Ever since I first experienced the estactic feeling of being exhilarated after I read a book, I can’t seems to stop to fill my thirst of reading. I’ve been raised in a family with a culture of reading and I’ve familiarized myself with several young-adult and children books, a leftover from my older sisters. But, my first real experience of falling deeply in love with a book was inexplicable. At that time, I was washed by a feeling so enormous that I still vivildy remember the unnatural beating of my heart and just like an epiphany, by the time I read the last page of the book, I know certainly that something in my life has changed. I’ve undergo a life of someone else, fictional as it is. This is a special post in celebration to the one thing which influences my personal belief, my character, and shapes everything that I am today: book. Today is the World Book Day and I would like to celebrate by sharing list of books that’ve changed or in some way, influence me, to be who I am now, the me who is typing with anxiety due to growing excitement of having to share the wonderful books that I’ve become so fond of.
These lists is not in particular order.
1. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
I shall say with certainty, this book gets me into reading, reading American classic literature to be exact. Some might find Holden Caulfield, the narrator of this story, to be insufferable and a constant complainer because basically all Holden did in this book is complain about everything. However, the 17 years old Azarine who read this book 7 years ago, felt like Holden’s narration and thoughts about society to be completely relatable. Holden did hold his thoughts but his inner narration in which the readers read, was completely honest, brutal, and spot-on. I was mesmerized on how J.D. Salinger could put his character inner thought so eloquently and effortlessly, considering The Catcher in the Rye’s uncomplicated and straightforward diction. It shows that a good book and a good writer doesn’t need, as I quoted my senior “plethora of flowery words”, to write a clever and thoughtful book. Despite its’ diction and its’ insufferable character, The Catcher in the Rye is a book with a quite deep topic ranging from alienation, the painful and frightening experience of having to grow up, and the fakeness of the adult world. It explores several motives such as loneliness and relationship. What I remember the most from this book is Holden’s constant question about “Where do the ducks in Central Park go during the winter?” for me, it shows Holden’s youthfulness, his genuine curiousity about something that most adult forget. It shows me that as we grow up, we ask less and less and growing more apathetic toward everything. When we converse, we build the conversations around us, not caring about others and as we grow apart from our “childlike” imagination, we become dull, boring, monotonous and lonely from the lack of genuinity in our life.
2. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.
A rather clíche pick, don’t you think? The most overrated, simplistic, ordinary book from the writer I admire the most, Haruki Murakami. I was torn up with having to choose Norwegian Wood or Kafka on the Shore, but I go with Norwegian Wood instead because this book help me to understand the topic of death and the depth of obsession and love. Just like how I relate with Holden Caulfied, I can also relate myself with Toru Watanabe, the protagonist of Norwegian Wood. Just like The Catcher in the Rye, this book also explore the motives of loneliness and relationship. Toru Watanabe fell deeply for a damaged good woman whose name is Naoko and when she died, Toru was forever chained with grief although he moved on with his life. Death is a dark territory and it evokes and stirs unwanted emotion which human usually avoid. However, this book has succesfuly taught me to accept death as it is, to accept the painful realization that the death and loss of someone we love deeply will inflicts an unseen scar that we have to carry throughout our life no matter how many years has passed us by. I’m by default, a sentimental person, who thoroughly think that sadness is a painfully beautiful emotion in which we should embrace, and this book or rather, all Murakami’s books are filled with a gloomy, melancholy narrative which will eventually makes you feel drained by the time you finish reading the book. And yet, although I always feel inexplicably lonely and sad after I read his book, I can’t help but to be drawn by his expressive, vivid narrative of the realistic depictions narrated by his protagonist as well as his ability to articulately pours out his protagonist’s inner emotion into his writing. Norwegian Wood is the kind of alluring and candidly honest book which grasped me right from the start, and then keeps me reading because I feel like I connected so much with Toru’s life.
3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Some writers are excellent because they’re vigorous in their routine and relentlessly try to become a better writer, and some just born excellent, talented, gifted, and miraculous like Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is a remarkable writer with an astounding “plethora of flowery words” and charming narration. I choose The Great Gatsby out of all his other books because by the time I finished reading this book, I’ve turn into a more avid, hardcore dreamer. I absolutely adore Jay Gatsby’s ambitions and his persistency to reach out to his dream. The book itself was written through Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby’s neighbour, point-of-view. I adore Gatsby just as Nick adores him. Moreover what enthralled me about this book is because this book might seems like a simple frustaring story about one man’s attempt to win the girl of his dream and yet something deeper lies within this book’s theme and motives. Beyond the story of Gatsby’s pursuit of the married Daisy, Fitzgerald told a story about America Post World War 1, the 1920s, as an era of rotten social and moral values, filled with greed and hollow pursuit of pleasure. Sounds like an oddly familiar era, right? Anyway, The Great Gatsby is special for me because it taught me about persistency, genuine love, sincerity and undying devotion to reach my goals. I want to be Gatsby, naïve and foolish he was, he possesed a good, sincere heart, he believes in his dreams and he focused his mind to reach his dream. Just like Gatsby, I believe in the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.
4. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
If only she survives the holocaust, I have no doubt in my mind that she’ll become a remarkable, brilliant, and thoughtful writer. The Diary of a Young Girl is an extraordinary book filled with amazing narration and optimism in such a bleak time. It was written by Anne Frank, who has become widely known as a popular symbol of holocaust and the reminder of Nazi’s cruelty during the World War II. Anne was 13 years old when she first filled her diary. At first her diary was filled with an amusing content of young girl with her daily life but soon afterwards, German Nazi soldiers started to invades Netherland and Anne with her family, a Jewish, were forced into hiding. They lived in a cramped space with the horror occured endlessly outside of their little annex and yet what made this book is so amazing is the fact that despite the horror, cruelty, and injustice happening in the outside world, Anne remained mostly positive and continue to live with an undying spirits.
I felt priviliged when I read this book because I was given the chance to see a young, cheery, brightful girl matured into a more introspective person who, at such a young age, was inconceivably well aware about her inner thoughts and her surroundings.
5. Tetralogi Pulau Buru – Bumi Manusia, Anak Semua Bangsa, Jejak Langkah, & Rumah Kaca by Pramoedya Ananta Toer
These remarkable books are a painful slap right to my face and a deadly jab right at the core of my heart. Tetralogi Pulau Buru, asides from Rumah Kaca, were told from the point of view of Minke, a Javanese aristocrat who was able to get a privilige as an aristocrat, the privilige that I often take for granted: education. The book itself took place in Java the late 19th during the colonial time and before the awakening of Indonesian intellectuals against the colonial government of Dutch East Indies (Hindia Belanda). Minke receives a western education and as an educated person, he’s also a prolific writer who admires Europe’s intellectual liberation and dreams of the same thing for his nation. Minke wants to liberate his nation, his fellow countryman, and he feels like he should’ve and could’ve because he’s educated and whatnot and yet he faces the crippling realization that as an aristocrat he barely know anything about his fellow countryman. He soons becomes tortured with the crippling inequality between him, an educated aristocrat, with his fellow countryman who are “less than him” in terms of social classes. He began to realized that his own nation is oppressed and being treated unjustly except for those who are born in a royal family, like him. Reading these books awakens me with the fact that I’ve taken my privilige of being educated for granted. I was slapped with a sudden realization that as an educated person, I should have, could have, and must have help to improve my nation and not to turn blind eyes to the explicit inequality of my surroundings. As I’m typing this post, at the comfort of my home, there are millions people of my nation who are sleeping in a cold concrete with nothing to shelter them and yet I feel helpless because I’m far too infiltrated by western culture to know keenly about my own country. These books, as I quoted Franz Kafka earlier, is the axe of the frozen sea within me.
6. Catatan Seorang Demonstran by Soe Hok Gie
If someone ask me who I really want to be, whose character I really admire, and whose my role model is, I, without hesitation will unquestionably answer that I want to be him, Soe Hok Gie. Sadly, I’m way too ignorant, arrogant, capitalistic, and cowardish to become him. Catatan Seorang Demonstran is another axe of the frozen sea within me and Soe Hok Gie is the almighty Thor who swings the axe mercilessly to my frozen sea. This book is filled with amusing yet highly intellectual and witty content of Soe Hok Gie’s thoughts. From this book, I come to learn about someone with a high awareness about his surroundings, someone with a deep, profound sentimentality whose deeply responsive about the world and saddened by the realization of brutal reality. Soe Hok Gie and this book taught me about compassion, undying love, and that it is not okay to be okay with injustice and inequality. He taught me about humanity, what it is to be human, and that every human beings born into this world with a purpose in which we have to discover. He plays a big influence with my idealistic, naïve, point-of-view about the world and how it supposed to be and yet just like him now all I could say is “I’m not an idealist anymore, I’m a bitter realist”, a very bitter one and just like him I want my grave to be painted with the words “Nobody can see the trouble I see, nobody knows my sorrow” because apparently, he was right, to be human is to be destroyed, by sadness and helplessness rooting from our inability to bring happiness to others.
I’ve several other books which also have big influence on my life but these 6 books in particular are the most profound one. I know in one way or another, there are billions people out there who has their own list of books who have influenced their life. If any of you who reads this post would be kindly enough to share your own list in my comment sections, please do. Because I think it’s very interesting to see how books, a mere written words, could influence someone so much and might even change their course of life. Happy World Books Day everyone, I hope you’ll continue to read books and find joy, solace, and lesson from the books that you’ve read.