Several years ago, a local bookstore (which sadly went out of business when B&N came to town) used to have a sign that said something to the effect that nobody with any brains ever has enough BOOKSHELF SPACE.

So, bearing that little gem in mind, I am now going to contribute to your gridlock with a few contributions that I consider ESSENTIAL reading, both fiction and nonfiction.

In the fiction category, the best novel of the twentieth century, IMHO, is far and away by Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia-Marques.  I s-t-r-u-g-g-l-e-d through Hundred Years of Solitude, which someone assured me was an allegory of Latin American history, feeling all the time like it was written by someone on peyote, or pot, at the very least.

But then when I read Love in the Time of Cholera, I felt like my brain REALLY was on fire.  The review on the dust jacket informed me, as I recall, that people said it, “returned our worn souls to us.”

And so it did.

It is not for young people, though.  I would not give it to anyone under forty.   Well, okay, thirty at the very least.  Even if it doesn’t take that long for their soul to wear out.

The other fiction that I like includes most of

(1) Naguib Mahfouz.  Start with the Cairo Trilogy (Palace Walk,  Palace of Desire and Sugar Street).

(2) Ray Bradbury.  His best full length novel is Fahrenheit 451, which was made into a movie with Oskar Werner and Julie Christie, but his collections of short stories, particularly Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man, are classics.  Does this date me?

In the nonfiction category, the best book I have read recently is, of course, Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.  I honestly think that if you read this book (which weighs in at a hefty 558 pages), you will not need to read much else in the social sciences category for, oh say, twenty or thirty years, except maybe for Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America.  Her depth of analysis is that good.  IMHO it is the best thing since Franz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, which, while inspired mostly by the Algerian struggle, of course, was about the Third World and imperialism all over the globe.

Another book I really like, also somewhat dated, is Larry Collins and Dominique LaPierre.  O! Jerusalem.  This one has just come out in another edition, I think.

So, here are my picks for a few nonfiction essentials.

Simone de Beauvoir. The Second Sex.

Larry Collins and Dominique LaPierre.  O! Jerusalem.

Franz Fanon.  Wretched of the Earth.

Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

Eduardo Galeano.  Open Veins of Latin America:  Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.

Mohammed Heykal (Heikel).    Autumn of Fury.  Editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram and  friend of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, he is considered a leading commentator on Arab politics and has authored many other books.

_________ . Nasser: The Cairo Documents.

Naomi Klein. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

Thomas Edward Lawrence (T.E.), The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Amin Maalouf.  The Crusades Through Arab Eyes.

Charles C. Mann.  1491:  New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus.

Joseph Wilson.  The Politics of Truth.

This list is longer than I had intended when I started writing this post, but I feel like it doesn’t do justice to many other works I would mention, so I guess I will write another post at some time in the not-too-distant future.

~ Romi