Friday, July 04, 2008

Seeking Book Suggestions

I've always been a book worm. As far as I remember, my first encounter with novels was the Babysitters Club series around the age of 8. When I was done checking out and consuming every one of these from the school library, I graduated to Gordon Korman (the 'Bruno and Boots' series is utter genius), Roald Dahl, and Farley Mowat. In between, I read a variety of other authors, but these were the mainstays of my childhood.
In high school, while in the Lit program at Canterbury, our teachers thoroughly spoiled us by picking out the most amazing books and authors for our study. Here, I met E. Annie Proulx and the Shipping News, as well as Timothy Findlay, and completely fell in love with both of their writing styles and tones. I wanted so badly to write in the same beautiful, lyrical way they did, alternating between spare and laden with emotion, and I knew that the best way (for me anyway) to write well was to read well. By the time I graduated from high school, I was a book snob. I would pick up a book after watching a stranger read it on the bus, get through 50 pages, max, and get horribly disappointed or bored and put it down. I wanted books of the same quality as the ones I had been reading in Lit, aka amazing writing, amazing characterization, and amazing plot. It's hard to find all three in the same book, but I couldn't be bothered to read anything else. I came to using my friend Katherine as my personal book critic. I'd ask her once every couple of months what she'd just finished reading, see if she'd found it worthy, and then read it if she had. It was so that I came upon Life of Pi, the Empire Falls, and Clara Callan.
My problem now: Katherine's in Japan teaching English, and it's a lot harder to keep up with what she's reading. I tried applying her mom's system (get the award winners of the year and read them all: they're usually the best books), but it was hit and miss for me. For every Late Nights on Air, there is a The Golden Notebook (and I'm sure that book was iconic for the feminist movement and for some women at a particular point, but for me, I'm just getting bored with it, and I don't enjoy her writing style).
So what I'd like is a list of books to read from you avid readers. No Nora Roberts or Danielle Steele please.
Thank you.

8 comments:

Jen said...

Read any Ann Patchett? Loved Bel Canto, Truth and Beauty (memoir that one). I enjoy classics, have you read Tolstoy? Entertainment Weekly put out a list of new 'classics' for the last 25 years. See if any of those appeal: http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20207076_20207387_20207349,00.html

noha said...

Thanks Jen!
I think I need a trip to the book store where I don't feel rushed, and armed with a list just like the one you suggested, and hopefully I'll come away with something I like. I haven't read Tolstoy. I tried to read Anna Karenina a couple of times, but always stopped about 100 pages in. Jane Austen, now I'm a big fan of her stuff, but you can only reread Pride and Prejudice so many times :-)

Jazz said...

Have you read Marina Lewycka: "A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian" and "Strawberry Fields".

I've just started reading Jane Smiley's latest: Ten Days in the Hills, and so far I'm liking it - granted I'm just on page 30...

noha said...

Awesome Jazz! Thanks for the suggestions. I actually remember seeing these titles before and then forgetting about them. I bought a couple of books from Jen's suggestion list yesterday and have started on "Bel Canto" by Ann Patchett. Absolutely fantastic. Meets all three of my criteria for great writing, great characters, great plot.

The more books, the better. I'll eventually run out and need more ideas anyway.

Aethne said...

Hi Noha,

I would strongly recommend "What is the What," by Dave Eggers.

Good luck with the search. There are so many good ones out there!

Aethne

noha said...

Thanks Aethne. I've read "a heartbreaking work of staggering genius" by him and loved it. His use of hyperbole to show just how strong his emotions were is actually a brilliant approach, and I've looked a bit at McSweeney's his mag. I'll add it to the list for sure.
On a side note, are the Aethne who went to Nepean high school in Ottawa with my sister? That would be way too cool! (and even if you're not, welcome to the blog :))

Zia said...

Hi Noha. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond, but, yes, I'm the Aethne who went to Nepean and was friends with your sister. I hope she is well, and I hope that you're equally well, though it appears you are. It's refreshing to read your blog. I especially love the post that you wrote for your sister. On the subject of books, you've probably read it, but I'd recommend "DeNiro's Game," by Rawi Hage (who lives in Montreal).

noha said...

Great to hear from you Aethne. Yeah, we're all doing well... Thanks for the book suggestion :) I actually haven't read it. I'll have to take a look...