The Godfather - Mario Puzo

The Godfather by Mario Puzo, written in 1969, is one of the top selling books of all time. The Godfather has all of the key elements found in these books - sex, drugs, power, violence, and twisted situations. What helps the Godfather stand apart is how well it has become integrated in modern culture. Look at the other titles which have sold this much - To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, Animal Farm, Carpetbaggers. Sure, many of us have read them, and sure, we might recognize a specific line from each book. But do we know the entire *culture* that any of these books represent? Probably not. With The Godfather, there are tons of lines that have become part of our culture. There are tons of visual images that are now part of what we all accept as "history". Just as we understand what "raining cats and dogs" mean, we understand what "sleeping with the fishes" mean. The Godfather has that kind of power.

Even if you force someone to read a long book, they rarely remember it if it does not strike a chord. Many of us were forced to read "Moby Dick" in high school - but besides "Call me Ishmael", I doubt many people remember much of it. I happen to love Moby Dick, but then again I love Nantucket :) However, compare this with The Godfather. The Godfather is not a short book, and it is not an "easy" book. It skips between time settings, it brings in a new culture, new language, and a large cast of characters. Still, it is eagerly gobbled up by the readers. We want to know what Michael Corleone does next - who will betray the Don - what this offer is that can't be refused. We are tittilated by the references to "female surgery" that makes a woman tight again.

The writing isn't super simplified, as are some other books in this category. If anything, it can become quite formal at times. The author understands the power of language, having his characters sometimes speak forcefully, other times speak deliberately "like a peasant" so that they are underestimated. This again helps to keep the reader interested, to look for hidden meanings in words, to seek out what is really being said amongst the words that are being spoken.

It's almost impossible, reading the book in modern times, to separate this book from the culture it has spawned. There are the movies, The Sopranos, Goodfellas, and every other Italian Mob story which bases its genesis on this series. The walk, the talk, the atmosphere.

Yes, you might have watched the movies - but it's *well* worth it to read the original story. As is true with pretty much any novel, the movie has to simplify to squash the plot into a 2 hour stretch. In the novel provides much more detail, intricacy, and texture.

This is one of those books that is almost required reading, so that you understand all of those quotes, visuals and situations thrown into modern literature, movies and TV shows. Luckily, unlike many other 'must read novels', this is really a page-turner!

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