Throughout my time as an English major, I have had the privilege of reading many books that will never leave my memory. From Lolita to Perfume, I have been pretty lucky with my assigned reading in college. However, my fun reads are typically those published rather recently, and thus rarely appear in my syllabus. So, if I had my choice and could create a course syllabus on absolutely anything, this would be it.
The Mystery of the Non-Mystery Book
Sister by Rosamund Lupton
I tend to be a bit of a slow reader but every once and a while I happen upon a book that I cannot put down until I have finished it. Lupton’s debut novel is included in this small group. While on a plane ride with my mother, I stole the book from her just to skim the first page. This turned into a weekend of swapping the book back and forth, chapter by chapter, until we both had reached the shocking conclusion. Lupton’s novel sets up a thrilling mystery focused on the bond between two sisters. The plot is engaging and creative, as Lupton takes the reader through a hunt for a murderer and a motive. I wrote to Lupton about how much I appreciated her work and identified with (ironically) the deceased character. To my shock, within an hour Lupton had emailed me back with gratitude and a glowing response. This interaction only increased my adoration and I still confidently recommend this novel to anyone who loves a good mystery.
Photo Credit: http://www.rosamundlupton.com/books/sister/
Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
Palahniuk is most famous for his book-turned movie Fight Club. However, Fight Club was not his first novel, nor his best in my opinion. While I am a lover of both the book and film, my favorite novel of his is still Invisible Monsters. It is rumored that publishers initially refused this book because of its disturbing elements, so Palahniuk focused on publishing Fight Club first. It appears that if you become a famous author, as Palahniuk now is, then your books can be as disturbing and grotesque as you like and still get published. Palahniuk’s subsequent novels have more than proven this to be true and even I have to admit there were times I had to put them down and take a break. But what is better than an author who can not only produce such an extreme reaction to his work but also be an amazing writer? Invisible Monsters uncovers a mystery you did not even know you were trying to find until you have found it. The book falls under the category of a novel rather than a mystery, but as you read you will find yourself constantly trying to figure out how all of the different elements connect in the life of an outrageous fashion-model.
The Marriage Plot Jeffrey Eugenides
This winter I finally read my third Eugenides novel. As an addicted fan of The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex, I was happy to find that even though his latest novel is quite different from the others, it is just as entrancing. This novel outlines the lives of three recent college graduates from each of their unique perspectives. Throughout the novel, Eugenides slowly reveals how they are all connected. Seeing as the protagonist is also an English major, I am quite biased, but the plot is still one that speaks to many different passions, including psychology and religion. While reading, I found myself trying to guess the motives and inner thoughts of the characters and found the answers to those questions to exceed my expectations.
My Life in France Julia Child
Maybe it is not appropriate to claim there is a mystery within this autobiography, since the fact that Julia Child is a remarkable chef is quite well known. But for me, the real mystery is in how she got to be the famous Julia Child. I would recommend this autobiography to anyone who has an upcoming trip to France, or who merely wishes to travel by book. A love of food also does not hurt. The book provides a look into the life of this fascinating woman, who was clearly bursting with life. How an employee of the US State Department goes on to have her own cooking show and multiple cookbooks is a mystery worth looking into. Her life and autobiography show how a person’s life can completely change at any moment, with the right ingredients of course.
What do all the books on my imaginary syllabus have in common? Well as my topic title explains, they all encase a mystery or several within them. While not all of these may fall under the genre of a mystery, each one can be read as one. But really the main thing these books have in common is their endings. I love when you close a book and have to stop and sit for a while before being able to go on with your day. In my opinion, a book that stops and makes you think is wonderful, but an ending that anchors you in your chair and mystification is one of the greatest joys of reading.
– Tricia Cave