasn’t changed a bit. People who don’t fit into the village are expelled: men who don’t hunt, women who don’t give birth to children. For all we talk about modern society and individualism, anyone who doesn’t try to fit in can expect to be meddled with, coerced, and ultimately banished from the village.”
3. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger:
This is a must read book for all the millennials, trying to understand the superficiality of the society and find meaning in their lives. Published as a novel specially for adults, the 17-year old main protagonist Holden Caulfield, has become one of the most famous teenage icon in the history of books. Written in a subjective style the book is told from Caulfield’s perspective which includes all his thought process. As he recalls the events of the last year and the things that follow, you get to understand what goes on in the mind of a lost, depressed, frustrated teenager.
The book touches the themes of identity crisis, dreams and longing, alienation, drugs and prostitution and nihilism. Being bold and written in such a raw language, it is not surprising to know that the book was censored in the schools. As what doesn’t fit well and goes by the rule is not allowed to fit in this world.
“You’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by the human behavior. You are by no means alone on that score…Many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now.”
4. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand:
This magnanimous masterpiece, should not be missed by anyone. It’s story of man named Howard Roark, an individualistic, young architect, not ready to compromise with the architectural ideas that lack innovation. He is shown as an ideal man, whose work is not just work, but his religion that he worships so much. His non-conformist attitude, and giving importance to the integrity of his work, is something to learn from.
And against him are the people such as Peter Keating, his former classmate and who can compromise anything(who secretly takes help of Roark for all his projects) for the sake of fame and money and Toohey, a socialist architecture critic, who uses his influence to destroy Roark career. The love affair between Dominique, a feminist woman who believes, non- conformity could never win and at the same time, she is in love with Roark and helps him, is something to look upto.
Through the character of Roark, Rand shows the philosophy of objectivism, and that individualism is superior to collectivism, that she herself founded. Even if it gets absurd or over-exaggerated at some point, this beauty is the most quotable works I have ever read. And the character of Roark, is my most favourite character till date. This is a must read book if you want to become more passionate, more unconventional and more like Roark.
” To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world. That’s what everybody does every hour of his life. If I asked you to keep your soul…would you understand why that’s much harder.”
5. No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai:
This is the saddest and most life altering book, I have ever read. Written by the Japanese writer, Osamu Dazai, it is a story of a man named Yozo, who is not able to relate to the behaviour of human beings such as greed and egoism. Right from his birth, he is not happy to be born as a human. He is scared of the fact that if others will get to know, what he feels, he would be in trouble, therefore he resorts to clowning around and deceiving people by his humor and properly enacted jokes. But on the inside he is dead scared of getting caught.
The books is divided into three notebooks, in which Yozo, tells his story. The first notebook deals with his childhood. Right from the childhood, he wants ‘nothing’, but in order to please his parents he acts as is told to him. The second note book, deals with his school and college phase where he once draws a dark portrait, and he gets so scared of it that he chooses not to show it to anyone except one friend.
In university , he fears his studies out of the fear of collective life and instead gets involved in Marxist movement in Japan. He is not interested in that as well, but due to his acting he is able to earn some money and meaning out of that irrational world. He resorts to drinking and sleeping around and even attempts a double suicide with a married woman. In the third notebook he talks about how his life after recovery from suicide and his marriage to a young naive woman because of whom he starts living but not any longer as his self- destructive behaviour starts again, ending him into a mental institution.
This book is in a way a semi- autobiographical account of Osamu Dazai’s life as the series of events like of double suicide and sleeping around and resorting to alcoholism was very much evident in his life. He committed suicide after the publication of this book. The theme of the book is an amalgamation of Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky and The Stranger by Camus. Osamu Dazai’s daughter Yuko Tsushima was also a well known contemporary writer.
Even though the books is dark and sad, the truth that it speaks could not be ignored by anyone. That meaning of the society for an individual is to escape out of the fear of humanity. Dazai in a way talks about the religion of humanity and how it can be saved. This is a must read book, if you want to take a pause and think about the superficiality of the society and morality of human life.
“I am convinced that human life is filled with many pure, happy, serene examples of insincerity, truly splendid of their kind-of people deceiving one another without (strangely enough) any wounds being inflicted, of people who seem unaware even that they are deceiving one another.”
These were the must read books that any misfit could relate to. So, stop clowning around in order to please the world and start reading these amazing gems.
The list is solely restricted to my limited reading experience, therefore, I will continue adding more books to this list, in future, so keep revisiting this post and do let me know your favourites in the comments section. Happy Reading! ☺