Anybody wonder what kind of novels I recommend to people? Read on.
I’m assuming you want literary stories that are easy to read and have conventional approaches to narrative (characters, plot, etc). All of these are wonderful.
- Opium and Other Stories (Writers from the Other Europe)
- Chromos by Felipe Alfau. A Spanish emigre’s 1940’s novel about living in New York among bohemians and philosophers. Alfau also wrote a great short story collection called Locos.
- Interpreter of Maladies,Jhumpa Lahiri
- My Son’s Story Nadime Gordimer
- Kwaidan; Stories and Studies of Strange Things
by Lafcadio Hearn, Yasumasa F. Lewis (Illustrator) Quite delightful!
- Martin Dressler : The Tale of an American Dreamer,by STEVEN MILLHAUSER
- Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
- Doruntine by Ismail Kadare
- In 2004 I started rereading all the short stories of Anton Chekhov, and it goes without saying that he’s one of my favorite writers. My only regret is that I didn’t live in Ukraine long enough to learn Russian.
- The Golden Phoenix, and Other French-Canadian Fairy Tales (children’s book)
Charles Marius Barbeau childhood favorite; extremely well written
- Marco Vassi erotic novels (some are throwaway, I recommend “Carcass of Dreams” this amazing story cycle exerpted in The Mammoth Book of Erotica by Maxim Jakubowski (Editor). Call it Kafka+ Poe + Henry Miller (I’m working on a literary essay about Vassi this summer).
- Wife for My Son, by Ghalem (that’s how it appears on Amazon), a Middle Eastern feminist novel.
- Mezannine… by Nicholson Baker; lighthearted fun (for literary humor, also try U and I)
- Tales of Hans Christian Anderson
- Paris Spleen by Baudelaire
- Nana by Zola
- Heinrich Boll Short Stories
- Arcadio by William Goyen; he’s a Texas writer who died young.
- RK Narayan! I recommend: Man Eater of Malguti, Bachelor of Arts (with academic angle),The Guide (very quirky and unexpected; surprisingly entertaining).
- Tattered Cloak by Nina Berberova
- Probably not in the same category, but I enjoy the personal essays by Mike Royko and comic travel books by Bill Bryson and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
- I don’t like to put recent reads in my favorite list yet, but I’ve been flipping over Lucian’s Satires and Nabokov’s Pnin.
- Camus’ The Fall. Unusual moralistic dramatic monologue.
- Dorothy Scarborough’s The Wind, amazing poetic novel by Texan in the early 1920’s
- Contempt, Alberto Moravia. amazing novel about a failing relationship. The prose is simple and natural for such an ordinary drama, but Moravia finds great tragedy in a story of a couple that was never meant to be.
- Because it is bitter, because it is my heart, J.C. Oates. Like many, I’m overwhelmed by her output, but one of the few works I did get around to is superb writing.
- Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Kundera. I’m a big fan of Kundera; this is his most elegant.
- Max Frisch, I’m Not Stiller or Man in the Holocene. I’m Not Stiller is more interesting, though not as well written. Man in the Holocene is terser and gloomier. I wouldn’t call either work great, but both influenced me a great deal.
- Arnold Bennett’s Old Wife’s Tale. Unbelievable bit of writing. Tense, controlled, realistic. A milestone of literature.
- My Antonia, Willa Cather
- Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald.
- Restless Nights by Dino Buzzati. Italian allegorical writer. Light-hearted brief tales with deeper darker overtones. Update: This book is not only the best thing I’ve read all year, but the best thing I’ve read in 5 years. Good luck finding this rare and amazing book. I might write a separate essay about this book.
- If on a Winter’s Day a Traveler by Italo Calvino
- Ovid’s Metamorphosis. And anything by Ovid really.
- Laughing Sutra by Mark Salzman (highly recommended). Update: This book turned out to be the most enjoyable thing I’ve read in 2008. . A picaresque tale of a young Chinese monk wishing to travel to the US to locate some mythical Buddhist scripture. I laughed and laughed some more. I didn’t realize this until after reading, but the book is an homage to Journey to the West.
- Any short story collection by Jack Matthews. Jack Matthews is an Ohio writer who has spent a lifetime writing about extraordinary lives of ordinary people. I recommend Crazy Women, Dubious Persuasions, Ghostly Populations. But they are all worth reading. Simple prose and occasional plot twists, but absolutely beautiful writing. (See my previous essay about his fiction).
- Sassafras by Jack Matthews. It’s an American version of Candide told in the 19th century midwest. A roaming phrenologist explores the Midwest while searching for the answers to philosophical questions.
Don’t forget to check out my amazon wish list. I’ve also made an amazon.com list of “doomed romance” cinema recommendations, a list of favorite literary criticism books and a list of what I’m currently reading.
This may be obvious, but I have not included anything by Kafka, Melville, Swift, Wilde, Dostoevsky, Updike, Borges, Camus, Candide nor the confabulation greats (Rabelais, 1001 Arabian Nights, Mahabarata, Canterbury Tales, Odyssey etc). They are just too obvious to mention. For some reason I don’t read too much chick lit either (can’t figure out why).