The best novels that charm us away on a personal journey to nudge out thoughts and feelings that we'd rather keep hidden

E.G. Kardos Author Of Cutting of Harp Strings: a novel
By E.G. Kardos

Who am I?

I strive to make sense of my existence. As a fiction writer, I explore the human condition and I want my words to touch it, see it, hear it, smell it, and feel it. Socrates said, “know thyself” and I think that if we are willing to peel back the layers that humanity has heaped upon us, we may like—and love—who we are and others. It is up to us, one by one, to dig deep within our core to find our beauty. Answers are seldom floating like a flower petal upon the surface of a pond. It takes reaching our hand below the murky surface to find what is truly there.

I wrote...

Cutting of Harp Strings: a novel

By E.G. Kardos,

Book cover of Cutting of Harp Strings: a novel

What is my book about?

A poignant coming-of-age story of friendship, living in the moment, and love is a poetic mosaic of joy, heartbreak, self-reflection but most of all, utter bliss. 

Eli tells the story of his teenage self when one person upends his plan and his life is destined to change. Forever to please, Eli follows a comfortable and preordained path but is unaware of the pounding message in his head that success, happiness, and love follow a narrow path. Polar opposite, he and Aiden are paired as roommates their senior year in boarding school. They clash not fully aware of their true selves, yet their friendship unfolds in ways neither had ever before experienced. Caught off guard, their relationship deepens but like a gut punch, a promise Aiden made to himself changes everything.

The books I picked & why

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A Separate Peace

By John Knowles,

Book cover of A Separate Peace

Why this book?

Novels I love make me feel—and think. A Separate Peace does that for me as I lived each moment with Gene as he shared a poignant moment of his life. He experienced a friendship—a love—that was difficult for him to get his head around. I know he would have done anything to have a “do over,” and I felt for him and for Finny.

A good book is worth reading many times and that I have done. Each time I learned something new about this once-in-a-lifetime friendship. Like all relationships, they are full of joy and pain. Knowles was a master of lulling us into what seems to be a simple and innocent adventure but is truly a deep and dark journey within. It reminded me that we must always search for the truth. Finding it, however, can be elusive as we may hear the voice within but listening to it is another matter.

Call Me by Your Name

By André Aciman,

Book cover of Call Me by Your Name

Why this book?

Elio’s passion made me love him as well as the love he and Oliver intensely shared. Young, pensive, and winsome, Elio would have gone to the end of time to continue to experience a love that is so personal—so intimate and special. What he felt, we all have felt, or one day, hope to feel. This connection to me is powerful beyond the perfect words Acimen chose throughout. This power makes the characters and their desires as real as the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Aciman deftly moves a relationship full of desire, fear, sorrow, and all the joy that comes with it and does so with brilliant, yet simple prose that comes alive. One sentence says it all and that is, “Perhaps we were friends first and lovers second. But then perhaps this is what lovers are.”

Dead Poets Society

By N.H. Kleinbaum,

Book cover of Dead Poets Society

Why this book?

“Make your lives extraordinary!” said John Keating, the new English Professor at Welton Academy. Thinking about “carpe diem” sends chills throughout my body. The conflict of tradition and free thinking is evident in this novel, but they don’t necessarily cancel each other out. At least, I don’t think so although there are a few outcomes in this story that are tragic. It reminds me, however, that we need to be vigilant and create a balance just as Keating tried to express. As a teacher, Keating blended the old and beautiful art form of the masters of poetry to encourage another level of thinking—of feeling. Blinded by anything new, the traditional ways of those in power surfaced as too formidable of a force.

My takeaway—we are all teachers and all learners from the day we are born so appreciate the moment, those who fill it with us and always be open to new ways.

The Alchemist

By Paulo Coelho,

Book cover of The Alchemist

Why this book?

Oh, Santiago! If only all of us could listen to the wisdom of our hearts...if we could acknowledge the obstacles and omens on our path, and learn from them. Then, as you have, we may find that our dreams would not be so elusive. Like a fable or parable, Coelho in his simplicity of storytelling inspires the reader to search for the wisdom that will lessen the burden of the complexities of life and make it a masterpiece.

The way I look at it, Santiago’s quest, dressed in magic and fantasy, is very much like our daily journey. We all aspire to something greater in our lives, but we have difficulty getting there. Instead of only envisioning the end, like Santiago we should keep an eye on the road as well. If we do, we may see the potholes or someone who may need a lift along the way. Sometimes we may need that lift... or get the nudge to take that next step. As the Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” 

Life of Pi

By Yann Martel,

Book cover of Life of Pi

Why this book?

Don’t be fooled…this literary work seems like just another fantastical adventure, but it is so much more. That’s why I love this novel. This story is rich with alternative meanings that help us to go deeper within and learn about ourselves—our belief systems, our view of a world full of uncertainty, and of our spirituality from which we cannot escape. Just the fantastical adventure alone makes for a unique and extraordinary read, but Yann’s artful arrangement of words is beautiful and magical and that leads the reader to see what Pi is seeing. Growth, survival, and making sense of our existence is so uniquely human and is the essence of our expressive, storytelling nature.

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