Well there are obviously many more than just 24 books that I love, but these are the ones that made it into my 2019 Advent-Calendar...
The 2019 #bookstagram Classic Literature Advent-calendar (random order)
Homo Faber, Max Frisch, 1957:
This novel magnificently questions our believe that we are in total control of the world and people around us and shows us how we can still be fooled by our emotions! I just love this book and it was the obvious choice to start this Advent calendar with. Not only because Max Frisch is a Suisse-German writer but also because Homo Faber was the first book that made it onto this list.
The Eight Life, Nino Haratischwili, 2014
It’s one of the most amazing books I have read in recent years and for me already a classic! Ok the 1200 pages might seem daunting at first, but the story, covering a century of a Georgian family is so gripping that you won’t be able to put it down… The perfect holiday read.
Suite Française, Irène Némirovski, written in the 1940s
Already the destiny of the author and the manuscript makes this book very special. But more than that Irène Némirovski managed to portrait French society during the German invasion in an unprecedented way. It’s almost like she’s using a scalpel to analyse the depths of mankind. It’s a must read!
The Human Stain, Philip Roth, 2000
In times of often exaggerated political correctness, this book was premonitory and is more relevant today than when it was published almost 20 years ago.
In my wildest dreams, I’ll be able - one day - to write such a book. If you don’t want to wait, read this one...
Life and Fate, Wassili Grossman, written in 1960, published in 1980
If you like history, this is the equivalent to War and Peace for the 20th century. But not only is this 800 page novel a monumental description and criticisme of the Soviet Union, it also contains the most touching testimonies of love and acts of kindness.
Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë, 1847
Of the many novels written by the three Brontë sisters, Wuthering Heights is by far my favourite. It’s tragic love story, the stormy nature of the English countryside and last but not least Heathcliffs vindictive yet lovable character (who some say is a portrait of Emily herself) make this an all-time classic. Perfect for a stormy winter evening by the fire place.
Il barone rampante, Italo Calvino, 1957
If you have ever considered to completely change your life, you might be curious to read what it is like to spend 50 years living in a tree. This is by no means a new age story for eco-citizens, but a wonderfully poetic story of a philosopher-poet-lover (yes! while living in the tree), who amongst other people advises Napoleon. It makes you laugh and think and want to climb trees again! This is the first book of a Trilogie and I promis you will buy the second one before you have even put this one down.
Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee, 1999
This book is so powerful, it^s almost like a punch in your stomach and that’s exactly the reason why you should absolutely read it. It’s as closes as you will (hopefully) ever get to this kind of violence in your life and while it won’t physically hurt you it will still leave a scar. The book is also a scary and livid portrait of Post-Apartheid South African society. If you need any more convincing: Coetzee won the Nobel Price four years after publishing Disgrace.
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, 1932
When reading this dystopian novel today it seems almost impossible that anyone could have pinpointed, almost 90 years ago, some of the most pressing challenges modern society is facing. Together with 1984 this is a must read if you are even vaguely interested in education, DNA research and genome editing. Most interestingly, but not surprising coming form an Englishman, is the social structure Huxley imagines, being the result of human recreation. Read it! Please!
Blindness, José Saramago, 1995
It’s another dystopian novel by another Nobel Price winner and it’s as powerful as the two previous books in this list. When the inhabitants of a whole city go blind, anarchy quickly breaks out leaving everyone at the mercy of a group of thugs who try to control access to food and other essential items. It’s strongly written and easily made it into this list.
Im Westen nichts Neues, Erich Maria Remarque, 1928
As much as Life and Fate by Grossman is one of the best testimonies of the 2nd WW, this book is by far the most poignant read on the 1st WW. It’s not just gruesome and emotional but at time actually quite funny. Many of us have lost one great-grand-father in this awful war, if you want to remind yourself that only one hundred years ago Europe looked a lot different, read this!
Cien años en soledad, Gabriel Garcia Marques, 1967
I still haven’t entirely made up my mind if I prefer Hundred Years of Solitude or Love in the Time of Cholera, but either of these books are a sure way to escape the world as you know it and to disappear into a long gone world hidden somewhere in a long gone country. Garcia Marques stories are magical and you won’t be able to resist his enchanted world of airy and charming characters for more than a few pages. So don’t try!
Der Vorleser, Bernhard Schlink, 1995
Because even before the film made this book popular in 2008, it already belonged to the great classics of German literature. It’s an easy read that leaves no-one indifferent. Like the Human Stain the main character is prepared to make a huge sacrifice in order preserve her secret from the world.
Miss Dalloway, Virginia Wolf, 1925
This novel is a wonderful way to remind ourselves that even though most of us are sociable human beings, we also have a different, inner, world that often remains hidden even to those we around us. And if you are not keen on introspection just enjoy Clarissa Dalloway preparing for her party. The rest will follow...
The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1868-1969
It’s the oldest book in this selection, but more modern than many others. It was a tough call between Tolstoy and Dostoevsky but in the end I prefer the psychological depth of the characters in the Idiot or the Brothers Karamazov. Despite or because of their human weaknesses they are likeable characters that one can identify with. As a result this novel becomes an exploration of the darkest corners of your own soul.
Die dunkle Seite der Liebe, Rafik Schami, 2004
No matter if you have been to Damascus before the war or not, this book is a declaration of love to a place that no longer exists. Schami, a German writer of Syrian origin spend 34 years thinking of his home town and creating this novel. The result is just magical! The almost 900 pages and 304 chapters will carry you away into another world that you won’t want to leave again. It’s not been translated into French yet but try and get a hold of the English translation!
Mémoires d’Hadrien, Marguerite Yourcenar, 1951
Through this book you have the unique chance to become a roman emperor yourself! Yourcenar has accomplished an incredible feat by not writing about Hadrien but by actually becoming Hadrien. This book is beautifully written and is much more than a book on roman history. It’s a book about the philosophy of life and what is left when you are near the end…
Rien ne s’oppose à la nuit, Delphine de Vigan, 2011
This book is a punch in the stomach! This might not sound like a very pleasing reading experience but I promise you the book will just swallow you until you have finished the last sentence. It’s very powerful and probably the most unusual choice in this list.
La casa de los espíritus, Isabel Allende, 1982
Allende is the one of the other big magical writers of Latin America. Through this book you will not only get to follow a Chilean dynasty through its uprising and decline but you will also meet the most lovable of phantoms. If you can’t be bothered to read the book, do watch the film. It’s a great adaptation of Allende’a story.
The Ginger Tree, Oswald Wynd, 1977
Get on a steam ship voyage to Japan, slip into the skin of an expats wife and let yourself be seduced by this incredible and wonderful life journey of a young women... I have recommended this book many times already and every time the people loved it!!!
Seta, Alessandro Baricco, 1996
This relatively thin book is poetic, beautiful and intense. I remember reading through it during class at school. I was totally absorbed by it for the entire class and will be eternally grateful to my understanding teacher who let me finish it without interrupting me once!!! I read it again just recently and still love it as much as I did then! I’m sure so will you!
Les Braises, Sándor Márai, 1942
Friendships can have a wonderful influence on our life yet sometimes they can also be destructive. Forty years after they last saw each other two formerly best friends get back together for an evening discussion. Márai plays with your feelings and keeps the worst secrets hidden until the very last pages of this psychological study of friendship.
Das Parfum, Patrick Süskind, 1985
It’s a beautifully intense, horribly scented and disgustingly seductive story. Reading the book you are introduced to the mind of a serious killer in France early 18th century. But having said this I haven’t said anything about the power of this book. Your feelings will be drawn into so many opposing directions at the same time that you won’t find peace until you have finished!
Die Welt von Gestern, Stephan Zweig, 1942
For those who know this book it shouldn’t come as a surprise that while being the only non-fiction book in this list, it had to be number 24! This book, subtitled, Memories of a European, should be read by anybody living and loving this beautiful continent. It serves as a constant reminder on why peace in Europe is not a given ! If I can make one last Christmas wish: read it!