5 fiction books that changed me
  When I was a child dragonflies, mermaids and mystical lakes were the epitome of my reality. I escaped into the magical world of books as often as I could devouring whole volumes in a few short days.   I spent so many nights imagining my own worlds into existence. Worlds where I was heroic and special. Where there were no abusive stepfathers or bullies, just monsters I fought and won.   I believed in the world those books opened doors to and couldn’t wait to be a part of them. They gave me the strength and the vision to create a life of my own.   As I grew up books offered me a different kind of solace. A body of work to refer to when even I didn’t understand my own point of view. Beliefs made up of intuitive, instinctual feelings face with a world demanding proof and evidence and science when I had nothing tangible to base them on.   Over the years I’ve collected a small body of stories that offered me a perspective that struck me with an intimacy too compelling to ignore and left me changed, forever.   Yesterday some new books arrived in the mail, ones I’ve heard great things about and can’t wait to sink my imagination into. While I do I felt to share the ones I’ve already loved so far. These are those:

Atlas Shrugged
I read it while travelling around Eastern Europe in the summer of 2018, my heart reeling from a recent breakup, and aching for a new world. Atlas Shrugged is a 1957 novel by Ayn Rand — about a dystopian United States in which the greedy capitalist society starts to unravel — revealing the tricksters shuffling papers under the guise of work and stuffing their pockets at the loss of ‘the people’. Sounds kind of familiar, does it not? The theme of Atlas Shrugged, as Rand described it, is “the role of man’s mind in existence”. The book explores a number of philosophical themes and expresses the advocacy of reason, individualism, and capitalism, and the failures of governmental coercion. Years later I still think about the close parallels this 50-year old book depicts our present experiences. It took me a while to get into it but once it captured me I couldn’t put it down and left me thinking about our reality in an entirely new way.
A novel by Hermann Hesse that an ex-boyfriend gave to me in my early twenties while I was studying at university that ultimately set in motion my own spiritual journey of self-discovery alongside that of a man named Siddhartha during the time of the Gautama Buddha. The book, Hesse’s ninth novel, originally written in German, in a simple, lyrical style eluding with messages that are essential universal spiritual laws. Siddhartha replies that for every true statement there is an opposite one that is also true; that language and the confines of time lead people to adhere to one fixed belief that does not account for the fullness of the truth. That, because nature works in a self-sustaining cycle, every entity carries in it the potential for its opposite and so the world must always be considered complete. Siddhartha simply urges people to identify and love the world in its completeness.
The Night Circus
Le Cirque des Rêves (The Circus of Dreams) has no set schedule, appearing without warning and leaving without notice; moving from place to place in a train disguised as an ordinary coal transport — this is a phantasmagorical fairy tale set near an ahistorical Victorian London in a wandering magical circus that is open only from sunset to sunrise — with such a staggering level of imagination that imprinted in my mind the exceptional limitless of possibility. There’s drama, romance, mystery and of course, every possible kind of magic you can conceive.
Fugitive Pieces
Titled after Lord Byron’s first volume of verse, the poetic style of narrative had me stop to gasp and re-read whole pages as I allowed the melody of the words to sink into my body. A story of trauma, grief, loss, and memory in relation to the Holocaust, explored via metaphors of nature told through two narratives, in the first part, Jakob’s, then in the second part, Ben’s, which are connected through one main event that had an effect on both narrators. There is this visceral understanding of the layering effect of life as it is lived that left me awe-struck.
The Reader
She takes this child, barely a man as a lover, she — a fully grown woman — and he, teaches her to read and write and yet never learns her name. I think the vulnerable and volatile nature of humanity really comes through in this book, a parable, dealing with the difficulties post-war German generations have had comprehending the Holocaustexploring how the post-war generations approach the future while also honouring the trauma and impact that the past had left on everyone. I watched the film after I read the book and enjoyed it though in my imagination Hanna never looked like Kate Winslet.

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