This 20th Century masterpiece by the great Thomas Mann is not for the faint of heart, as it requires great powers of concentration, the antithesis of the Digital Age's distracted attention. But it is well worth the effort, for those with stamina, because all of humanity's foibles are found in The Magic Mountain, a book that remains incredibly relevant to our times. Mann's novel is about 20-something Hans Castorp, who visits his tubercular cousin residing in a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps; intending to stay two weeks, Castorp winds up staying seven years, waylaid and fascinated by the colorful sanatorium residents he meets and his own imaginary health issues.
Written on the eve of WW1, the book chronicles a group of dissipated Europeans rotting from the inside out, and ends with Castorp swept up and renewed by nationalism and marching down the mountain to join Germany's militaristic cause, a theme relevant to our own dangerous times. But for me, almost more important, is the way Mann plays with our perception of time. In an eyeblink, two weeks turn into seven years, for young Castorp; for the reader, pages of The Magic Mountain are so exquisite they fly by in a nanosecond, while other passages, such as a description of an X-Ray, go on endlessly at a turgid pace and feel like they will never end. It's an extraordinary literary achievement.
Through the actual reading process, Mann makes us physically experience the elastic and existential nature of time, a book, for all its difficulties, will keep you thinking about the human condition long after the last page is turned.