Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Inform My Reading List! Episode II

[The Results of the Classic Novel Voting are here.]

This Week: Modern (1950-present) Novels

OK, on to the poorly-defined and poorly-named category of Modern Novels! With this category, the process gets a little murkier. With books this recent, any notion of which books are The Great Books (problematic as such notions are, yadda yadda yadda) is still very much in flux. So, anything goes. This makes trouble, because I can't really drum up anything like a complete ballot for you. It would be enormous.

So Here's How We'll Roll

I'm starting things off with a basically random list of novels that I haven't read from the last sixty years. You aren't limited to these. As you, the voters, suggest additional titles, I'll add them to the list. You can vote for as many as you like, or you can restrict yourself to three favorites and give them two votes apiece. Knock yourself out, and thanks for playing.

Possible Options: (Remember, you are not limited to these)
  • Achebe, Things Fall Apart (1 votes)
  • Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina (2)
  • Amis, M., Money
  • Andric, Bridge on the Drina (2)
  • Atwood, Surfacing (1)
  • Barry, Cruddy (1)
  • Basu, Opium Clerk (1)
  • Bellow, Herzog (1)
  • Blume, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (3)
  • Blume, Then Again, Maybe I Won't (1)
  • Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita (4)
  • Byatt, Possession (1)
  • Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1)
  • Caudwell, Maybe Thus Was Adonus Murdered (1)
  • Carey, Oscar and Lucinda
  • Carey, Jack Maggs (1)
  • Chandler, The Long Goodbye (2)
  • Connell, Mrs. Bridge (1)
  • Danticat, Breath, Eyes, Memory (1)
  • DeLillo, Underworld (1)
  • DeWitt, The Last Samurai (2)
  • Eggers, You Shall Know Our Velocity (1/2)
  • Ellroy, American Tabloid (1)
  • Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides (1/2)
  • Fforde, The Eyre Affair (2)
  • Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (1)
  • Ghosh, Hungry Tide (1)
  • Grass, the Tin Drum (1)
  • Greene, The End of the Affair (2)
  • Greene, The Heart of the Matter (1)
  • Greene, Our Man in Havana (2)
  • Greene, The Quiet American (3)
  • Hoban, Ridley Walker (1)
  • Hosseini, The Kite Runner (1)
  • Irving, The Cider House Rules (1)
  • Ishiguro, The Unconsoled (2)
  • Kemal, Memed, My Hawk (1)
  • Keroac, On the Road (2 1/2)
  • Krauss, The History of Love (1)
  • Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies (2)
  • Lessing, The Golden Notebook (1)
  • Mahfouz, The Cairo Trilogy (1)
  • Marquez, Autumn of the Patriarch (3)
  • McCarthy, Blood Meridian (2)
  • McEwan, Atonement (1)
  • Miller, Tropic of Cancer
  • Moore, Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove (1)
  • Moore/Gibbons, Watchmen (3)
  • Morrison, Song of Solomon (2)
  • Morrison, Sula (2)
  • Munro, The Beggar Maid (1)
  • Murakami, Kafka on the Shore (1/2)
  • Nabakov, Despair (1)
  • Nabakov, Lolita (2)
  • Nabakov, Pnin (3)
  • Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas (1)
  • Naipaul, Bend in the River (1)
  • Naipaul, Suffrage of Elvira (1)
  • Narayan, The Financial Expert
  • Oates, We Were the Mulvaneys (1)
  • Oates, Marya (1)
  • Ondaatje, The English Patient (1)
  • Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion (1)
  • Pamuk, My Name is Red (4)
  • Percy, The Moviegoer (1)
  • Pynchon, Crying of Lot 49 (2)
  • Robinson, Housekeeping (3)
  • Roth, American Pastoral (1)
  • Roth, Goodbye Columbus (1)
  • Roy, The God of Small Things (2)
  • Rushdie, Midnight's Children
  • Saramago, The Double (1)
  • Sebold, The Lovely Bones (1)
  • Seth, A Suitable Boy
  • Smiley, A Thousand Acres (3)
  • Stegner, Angle of Repose (3)
  • Swift, Waterland (2)
  • Tan, The Joy Luck Club (1 1/2)
  • Tutuola, The Palm-Wife Drinkard (1)
  • Updike, the other Rabbit books after Rabbit, Run (3)
  • Wilson, A Bottle In the Smoke (1)
  • Yolin, The Devil's Arithmetic (1)
  • Yoshimoto, Kitchen (1)

Suggested Books that Michael5000 has already read, so don't waste your vote!

  • Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
  • Bechdel, Fun Home
  • Calvino, If On a Winter's Night a Traveler
  • Capote, In Cold Blood
  • Eggers, A Heartbreaking blah blah blah
  • Eugenides, Middlesex
  • Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars
  • Miller, A Canticle for Liebowitz
  • Morrison, Beloved
  • Murakami, Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
  • O'Brien, The Things They Carried
  • Roth, Portnoy's Complaint
  • Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle
All right! Hit that comment button and VOTE VOTE VOTE!!!


Rex Parker said...

In Cold Blood - Capote
The Long Goodbye - Chandler
American Tabloid - Ellroy
Song of Solomon - Morrison
Lolita - Nabokov
Mrs. Bridge - Connell
The Moviegoer - Percy
Watchmen - Moore/Gibbons
Fun Home - Alison Bechdel
Cruddy - Lynda Barry

The first 7 are indisputably Great, and you will / should get other votes for them. The last 3 are also Great, but fewer people are likely to think so.

Good luck with this. Making lists is fun - so much easier than actually reading...

Best wishes,

fingerstothebone said...

I'm heartbroken that you, as a BAH (Book Arts Husband), did not list Orhan Pamuks' My Name Is Red, a great book about a bunch of book artists.

Jenny! said...

Hosseini, The Kite Runner
Sebold, The Lovely Bones
Hosseini, The Kite Runner
Sebold, The Lovely Bones
Hosseini, The Kite Runner
Sebold, The Lovely Bones
Hosseini, The Kite Runner
Sebold, The Lovely Bones
Hosseini, The Kite Runner
Sebold, The Lovely Bones
Hosseini, The Kite Runner
Sebold, The Lovely Bones

Jennifer said...

I didn't like The Kite Runner myself, but it *could* spawn a decent conversation if you read it. However, Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair is a must-read. And if Fforde ever has a book signing in Portland again, you ought to go to it because he was funnier off-the-cuff than most professional comedians are.

Jennifer said...

Oh. And Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, too. But if you're open to young adult novels, that opens up a whole new field for me to recommend from. . .

Jennifer said...

Dang! I was thinking of good mystery books when I saw Chandler, and I thought of Dorothy Sayers (Gaudy Night, especially, but to appreciate that you really need to read a bunch of the earlier ones), and it turns out it was published in 1935, which makes it a wee bit early for the 1950-on novels. You might want to add it to the other novels category. :-)

I'd like to add Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore to your list, though Island of the Sequined Love Nun and Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal are also good. (And he writes titles like nobody's business!)

And I think you should also read Sarah Caudwell, maybe Thus Was Adonis Murdered. Not that many people write what are essentially epistolary novels these days, and fewer still can make it work like she could.

Rebel said...

I did *not* like the Kite Runner, but that's probably a personal thing. I couldn't handle the violence, it was really depressing.

The Joy Luck Club is another tear-jerker, but touching and I really enjoyed it. So that gets half a vote from me, but I haven't read many of the books on this list so I can't really judge.

Again I'll vote for the 'kid' book. "Are you there God, it's me Margeret" is one of those books that almost all girls my age read growing up. So if you ever plan on having daughters, you should read it.

fingerstothebone said...

I didn't care for The Joy Luck Club. There were enjoyable and recognizable moments, but overall, I felt she went for the stereotypes.

You should put at least one of Kazuo Ishiguro's books on there.

Michael5000 said...

Noon, Day One

@Rex Parker: Thanks for stopping by. And let me just say -- if any of y'all do the NYT Sunday Puzzle, or even if you are just interested in fine-grained criticism in general, you have GOT to check out this guy's blog. "Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle," http://rexwordpuzzle.blogspot.com/. Dude is the Roger Ebert of Crossword puzzle afficianados.

Anyway, Rex -- Thanks for the list! I've read two, "Fun Home" -- freakin' brilliant -- and "In Cold Blood." The latter book gave me trouble; I can understand why it was important, and I know it has devotees (including, presumably, you), but in my heart of hearts I just don't feel it has aged very well stylistically.

@fingers: Your heart is too easily broken. Seek counseling. Meanwhile, your vote is recorded.

@Jenny!: You can't fool me that easily. Your double votes are recorded for both books -- although voices of dissent have already sent "Kite Runner" back to the starting line. Democracy is a bitch.

@Jennifer: Mercis. Let's say that I'm not particularly fired up for children's lit. Although I will read "The Great Brain," per your previous instructions, later this week.

@rebel: My "daughter" is a fuzzy quadrudped who has already limped indecently beyond her reasonable life span. If she was a human, she could buy liquor. So I don't think the Judy Blume is going to help me with her. But it has made some of the "Great Books" lists that I used to seed this sucker.

Michael5000 said...

@Fingers: I certainly SHOULD!! "Never Let Me Go" and "Remains of the Day" are both amongst my favorite books ever. Shall I add "The Unconsoled" and count your vote for it?

Rex Parker said...

Yes to Ishiguro. _Remains of the Day_ is a gorgeously written book.

I'm just seconding that emotion. I assume I have used all my official votes already, and I stand by them.


Anonymous said...

I'm torn between: nominating three not on the list, nominating three on the list, or nominating all my favorites. So I'll do all three. I'll describe my choices a little bit so you can assess them better.

The first list will be books I don't see on your list but I was reminded of by books that were there. I know these may be absent because you've already read them, but I thought I'd give them a try anyway. First, I'd put Nabokov's Pnin on the list. It's probably my favorite book since world war two. (Maybe. That's hard. But it's certainly the easiest to recommend!) It's very unlike the Nakobov you might know from Lolita, Pale Fire, or Ada. It's a small, simple story that's actually really touching. For someone like me, it's got the added bonus of being extremely well put together in an unobtrusive way. And unlike too much of Nabokov, it's not over-written or ostentatiously clever or provocative. I'd say it (and The Defense, oh and also Speak, Memory but that's non-fiction) are excellent Nabokov novels for non-nabokovians. (And if you like those, there's much, much more to Nabokov that they can give you the key to - they can be a kind of an end-around the more well-known works. At least they were for me.) Then I'd add Greene's Our Man in Havana to the list. I love Greene, almost all of him, and I feel he's best at the dystopic/cynical comedy; and that this is the best of those. It also gives a completely believable picture of how real life intelligence agents actually operate and the controls that are in place to make sure they get things right. (Greene was briefly an MI5 man during World War II and worked on and off with British Intelligence for the rest of his life.) Finally, I'd recommend Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. It's magical. There's something about Murakami, he makes real exactly the kind of fiction that I wished I could read in high school. At least reading him, I feel again the excitement I felt when I was putting story ideas together in my head at that time in my life. There's a kind of freedom I feel, kind of like watching a great athelete; he performs all these superhuman feats like it's nothing and he's just out there having a good time, making stuff up.

Anonymous said...

From books already on your list, I'd choose:
Bellow's Herzog - I don't like much any other Bellow I've read. And I guess this is typical Bellow, but somehow it touches me differently. The main character is so wrapped up in his ideas, and his tangents are so fascinating, his apparent helplessness between his ideas that just keep churning churning churning in his head and his out-of-control life, make him very sympathetic to me. I liked it so much that I read it three times (and there's only one other Bellow book I've even managed to finish, the much shorter Mr Sammler's Planet).

Boringly, Greene gets on my list again: I love The End of the Affair. The religious angst in it hits me pretty hard, and the portrait of life in the middle of war adds an extra dimension. I have a soft spot for Greene, but I think this is the best of his religious novels and one of the best books of its kind I've ever read. Suspenseful, thoughtful, and a full picture of the world of London during the war.

And The Tin Drum, I think, is what I'd have to vote for finally. (Since I voted for The Big Sleep last time, I feel as though I shouldn't vote for The Long Goodbye this time.) I don't think there's anything like it, not even more Grass. It has that something I don't know what to call it. Postmodern whimsy and dead seriousness at the same time. Plus it's got the best cover art of any of the options! That makes it a sure winner.

Anonymous said...

Then without much order are some books I like that have been written since 1950:
The Palm-Wine Drinkard, Amos Tutuola: you'll never read English the same way again;
Kitchen, Banana Yoshimoto: sweet story about mourning loved ones;
Memed, My Hawk, Yashar Kemal: frontier-style story of justice and rebellion in southeastern Turkey;
The Last Samurai, Helen DeWitt: nothing to do with Tom Cruise, a lot to do with a six-year old teaching himself Hebrew and Greek and his frazzled mother;

...and actually that's probably enough from me for now.

(Oh, I should second The Watchmen! If you're into superhero comics, that books really bends the genre into something very interesting indeed. If not, it might be less interesting. And while we're on comics, I should put in a plug for Tezuka's Adolf series, and for Optic Nerve, and for Yoshihiro Tatsumi... But maybe you should have a separate comics inform my reading list?)

chuckdaddy2000 said...

My personal favorite books ever are the Rabbit series. Since you've already the first, you'll know if you'll like the rest.

I'm also a huge Graham Greene fan, and although I liked End of The Affair, it was the least Graham Greenish (set in England? WTF!?!). I'd recommend The Quiet American or a Burnt Out Case.

fingerstothebone said...

Yeah, put me down for Unconsoled (although I admit I haven't read that one, but I'm sure it's gorgeous...I read all his earlier novels but haven't caught up on the later ones).

Anonymous said...

OK, just to complicate the many votes for Graham Greene, I’m going to recommend The Heart of the Matter. I’ve only read three of his, and this is the one that made me cry. A lot.

Housekeeping is one of my very favorite books (not hobbies, thank you very much). “Luminous, offbeat, and introspective!” raves the Sue. Plus it has your name written all over it, concerning as it does trains, socially unsanctioned behavior, and the Pacific Northwest. I am tempted to add her long-awaited second novel, Gilead, to the list but will refrain.

Lolita is one of the few books on this list that seems undisputably A Great Book in the canonical sense: we all know damn well it’s going to stick around forever. But that’s not why you should read it. You should read it because it’s a surprisingly joyous road trip, eyeing the American landscape with insight and affection.

By all means read Watchmen. It’s just stunningly clever visually. You can pretend you’re taking a pop culture break from your reading list, and your wife will feel extra cool for having carted it around the country going on twenty years.

I was going to give the nod to Oscar and Lucinda, but will throw my Peter Carey vote to Jack Maggs instead, for twisting the dickens out of Dickens.

The other book I feel pressed to add to your list is Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. (By publication date it belongs here, though Bulgakov died in 1940. . . well, since it didn’t come up on your earlier list, I’ll nominate it now.) A bitter, fantastical romp that keeps reinventing itself as it goes along—a surefire godfather to Murakami’s work, far as I’d guess, in its crazy stew of the impossible and the banal.

My Name is Red is about book artists? I had no idea. (But My Name Isn’t “Read,” dearie. Oh, don’t get all huffy.)

Well, there you have it. This is more fun than designing a two-car garage, I tell you what.

Rhetorical Twist said...

Hi Michael,

I give *The Eyre Affair a hundred votes*. It needs to make the list. Needs to. Please.

I also give strong recommendations to: *Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret*, *Breakfast at Tiffany’s*, *The Kite Runner*, and *On the Road*, as I liked all of them (sorry, Dr. Jen, but I have to disagree with you on *The Kite Runner*). I am also voting for *The Joy Luck Club* because I don’t think it should have a negative vote.

I don’t understand why everyone likes *The Lovely Bones*. I must have missed something.

I have not read the Eggers book that you have there, but I read *A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius*, and I loved it. It has a very interesting style to it (but don’t read it in public places, like, say, airports. You get really, really strange looks for laughing out loud in a public place. Don’t people understand?! Apparently not…). I also haven’t read the Eugenides book that you have up there, but I loved *Middlesex*.

I would also add another book to the list: *Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close* by Jonathan Safran Foer. It was brilliant, and I intend to read it again very soon. That one gets many votes from me as well.

Take care,

Rhetorical Twist said...

Er, the first part of that comment is supposed to read: "I give *The Eyre Affair* a hundred votes."

Anonymous said...

Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

GG Marquez, Autumn of the Patriarch

Italo Calvino, If On A Winters Night A Traveler

John Irving, The Cider House Rules

Phillip Roth, American Pastoral

A.N. Wilson, A Bottle In The Smoke

Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres

Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose

Joyce Carol Oates, We Were The Mulvaneys

Anonymous said...

I read Things Fall Apart years ago—it's pretty good. I also liked Sula by Toni Morrison. Haven't read anything else of hers, unless you count the first half of Jazz which I've read three times. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien is my favorite, if you haven't already read it. I'd also vote for more Rabbit books, if only because Rabbit, Run is the only one I've read and would like to read more. (and I suppose then you should read On the Road—I haven't read it myself but I had a teacher in high school who said Rabbit, Run was a response to it...come to think of it.... my selections here are quite obviously highly influenced by that one teacher.)

Karin said...

Is one to assume, then, that you've already read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides? If not, then you must. You absolutely must.

How about these?

The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje
Breath, Eyes, Memory - Edwidge Danticat
Interpreter of Maladies - Jhumpa Lahiri

Not surprising at all that I would like these four. While the latter three may not be "Greats", I deeply enjoyed them. They involve characters engaged in international travel and intercultural love or struggle of some sort.

I mean, if I'm not gonna travel right now, I'm damn well gonna read about it. And yes, this is fiction, which I rarely, rarely read. Gasp. I know.

Karin said...

And The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen is a WWII concentration camp/time travel book written for adolescents that's certainly worth reading. Was made into a fairly decent film, but, as usual, the book was much better.

Rhetorical Twist said...

Um, I am going to put in another vote for *A Thousand Acres* by Jane Smiley. I just finished it, and it's beautifully written.

Okay, I'll leave your blog alone now!

Michael5000 said...

Day One: Evening

@Patrick: Sweet. I counted your vote for The Long Goodbye, even though you distanced yourself from it. And the Watchmen, but I'm keeping other graphic novels off of this list for now. Oh, did I ever talk to you about Ode to Kirihito? Wait, I remember now. I did.

@Chuck: I think I read the first Rabbit book on your recommendation, so I should trust you on the subsequent ones. Such a loveable protagonist.

@Mrs. 5000: You, I like. I'd count your votes double, but some of these people are keeping track.

@Allie Cav: A hundred votes, eh? Well. I'll give you two for this "Eyre Affair," grudgingly. In return, you must read "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," a ripping good novel, but also a cautionary tale against allowing yourself to become a tool cynically wielded by a brilliant, charismatic, but morally bankrupt instructor.

I'll give you halfsies for the Eggers and the Eugenides (I also quite liked "Heartbreaking" and quite loved "Middlesex.")

@Critical Bill: I am wondering if you might be my brother-in-law Bill? If not, you'd probably get along with him.

@mydog: So much of a person's reading life is going to depend on whether they got that teacher in high school. (I did.)

@Karin: It took me two years from when Mrs. ChuckDaddy told me I would love Middlesex for me to read it. That is because I am an idiot. Mrs. ChuckDaddy is one smart girl. Lamentably, she doesn't do blogs.

@Allie Cav.: You are always welcome on the blog.

DrSchnell said...

I've got a few that are alternate books by the folks you already have listed, as well as some others:
--Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep" Though, come to think of it, that's probably pre-1950
-- Dave Eggers "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
-- Thomas Pynchon "The Crying of Lot 49" (while I know that "Gravity's Rainbow" is the classic, and I enjoyed it, I actually prefer the slim, trim "Lot 49".
-- Toni Morrison - "Beloved"
-- Judy Blume -- "Then Again, Maybe I Won't" - sorta the guy parallel to "Are you There God..."
-- China Mieville "Perdido Street Station" - not generally considered "classic", but dammit, it should be. And it will be. Most absorbing alternate world since Tolkien. Followed by sequels "the Scar" and "Iron Council", which I haven't read yet.
-- Graham Swift "Waterland"
-- Russell Hoban "Ridley Walker"
-- Walter M. Miller, Jr. "A Canticle for Liebowitz" (don't know when this was published actually, so disregard if it's earlier than 1950)
-- Doris Lessing "The Golden Notebook"
-- Margaret Atwood "Surfacing"

I'm sure there are lots of others, but it's time to turn of this dang computer....
PS: I thought "The Kite Runner" was rubbish. The first half was decent (drawing on the author's own first-hand experience in Afghanistan as a younger fella) and gave a tolerably good sense of place, the second half was complete crap.

DrSchnell said...

Oh, and I've also got to add a vote for "Blood Meridian" - perhaps one of the most brutal, but mesmerizing, books I've ever read. If you've got a low tolerance for the depths of human nastiness and amorality, you might look elsewhere.

Mfc said...

My brain falls apart around 1949, but I think I can stand behind:
The Master and Margarita (it's got flying on brooms and devils and Pontius Pilate and sadness and beauty and strangeness)
Possession (is about academics, which I like, and it caused me to use index cards while taking notes for at least three months, which took some getting used to)
The Last Samurai (gets Oxford exactly right - a very clever and very charming novel)
Our Man in Havana (has vacuum cleaners in it)
Pnin (is sweet and sad and funny and it is really hard to resist the urge to quote from it and I would definitely give it more votes than one)
My Name is Red (is about vision and clarity and books and truth and beauty and it made me wish I had a novelist's understanding of the world, but I don't)
Don DeLillo's Underworld (much richer than White Noise, like a truffle is richer than a Hershey bar - what it means to be American, to be alienated, to be alive. I read it on the plane to Dresden and read it at the airport while they tried to find my luggage which had been left in Frankfurt, and I finished it that same day in the taxi into town and I almost cried, but I checked into the hotel instead.)

V.S. Naipaul, A House for Mr Biswas (sweeping Dickensian bildungsroman set in Trinidad (or Tobago) - lots of sweat and sign-painting and spot on observation of human frailties)

Books I would not recommend:
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (is unutterably dull, which I suppose it wouldn't be if you liked that sort of thing, but I really don't)
The Eyre Affair is an amusing novel, and a marvelous piece of fan-fiction, but it isn't literature
Thus was Adonis Murdered is charming, but unless one is a fan of the "don turned detective" genre, it might be better to pass

Anonymous said...

I think I've probably worn out my vote lever, but I'm going to give it a few more tugs, since people have added more beloved books. I throw my (nonuninconsiderable) weight behind:

Any and all Graham Greene, especially The Heart of the Matter and The Quiet American;
Housekeeping is very good, and I liked Gilead even more;
Master and Margarita is excellent;
I liked Autumn of the Patriarch a lot, but I don't know if I could go into it cold if I didn't already trust the author;
I feel sorry for Gravity's Rainbow there all alone, so if I have any juice left it should probably go there. I don't think I do, though. I think I've got to withhold voting for Lolita - the combination of its moral black hole (hurts to be close to it) and the cat-and-mouse game it plays with the reader; well, it's a great book and I'm probably the better for being challenged by it, but it's hard for me to recommend to anybody. (They might get mad at me!)

Anonymous said...

Let me comment on your selections, then add a few, if I may.

First let me say Sue, I am quite surprised that you liked Housekeeping so much. I just read it (well, most of it) but I just couldn’t get into it and couldn’t get through it. What did you like about it?

OK, Michael.

The Master and Margarita is amazing. I just bought it for Austin, but he rejected it because he already had it and couldn’t get through it. Don’t expect him to vote for it. But I think you’d love it.

The Kite Runner is excellent.

On the Road is one of those books you should read. I read it, didn’t particularly like it as I was reading it, but once I was done I appreciated it very much and was glad I read it.

I love Toni Morrison. You should read all of her books.

If you are going to read Ondaatje, don’t start with the English Patient, that’s the sequel to In the Skin of a Lion. Start with that one. In my opinion, it is better than the English Patient, and the English Patient has a lot more depth to it if you’ve read the prequel.

The Lovely Bones is worth reading.

Those are my comments. Off your list, I am voting for The Master and Margarita, the Kite Runner, and In the Skin of a Lion/The English Patient.

I’d like to add to your list (and vote for):
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (1948)
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Beach Music by Pat Conroy

Someone already asked to add Beloved, by Toni Morrison. I move to have that added.
Can I vote for that many?

Shanthala said...

I must admit a partiality to writers of east-indian content in general. here's what I can cap off-

Suffrage of Elvira - Naipaul
(Vintage Naipaul at his satirical best)
Hungry Tide - Amitav Ghosh
(Life in the ganges delta)
Opium Clerk - Kunal Basu
(historical fiction connecting britain-india-china)

I read The double, Saramago and Despair, Nabokov back to back not knowing they dealt with a similar theme of identical men, both enjoyable.

I've enjoyed Mahfouz's epic style writing, particularly the Cairo Trilogy.

I could go on...i'll stop and go vote the one's on your list

Michael5000 said...

Day One: Bedtime

Doc Schnell: Welcome aboard. Yes, not only is "The Big Sleep" pre-1950, but it was one of the winners from last week. Several other of yours I've read as well, which doesn't surprise me too much. You may remember, though, that the last time you recommended "Crying of Lot 49" to me, I made it to page, uh, two. But that was a long time ago.

"Perdido Street Station" sounds fucking rad. I'm going to save it for Fantasy/SciFi epic week, though.

Oh, and I'm fine with the depths of human nastiness and amorality. I've lived with you before, remember.

@meaghan: Again, you make me want to quit my job and read everything you recommend. Except the bit about vaccuum cleaners, which makes me wonder if you've been drinking. But that's cool.

Two points for "Pnin." I had already taken the Kundera off the list while you were commenting. No points off of the other two, since one's "an amusing novel" and the other "is charming." You were insufficiently damning.

@Patrick: Long time, no see! I was wondering when you Greene fans were going to start consolidating votes.

@Vida: 'Sup. It sure has been a roller coaster of a ride for the Kite Runner. Halfsies for "On the Road." Looks like Kundera's back on the list. Oh, and "Cry, the Beloved Country" won last week. Loved "Snow Falling on Cedars"; it was like my favorite book in '97 or whatever.

@Shanthala: I was hoping you would show! I'm South Asia stoopid, but I'm glad to get a Saramago title on the list. He's one of my favorites, but I haven't read "The Double."

Beth Handley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beth Handley said...

I'm writing on the fly, have read many of these and there are many there I WANT to read. I adore Lynda Barry's work and have not read her novel, you remind me to read it sometime.

Of the books listed the one that made me ache with book-love was Angle of Repose. I'll submit a stout vote for that.

IMO Jane Smiley's work can be kind of uneven, but when she hits it she hits it. 1000 Acres is superb.

Happy to see Housekeeping on there. I read it pretty recently, within the last couple of years and just loved it and think of it all the time.

This may be too old to make this list but have you read The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck? It is fantastic.

You owe it to your cultural literacy to read On The Road. C'mon.

I must extend a plug forone of my top favorite authors, Alice Munro, though she only writes short stories. But we have a loophole, in that an early book The Beggar Maid is short stories that are interconnected and add up to a novel. Outstanding.

Many other worthy choices and many I want to read. A few that are on my shelf and need to be read! But those are my votes.


chuckdaddy2000 said...

On further thought, I'm going to add 2 different books by authors you already have.

VS Naipul's Bend in the River: I have reas his others, but this is one of my favorite books (and very IRCO).

Phillip Roth's Goodbye Columbus: Don't read any of his post-80's Sabbath Pastoral crap- it sucks and is overrated (I'm basing this strong opinion solely on reading 1/2 of American Pastoral). Even for those who like his overly wordy ridiculously exaggerated characters books, I think they'd agree w/ me that his early stuff almost seems like it's written by a different author.

Jenny! said...

Too bad...I liked Kite Runner!

Anonymous said...

You'll be spending so much time reading these comments you won't have time left for books! I must agree with that dr schnell character that "Lot 49" is a classic - worth the short time investment. Also, you left off one of my faves - Kurt Vonnegut. "Cat's Cradle" is one of the best books ever and the other ones I've read are pretty damn good too.

Michael5000 said...

Day Two: Lunchtime

@Beth: A stout two for Angle of Repose. The Good Earth looks like it's from the 30s, though.

@Chuck: Check.

@Jenny!: It's out of my hands. The people have spoken. I'm just the messenger here.

@dug: When I was a sophomore in high school, I spent most of the summer on the beach, reading. I read pretty much the entire works of Kurt Vonnegut and, uh, James Michener. Weird.

Anonymous said...

@ Vida: What, you couldn’t get into Housekeeping? Two people reading the same book, and they have divergent opinions? I’m shocked! I’m glad other fans of Marilynne Robinson have already weighed in, lest I feel my literary foundations start to shudder and crack.

To expand on what I like about it: I think it’s a wise and richly imagined book, with small, telling surprises at every turn. Everything feels essential: there are no stock characters or throwaway scenes. And it is deeply felt without being sentimental, lyrical but in a grounded, plainspoken way.

An off-the-cuff diagnosis: it might be a bit too quiet for your taste. Judging from your must-read list, we have a lot of common ground, especially Michael Ondaatje and Toni Morrison, and I’m therefore I’m assuming a shared taste for sumptuous prose and challenging narrative structures. But on the imaginary scale running between low key narrative and verbal pyrotechnics, I tend toward low key. I found The God of Small Things, for instance, a bit overwrought for my tastes.

AND because I think it’s natural to love books where one can really nest in a character, it’s just remotely conceivable that I identified more readily with the shy, gangly point-of-view character more than you did. I know it’s a stretch (don’t we all have our inner orphan?), but it’s possible.

fingerstothebone said...

I was disappointed by The Cairo Trilogy. Don't remember why now, it's been a long while. I couldn't really get into Goodbye Columbus, but I thought Portnoy's Complaint was one of the best laugh out loud books I ever read. Didn't care for The Satanic Verses, thought it rather smug. Just noticed that you don't list any Kundera, not that I'm necessarily rooting for him. Haven't read The Autumn of the Patriarch, but really, really loved 100 Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. So can I vote for Autumn? (And I think his last name is Garcia Marquez, no?)

Anonymous said...

I'd like to throw in another vote for Swift's Waterland. I read it years ago but how I treasured it. I have a feeling Graham Swift's reputation will continue to grow in the years to come. I also hate to be negative about anyone's suggestions but as you will have a long reading list I would not waste the time it would take to read The Eyre Affair. It would be perfect in your future Lightweight Reading By The Pool With Too Much Zima In Me list.

Beth Handley said...

Mrs. 5000: Have you seen the 1987 film with Christine Lahti as Sylvie? It's a nice adaptation.

Beth Handley said...

PS I wonder if I can drum up a few votes for Dorothy Allison's Bastard out of Carolina.

Anonymous said...

I didn't notice The Bridge on the Drina on the list before. I was going to suggest it but then I thought it was published before 1950, so I held off. I'm glad it's there now. It's an amazing book. (If you ever need to learn the details of how to impale someone on a stake, look no further!)

Jessica said...

Interpreter of Maladies is beautifully written, and much better than her sophomore effort (that is now a movie). God Of Small Things by Roy is poetic. Although, for the India/Hindi perspective, I'd recommend Bharati Mukherjee.

Oates! Personally, I find her short stories superior. Topping that list would be Faithless or I Am No One You Know --for a novel, my vote would go to Marya.

Amy Tan. I've never found her characters stereo-typical. Joy Luck gets a vote from me.

Andrea Barrett's Ship Fever is a collection of stories that are poetic in their treatment of characters. Also, the way she weaves her knowledge of science into the landscape is rather awesome and beautiful.

Since you're being democratic, I put in a vote of dissent for The Lovely Bones.

Jessica said...

These books *all* seem like lovely alternatives to the sticky subject matter of Leviticus! :-P

Michael5000 said...

Afternoon, Day 3

@fingers: Yeah, his name is probably Garcia Marquez. I'm feeling too lazy to change it now, though.

@Critical Bill: You, sir, are sufficiently damning. Zima? Ouch!

@Patrick: I forgot to mention this: "Bridge on the Drina" was nominated by my Bosnian work partner, who is not about to seek out my blog but whose vote I wanted to count. Thanks for the second.

@Jessica: Thanks for the list! I had to disallow Ship Fever as not a novel, however. As for the Lovely Bones, well -- democracy can be a painful process.

re: the subject matter of Leviticus -- "sticky" is a nicely chosen word.

Anonymous said...

Of the books on your list that I have read, I would like to cast my votes for the following:

1. The Master and Margarita, which is utterly delightful, though possibly, yes, again, a little too old for your category. However, it seems very modern, and even scandalous.

2. Cider House Rules. It's well written but about the story and the characters, not about the language. Thanks for mentioning it, I ought to read it again.

I would also like to cast a vote against Garcia Marquez's Autumn of the Patriarch, which I found to be sodden and depressing and humid and ultrabaroque. It's art and stuff, but I didn't care for it and will stick with 100 Years of Solitude, which is totally sublime. If you haven't read it, I hereby vote that you should, posthaste.

Oh and you know what, you might try Pynchon's Mason and Dixon. I think it's one of those love-it-or-hate-it kind of books (what with the fake period language and all) but for what it's worth, I loved it. Weighs a ton, though.

Shanthala said...

here's me going down the list (also trying to find some for my reading list :) )

Byatt - I've read something of her's, can't remember the title but the overall impression was good.
Dewitt - I've heard of the Last Samurai and put it on my reading list
Lahiri - Interpreter of Maladies was good for the first couple of stories and then they tended to be the same.
Murakami - I read Kafka this summer and thought it sylistically interesting. It reminded me a little of Oe
Naipaul- Is better with his works of fiction than his observations which have always stirred controversy
Naryan- dickensian indian writing
Ondaatje- I've read only one of his books, plan to read his recent one.
Pamuk- I've got Snow on my list to read.
Roy- I think God is her only piece of fiction and I think is more autobiographical
Rushdie- I've sworn off him since he's a bit too sensationalistic for my taste
Saramago- Was dry and difficult to get into initally but fascinating and funny as you got in
Seth- had some huge poetic book which was staple with my roomie from college and the size of his books have kept me from picking them up
Updike- I've liked reading him, maybe like Saramago or Coetzee there's a satisfying taste at the end

I think it roughly means that our reading spectrum overlaps by about 20% and I've got me some intereting reading to do from all the comments.

Anonymous said...

Sue: I didn’t think it was bad, I just couldn’t get into Housekeeping. I think my main problem was that it was written in a very passive style. The characters were presented to the reader, but I didn’t feel engaged with them in the events. But then again, that was part of the tone. I think it was well written, but you’re right, a little low key for me. Very interesting commentary though, I think you pegged me (and you!) correctly. Which brings me to a book I think you will love. It’s by the same author as the Red Tent – Anita Diamant. The book is called The Last Days of Dogtown. Housekeeping reminded me a lot of it. I think you’ll love the characters and the tone. Definitely check it out!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Vida. Like Shanthala, I've been getting a lot of good ideas from these posts for my own present and future reading. Was at the library yesterday and picked up Waterland (thanks, Critical Bill)--a book I meant to read years ago and that somehow fell off my radar. And yes, Beth, I did quite like the movie version of Housekeeping. I actually saw it before I'd read the book, I'm oddly chagrined to confess.