The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

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“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”

— J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

    Everyone is a goddamn phony. It’s almost impossible to finish this book without having that sentence engraved in your thoughts, forever. The Catcher in the Rye was one of my most surprising reading experiences yet. It’s not your conventional young adult story. It is a book that has known censorship before embracing immense fame. It’s popularity grew at an exponential speed and ended up getting incredible praise among teenagers. How? It was all in Holden Caufield, the protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye, and how so many adolescents were able to relate with him. This story is a glimpse into the life of Holden Caufield. He narrates the events, one after the other, and puts forth his entire thought process in black and white. After learning that he once again got kicked out of high school, Holden Caufield decides to follow his gut feeling and takes a trip to New York City. Through these events, readers uncover a child who’s simply falling into adulthood. In this story marinating in a theme of coming of age, Holden Caufield is an elegy for adolescents. It’s through his confusion, his angst, his pain, his pleasures and his desires that we see his struggle to remain a child, yet swimming in a world of adults.
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Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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“Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”

— John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

    We’re all bound to hear about Mr. Steinbeck and his famous and critically acclaimed novels at least once in our lives. Of Mice and Men figures among his most popular works of fiction and there’s no denying that the praise it has received over time is very well deserved. This story follows the search for labour of both George Milton and Lennie Small. While George is a small, but smart individual who’s patience is always tested by his huge, loyal, but simple-minded friend Lennie, George’s continued support and friendship puts him in a tight spot far more often than he would have wished for. It’s upon arriving at a ranch in California’s Salinas Valley that their luck had changed and a job for both of them was offered. However, things are not as simple as it seems since Lennie’s inability to control his inhuman strength and to adapt and comprehend people and his surrounding is liable to wreak havoc. Of Mice and Men is a relatively short story that contains countless themes ready to assault every reader’s conscience and leave them bewildered and saddened by the end of the story.
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Poor Folk by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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“And though I suffer for you, yet it eases my heart to suffer for you.”

— Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Poor Folk

    Crime and Punishment was an absolutely mesmerizing first experience of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s writing. Being able to read his very first novel, the one that brought him great fame, is an opportunity that I just couldn’t skip over. At 24 years old, he writes Poor Folk—tell me that’s not something to applaud about. This is an epistolary novel that portrays all the faces of human condition. Considered to be one of the most important pieces of literature set in the early beginnings of the Russian realism movement, this novel captures the emotional struggle of individuals who are confronted to poverty. From a desire for respect to a fight to live with dignity, Poor Folk is truly a unique work that is certain to impress readers. The influence of great authors also exude through Dostoyevsky’s writing; writers such as Gogol or Pushkin and many more. Poor Folk is the beginning of a young legend’s legacy.
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Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

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“Solitude is independence. It had been my wish and with the years I had attained it. It was cold. Oh, cold enough! But it was also still, wonderfully still and vast like the cold stillness of space in which the stars revolve.”

— Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf

    It takes a troubled soul to concoct such a fine cocktail. Infinitely beautiful both in prose and execution, Steppenwolf digs deep within the reader’s minds and bodies to hold us captive by the bones. German author Hermann Hesse has made a name for himself by writing some of the most philosophically-driven fiction that resonates throughout the confines of literature. His creations have been translated in countless languages, spreading his reputation on a global scale over decades and within countless societies. While certainly controversial during his time, Steppenwolf slowly claimed its title of a masterpiece. This novel has gracefully went through the test of time and came out victorious with countless individuals having dissected the very foundation that holds this sublime piece of abstraction together. However, the author himself has said: ‘Of all my books “Steppenwolf” is the one that was more often and more violently misunderstood than any other’. What else are we to expect of a story that claws through the mind of a man? Growling viciously at the mundanity that composes the bourgeois life, Steppenwolf unveils the complexity of a man’s own conscience with great poise and a touch of madness.  Continue reading

The Giver by Lois Lowry

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“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”

— Lois Lowry, The Giver

    Imagine a society where everyone is treated equally. There are countless rules in place to keep the community in check and not a single one is meant to be broken or overlooked. This is a community secluded from the rest of the world so that conflict never arises. The system in which they live structure every single thing to their very details. Pleasure and pain are non-existant as they are the sources of many actions that one does not want to see. Children are carefully taken cared of, year after year, until the age of 12. Upon this milestone, they are each given a respective job that fits their abilities. Its only after an in-depth analysis and thorough examination that the Elders find the perfect job for these children. A life-long supervision of every single person does, after all, give them an exhaustive idea of what these kids should grow up to be. This is a society where choices are not within your grasps, where secrets do not exist and where the present is the only relevant time. The Giver presents the theoretical utopia where routine dominates the playgrounds, but something much more vicious hides within its cowls. Continue reading

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it..”

— Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

    Remember that book that comes to mind when you’re asked what you were forced to read during school? To Kill a Mockingbird would be mine. While required reading doing our education always seem horrible, the silver lining remains in everyone’s personal reading experience. It’s that ride that never seems to be identical from one person to another that makes every book a snowflake. As much as I’d love to keep the rant within me, I can’t help myself but to share a little story that has held me—and probably a hundred others—from being able to appreciate some of the most finest pieces of literature in the world at a younger age. Continue reading

Dune by Frank Herbert

MY RATING: ★★★★★

“Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.”

As I finished reading this novel, I was wondering why I haven’t heard about DUNE before. Why hasn’t Dune invaded our popular culture like Star Wars, Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings did? I did a few research and found out that Dune is the ancestor of Star Wars. So why haven’t Dune received as much recognition as Star Wars?  Written in 1965, it won the Hugo Award in 1966, an award for the best sci-fi/fantasy genre in the previous year. That’s a lot of recognition alright, but not in the public audience.

Set in the desert of Arrakis, Dune depicts the tale of betrayal and vengeance, in a feudal society where the Elites are ruling different planets. Duke Leto has been assigned the greater Order to rule Arrakis, creating conflicts with the house of Harkonnens who’s been eyeing the planet for so long.

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Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince

    Do you know what makes a classic, a classic? Let me tell you. It’s in their ability to withstand the test of time. It’s in their power to convey life lessons through a couple of words. It’s in their nature to always surprise a reader who wishes to reread it. Le Petit Prince, with only 97 pages, is a book that defines classics. I was too young the first time I’ve heard about the Little Prince’s story. I had little recollection of his adventures and the words of wisdom he had told us. Reading this novel with the mindset of an adult in his early 20s definitely gives Le Petit Prince the opportunity to blow my mind. But how does he do it? Simple. He comes from a small little planet far, far away and lands on Earth with all his innocence and purity. He encounters a stranded pilot in the middle of the dessert and from that point on, the most amazing anecdotes are exchanged. Continue reading

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

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“What’s it going to be then, eh?”

— Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange

     This is hands-down one of my favorite reads of 2016. It blows my mind how much it’s innovative, thought-provoking and dreadfully disturbing. It blends good and evil as if they weren’t water and oil. It succeeds in delivering a criminal-ridden dystopia while exposing the very essence of morality. It contemplates a fascinating take on freedom while drenched in a dark, sinister and hopeless world. Insanely lyrical and compelling, A Clockwork Orange brings us the cruelly painful and vomit-inducing adventure of 15 year-old Alex. Accustomed to theft, murder and ultra-violence, our young protagonist is also familiar with a nad-sat language. This vocabulary that mastermind Anthony Burgess has created for his very novel doesn’t only provide a beautiful and singular experience for readers, but succeeds in creating a fun and insightful look at Alex’s character and his peculiar thoughts. Absolutely enigmatic, the novel doesn’t easy up on the disconcerting scenes or the bizarre language. But oddly enough, every single moment and word grows on you and makes this classic unforgettable. Continue reading

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.”

— Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

       We all know what’s the endgame here. Someone will commit a crime. Punishment will follow. Now, now. Don’t think it’s that simple. After all, we’re talking about Fyodor Dostoyevsky. This is actually the first novel I’ve read from him; not surprising is it. I’m actually glad that I can finally scratch off one of the most quintessential novel every bookworm should read in their lifetime. Yet, I still wish I could get more out of it. I wish this novel would span over my whole life so that I could find entertainment every single day, and never worry about being bored. Crime and Punishment is a classic fiction novel that documents the psychology of a murderer, Rodion Raskolnikov. As he plunges into a delusional world filled with despair and torture, his conscious continues to hold a strong grip on his life. His only way out lies within Sonya, a downtrodden prostitute. What does the world have in store for Raskolnikov after committing the greatest crime of all? Continue reading

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”

— Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

          They say there’s a book for every person. Well, I say that there’s also a book for every time of the year. I took these holidays to acquaint myself with a cult classic novel by the famous Charles Dickens. This novel has known so many references, it’s hard to not know the premise behind it or its heart-warming ending. However, being able to get my own hands-on impression of the novel was a real treat. I haven’t ever had the chance to read this novel and finally being able to do was a great pleasure. Nothing like a good classic novel checked off my list of novels to read. Sprinkled with our favorite Dickensian writing, A Christmas Carol follows the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. Mean at heart and not giving two cents about Christmas, old man Scrooge works in the money-lending business and hates Christmas with a passion. Can’t forget to mention how he also loves to “Bah!Humbug!” whenever Christmas is mentioned. But Scrooge doesn’t know that he’s about to be visited by three kind spirits who will change him forever. Continue reading

The Alienist by Caleb Carr

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“The defenders of decent society and the disciples of degeneracy are often the same people.”

— Caleb Carr, The Alienist

          Hello. My name is Lashaan and I’m a sucker for classics. It comes as no surprise that the year is about to end and you can’t help but admire all those juicy, scrumptious, voluptuous and jaw-dropping novels you’ve had the chance to read. The year 2015 marks the year where I’ve vowed upon myself to read every cult classic and hit novel that have made a name for themselves in the world of literature. Ambitious, isn’t it? Don’t worry. We basically all strive to read books and unconsciously—consciously for some—make it a part of our lives. Doesn’t that mean that we are all never-ending consumer of words, that books will never seize to be published and that they’ll eventually all reach our hands? That’s right. We technically all aim to read everything while never being able to reach an end. And that’s what’s so magnificent about reading. However, what’s troubling about the year 2015 is that it also marks the year where I’ve read the most books in a year and a lot of those are classic masterpieces. It’s in being able to decide what left the biggest impression on my story-hungry mind that scares me. I just can’t answer that. But there is one thing I can say. The Alienist by Caleb Carr is one of my favorite reads of all time. Continue reading

Peter Pan by J.M Barrie

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My rating : ★★★★☆

“So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land!”
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan: Fairy Tales

          After seeing millions of adaptations and hearing about the tale, I finally picked up the book and read it. And I’m telling you, it is sooo worth it. I’m not going to talk about the blurb here since I assume that pretty much everybody knows the story of Peter Pan, but for those of you who don’t it’s about a boy who didn’t want to grow up 😉 I love the book, but somehow, knowing a lot about the story already kind of ruined the reading experience for me. Luckily, there are still details and facts that I didn’t know about and was surprised by them! Otherwise, it was such a fun read. How I wish to see Neverland at least once in my life (and return to my life after that of course LOL) ! Continue reading

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

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“Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.”

— Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

          It doesn’t come as a surprise that I’ve laid hands on this beautiful piece of fine and exquisite literature in my days of reading. The story itself has known its fair share of television adaptations and its core essence has been used to illuminate various characters and their personas. It wasn’t hard for me to contemplate the idea of exploring the source material and ponder its impact in the writing sphere. After all, who, in their right minds, wouldn’t dare to indulge in one of Robert Louis Stevenson’s finely crafted tales of a man and his inner monster? The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde unravels the story of the great doctor and his long sought potion; one that unleashes a self that you and I might not want to shake hands with. Continue reading

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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“that is the secret of happiness and virtue – liking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny.”

— Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

          Have you ever imagined that even the most perfect utopia imaginable couldn’t bring the happiness you truly desire? Aldous Huxley has. And Brave New World is a novel that explores a futuristic world were science takes over, pleasure is superficial and happiness is explored like never before. The book follows the story of Bernard Marx as he questions his knowledge of love and seeks the happiness in forms that are completely denounced. His search for freedom from a utopia gone wrong leads him to a Savage Reservation camp where things are about to unravel in the World Controller’s society.
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One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

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“Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.”

– Ken Kesey, One Flew Over The CuCkoo’s Nest 

            Insanity. How do you grasp such a concept? How do you understand its core and all that it implies? The notion of insanity has always intrigued me and will always be a problem in our society. It’s not the person who gets the etiquette slapped onto their foreheads that are the problem. It’s the “why” that’s truly problematic. After all, aren’t all a little insane? One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is a novel by Ken Kesey, written in 1962. Randle McMurphy, a convict who pleaded insane to serve his sentence in psychiatric hospital instead of prison, is the protagonist who vows to bring life, reason and justice in a place ruled by the great Nurse Ratched. Believing that a psychiatric hospital would be an easier ride through his punishment, McMurphy is soon to discover that this very institution has more in store for him than he believes. Touching upon themes such as insanity, freedom, pleasure and many more, this story is told through the eyes of a alleged deaf patient, Chief Bromden.

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Animal Farm by George Orwell

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

– George Orwell, Animal Farm

            Beauty comes in many forms. Never will its definition coincide from a mortal to another. It jumps at you when you least expect it. It steals your soul and leaves your wandering. How is it possible? What do I do? Who am I? Beauty penetrates the very core of your beliefs and wakes the deepest of sensations that Man can feel. When it does, you know what happened. You know it’s real. Animal Farm has perhaps stimulated the very hidden fibers of my own body. Upon its completion, I’ve come to realize that some authors have a great mind and an inexplicable talent for writing. A talent that helps them express their ideas and beliefs effortlessly. Animal Farm is without question one of the best masterpieces that has been written. This novel by George Orwell, author of Nineteen Eighty-Four, is an allegoric science fiction with a perfect pinch of dystopia to top it all. This tale is bound to get you jittering at the edge of your seat once you reach the mind-blowing ending. SPOILER HERE: Hover over text to read. Definitely seals the deal with finesse.

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Omertà by Mario Puzo

“Some honorable men spend their whole life preparing for a supreme act of treachery”

– Mario Puzo in OmertÀ

            You know when you hear great words on a novel and forever memorize the author’s name? You then wish to know his career evolution, discover his work and assume being his number 1 fan right from the get go? I’m not ashamed to say that I am one of those people and Mario Puzo was the author’s name. Folks, I have to give you all a quick little life lesson. Some artists do not create masterpieces, 5 star worthy, mind boggling creations throughout their whole life. They have their ups and downs. They create pieces that might not suit everyone’s interests and definitely might not always get your praise. Authors are no exception. Omertà is my first novel from Mario Puzo; yes, before the beloved Godfather. And this was one of Puzo’s work that had my expectations really high and didn’t manage to satisfy them. Omertà is the story of Astorre Viola, an adopted child by the Great Don Raymonde Aprile. Molded early in his childhood, The Great Don saw in this child the perfect Mafioso. He acquainted him to Sicily and all the traditions that run through Sicilian blood. Seen by the Great Don’s children as a normal person who loves to ride horses as a pastime, Astorre never drawed suspicion on his knowledge of criminal activities. He vowed young to always respect Omertà, the code of silence. After a tragic event, Astorre sees that his time has come to reign over the empire his adoptive father has left behind.

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The Godfather by Mario Puzo

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“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

– Don Corleone in The Godfather

            What if I told you The Godfather is claimed to be one of the best piece of motion picture of all time? What came to my mind is an insatiable urge to find the novel and thoroughly read it before satisfying my cinematic needs. I had to read the bestseller classic novel and find out for myself how it got so many people hooked to this iconic figure, and at the same time figure out why it deserved a movie. Mario Puzo’s The Godfather (1969) is the novel that got me all fuzzy inside. In The Godfather, you get to see power and traditions being passed over from father to sons. This masterpiece tells the tale of an underground Sicilian mafia that forged it’s empire after immigrating in America from Sicily. Built from blood and tears, the family finds its wisdom and knowledge through the great Don. The Godfather. A man who lives his life by settling problems for others and making offers that can’t be refused. Old and wise, he’s seen as an old school mafia boss who finds his wealth through prostitution and gambling. But times have changed. He now lives in a period where new sources of income rises (yes, of course, drugs). Sadly, he also needs to pass on the torch to his sons since Father Time never cuts us some slack. The story focuses essentially on family as well as a great deal on values that the Don establishes in his family. Through unbelievable story-telling, we enroll in a journey to follow this family as they wage war with great Mafia Families. Greed, power and loyalty are all set into play.

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Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

“War is peace. 

Freedom is slavery. 

Ignorance is strength.”

The Party in Nineteen Eighty-Four

             We have all wondered what Big Brother was all about. What a government controlling and manipulating every single thing we do would look like; from going to work, to eating, to procreating, to breathing. Would it turn out to be something close to an army of ants? Obeying to one queen. Working like robots with a strict routine on a daily basis. Assuring the basic needs for the common and greater good. Famous author George Orwell brilliantly imagined a future that no man wishes to live in. Not only did he take on the burden of fancying a future completely plausible and at the same time dystopian, he also manages to create a tale that portrays an idea bigger than man. A timeless idea that even today we are able to pinpoint its fundamental premises throughout our current way of life. Written in 1949, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) is a dystopian novel that follows the adventures of Winston Smith. Working for the Ministry of Truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One, he starts to question the totalitarian regime in which he is plunged in. Under constant surveillance thanks to telescreens and the Thought Police, Winston winds up falling in love with a woman who seems to go against the principles of the Party. He then sets sail on a journey where he gradually questions his life. Getting the reader’s to indulge a future where expression and freedom aren’t even luxuries but taboos, this novel grabs you by the throat and gets you analyzing one of the most feared regime’s a government could set in motion.

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