I’ve enjoyed reading the various book rankings. One problem with such lists, however, is that they rarely offer new books to consider. Were there any books on those lists that we haven’t heard of? Unlikely. I realize that isn’t necessarily the point of such lists, but it got me thinking along those lines anyway. I recall enjoying the thread generated on Kieran’s blog back in the summer about long reads.
I would like to read some more about books that I am less likely to have come across already but come highly recommended nonetheless. I thought one possible approach could be to compile a “best of” list consisting of books on our bookshelves that seem obscure (at times even to us owners of those books) or are perhaps not so obscure per se but are nonetheless unlikely to be found on the shelves of others.. not because they’re not good but because they are less mainstream.
So here are a few books I really like but are unlikely to be on too many people’s bookshelves.
I’ll start with the winner of the “absolutely most obscure book on my shelves” award even though I realize it will have limited appeal. It has to be the Hungarian-Japanese dictionary I acquired years ago when I was studying Japanese in Hungary. I’m afraid I have little use for it now, but it is too unique to get rid of (and too obscure not to mention here). I realize, however, that this will have little appeal to most people on the globe (including most people in Hungary and Japan). So moving on…
I suspect many would find my little collection of Titeuf cartoon books somewhat obscure. Titeuf was “born” in Carouge just outside of Geneva, but my understanding is that he’s become pretty popular in the rest of the francophone world as well. The stories are about everday events through the eyes of a little boy. His views of the world are very naive, but very understandable.. and quite funny.
A nice coffee-table book for people who like to ponder facts and figures about the social world is Understanding USA.
For those who like fiction, I recommend The Notebook by Agota Kristof. If you ever took a francophone lit (as in French lit not by French authors) class you may have come across her work. Otherwise, I suspect unlikely even though it’s really good reading. It’s about twins during wartime and if you know a bit about the biography of the author then you can figure out which time period, but that part is not essential to getting a lot out of the book. (The author immigrated from Hungary to Switzerland in the 1950s.)
A good chunk of the books on my bookshelf are art books so I’ll finish with one of those. Egon Schiele is not necessarily obscure depending on how much you know about early twentieth-century European painting, but he is much less known than someone like Klimt (an artist who had considerable influence on Schiele) and many others from that period. His rendering of the human body is quite incredible. I recommend collections of his work for anyone’s art library.
I realize that’s pretty eclectic and I’m reaching across genres, but such is my collection and that’s how I prefer it. Obviously, I could go on and on, but those are definitely books that would keep me good company if stuck on an island or at an airport one day.