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Aleksandar Hemon's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Aleksandar Hemon recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Aleksandar Hemon's favorite book recommendations of all time.


The Known World

One of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory, The Known World is a daring and ambitious work by Pulitzer Prize winner Edward P. Jones.

The Known World tells the story of Henry Townsend, a black farmer and former slave who falls under the tutelage of William Robbins, the most powerful man in Manchester County, Virginia. Making certain he never circumvents the law, Townsend runs his affairs with unusual discipline. But when death takes him unexpectedly, his widow, Caldonia, can't uphold the estate's order, and chaos ensues. Jones has woven a footnote of history...
Recommended by Aleksandar Hemon, and 1 others.

Aleksandar HemonIt’s a novel about slavery, but specifically the few recorded instances of black slave-owners, and it’s a masterful, masterful work, the most complete work of literary imagination in recent American fiction. (Source)

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This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen

Tadeusz Borowski's concentration camp stories were based on his own experiences surviving Auschwitz and Dachau. In spare, brutal prose he describes a world where the will to survive overrides compassion and prisoners eat, work and sleep a few yards from where others are murdered; where the difference between human beings is reduced to a second bowl of soup, an extra blanket or the luxury of a pair of shoes with thick soles, and where the line between normality and abnormality completely vanishes.
Published in Poland after the Second World War, these stories constitute a masterwork of...
Recommended by Aleksandar Hemon, and 1 others.

Aleksandar HemonThis is a book of stories which was originally published immediately after WWII, so they were very fresh, by Tadeusz Borowski: a young Pole who was a member of the Resistance, and who was arrested and incarcerated. (Source)

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If This Is a Man • The Truce

'With the moral stamina and intellectual poise of a twentieth-century Titan, this slightly built, dutiful, unassuming chemist set out systematically to remember the German hell on earth, steadfastly to think it through, and then to render it comprehensible in lucid, unpretentious prose. He was profoundly in touch with the minutest workings of the most endearing human events and with the most contemptible. What has survived in Levi's writing isn't just his memory of the unbearable, but also, in The Periodic Table and The Wrench, his delight in what made the world exquisite to... more

Esther PerelOne of the most powerful books one ought to read. (Source)

Aleksandar HemonLevi regains reason, by treating his experience in Auschwitz as something that is subject to rational analysis. (Source)

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Red Cavalry and Other Stories

Throughout his life Isaac Babel was torn by opposing forces, by the desire both to remain faithful to his Jewish roots and yet to be free of them. This duality of vision infuses his work with a powerful energy from the earliest tales including 'Old Shloyme' and 'Childhood', which affirm his Russian-Jewish childhood, to the relatively non-Jewish world of his collection of stories entitled 'Red Cavalry'. Babel's masterpiece, 'Red Cavalry' is the most dramatic expression of his dualism and in his simultaneous acceptance and rejection of his heritage heralds the great American-Jewish writers from... more
Recommended by Thomas Keneally, Aleksandar Hemon, and 2 others.

Thomas KeneallyThis is largely the tale of a particular Red regiment of cavalry, bumbling through south-east Russia and the Polish countryside. They are supposed to be fighting the Poles but, like WWI, there is this endless advance and endless retreat and a lot of fascinating ideological ambiguity, the casual brutality of the Whites and Reds, the fact that it was absolutely taken for granted that obscene things... (Source)

Aleksandar HemonIt is an incredible piece of literature. Babel has an aesthetic that corresponds to not only his sensibility, but also to his awkward circumstance. (Source)

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An epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, Blood Meridian brilliantly subverts the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the "wild west." Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennesseean who stumbles into the nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.

Publisher's Note: The 25th Anniversary Edition has been reset, causing the text to reflow. Page references...

Jocko WillinkThe other book that I've read multiple times is Blood Meridian [by Cormac McCarthy]. (Source)

Esi EdugyanA difficult read that I savour for its wondrous prose and stark vision of humanity. (Source)

Robert MacfarlaneIt’s wild in the astonishing indifference of the desert landscape to human practice – McCarthy evokes this more purely than any other writer. (Source)

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