My all time favorite book, my first choice in all situations when people ask for book recommendations (except perhaps for eight-year-olds), and yet a book that most people have never heard of, is The Telling by Ursula K LeGuin.
As an author, Ursula K LeGuin is one of the few authors who I think best captures humanity and the reality of what it means to be human. Other authors do more beautiful prose, more enthralling plot lines, or transport the reader to more exotic, enchanting settings than LeGuin. Faulkner with his stream of consciousness and variety of approaches, or Gabriel Garcia Marquez with his magical realism do more interesting, unusual, unexpected things with literature than LeGuin does. But in my opinion LeGuin and Tolstoy are the two authors who have managed to best capture what it really means to be human. They capture the sublime beauty, the simple pleasure, the deep, throbbing tragedy and grief, and the daily hum drum of existence that seems to pass for life in my experience. And to be fair, I don’t find all of LeGuin’s books this spectacular, although I have liked all the ones I’ve read so far (the short story The Ones Who Walked Away From Omelas is my other favorite of hers). But The Telling has enthralled me since I first read it, and I will keep re-reading and recommending it for a long time to come.
I have mixed thoughts about the cover. I would never nominate it for any design competitions, but I do find the illustration appealing and enjoy looking at it. However, it has almost nothing to do with the story! The woman pictured could, I suppose, be the protagonist in terms of skin and hair coloring (the protagonist Sutty is ethnically Indian) but I couldn’t picture her ever frolicking in a field of flowers and butterflies like that; she’s a bit too down to earth for that. And the fancy looking airplane or spaceship up in the right hand corner does hint at the fact that this sci-fi book deals with space travel, but spaceships and air travel are hardly a main focus of the book… again I’m pretty sure that nothing about this scene actually took place during the book.