A Literary A-Z: H

Please play along with your own favourites. Any book title, or the surname of an author, as long as it begins with an ‘H’.

I have to start with the American writer, Thomas Harris. He has given us a new villainous character who became one of the best known in the world, once his books were adapted into the hugely popular films. In ‘Red Dragon’, ‘The Silence of The Lambs’, and ‘Hannibal’, Harris displayed a detailed knowledge of forensics, and a real talent for bringing the serial-killer into the public imagination. Hannibal Lecter became the ruthless killer we all grew to actually admire, with his impeccable taste, and huge intelligence. Harris also provided wonderfully complex characters to try to bring the killer to justice, in Will Graham, and Clarice Starling. He also used locations perfectly, with his talent for description making them familiar to the reader.
In this genre, Harris has no equal.

No ‘H’ would be complete without mention of Ernest Hemingway. This hard-living novelist and journalist travelled the world, and wrote his experiences down in novels, non-fiction books, and articles. His subjects included Fishing, Bullfighting, World War One, and The Spanish Civil War, and he made sure to have first hand knowledge of everything he wrote about. He didn’t write as many books as most of us imagine. However, ‘The Old Man and The Sea’, ‘A Farewell To Arms’, and ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ remain as some of the most widely read books in modern literature.

Written in 1931, but set in the year 2540, ‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley was a vision of the future that is already familiar, long before the 26th century. Artificial childbirth in baby factories, with indoctrination of the young, and a drug given to all citizens to keep them calm and compliant. A rigid caste system, the eradication of disease, and a society of outcasts, living beyond the influence of a world state. This was written long before WW2, and events since its publication have confirmed that Huxley’s vision of the future might become all too real.

Another novel which makes a realistic prediction for the future, and one that feels all too possible too. ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Attwood looks at a not too distant America, where Christian fundamentalists have overthrown the US government, and imposed a regime based on the strictest laws found in The Bible. In a militaristic society ruled with an iron hand, homosexuality, adultery, and defiance, are all given the death penalty, strictly enforced. Minor infringments are also given harsh punishment, such as the removal of an eye, or a hand.
With most females now sterile, children are taken away from their mothers, and brought up in state-run institutions, or given to those in power. The women still capable of childbirth are trained as ‘handmaids’, given over to local Commanders, to bear children by them. This is all the more chilling as a novel, because it is very easy to see how this might happen today. A powerful book indeed.

My top pick for today is from the work of the marvellous English writer, Thomas Hardy. I came late to Hardy, having disliked D.H.Lawrence, and for some reason, considering him similar. I then saw the film ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’, and decided to explore Hardy’s writing. I was overwhelmed by the period feel, and once again by the painstakingly detailed descriptions that allowed me to visualise everything, from a tent at a fair, to the unseen features of the protagonist. ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ is one of the ‘Wessex’ novels by Hardy, and my favourite. It deals with regret, reconciliation, greed, shame, and as usual, betrayal. It is soap-opera on a grand scale, and at a higher level, with writing to relish.

There is so much more to discover in ‘H’. I will await your own choices with interest.

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79 thoughts on “A Literary A-Z: H

  1. So many great books and authors are mentioned

    I will add Peter Hoeg (a Danish writer), Johann Peter Hebel (he belongs to the German literature of the world), Hermann Hesse (in 1946 he received the Nobel Prize in literature) an Wolfgang Hohlbein (born in 1953, is one of the most successful German writers).

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  2. forgot to mention Susan Hill….’The mist in the Mirror’ , ‘The man in the Picture’, and most of all ‘Strange Meeting’ which was inspired by one of Wilfred Owen’s poems…..

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  3. not sure I can add much to the selection. I love Atwood and the Handmaid’s Tale is a great novel (I would find it difficult to choose one of hers). Heart of Darkness is fabulous. I only read the first one of the Hunger Games but agree it’s a very good read. Hawthorne has very good books, and although I love The Scarlet Letter, I have a soft spot for The Marble Faun (perhaps it’s the emigrés living in another country….) Thanks for the recommendations, Pete!

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  4. this may come a bit late Pete. I haven’t seen this post earlier. I have these on my list:

    Nadia Hashimi
    – The Pearl that Broke Its shell
    – When the Moon is Low
    – A House Without Windows

    Khalid Hosseini
    – Kite Runner
    – A Thousand Splendid Suns
    – And the Mountains Echoed

    Mitch Albom
    – Have A Little Faith

    Dale Carnegie
    – How To win Friends and Influence People

    Suzanne Collins
    – The Hunger Games

    Paula Hawkins
    – The Girl On the Train

    Ernest Hemingway
    – A Farewell To Arms

    Colleen Hoover
    – It Ends With Us

    Aldous Huxley
    – Brave New World

    Noel Hynd
    – Flowers From Berlin

    Kathryn Stockett
    – The Help

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A fine double- H with perfect ecological credentials, Eddy. You could even use it next time, with the ‘J’ for the author. Spread the word, as you spread the manure!
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

    1. Rowling has her legions of fans. I think she could get elected, if she was interested in politics. But I have never read any of her books. Over here at least, the hype was just too much. It bordered on hysteria, and really put me off.
      I might need to read ‘Brave New World’ again one of these days though.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you would be pleasantly surprised at how good Rowling’s writing is. Like you, my husband would not read Harry Potter for the same reason- until he saw a brilliant coworker reading the book on his lunch break, someone who would never read anything but excellent literature. The rest of the story is history. I think
        I should read Brave New World again, too. Best to you, Pete.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Pete, I’m going to have to take a year off to get through some of these books. I need a desert island with a good lending library, not too hot, deserted but with comfortable chairs and a well-stocked pub, and good Cantonese take-out.
    Thomas Hardy – I’ve only read “Mayor of Casterbridge” and it was excellent, it’s funny to feel affection for a book that has such regret and sadness in it.
    I see “Heart of Darkness” “Holes” and “The Haunting of Hill House” already listed .
    If not already listed, I’d add: Tony Horwitz = Confederates in the Attic” “Midnight Rising” Joseph Heller = Catch-22, Tony Hillerman = excellent mysteries set on the Navaho reservation. Reginald Hill = Dalziel and Pascoe mysteries.
    Richard Hofstadter = a historian trying to understand the U.S.A. cheers, Robbie

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    1. Sadly, none of us have time for every book, even all those in these A-Z lists of mine, But it is always nice to see something new, or share the memory of a book jointly loved.
      Thanks for your additions, Robert, and for continuing to play along with these themes.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  6. I’m coming to this a bit late today, so many of my choices have already been listed. I’d definitely have Hemingway, Huxley, Thomas Harris, Hawthorne, Susan Hill, Hardy, The Handmaid’s Tale, Hearts of Atlantis, the Harry Potter series, The Historian, The Hitchiker’s Guide To the Galaxy,and The Hobbit. I’d also include:
    The Haunting of Hill House -Jackson
    Harriet the Spy -Fitzhugh
    Hatchet – Paulsen
    Holes – Sachar
    Hoot – Hiaasen
    Hotel New Hamphire -Irving
    The Hours – Cunningham
    House of Mirth – Wharton
    House of Sand and Fog – Dubus
    How Stella Got Her Groove Back – McMillan
    How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Seuss
    The Help – Stockett
    How To Eat Fried Worms -Rockwell
    Howard’s End – Forster
    The Hunt For Red October – Clancy
    The Human Stain – Roth

    Authors: Arthur Hailey, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Joe Hill, Maguerite Hamilton, Dan Handler, aka Lemony Snicker, O. Henry, S. E. Hinton, Patricia Highsmith, Homer, Victor Hugo, Anthony Horowitz

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    1. Thanks for all of those, Kim. especially ‘The House of Mirth’. A great book, and a wonderful film with Gillian Anderson too. Good to see Highsmith too.The ‘Ripley’ books were great.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great choices, Pete. You left out Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy – his best book ever! I loved The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. I will add the Horrid Henry books for children – they are just two naughty and funny, and the Horrible History books.

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    1. Thanks for the children’s choices, Robbie. I have watched Horrid Henry on TV with our grandson.
      I like most Hardy books, but always had a fondness for ‘Casterbridge’, so it got a mention.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  8. I nominally gravitated to the books you mentioned and several others in the comments today. As I read the comments, I was surprised that no one suggested The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. To my mind, it is up there with Foundation and early Sci-Fi works by a number of the authors in that genre.
    Warmest regards, Theo

    Liked by 1 person

  9. No “Hobbit” by Tolkien? I first tried reading it when I was about 12 years old but struggled. Read it later on whilst hitching around Europe and loved it.

    Another author I have recently discovered is David Hewson who has turned The Killing TV programmes into novels. House of Dolls is the first in a series featuring Pieter Vos, a detective in Amsterdam.

    I also enjoy the Norwegian crime writer Anne Holt

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    1. Some good crime selections there, Jude. I had to read The Hobbit in my last year of primary school. I didn’t really get into the fantasy at the time, and now I don’t even watch the LOTR films.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Like

      1. The Hobbit was classed as a children’s book but it really isn’t. I think you have to be older to understand it and the Gollum character is so well done. I remember seeing a cartoon version of LOTR in London back in 1979 which I hated. The new films are actually very, very good, though I do think the Hobbit could have been just one film and should have come first.

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  10. So many great books, from you Pete as well as all of your contributors – hard to top so I won’t try – except to point out two non-fiction books: the first is called “Hellraisers” by Robert Sellers – it’s the story of the band of British Actors who raised hell – Peter O’ Toole and Richard Burton among them – and “The Happy Isles Of Oceania” by legendary Travel Writer Paul Theroux – he decided to paddle by canoe around the South Pacific – one of my favorite “wanderlust” stories

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      1. Intersting – I read it at least 5-6 years ago and wanted to read it again – but I have also been reading his older books as well – more from a historical perspective as the trips is no doubt so much different today!

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  11. I will add one of your blog readers, Felicity Harley, not only because the first novel in her SF series, The Burning Years, is brilliant, but also because I discovered your blog and the A-Z Film Challenge through Felicity. And I know you’ve read her book as well, Pete!

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  12. I couldn’t get to sleep last night because I kept thinking of ‘H’ titles and authors! Nesbit’s The House of Arden, Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, His Dark Materials, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, High Fidelity, The Hostage (play) by Brendan Behan, The Honorary Consul, and The Hunting of the Snark (allowed?!). I’d also go with Brave New World and Hemingway, particularly For Whom. I’d give you Hard Times but I haven’t read it! x

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  13. Love that you mentioned Hemingway, but my personal fav by him is The Sun Also Rises! It’s a beautiful novel detailing (in the most subtle way possible) the lasting pain and destructive coping mechanisms of vets of WWI. Lady Brett Ashley is one of my fav characters in literature today.

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      1. Me too. I have a collection of his short stories, but I’ve only worked my way through a few of them so far. I read so many short stories for school it’s hard to find time to read other ones just for pleasure (not that I’m complaining!)

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  14. My first thought for H was, like yours, Ernest Hemingway and the brilliant ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’…wonderful prose.another one, less well known is ‘Across the River and into the Trees’. Then of course, there is Hermann Hesse….and I would choose the rather enigmatic Demian. Now, many years later, I would look at it in a different light…it is, after all, about self-discovery, which perhaps seemed mysterious to my teenage self!

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  15. My only fiction should be my double….”Hunting Badger” by Tony Hillerman……on the non-fiction side…..I have many books entitled “History Of…..” my choices are “Russia” by Nicholas Raisanovsky and “Arab Peoples” by Albert Hourani and “Terrorism” by Gerard Chaliano…I also have a double in the non-fiction “How To Stage A Military Coup” by David Hebditch……”How To Make War” by James Dunnigan and finally “Hard Lessons”…it is a govt publication on the Iraq situation from 2003. I am finished….some else is up now.>>LOL chuq

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