Off the shelf
A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Pages one to 60 of A Hundred Years of Solitude was my last piece of homework for the next day, it was 10pm, and I was tired. Time to employ the student's trick: read the first two and last two pages of each chapter. I read the first line, and my eyes didn't leave the 1967 modernist classic for the next four hours. García Márquez's liquid prose, halfway between narrative and surreal poetry, relates the progress of the Buendía family and their settlement in fictional Macondo. It takes some dedication to keep track of the names and chronology, but it's so worth it.
The Princess Bride
OK, so I'm not exactly a sophisticated film viewer. I love family movies with lots of big-hearted themes, beautiful scenery and costumes. The Princess Bride has to be one of the best family films of all times. It is framed as a story read to a sick-in-bed boy. The epic tells of Princess Buttercup, separated from her young love, Westley, and later engaged to the odious Prince Humperdinck. After years at sea, Westley – masquerading as the Dread Pirate Roberts – must save her. He does this with the help of a kindly giant. It's funny, exciting, romantic, intelligent, beautiful, and heartwarming.
The Rhythm of the Saints Paul Simon
I have always loved Paul Simon's honey tenor, sensitive and pitch-true. His albums demonstrate his progression as a poet. Best known for his double act with Art Garfunkel, but his music took flight when he started experimenting with the music of Africa. Graceland was good, but Rhythm of the Saints was better: its pulsing beats and lavish harmonies breaking down the 'cultural embargo' with the mother continent. He explores themes from love to loss, violence and a life's journey; his lyrics have moments of breathtaking poignancy.