Five books with life lessons
Books are printed in huge quantities every day and sell like hot cakes. Writers pop up like mushrooms after a rainy day, so that the reading offer is immense and the reader often does not know which book to reach for. A chick lit might be an interesting pastime, but whether it will make the reader wiser is the question. However, there are books from which one can not only enjoy reading, but also life lessons.
“Anna Karenina” (Leo Tolstoy)
The first version of Anna Karenina appeared in 1877. Leo Tolstoy published the story as a series in the local magazine “Russki Vestnik”. Due to disagreements between Tolstoy and the publisher, Mikhail Katkov, Leo decided to publish the complete book.
While 865 pages may be seen as a turnoff by inexperienced readers, each page is worth it. Language use is quite simple and the names are easy to distinguish, making reading smooth. The story is divided into eight parts and consists of different storylines. Perhaps the title is even a bit misleading, given that the lives of other characters are exuberantly covered. For example, Levin, an aristocratic landowner, takes on a fairly large portion of the book.
Anna Karenina is primarily a tragic story set in the 19th century in the high circles of Russia. Anna’s brother has been unfaithful and his wife is threatening a divorce. To prevent this drama, Anna travels to Moscow and convinces her sister-in-law to stay with her brother. When she arrives at the train station, she involuntarily becomes a spectator of an accident involving a worker. This is an important detail, because the train will play a crucial role in Anna’s life.
In Moscow, Anna meets the young and oh-so-charming army officer Alexei Vronsky. Kupido’s arrows strike and they fall in love with each other, but their relationship has no chance of success. Anna is married and has a son. When this passionate affair comes to light, Anna’s life changes in an instant and the relationship with Vronski threatens to shatter.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy)
Thomas Hardy wrote this tragic masterpiece in 1891. The story was first published in magazines and only later appeared in book form. The whopper has since become a classic and has appeared on the silver screen several times.
The story revolves around Tess Durbeyfield, eldest daughter in a dead simple farming family. One day, when Tess’s father strolls home drunk, a pastor tells him that they are descended from an old aristocratic d’Urbervilles family that has long since died out. This event puts the story on track and takes Tess into a whirlpool where she will not come out the same again. After it becomes known that a family with the same name d’Urbervilles lives in the area, Tess is sent by her father to explore. There she meets the self-assured Alec who immediately likes her. Although Hardy describes this part very vaguely, it is widely believed that Alec raped Tess, identifying her for life.
When diving into this story, the reader must of course take into account the era in which it was written. In Western culture sex before marriage is no longer prohibited and virginity no longer plays an important role. Things were different in the 19th century, so Tess’s dark secret haunts her even until the eve of her wedding.
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
In 1923 F. Scott Fitzgerald began work on his masterpiece, the Great Gatsby. It took the writer two years to get this fantastic story out of his head on paper. The book consists of 207 pages and has been made into a film several times.
The story is set in 1922 and revolves around Jay Gatsby, a gorgeous, rich man who at first sight leads a carefree life. Every night he throws flamboyant parties at his gigantic Long Island mansion where everyone is always there. However, nothing is what it seems. Gatsby is a man on a mission and love drives him. Or more concretely: Daisy is his motivation.
The reader is led through the story by Nick Carraway, Daisy’s cousin who moves to Long Island for his job as a bondholder. Gatsby tries to reconnect with Daisy through Nick, and it is precisely that desire that threatens to become Gatsby’s downfall.
“1984” (George Orwell)
In this book published in 1950, George Orwell describes a totalitarian world divided into three countries: Oceania, Eastasia and Eurasia. The government controls who people interact with, how they behave and the worst thing: what they think. One of the famous sayings from this book is undoubtedly “Big Brother’s watching you.”
The events take place in London (Oceania) which Orwell describes as a miserable place where poverty reigns. Oceania is held in an iron grip by the Party headed by Big Brother. Main party slogans that leave nothing to the imagination are:
- War is peace
- Freedom is slavery
- Ignorance is strength
There are several Ministries in the Party. For example, there is a Ministry of Peace that deals with warfare. Ministry of Truth ensures that everything on paper always corresponds to what the Party says. The thought police are worst of all. This organ spies on people and eavesdrops on them to find out what they are thinking. Does anyone have ‘wrong’ thoughts? This person disappears from the globe. Nobody knows where to go, but everyone has a hunch.
Main character in this book is Winston Smith who works in the Ministry of Truth and has to rewrite history every day. One day he buys in utmost secrecy a pen and a book in which he writes down his thoughts trembling with fear. This is not an easy task, as there is a telescreen in every room to keep an eye on people. This first step to breaking the regime puts Winston on a dangerous and erratic path. Nobody is who he claims to be. Who is a friend and who is an enemy? Difficult question.
100 years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of the best writers of our time and he proved it by winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. His unusual writing style in which realism mixes with a pinch of magic may at first scare the reader. However, if it continues to dig deeper, it will no longer be possible to put the book aside. 100 years of solitude was published in 1967 and is rather on the thick side with its 491 pages. One for go-getters, but someone who has struggled through all these pages will not regret a second. This is a book that evokes emotions and encourages the reader to reflect on his or her own life.
It is not easy to give a short answer to the question “What is the book about”. The story features several generations of the Buendia family and children are given the names of their ancestors each time, which sometimes makes it difficult to follow. Wise advice is therefore not to leave the book lying around for long. If the book contains a family tree, this is a bonus.
Various themes are discussed. The reader will not immediately notice it, but sexual intercourse between different members of the family occurs regularly. Of course, the main theme of this story is loneliness. Buendia may be a huge family, but each member is a separate lonely whole with their own thoughts and feelings. This has a direct reference to the real world. Every person is lonely. In its own way, admittedly.
Reading a book is of course personal. Interpretation of a phrase or a word can be different for everyone. As a result, each reader will learn their own life lesson from each of these classics.