Two historical fiction books, one history book, one modern classic and one Victorian classic, here are my top 5 favorite books of 2014:
#5. Pulang – Leila S. Chudori
The only Indonesian fiction in this list, Pulang (“Going Home” in English) connects three historical events: 1965 tragedy in Indonesia, 1968 student revolution in Paris, and May 1998 riots in Indonesia. This book is emotional and beautifully written. I rarely read Indonesian literature, but a few books that I have read – usually they contain historical and cultural themes – made me want to read more and to refresh my memory of Indonesian history.
#4. Silence – Shusaku Endo
This book attempts to convey the great question of faith; if your faith in God is being challenged, or even persecuted, what will you do? Of course you will try with all your strength to keep your faith. But what if it will cause someone else to suffer? Sebastian Rodrigues is a Jesuit pastor who does missionary work in Japan. As he endured persecution and watched the members of his congregation being tortured as the result of his refusal to deny Christianity, he cried to God to take action, to end His people’s suffering—but He kept silent. This book is vividly written, thought-provoking and it possesses the ability to shake your spirituality.
#3. The Giver – Lois Lowry
To think of a world that everything is carefully planned, meticulously ordered… so perfect it hurts. There is no difference, no jealousy, and no emotion in Jonas’s world. There is no love, only Sameness. Then Jonas was chosen to be a Receiver of Memory, and he saw, heard, and felt everything that was hidden before. All I could think after reading this book is: the world could have been a completely different place. Even though now we live in a world that suffers from war, injustice, famine, and terror, we still have love. If that’s not something to be grateful for, then what should be? I read this book in Indonesian translation, but I intend to read it in English soon.
#2. The Professor and the Madman – Simon Winchester
The only non fiction on this list—but with a taste of fiction. This book tells the extraordinary tale of the people behind the making of Oxford English Dictionary, especially about two men: Professor James Murray and Dr. W. C. Minor. As Professor Murray led a team to collect entries for the dictionary, he realized that one Dr. W. C. Minor submitted more than ten thousand entries. Fascinated, Professor Murray then decided to pay Dr. Minor a visit. From there readers are being told about Minor’s long history: as an American Civil War veteran, as a genius, as a murderer and as an inmate of an asylum. I was lost easily in the story and forgot that this is a history book, not fiction. If only all history books are written in the way Simon Winchester wrote this book :).
#1. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite, it is a tale of a modest but strong-willed governess who found her equal in the form of her eccentric master, Mr. Rochester. I personally think this book as a parade of strong characters, Jane and Rochester being in the front row. I adore Jane’s qualities; that she desires more of the world than the 19th century society allow women to have, that she holds integrity in the face of making a tough decision, and that she doesn’t cease to love Mr. Rochester even after the incident that disabled him. On my first reading of Jane Eyre, I didn’t like Mr. Rochester and thought him insufferable—but then when reading it for the second time; I was able to put his character in a different light. I pitied him for what happened in his past—it still haunts him long after—and then he met Jane, which was the best thing that could have happened to him. Jane completes him, makes him a better man. He loves her in return, offered her an affectionate home that she never had before. They are just… the perfect couple, even though neither of them is perfect. This book has everything I love in a passionate romance, and it doesn’t even have any sex scenes (perhaps the author purposefully left that out to leave some space for the readers’ imagination). I will love this book for ever, and reread it once every 3 or 5 years, if possible. 🙂