Literary Corner Cafe

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Fifteen Best Books You've (Probably) Never Read (The Second Five)

At Literary Corner Cafe we're dedicated to bringing you the very best from the world of literature. Together, the other editors and I have compiled a list of the "Fifteen Best Books You've (Probably) Never Read." (We know almost every serious reader will have read one or more of these literary gems.)

In our quest to help you unearth a real treasure, we present the second installment of five "best books":

Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura - Akira Yoshimura is a well known writer in his native Japan, but unfortunately, he hasn't gained the recognition he deserves in other countries and cultures. Shipwrecks, one of this author's finest novels takes place in a medieval Japanese fishing village and centers around nine-year-old Isaku. At fewer than two hundred pages, Shipwrecks is more novella than novel and is distinctly dark and Gothic in flavor. It's unlike any book we've ever read before and we simply can't forget it. We don't think you will, either.

Anya by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer - The horrors of the Holocaust are of interest to many serious readers and there have been many good (and a few great) books written about this terrible historical event. Anya, though great as well, is different. It's more personal, more intimate, and at times, more heartbreaking, than many other books in Holocaust literature. Anya lived an idyllic life in Warsaw, Poland encompassing piano lessons, elaborate dinners, music, and reading. But idyllic lives have a way of being torn apart and Anya's is no exception. Anya Brodman actually related the events in this book directly to its author. Even though we haven't suffered the horrors of the Holocaust ourselves, Schaeffer makes it possible to identify with Anya's pain, her suffering, and ultimately, her courage.

Angelica by Arthur Phillips - What can I write that can possibly do justice to this magnificent book? Arthur Phillips showed us he was a truly first rate author with the publication of The Egyptologist, but with Angelica, he takes his mastery of the novel a step higher. Angelica is the perfect blend of art and craft. It is, far and away, my favorite book of 2007 and I think it's also the best. This is one of those books you read far into the night and just when you think you have it all figured out - you realize you don't. No, Phillips doesn't spell out exactly what happened is this horror novel/ghost story/love story-gone-wrong/mystery, but he does play fair with his readers and all the puzzle pieces are there just waiting for you to fit them together.

The Beckoning Fair One by Oliver Onions - When asked what their favorite ghost story is, almost no one mentions The Beckoning Fair One, however this slim book is well regarded as the finest ghost story ever written, even eclipsing Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. Like James' classic, Onions' classic doesn't focus on the gruesome details that can often evoke laughter instead of pure horror, but instead focuses on people, on the psychological ramifications of "ghosts." We all have a "dark side"; there are demons that can push every one of us to the edge. Onions knew this and he exploits his knowledge well in The Beckoning Fair One, often cited as "the best ghost story ever written in the English language." We know one thing: reading it at night caused us to lose sleep and turn on the lights.

Remember Me by Trezza Azzopardi - Remember Me is such an important and overlooked book. This novel tells the heartbreaking story of seventy-two-year-old Winnie and is set against the backdrop of World War II. Some lives just hurt so much that people need to escape them, they need to become someone else. So it is with Winnie. But can anyone really escape themselves and "become someone else?" Even for a short time? It might seem as though Winnie has succeeded, but when her safety net is shattered, her ghosts of the past come calling. This is a dazzling, spellbinding book and one that's guaranteed to penetrate to the heart of any reader.

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