Some books hook you right away--literary love at first sight, so to speak. These are some that hooked me.
  1. "I am a sick man...I am a wicked man. An unattractive man. I think my liver hurts." "Notes from Underground" - Fyodor Dostoevsky
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    And just like that we know we are dealing with a narcissistic, disturbed, unreliable protagonist. The Underground Man is perhaps one of the best literary characters ever written, and this short novel is a psychological masterpiece.
  2. "Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting." "The Sound and the Fury" - William Faulkner
    This line, and the following paragraph, are at once vague and particular. I'll admit it took me the whole first paragraph to catch on that the narrator of this first part, mentally challenged Benjy Compson, was describing a round of golf. Faulkner can be frustrating, but his writing is engrossing, and his characters are fantastic. Stick with him, it's worth it.
  3. "Cold Comfort Farm" - Stella Gibbons
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    This book is brilliant, hilarious, and warm. It is parody at it's best, and perhaps especially appreciated by those who, like me, tend to find gothic novels a bit much.
  4. "Gilead" - Marilynne Robinson
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    Prose at its finest: stripped of ornamentation it is simple, yet elegant. This book is beautiful and stunning. Narrated by an old Pastor nearing the end of his life, it deals with issues of faith and Protestant theology, but you don't have to be a Christian to get something meaningful out of it, or to fall in love with Robinson's writing.
  5. "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence, and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her." "Emma" - Jane Austen
    #blessed, amiright? But despite this first line, and Emma's general stubborn and condescending behavior, Emma's emotional evolution makes her one of my favorite literary characters. I see myself in her, sometimes, but not usually in a good way.
  6. "White Teeth" - Zadie Smith
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    Oh man. This scene. This book. Not to pigeon-hole the novel, because I think it doesn't do it justice, but this scene, at least, is a good example of hysterical realism. And may be the only suicide scene I've ever LOLed reading.
  7. "The Waves" - Virginia Woolf
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    While this isn't my favorite Woolf novel, her descriptive writing does still suck me in like a riptide. (Ok, that was totally on the nose, I know 🌊.) It crosses back and forth between prose and poetry, and bends all the typical "rules" of writing character.