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.
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).
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.
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.