Thursday, July 19, 2007

The 2006 List: Fiction Recommendations

Fiction Recommendations

Cage of Stars: By Jacquelyn Mitchard. I just read this. Mitchard also wrote The Deep End of the Ocean. Like “Deep End,” it’s a great read (I finished it in two days). It’s flawed and the dialogue is not credible dialogue, but it’s a compelling and eminently readable. (Beach book defined, right?) It’s about a Mormon girl whose sisters are murdered, and her journey following the crime.

Confessions of a Shopaholic
By Sophie Kinsella: “This and other books in the Shopaholic series are total beach reading; I just bought my fifth one.” Another reader recommended
Undomestic Goddess, another in this series. I’ve heard these are great fun.

The Death of the Heart and The House in Paris.
By Elizabeth Bowen. One of you was about to dig in to these books, saying, “They were re-reviewed in the Post as must-reads & look delicious (in the Somerset Maugham-kind of tradition I think).”

Digging to America
By Anne Tyler. “It was a departure from her previous works, but I loved the characters she created. The book chronicles two families who adopt girls from Korea. The families are quite different—one is a white, suburban family who lives outside of Baltimore and the other is an Iranian couple. The book structures itself on the arrival parties the families throw each year to celebrate their daughter’s arrival.”

Frangipani By Celeste Vaite. “A great summer read. Has that feel of the The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency without the mystery, but it’s about a woman in Tahiti.”

The Good Life By Jay McInerney

The Known World
By Edward P. Jones. Pulitzer Prize winning novel about a black slaveowner two decades before the start of the Civil War. From the Amazon reviews, I gather it’s not an easy read, but is wonderful.

March By Geraldine Brooks. “Sort of the male version of Little Women and it's not too long. Just started it so I can't give you first hand knowledge, but my sister-in-law is an avid reader and really liked it.” Another Geraldine Brooks title (Year of Wonders) was also recommended. See below.

Missing Mom By Joyce Carol Oates. This is a good read about a somewhat aimless 31-year-old woman whose mother is murdered, and the year that follows the crime. I still recommend We Were the Mulvaneys by Oates as a great beach read.

On Beauty By Zadie Smith. This looks interesting. This is a novel patterned on E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End. This book is set outside Boston in contemporary times. The story revolves around two academic families. I haven’t read this yet, but one of you all recommended it. (Side note: Another book about the world of American academia is Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner, one of my all time favorites. Stegner for the beach.)

Skinny Dip By Carl Hiasson (The same reader recommended Murder on Naked Beach. It appears this is the year for nudist beach reading.)

The Smell of the Night
By Andrea Camellieri is “a light and fun mystery written by an Italian and translated into English. Great read – light, but smart.”

Three Junes “It is about a family in England with three sons and it chronicles their lives. It is not high brow lit; I would put it in the mid brow category.” [side note: I struggled with this book, but I think most people I know really liked it.]
Wicked, the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
By Gregory Maguire. “FANTASTIC. Has that Harry Potter kind of feel with a lot of themes about evil, religion, politics, human nature… Long, but fun and good summer reading.”

The Winter Queen
by Boris Akunin. (Also recommends others in the
Erast Fandorin series.) “This book is set in Russia in the late 1870s, it's beautifully written. Kind of reminds me of Dorothy Sayers' work. Anyway, if you like brilliantly crafted books with deft psychological portraits, read this series.”

A Year in the Merde
By Stephen Clarke – “Hilarious! It's like the Englishman's version of Bridget Jones goes to Paris. I laughed out loud. Apparently, there is a sequel which is also very funny.”

The Year of Magical Thinking
By Joan Didion – “Very heavy, but beautifully written and very insightful and honest. Apparently it is in the process of being produced as a Broadway play with Vanessa Redgrave.”

Year of Wonders
By Geraldine Brooks. “It is about a small village ravaged by a plague in 1666. Although it sounds depressing, it really was very captivating and inspirational. This is the second Geraldine Brooks title on the list (see “March” above).

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