Only when coming across a true masterpiece can one appreciate the power of the written word. Great books not only entertain but inform and enlighten. The very best books have the power to change your perspective forever. Unfortunately, it is just as hard to come upon a great read as finding something worthwhile on TV. There are literally millions of books out there and little time to search through them, so here are the top five greatest books ever read (by me):
Phrases like “I couldn’t put it down” are tossed on book flaps all too often. Usually, when I try reading some of these unputdownables, I have no problems conjuring the power to stop reading them. And then I came across A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.
I read this book after Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, which was made into a terrible movie (so if you’re thinking of seeing it, don’t bother). After being moved by The Kite Runner, I had serious doubts about Hosseini’s second novel. Like many authors, I feared he was a one-trick pony, as the subject of his first was Afghanistan and he, as a native of that country, would have had little difficulty conjuring one good semi-autobiographical novel from a time and place so rife with drama. I was wrong. Hosseini proves incredibly gifted—and though, I am sure, being from Afghanistan helped bolster book sales, his talent and skill could have come from any place.
The story of Afghanistan’s women under Taliban control is a difficult story to tell without falling into the trap of melodramatic overkill. Extreme tragedy can be off-putting. But A Thousand Splendid Suns rises above meager conventions, unraveling an intricate plot and moving characters that could exist in any setting. Hosseini makes the reader feel at home in Afghanistan despite a culture far removed from ours. You can’t help but feel for the protagonists, two women terrorized by their husband in a society gone to the extreme end of sexism and religious zealotry. You might think you know how such a story will turn out or that you know something about the Taliban—but Hosseini never ceases to surprise. His Afghanistan is much richer than the media informs us, which only scratches at the surface of that country’s rich heritage. The women in his book are strong, intelligent, and heroic—true feminist role models for any society.
The title A Thousand Splendid Suns refers to a line of poetry from one of Afghanistan’s great poets. When most people think of Afghanistan, poetry does not come to mind. It is just the sort of thing that enlightens in Hosseini’s heart wrenching masterpiece. Four chapters to the end, and I called my wife to tell her I would be late from work. I then hit Starbucks and didn’t put it down until the last page.
Stay tuned for the next part in my 5 part series, greatest book #4.