Ben Okri: My six best books – Don Quixote, Invisible Man, The Odyssey and more

May 18, 2018
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DON QUIXOTE

By Cervantes Penguin, £9.99

One of the greatest stories about the power of storytelling and the price paid for following the uniqueness of one’s thoughts. Its humour is very invigorating and it has two of the greatest characters in world literature: Quixote and Sancho Panza who between them define a broad range of humanity.

INVISIBLE MAN

By Ralph Ellison Penguin, £9.99

An African-American novel that should be widely read. It was published in the 1950s and practically started a race war. It tells the story of a black man’s trials and tribulations. Many people have misunderstood the title, thinking how can a black man be invisible? But the real invisibility is in the mind. Windrush is a good example of that today.

THE COMPLETE POEMS

By Emily Dickinson Faber, £20

She’s simply marvellous: elliptical, difficult, strange, poignant, powerful, uncompromising. She has the weirdest syntax in poetry but she just whacks you on the head. You read her and you’re hooked.

COLLECTED ESSAYS

By James Baldwin, Unavailable in the UK

Eloquence, elegance and unflinching truth about the human condition, about race, about being ugly, about love and oppression. These are an extraordinary testament to one person’s response to the 20th century.

THE ODYSSEY

By Homer Penguin, £7.99

One of the greatest foundation stories. I love foundation stories – stories from which civilisations come. This is about the difficulty of homecoming, about love, fidelity, memory and the awfulness of war.

EUGENE ONEGIN

By Alexander Pushkin Penguin, £9.99

A novel in verse that is one of the founding texts of Russian literature. It reads as if it was never written but made that way. Onegin is a young aristocrat and this is one of the most sparkling, delicious, sad, enchanting, wise stories of love and loss, melancholy and youth. It’s witty and seems to be light yet has a deep cut.



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