Books create the opportunity for people to share with others a mutual love or, hatred of an author, an idea or a movement. These are five books that are guaranteed to get you caught in a conversation with friends, family and people on the bus, if you read them in public.
‘Oh Animal Farm I read that in school` is usually how the conversation starts, never mind that most of the English speaking world read the book in school. People just love to let you know that they have read Orwell’s classic piece of Orwellian lit. It has about 110 pages (edition dependent) so even your non- reading friends would have skimmed through it in high school. It is a good book and you should read it if you are the one percent of the English speaking world that hasn’t. The odd thing about conversations about Animal Farm is that no-one really has much of an opinion, people just say they have read it, maybe throw out a quote like ‘four legs good` and then go on with their lives, leaving you to wonder how you will get through this 110 page book if people keep on distracting you!
The conservation usually starts with a nice librarian type, complete with cardigan and pearls approaching you at the loans desk and saying `ooh you haven’t read it, it’s amazing’, then her eyes roll back into her head and thunder echoes in the background….What is it about Dante’s epic poem that attracts the sadist in even the most placid and sweet individuals? Inferno is really just an exercise in early defamation, in which all of Dante’s enemies, rather strangely, end up in the same location: hell. Perhaps the idea of sending your enemies to hell with the stroke of a pen is a appealing too many people in modern society . Don’t get me wrong, it’s worth the read, just steer clear of the loans desk…
Game of Thrones
‘Oh I just finished watching the last episode of`, is usually followed by ‘I was so shocked that`. If you have ever heard this before you have been carrying around a copy of Game of Thrones. Bad move. Spoiler city.
There is nothing quite like seeing the joy in a historian’s eyes when they realise that someone else likes their weird old books too. They will talk at you until the stars grow cold. My favourite hits are ‘kids these days`, ‘you have to know where you`ve been` and `so important to`. Even if you’re not a huge fan of ancient history you will probably have still heard the name Livy bandied about at some stage or another in casual conversation. Part of his importance as an author is that his work still exists, but his writing is accessible even to the modern audience. So to anyone who has a small interest in history, seeing a copy of Hannibal’s war in someone else’s hand can prick up the ears and make the nerd in all of us so happy. Knowing there is someone else out there enjoying something that we (yes we) enjoy is a real kick.
The Communist Manifesto
‘Why are you reading that dross?` The common reaction from uncles everywhere upon seeing a copy of Communist Manifesto stuffed into the back of their nephew’s pants at the family barbecue. There is nothing that threatening about the manifesto. Just lot’s of ‘hey guys, maybe being poor isn’t that great, maybe working long hours in sweat shops doesn’t build a strong society, maybe we could do things better`. Yes, it is a bit more forceful than that, but so are the conversations. Are they worth it? That’s up to you to decide.
What books have you read that have fostered a conversation?
Thanks for reading!