Have you ever read a book so fascinating that, even though you're still not really sure what it was about, you would still recommend it? For me, David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas is just such a book. I remember that when I reached Cloud Atlas on The List I was pregnant with my first son, and thus in the perfect headspace to explore new, complicated worlds and to oscillate frequently between many different narrative voices. I still can't tell you exactly what the "storyline" was, but I can tell you that Cloud Atlas certainly draws you into its universe--and that you won't want to leave.
From David Mitchell's masterpiece The List catapulted me into the completely pointless world of Michel Houellebecq's The Elementary Particles. Needless to say, cynicism has never really been my bag, but some books with this perspective can still manage to be important or even entertaining, intent as they are on challenging our notions of meaningfulness and goodness. I get that. It wasn't the book's intentions that rubbed me the wrong way. The problem was in the execution: Houellebecq's special brand of nihilist crap was so dull in spite of all its attempts to shock me via rampant ugliness and amorality. Imagine Chuck Palahniuk minus the dark humour. Yawn. Also, did I mention that The Elementary Particles doesn't really deserve to be on any Best Books list? Hmmm, maybe that was implied.
For those of you still with me, you should know that I tried to read Tristram Shandy, but it didn't work out. Sometimes reading through the 1001 Books list feels like letting strangers set you up on blind dates....