By: Sheng Liang


First of all, I would like to digress the topic onto another little whim of mine, for the sake of explaining my choice of title.



Do you know how fast can a human being read?



According to Guinness World Record, a person named Howard Berg can read War and Peace in about 15 minutes; his approximate reading speed is 25,000 words per minute or, in another words, 90 pages a minute.



This is surely amazing. And, lets say there is another imaginary person who can read just as fast as Mr.Berg, and his employer order him to only read books everyday at work. Can he ever read up all the books ever written? Or at least, lets say, 10 % of all the books?



So here is some calculations.



War and Peace is a bit thicker than average books, so we divide the volume by three, which gives us about 270 pages, and this takes the person 5 minutes to read it. Assuming that as the average volume of one book, this person reads 12 books an hour; assuming he works 8 hours a day, that turns out to be 96 books a day. And as that times by 20 workdays a month and then 12 months a year, we get a cursory number of 23,040 books per year.



That really is incredible number to a ordinary reader or even to a devoted bookworm, but how is it compare to all the books?



In 2006, UK only has published 206,000 books. That is about 10 times of our number already. And there are hundreds of countries publishing that year, then plus 200 years or, if you include the ones that were not written on paper, 4400 years of books on top of it.



Now come to think about how many books you and me can ever read; the number is simply less than significant. There is nobody on the earth can ever, ever know what's the best book to read, or what's the funniest novel, or what's the most instructional piece to writers. The only thing we can do, at most, is to advise each other the best within our knowledge .



So, here are 10 books that I would recommend within my humble knowledge, and I hope they will sparkle a light or two in your brains just as they did in mine.



(The books are not ranked by the order of number; they are arranged by the order of letters)



1) Call of the Wild, by Jack London

Call of the Wild is an adventure of a hybrid dog after he is sold out by a underling of his master.

The book is pretty sentimental, but the book is great not because of that but of how the author ingeniously make it so. The sentimentality is not achieved by descript_ive vocabulary, nor by any special, unearthly setting; it is simply a unorthodox shift in narration from the commonly used human beings onto a dog, who is himself the protagonist. Along with the shift, there is also the deep understanding to animals of the author, which successfully transforms into the book to give the readers the empathy toward and feeling of the dogs.



2) Dracula, by Bram Stocker

Dracula is a epic in the history of horror fiction. Some people even regard it as the opening of modern horror literature.

The main story line goes around Count Dracula, who is a shrewd vampire and the antagonist, while multiple protagonists are trying to stop his evil deeds. One of the shiny aspect of this book is that, at the beginning, Stocker arranges the story seemingly sporadicly through several first-person narration of different characters, such as diary and letters, and then gradually merge the plot together.



3)Harry Potter, by J. K. Rowling

I believe a lot of you are very familiar with this one. The series of story already is THE most popular contemporary series of novel.

Apart from its popularity, I believe there are many factors in the series that are educational to other writers. For example, Rowlling purposefully changes the narrative tone episode by episode and therefore keeps up the taste of young readers as they grow.



4)Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë

This is one of the best known western literature piece in China. The story trailed along a intelligent but plain-looking orphan girl, and distinctively separates the story into a couple of different life-stage of the girl.



5)Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

This Nobel Prize laureled novel takes a really close reading in order to fully understand Golding's intention. The basic plot is that a group of children landed on a deserted island without any adults, and then, because of their special circumstance, they separated into two distinctly groups that go against each other.

This story is actually a allegory. Throughout the book, the author portrays many pairs profound ideas by symbolism, such as civilization vs. barbarism.



6)Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien

Many readers probably have already been fascinated by the movie version of the trilogy. However, reading the original books is just as entertaining.

Tolkien invented a very complex world that is composed of many different medieval folktales. As the series of book achieved its astonishing success, Tolkien consequentially re-defined the western traditional stories into his own version.



7)Notre Dame de Paris (in English, The Hunchback of Notre Dame), by Victor Hugo

Notre Dame de Paris is yet another piece of literature that has long embedded into our culture. The figure of the hunchback, Quasimodo, are sometimes seen in various media as a funny character, but in fact, the book delineates him as a extremely unfortunate person who suffers from the superficiality of human nature. At the end of the story, Hugo placed a unusually saddening ending of the deaths of multiple characters, and it somehow provokes your further meditation of the philosophy of human life.



8)The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

The story is about the Afghanistan immigrant in USA--Amir's friendship and family love that unfortunately wrenched and entwined by the wars. The work is basically built on plain and familiar vocabulary, but the author uses his superb ability of plotting to drag us out of the often wordy written story into a emotional, heartfelt experience of a "real" person.



9)The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

Sebold has apparently shown her creativity in this piece of art. The main character of The Lovely Bones, Susie Salmon, who is dead by the time the story begins, narrates throughout the entire book. From some aspects, because she is dead and therefore no interference, Susie acts as a omnipresent third person narrator just as in most of the third person narrated works; but what she observes are all closely connected to herself that readers cannot consider her as merely a objective perspective. After her death, she observes the sentimental conflicts and loves created between her family, her friends and even her friends' family. All the characters revolve around the event of her death, until a new balance of relationships eventually restore onto the broken hearts.



10) Wuthering Heights, by Charlotte Brontë

Part of the reason why this is such a masterpiece is that it has a unprecedented way of narrating. In a big part of the story, the plot is "asked" by a stranger to the Wuthering Heights who only wants to temperately stay at the place; and is "told" by a nurse who used to work in the Wuthering Heights in a subjective way. Simply considering this sort of bizarre setting, you'll sense a obvious negative impact onto the story, but Brontë has managed to use this somehow unnatural setting to create a aura that's both intriguing and specific.



Wikipedia, "Books published per country per year":

"Fastest reader ever in the world":