One of the biggest advantages of reading older books is being able to avoid waitlists; like most people, I don’t really like waiting for things. But sometimes, when I read an older book, I start thinking the opposite: why did I wait so long to read this? So I decided to collect some of the older books that I waited too long to read – and encourage everyone else to read them too.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
I could not tell you why I hadn’t read this book before, but I can tell you that it is a classic for a reason – the story itself is still relevant today, but its depth makes it timeless as well. A police shooting involving an unarmed black man and the ensuing reaction in the larger community? Conflicts between political organizations arguing about whether class or race is a more important way to define (and divide) people? If you read a one-page summary of the plot of this book, you might believe it had been written in the past few years.
But even those events in the book are only parts of the greater whole: an examination on the role and construction of a person’s identity and sense of self. And did I mention that the prose is so beautiful that I found myself reading it out loud in my head, paragraph by paragraph? If you haven’t read it (or disliked it because you were forced to read it for school), give it a shot. It is one of the greatest American novels of all time.
The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
Anarchists! Bombs! Undercover policemen! A secret society sworn to destroy the world! A hot air balloon chase across Europe! This book is, on the one hand, an exciting and thrilling adventure story. And, on the other, it is an examination of the roles of revolution versus law and order, of suffering in a world that is supposedly good, and of the mysterious and extraordinary world we see around us.
G. K. Chesterton wrote lots of books, ranging from the Father Brown mystery series to non-fiction books exploring and explaining his Catholicism, and on either topic, he is not only interesting but also clever and funny. This book was a joy to read in all of its strangeness.
Don’t Die Before You’re Dead by Yevgeny Yevtushenko
If you’ve heard of Yevtushenko before, you probably know him as a poet – first in the Soviet Union and later in Russia. I hadn’t heard of this novel before I happened to see the title as I was walking past one of the shelves here at the library, and I thought it was a very intriguing title. I have to say that the book lived up to it.
The story is set against actual historical events: the August 1991 attempted coup in the Soviet Union where anti-reform members of the Communist Party tried to overthrow Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Before reading this book, I wasn’t familiar with these events at all.
Too many books about complicated political times end up with characters who are two-dimensional or simply mouthpieces or caricatures. But this book brings this time in history to life through a whole cast of interesting and intersecting characters. I found the story of Lyza, a former star soccer player who has fallen apart after the end of his career, to be the most moving. I definitely recommend checking out this book.