Recommend a great piece of contemporary fiction

I’ve got an Amazon gift certificate, and I’m realizing it’s been a while since I sat down with a novel. Since the dopers are such a cultured bunch, I’m hoping they can give me some ideas.

I’m looking for something modern, not a classic. But I’m hoping for something thought-provoking and it’s okay if it’s a little dense. Ideally, I’d find one of those books that shifts the way you look at the world for a while, but I know that’s a tall order. An international setting is nice, but I’m open to anything. A good solid collection of short stories might also fit the bill.

I’m thinking along the lines of The Poisonwood Bible, or the works of Haruku Murakami. I’m not sure if there are any Ha Jin fans around here, but I’m a huge fan of Ha Jin.

David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas.

Define “contemporary”. But for the nonce I’ll chance my arm on:

The Time-Traveller’s Wife
Enduring Love

(I’m sre you can check them out on Amazon as well as I can)

Tobias Wolff, THE NIGHT IN QUESTION–spectacular short stories.

Mary Gordon’s SPENDING is the best novel I’ve read in a few years.

Excellent choice. It fits the criteria – thought-provoking, a bit dense, will shift the way you look at the world, international setting, etc.

English Passengers by Matthew Kneale fits too.

Russell Banks. Cloudsplitter. As unlike Cloud Atlas as any book can be.

A doorstop, but an awesome novel about John Brown. Will probably change the way you look at history.

Try ‘Middlesex’ by Eugene Stephanides, it’s beautifully written if nothing else. If you feel like short stories I’d recommend ‘Too Much Happiness’ by Alice Munro (or anything else written by her, she’s great).

I loved Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

I have Cutting for Stone on my to-read list.

I second the recommendation for Cloud Atlas, though it’s more of a journey through time than through the world.

I loved Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It’s a “mostly autobiographical” novel about an ex-thief living in the slums of India.

I was going to say this. Great book.

The Love of Stones by Tobias Hill.

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon.

But you were going to correct the author’s name, right?:stuck_out_tongue: It’s Jeffrey Eugenides.

Oh, yeah- Stephanides, Eugenides… it’s all Greek to me. :stuck_out_tongue:

Murakami is excellent; Kafka on the Shore is probably a good starting point, or jump in to what I think is his masterpiece, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
Jose Saramago is another good choice if you want to expand your horizons: Baltasar and Blimunda and The Stone Raft are my favorites.
There’s always Midnight’s Children.
And finally for a more recent novel, I’d heartily recommend Julie Orringer’s The Invisible Bridge. The story of a Hungarian Jewish young man who goes to Paris in 1937 to study architecture - from that setup, you think you know where the story is going, but trust me it will surprise you. Wonderfully written.

even sven, given your interest in other cultures, I came into recommend **Disgrace **by J.M. Coetzee. It is a powerful book that can be read on the level of individuals going through a situation and also as an allegory for South Africa coming to grips with its apartheid past. It is not long and the crystalline prose is straightforward and Hemingway-like in its direct clarity. It will engage you through to the last sentence and stay with you for a long time. Highly recommended.

Oh - and by the way, I love Haruki Murakami. His books The Wild Sheep Chase, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and Kafka on the Shore make for a trilogy of similarly-themed-and-toned books and would go well together. Books like Norwegian Wood are very different and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is in its own category, too. All worthy.

I just read that, and I liked it very much.

I’ll propose The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, or The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, both by Michael Chabon.

Heh–I read very little modern mimetic fiction, and even this one isn’t entirely mimetic.

But I definitely second the recommendation. It’s primarily a love story between the two title characters, with American Jewish 20th-century culture as the third main character. Good stuff.

For a book with a modern, international setting that can shift how you see the world for a little bit, there’s always The City and the City, by China Mieville. Granted, the two cities of the title aren’t real, but it’s very, very interesting look at life in modern post-Soviet Eastern Europe.