Although reading the top 100 contemporary books in order from 100-1 is an exciting idea, I also want to share with you some of my personal favorites. I recently re-read a collection of Irene Nemirovsky’s short stories. Nemirovsky was born in 1903 living in three wars, the Russian Revolution, World War I, and World War II, only to die in at the Nazi camp Auschwitz of typhus. Her writings take us into the minds of those people living in these times – the good people, the bad people and those who are extremely confused in the middle.
My favorite of these tales is “David Golder,” the story of a man who was born a poor Jew in Russia and became a wealthy stock broker in the early 1900’s in the stock market. He moves his family to France (similarly to how Nemirovsky’s father moved her family to France in her childhood) and continues working extremely hard until the day he dies. The story takes place during the last few years of his life: Golder has become a miserable, unloved, deceitful old man. His family only asks him for money and “how’s business” and his friends don’t trust him except to follow his lead in the market. The conflict taking place in Golder’s mind becomes a character in the story: his health begins to fail him (in particular his heart) and when he is emotionally unstable, for example upset about a friend/business parter who committed suicide because Golder would not go into a deal with him, his body acts as a reminder that “good business” is not always “good”.
The reader knows almost immediately there will not be a happy ending to this tale of David Golder. There are a few surprises along the way that make the reader say “AH!” and wonder how they did not see the situation as inevitable. The moral of the story is clear and speaks volumes: money does not make us happy, love makes us happy. Having fortunes and “good business” may sound fantastic, but really, without a loving family and supporting friends, we are nothing. We will die alone.