two questions

1. I’ve been sick (yes, AGAIN) for the past four days, and all this free time with nothing to do besides blow my nose and re-watch all my Buffy DVDs for the 700th time has got me thinking about how I don’t have any good books to read. Even without the sickness factor, I still need to start doing more reading. Can you guys recommend some good books? Here’s a list of some of my favorites, to give you an idea of what I like. Assume I’m aware of or have read the other books by these authors.

The Last Samurai – Helen DeWitt
The Floating Opera – John Barth
Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
Geek Love – Katherine Dunn
The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen
The Time-Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Special Topics in Calamity Physics – Marisha Pessl
Empire Falls – Richard Russo
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon
White Teeth – Zadie Smith
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
A bunch of Sarah Vowell and David Sedaris

As you can see, I’m a bit behind on What’s New In Books Lately, so I could use your help.

2. This is the antithesis of books*: in the sixth season of Buffy, when she came back from the dead and was all broke and unemployed, why didn’t she get a job teaching people all her fighting skills instead of flipping burgers at the Doublemeat Palace? I’m sure she could have made a shitload of money showing frightened Sunnydale residents how to fend off the many demons and vampires that lived there.

But I guess turning everyone into mini-slayers wouldn’t have helped her maintain a low profile, would it?

*On second thought, Buffy probably isn’t the antithesis of books. I bet it’s wrestling or “Flavor of Love” or something.

36 thoughts on “two questions

  1. Then We Came to the End, Joshua Ferris. Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld. Bel Canto, Ann Patchett. The Brief History of the Dead, Kevin Brockmeier. Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier.

  2. hmm. these aren’t especially current either (except the peter carey, which is new and grrreat), but how about…

    his illegal self – peter carey
    jonathan strange and mr. norrell – susanna clarke
    the master and margarita – mikhail bulgakov
    absurdistan (or the russian debutante’s handbook) – gary shteyngart
    midnight’s children – salman rushdie

  3. Life of Pi, The Time Traveler’s Wife and White Teeth are a few of my favorites too, to give you an idea of my taste in books before I go recommending a bunch of others.

    So with that said, I loved these:
    The History of Love (Krauss)
    Housekeeping (Robinson)
    The Kite Runner (Hosseini)
    Into the Wild (Krakauer)
    My Year of Meats (Ozeki)

    And right now I’m reading a great one right now called 20-Something Essays by 20-Something Writers–a collection of essays written by folks in their twenties dealing with all the shit we deal with in our twenties. Hilarious, sad, true and totally comforting, this book is a gem I wish I’d read a few years ago.

  4. pattern recognition and spook country, both by william gibson.
    kafka on the shore by haruki murakami

    kristin said if you want to read something cheesy and oprah-y, the memory keeper’s daughter is alright.

    any of chuck klosterman’s books are good.

  5. david mitchell is a big favorite with all the people i know who read contemporary fiction. they celebrate the man’s entire catalog, but
    black swan green and cloud atlas are the two to start with.
    feast of love – charles baxter
    echo maker and/or time of our singing – richard powers
    i second the ann patchett recommend (i like truth and beauty, which is not fiction)
    sweet hereafter – russell banks
    uh, that’s a few. hope some prove worthy.

  6. I love My Year of Meats! If you lived here, I would lend it to you.

    I just subscribed to the New Yorker and every week is a battle to keep up. That said, I hope it will make me smarter, more informed, and reading more regularly.

    Some recommendations (you have probably read some of these):
    -U and I by Nicholson Baker
    -All My Friends are Going to Be Strangers by Larry McMurtry
    -As She Climbed Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem (I appear to have two of these — how did that happen?)
    -Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn
    -Headlong by Michael Frayn
    I really enjoyed The Lovely Bones, but I think you might have written about that one.
    Almost everyone has read Tom Robbins but I hadn’t until recently. The cat doesn’t like it, but I do.

  7. if you’re up for taking recommendations from someone who can’t even remember which internet rabbit hole they found your blog, here you go:

    The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
    Garlic & Sapphires – Ruth Reichl
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay – Michael Chabon
    I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies) – Laurie Notaro
    The Gum Thief – Douglas Coupland
    The Bookseller of Kabul – Asne Seierstad (haven’t made it all the way through this so it’s a recommendation based on the first 70 pages)

    Recommendations that I strongly second:
    My Year of Meats
    Bel Canto
    Kite Runner

    hope you feel better!

  8. Straight Man by Richard Russo
    On Beauty by Zadie Smith
    The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
    City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
    The Book of Salt by Monique Truong
    Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
    The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

  9. To answer your questions (and I loved many of the same books on your list):

    1. Books:
    -This is Not Chick Lit (various short stories from award-winning female authors)
    -House of Sleep (Jonathan Coe)
    -Perfect Agreement (Michael Downing)
    -Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke)
    -Lamb (Christopher Moore)

    2. Buffy was lukewarm about even being brought back and was obviously reluctant to resume fighting duties. She sort of became an anti-heroine at that point. She “lost” her way, so to speak.

    Therefore, it makes sense to me (or at least that’s how I looked at her hero’s journey) she would choose a “career path” that led nowhere, aka, flipping burgers.

    Besides, she already gets out her aggression pretty well alternately beating up/getting it on with Spike. Nothing’s probably sexier to him than the smell of deep-fried burger cologne. :)

  10. Recently I have read & enjoyed:
    The Kite Runner – Hosseini
    A Thousand Splendid Suns – Hosseini
    The Reluctant Fundamentalist
    The Road – McCarthy

    I read “Hypocrite in a White Pouffy Dress” by SJ Gilman during my Sedaris phase, which was humorous. And I also enjoyed “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs” by Chuck Klosterman.

  11. “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” -Cory Doctorow (scifi thats not)

    “The Stranger” -Albert Camus (“killing an Arab” by the Cure is written about this book)

    “Sidartha” -Herman Hesse (not really about the budha of the same name.)

    “Gil’s All Fright Diner” -A. Lee Martinez
    “In the Company of Ogres” -A. Lee Martinez
    those to are bizarro fun and fast reads…makes you think differently of vampires and warewolves.

    As for Buffy, I think she would have drawn to much attention teaching demon slaying. Maybe if she said it was zombie style kung fu she could have got away with it. She would have made bank too, at $90-$120 a month per student.

  12. Also, I hope you feel better. I am on week 3 or 4 of being sick now, I have lost count, I know this is version 3.

  13. You seem to be looking for contemporary-ish fiction, so I second Lauren’s recommendation for The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri and also suggest Jonathan Safran Foer’s two novels: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, and Everything Is Illuminated (but try to read Everything Is Illuminated first).

    I also LOVED a memoir (so, um, obviously not really fiction) called A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz. It took me almost three months to complete it, which is unusual for me, but the language was gorgeous and it remains one of my favorite books.

    If you want to try something a bit older, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers is also excellent, and quite sad. I think it was written in the 1940s.

    You should give your list of favorites to a public librarian and find out what she or he recommends — they’re usually dead-on. I hope you’re healing and feeling better.

  14. Get well soon.
    I love Sedaris- you have probably read all his stuff.
    One of my faves-
    Shibumi by Trevanian
    Job- A Comedy of Justice by Robert Heinlein.
    Happy mending.

  15. If you really liked The Last Samurai (and I seem to recall that you did) then I would strongly second Kari’s Richard Powers suggestion. He’s got a similar knack for taking a lot of interesting random knowledge and tying it together both thematically as a novel and intimately with the lives of his protagonists. He’s like Neal Stephenson if he had any emotional intelligence or understood how human relationships work. I’d recommend Galatea 2.2 for a starter though. If you like that or any of the others you were to try initially, the Gold Bug Variations is one of my favorite books ever, but it’s a lot more of an undertaking.

    Other than that, I don’t much know as you’ve mentioned most of the usual suspects. I really don’t read nearly enough contemporary fiction. A lot of it just leaves me cold or seems like it was written in a cultural vacuum. More and more of my fiction reading is re-reading these days, and I’m also gradually turning into one of those people I hate; people who read far more nonfiction than fiction. My favorite new-to-me reads of the past couple of years are probably Middlemarch and the aforementioned The Last Samurai.

    Ooh, just thought of two, and don’t want to re-write: George Saunders and Kelly Link. The former for wry comic-absurdist takes on the current human condition, and the former for imaginative and charming gothic short stories. Both have multiple short-story collections in circulation.

  16. Hey. I’m sat staring at my bookcase. It’s taller than me: I’m giving myself neck-crickage for you, and I can’t find any authors to recommend. That’s not why I came here. I mean, that’s why the comments are still open, presumably – in which case, alright, but I read trash 90% of the time. When I’m not, I read… Dorothy Koomson, Bernard Maclaverty, Jonathan Coe, Emily Barr writes a good yarn..
    Trash, see?

    I came here to ask you a very simple favour. A friend directed me to your site… Hell, six, seven years ago? Maybe six. Or five. YEARS ago, at any rate. I rely on being able to google bluishorange from time to time, to catch up, and there you’ll be. It occured to me today whilst my aged PC loaded up google search results that you might have renamed, or disappeared altogether. I felt very sick for two minutes there.

    I came here to ask you never to disappear, but it sounds ridiculous, now. I’m trying to think of another way to phrase it. Don’t go anywhere? Same face, different hat. Ah, well. All I know is, if in a couple of years from now I google you, and you’ve gone, my sky will fall so far down it’ll come up the otherside, inverted.

  17. If you liked Kavalier and Clay, you need to read Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, which I consider much superior, and possibly Gentlemen of the Road, which is much thinner and suitable for waiting rooms.

    Also possibly Lives of the Monster Dogs.

    I seem to have inadvertantly listed books of a pseudo- or alternative-historical nature; read into that what you choose.

  18. oh, oh!
    jared’s rec’s of kelly link and george saunders are both excellent. on the short story side, also maybe denis johnson? (jesus’ son might be a good starter?)
    and one other novel i thought of that might be up your alley is
    divided kingdom by rupert thomson.

  19. I’m 99% certain that you would greatly enjoy Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude, both by Jonathan Lethem.

    Oh, and hi. Sorry to read that you’re sick again.

    Thanks to your readers–I’ve been needing a new book myself, and I see lots of great possibilities.

    Get well soon.

  20. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink.

    Read it for my English Holocaust class here at Cal. Excellent book, just beautiful. Also, read it now before it will be slaughtered by Hollywood (it’s being made into a film – with Kate Winslet, however!).

  21. “Possession” by A.S. Byatt, and “The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood. These are two that I read again and again, and I am assuming you will like them and do the same because your initial list has several books I love.

    Feel better!

  22. “A Prayer for Owen Meany” or “The World According to Garp” by John Irving. Possibly “The Ice Storm” by Rick Moody or “Sputnik Sweetheart” by Haruki Murakami or “Sixty-Nine” by Ryu Murakami.

  23. I agree on :Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig, that was a good book.

    Not sure if you really care about the rest of the Buffy series but they continued in comic book form. I am pretty sure you can pick up the most recent series in a single book at any bookstore.

  24. This might be old news, but have you checked out Helen DeWitt’s blog? She has a list of random books from her library on the right.

    I loved David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green, and I just finished an older book of his, Ghostwritten. It reminded me a little of The Last Samurai, although there was minimal parrying of blows.

  25. if you like sedaris and sarah vowell, read anything by augusten burroughs. i just finished “dry” and it was wonderful. of course, a movie was made out of “running with scissors,” and “magical thinking” is a good one too.

    and yes, murakami is a good choice as mentioned in other comments — however, i recommend starting with “norwegian wood.”

    as for buffy, i personally appreciated your question — what WAS up with flipping burgers!?!?

  26. The Play, Fences, by August Wilson; Selected Poems by ee cummings (Richard Kennedy, Editor); Bird by Bird, Annie Lemont. Cheers, Malcolm

  27. looks like a couple people have recommended jhumpa lahiri’s The Namesake.. I haven’t read it yet, but I have read one of her earlier books (short stories, actually) called Interpreter of Maladies… definitely worth the read. :)

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