Sunday, October 18, 2015

Books I recommend

I decided to try to pull together a few strands, such as books that I found highly influential as I was evolving as a reader (here and here) and my favorite books written in English from the 20th Century (here).  That said, there are major gaps in this list, namely books that I will probably like (maybe even like a lot) but just haven't gotten around to reading (some noted here and here), so I obviously can't recommend them now.  I've decided to not recommend any poetry this time around (and essentially no drama aside from Beckett and no science fiction or other genre fiction), but on the other hand, this list will have the advantage of dipping into world literature.  To keep this from devolving into some enormous list of every book I ever gave a thumbs up to, I'll try to restrict it to books that really stood out from the crowd (and that I can still remember years after reading them).  While it would be unlikely for anyone else to like every single book on this list, I would not hesitate to recommend these books.  I suppose the one thing that I could do is split them further apart into novels that are essentially comic or dramatic/tragic, but I am not going to do that at this time.

Books you probably were (generally) aware of:

Lawrence Sterne - Tristram Shandy (not for everyone but a radically inventive novel well ahead of its time)
Fyodor Dostoevsky - Crime and Punishment
Ivan Turgenev - Fathers and Sons
Elie Wiesel - Night
Solzhenitsyn - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Franz Kafka - The Trial
Franz Kafka - The Castle
Franz Kafka - Metamorphosis and Other Stories
James Joyce - Dubliners
James Joyce - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Samuel Beckett - Waiting for Godot
Lawrence Durrell - The Alexandria Quartet (Justine/Balthazar/Mountolive/Clea)
Ralph Ellison - Invisible Man
Thomas Pynchon - The Crying of Lot 49
Iris Murdoch - Under the Net
Ford Madox Ford - The Good Soldier
Jorge Luis Borges - Labyrinths
Jorge Luis Borges - A Personal Anthology
Saul Bellow - The Adventures of Augie March
John Kennedy Toole - A Confederacy of Dunces (riotous novel with a somewhat unpleasant main character)
Graham Greene - Travels with my Aunt
Philip Roth - Zuckerman Bound
Italo Calvino - Invisible Cities
Raymond Carver - Cathedral
Alan Paton - Cry, the Beloved Country
Gabriel Garcia Marquez - One Hundred Years of Solitude
Toni Morrison - Song of Solomon
Don DeLillo - White Noise

More obscure books:

Fyodor Dostoevsky - Demons
Mikhail Bulgakov - The Master and Margarita
Vasily Grossman - Life and Fate
Djuna Barnes - Nightwood
Joseph Roth - Hotel Savoy
Donald Barthelme - City Life
Donald Barthelme - The Dead Father
Madison Smartt Bell - Waiting for the End of the World
Robertson Davies - The Deptford Tril. (Fifth Business/The Manticore/World of Wonders)
Timothy Findley - Not Wanted on the Voyage
Margaret Atwood - Cat's Eye
Robert Kroetsch - The Studhorse Man
Guy Vanderhaeghe - My Present Age  (essentially a Canadian version of A Confederacy of Dunces, though written completely independently)
Henry Roth - Call It Sleep
Bruno Schulz - The Street of Crocodiles
Bruno Schulz - Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass
Carlos Fuentes - Christopher Unborn
Gabriel Garcia Marquez -  The Autumn of the Patriarch
Mario Vargas Llosa - The Green House 
Stuart Dybek - The Coast of Chicago
Jonathan Lethem - Motherless Brooklyn
Jonathan Lethem - Chronic City
Albert Cossery - The Jokers
Michael Malone - Handling Sin 
Barbara Kingsolver - The Poisonwood Bible
Mutis - The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll
Steven Sherrill - The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break
Susan Swan - The Biggest Modern Woman of the World 
Edna O'Brien - Night 
Angela Carter - Nights at the Circus 
Andrey Platonov - Happy Moscow 
Gregor von Rezzori - An Ermine in Czernopol 
Stefan Zweig - Selected Stories
Graham Greene - Monsignor Quixote 
J.F. Powers - Morte D'Urban
Jhumpa Lahiri - The Namesake
Kamila Shamsie - Burnt Shadows
Kiran Desai - The Inheritance of Loss
Amitav Ghosh - The Hungry Tide
Can Themba - Requiem for Sophiatown
Ivan Vladislavić - The Restless Supermarket
Tom Stoppard - Arcadia (not entirely sure plays should be included as they really only take life on stage, but this may be my favorite play of all time, a notch or two above Tony Kushner's Angels in America, which is also incredible of course.)

If I find any other amazing gems among the books on my long list of books (as I certainly hope I would), I will try to remember to add them (perhaps below this break).  Certainly I think of reading as a life-long adventure, so while I am occasionally embarrassed not to have gotten to some must-read novel by now (my mid-40s), there is something to be said in still having so many great works to discover going forward.  (Also, don't hesitate to recommend your own books in the comments, or tell me which of the books from this post I should read next.)

Added 7/27/2016:
While it would be a stretch to call them life-changing, every so often I enjoy more lyrical, slower paced novels.  In this category, I can recommend
Willa Cather - My Antonia
Marilynne Robinson - Gilead (this was unexpectedly moving, particularly considering how little consideration I have for organized (or unorganized and/or personal) religion -- apparently this is among President Obama's favorite novels)
In a slightly different (though still interior) vein, I enjoyed Penelope Lively's City of the Mind. It's relatively short, and I probably ought to reread it before completely enthusiastically recommending it, but I do remember liking it.

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