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.

A Separate Peace

By John Knowles,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Separate Peace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

AS HEARD ON BBC RADIO 4 'A GOOD READ'

'A novel that made such a deep impression on me at sixteen that I can still conjure the atmosphere in my fifties: of yearning, infatuation mingled indistinguishably with envy, and remorse' Lionel Shriver

An American coming-of-age tale during a period when the entire country was losing its innocence to the second world war.

Set at a boys' boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual.…

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.”

Call Me by Your Name

By André Aciman,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Call Me by Your Name as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a Major Motion Picture from Director Luca Guadagnino, Starring Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet, and Written by James Ivory

WINNER BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY ACADEMY AWARD
Nominated for Four Oscars

A New York Times Bestseller
A USA Today Bestseller
A Los Angeles Times Bestseller
A Vulture Book Club Pick

An Instant Classic and One of the Great Love Stories of Our Time

Andre Aciman's Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents' cliffside mansion on the Italian Riviera. Each is unprepared…


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.

Dead Poets Society

By N.H. Kleinbaum,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dead Poets Society as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Todd Anderson and his friends at Welton Academy can hardly believe how different life is since their new English professor, the flamboyant John Keating, has challenged them to "make your lives extraordinary! Inspired by Keating, the boys resurrect the Dead Poets Society--a secret club where, free from the constraints and expectations of school and parents, they let their passions run wild. As Keating turns the boys on to the great words of Byron, Shelley, and Keats, they discover not only the beauty of language, but the importance of making each moment count. Can the club and the individuality it inspires…

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.” 

The Alchemist

By Paulo Coelho,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Alchemist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A global phenomenon, The Alchemist has been read and loved by over 62 million readers, topping bestseller lists in 74 countries worldwide. Now this magical fable is beautifully repackaged in an edition that lovers of Paulo Coelho will want to treasure forever.

Every few decades a book is published that changes the lives of its readers forever. This is such a book - a beautiful parable about learning to listen to your heart, read the omens strewn along life's path and, above all, follow your dreams.

Santiago, a young shepherd living in the hills of Andalucia, feels that there is…


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.

Life of Pi

By Yann Martel,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked Life of Pi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After the sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a wounded zebra, an orangutan—and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger.

Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi Patel, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with the tiger, Richard Parker, for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his…

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