Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Looking for suggestions...

I had a really nice coffee date with my buddy Victor last night. We hung out at the coffee shop until it closed and then went and got a margarita (Matt had band practice at the house). He is a movie buff so we spent a lot of time discussing movies, books, and his screenplay, among other things. This helped me realize something:

I need something to read. I have been alternating between reading classics, and reading fluff. This is partially because I have had bad luck with the last few classics I have picked and needed some fluff to get the bad taste out of my head. I LOVE to read but I am getting pickier in my old age and I need some fresh stuff now.

Here's a sampler for context:

one of my favorite books of ALL TIME is the Count of Monte Cristo. It is so fascinatingly complex and interwoven but the characters are so well drawn and I have never rooted for a disturbed semi-hero like I root for Edmond Dantes every time I read this book. Which is about once a year now.

Also in this annual re-read category is Cold Comfort Farm (also possibly Kate Beckinsale's best movie ever, this translated surprisingly well to the screen and was brilliantly cast - I love you Joanna Lumley!), a clever little 1930's satire.

Another in this annual re-read category is American Gods. I grew up obsessed with world mythologies and this book is a smorgasbord of some of the best bits, shoehorned into an epic story of, not good vs. evil, but old gods (Loki, Thor and Anubis, among others) vs. new gods (manifestations of modern life and things like technology - media, the internet).

A possible new addition to this category that bridges the classic/fluff designations is Miss Pettigrew Lives for the Day. I thought this was adorable and I loved the writing. This is the kind of fluff I am looking for now.

I am looking for something new. It doesn't have to immediately join the annual re-read list but of the last couple of books I have read there have been a couple that I just put down as I decided they weren't worth my time to finish.

The last couple of classics I have read were The Scarlet Letter and Vanity Fair. Of TSL I have to say I enjoyed the language because I am a Hawthorne fan, but I wanted to punch every single character. That book does not translate well into the modern era for me. Vanity Fair started out ok, but similar to TSL, I lost patience with the complete lack of sympathetic characters (Becky Sharp starts out as interesting, at least, but just turns into a repeating caricature, and I just stopped caring about Amelia by the end, she is really a damp sock of a character). I think I need to stay away from writers who got paid by the word for a while.

Jane Eyre has been heartily recommended but it keeps being checked out when I go to the library. Instead I read all of the Jasper Fforde novels starting with the Eyre Affair and was highly amused. But he hasn't written much since then and I need some suggestions! Anyone, anyone?

P.S. now I can't remember who blogged it, but per someone's great review I think I am getting Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog) for Christmas...


scb said...

I hope you enjoy Three Men in a Boat, because if you don't, it's my fault!

Alana in Canada said...

Check out The Saturday review of Books, if you've time. It's a collection of links to reviews.

I think the last fiction I read was "The other Boleyn" by Phillippa Gregory. If it's the one I'm thinking of, it was quite excellent. The others haven't been quite as good--one with Hannah the fool as the central character ws all right--but I couldn't get past the first few chapters of "The Other Queen."

Have you read an Anne Patchett novel lately?

Kerry said...

After 3 Men In A Boat, take a look at Connie Willis's To Say Nothing Of The Dog.

Let me summarize what you like: epic scope, twisty plots, smart/dry Britishy humor.

I used to do this professionally, so indulge me--have you ever seen Bill Willingham's Fables In Exile? It's a comic series collected into many books, and IMO he does Gaiman better than Gaiman. M.M. Kaye's The Far Pavilions? The Flashman novels by George MacDonald Fraser? Some of the classic Wilkie Collins? Let me know if you want more ideas.

Mella DP said...

In trying to answer this question I've gone over my list of what I've read this year, and realized that rather little of it have I liked particularly (that's a ridiculous sentence, but for the life of me I can't untie it). Anyway, I'll have to think about that.

In the spirit of "Britishy humor," as Kerry put it, have you read McCall Smith? It's on the light side but quality stuff and entertaining.

Definitely do Jane Eyre. Alana mentioned Patchett - I read Bel Canto this year, and it was great.

Something makes me want to say Trollope and Galsworthy.

Mana G said...

Ethan Frome left me wanting to punch every last character in the book; that's the only book that's ever really made me feel that way. I'm a huge fan of Russian literature, (I did my undergrad thesis on Dostoevsky), so I'd recommend Crime and Punishment or Brothers Karamazov, and I absolutely, positively, glowingly suggest Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov. The Devil comes to Moscow, a man writes a novel about Jesus and Pontius Pilate that turns the New Testament on its head, (not in a way that would really bother the religious, as I'm a fairly devout Catholic), and there's a giant talking cat, and witches, not to mention lots of inside jokes about life in the USSR.

Anonymous said...

Annie - try reading something by Erik Larson!

His first book, "Devil in the White City", was about the architectural revolution during the build up of the world fair in Chicago in 1892, and had a parallell story of a murderer in town. It was such a good book! And it's all based on true facts.

I'm now reading his third book, "Thunderstruck", and learning more about the beginning of wireless communication than I ever thought possible ;)