Five books that remind us of the fragility of life

These five novels are melancholic yet life-affirming, and will stay with me

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

As a teenager, I had what in hindsight was a rather unhealthy penchant for reading sad books, and I would scour the library for tear-jerkers. These five novels are melancholic yet life-affirming, and will stay with me. That is why I keep them on my bookshelf as a reminder to live life to the fullest.

We Were Liars by E Lockhart (2014)

Lockhart introduces us to the privileged Sinclair family through the eyes of Cadence Sinclair, 17, who spends her summers on the family’s private island. The plot centres on one pivotal summer when an accident leaves Cadence without a memory. Suspenseful and highly lyrical, this novel showed me the beauty of storytelling – just don’t let anyone ruin the ending for you!

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (2018)

Don’t let the unassuming title deceive you – Moshfegh’s story is anything but restful. Sick of the world and her unfulfilled life, the narrator hibernates in her flat and tries to “reset” her existence by sleeping for a year, knocking herself out with prescription pills. I can safely say the last page of this book is the best one I have ever read.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005)

I’m sure this book is a favourite of many, but it’s so original I think it deserves a spot here. With the unexpected yet apt narrator of Death, it offers a unique and poignant perspective on Nazi Germany. A young girl, Liesel, steals books as a form of escapism from the horrifying regime. As her love affair with fiction blossoms, the plot hurtles towards its devastating conclusion.

Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine (2008)

Stumbling across this underrated writer in my early teens, I adored how she let me delve deep into the minds of her protagonists. The premise of Broken Soup is simple, but the consequences are profound: after Rowan, 15, develops a photo negative that isn’t hers, given to her by an insistent stranger who claims she dropped it, her life changes forever.

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

I’m very glad I followed the advice of my high school history teacher to pick up this book. Against the glittering backdrop of 1920s America, Fitzgerald transports us into the world of the enigmatic young millionaire Jay Gatsby, who has long been deeply in love with Daisy Buchanan. This modern tragedy is a cautionary tale against chasing material excess and living in the past.

Reem Ahmed is an intern at The National

Published: September 27, 2019 11:00 AM


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