Sep 25, 2011

Day 01 – Best book you read last year

This might be too difficult.  It's already a challenge for me to decide what to read next, so trying to decide which one of the 100 or so I read over the year is no easy task.  I'm pretty quick to declare things my new favorite, my all time favorite, one of the best things ever, etc., so it's hard to choose just one.  I'm also just as quick to declare something the worst thing ever, which is equally fun. 

But if I have to choose out of the books I read over the year then Nothing, by Janne Teller, was probably the best and definitely the most disturbing.  A teenage boy does some math and realizes that because there's no point to living, everyone should do nothing.  His version of nothing is to live in a tree while yelling existential stuff.  It's really cool:
“If you live to be eighty, you’ll have slept thirty years away, gone to school and sat with homework for nine, and worked for almost fourteen. Since you’ve already spent more than six years being little kids and playing, and you’re later going to be spending at least twelve cleaning house, cooking food, and looking after your own kids, it means you’ve got nine years at most to live.” 
So his friends attempt to prove there are, in fact, reasons to live.  They create a pile of meaning to show that there are things worth living for, but he is unconvinced because these are just tangible reminders of why life is worth living...they aren't actually the reasons life is good.  The book starts off with the kids giving up silly things like favorite books or shoes, but it quickly turns morbid when what matters the most to someone is hands for playing the guitar.

I read a lot of books last year.  I'd say this one was the best because it was definitely the most powerful.  Other books I read followed the usual tract of here's the story, here's some stuff that happens, now it's over.  With Nothing, the progression of the action was so chilling and it never really ended.  When I finished reading the book I was completely freaked out.  Reading this book actually made me want to prove that my life had some semblance of meaning and I'm practically Sally Cynical who loves all that negative crap.  That book must have magical powers. 

I've read plenty of "adult" fiction where people go about their lives trying to prove that there are merits to their existence, but I had never read one that focused on teenagers.  Usually children are the reasons adults come up with to prove their worth, so it was interesting to see how teenagers would react to a similar situation, albeit in an artificial world.  Definitely recommend reading this book.  It's a super fast read and it makes you think.  Makes you think that you are worthless, but hey, it makes you think! The original Danish edition was published in 2000, but the English translation came out just last year which makes it kind of hard to find.  I own it if anyone (cough, Bridget?) wants to read it. 

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