Opened book with a wonderful world inside.
Blog 05.10.2024


Coming-of-age novels, books about self-examination, the inner self (or “interior castle” as Katherine Anne Porter called it), wonder, and awe are must-reads for anyone, no matter the reading level. We read because we want to know things, and some of the best page-turners when it comes to figuring out life, love, etc., include favorites such as Henry Miller, Franz Kafka, Gustave Flaubert, and Charles Baudelaire.

Wonder and Transformation

I never wish to be easily defined. I’d rather float over other people’s minds as something strictly fluid and non-perceivable; more like a transparent, paradoxically iridescent creature rather than an actual person.”–Franz Kafka

  • Kafka’s notebooks and diaries are musts for any fan of his fiction as well as for those searching and studying for identity. To read “The Metamorphosis” (1917) is an exercise in transformation itself. Kafka’s pre-war diaries, most specifically, The Blue Octavo Notebooks, were published posthumously by his friend, Max Brod (against Kafka’s wishes). In the first journal (written in 1917), he muses on loneliness and the sense of alienation in the very first line of prose: “Everyone carries a room around inside him.” Kafka’s notebook entries also give the reader the feeling that the truth we universally live by is an illusion, like any effective agnostic.

For anyone looking for meaning (or lack thereof), read a Kafka parable. For a taste of the absurd, try “A Common Confusion.” These works were very influential for philosophers such as Sartre and fellow novelist and absurdist Albert Camus. There’s also surrealism and humor to Kafka’s works (as can be observed through his bringing to life an inanimate object in the short story “The Cares of a Family Man”).

  • Henry Miller shocked the world with his audacious and compelling confessional novels “Tropic of Cancer” and “Tropic of Capricorn.” Inspired by the poetry of Walt Whitman, Miller indulged all manners of life, most specifically sexuality, with biting honesty. Miller is always filled with wonder and extreme curiosity; he wrote extensively about his search as a child and, later, as a man longing to forsake an ordinary life and be a writer. He created a new style of semi-autobiographical writing. While the protagonist is called Henry Miller in his books, a lot of the material is, of course, fiction.

His thirst for knowledge is abundant and infectious in just one short passage:

In those days most of our conversations were about remote places, such as China, Peru, Egypt, Africa, Iceland, Greenland. We talked about ghosts, about the transmigration of souls, about Hell, about astronomy, about strange birds and fish, about the formation of precious stones, about rubber plantations, about methods of torture, about the Aztecs and the Incas, about marine life, about volcanoes and earthquakes, about burial rites and wedding ceremonies in various parts of the world, about languages, about the origin of the American Indian.” (From Tropic of Capricorn, 1939)

Miller’s life work is “The Rosy Crucifixion” (composed of the novels, “Plexus,” “Sexus,” and “Nexus.”

For Book Lovers

  • Gustave Flaubert, born in Rouen in 1821, is known, most of all, for his masterpiece, “Madame Bovary.” Flaubert spent days choosing the “mot juste” or the exact word. He was the ultimate perfectionist and realist who poked fun at the bourgeoisie and also wrote about his passions (especially for writing) in “Memoirs of a Madman” and his first novella, “November.” Flaubert’s “Sentimental Education” is a great tome for anyone looking for the classic coming-of-age story and a true examination of education that can only be gained through experience.

Bibliomania” is a must-read work of short fiction for the book lover.

For Those Interested in Travel

  • Blaise Cendrars changed his name to literally mean “to burn.” An intense traveler and member of the Foreign Legion, Cendrars lost his writing arm in war. “The Astonished Man” is a memoir of sorts published in 1943 and consists of several prose pieces separated into “reveries.” It’s so surprising that Cendrars was Henry Miller’s idol: they both lived and wrote with bizarre truth and intensity.

For the Poets

  • Charles Baudelaire’s “Paris Spleen” (1855-76) and “Les Fleurs du Mal” are milestones of insular and melancholy poetry unique to a French sensibility. Baudelaire’s question to his reader strikes anyone with a poetic, searching soul: “Which one of us, in his moments of ambition, has not dreamed of the miracle of a poetic prose, musical, without rhyme, supple enough and rugged enough to adapt itself to the lyrical impulses of the soul, the undulations of reverie, the jibes of conscience?”

For more tips on what you should be reading and how to advance your sensibility as a writer, visit Full Cycle Publications at the website.

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