7.06.2006

Most Awefull Novels

The recent post on Books To Read Before You Die sure set y'all on fire. It was interesting to read your comments, particularly those of you who said "hey, what about this one" and mentioned some really good books.

To that end, I'm interested in hearing your nominations for O! Most Awefull Novel of the millennia (more or less) So Far.

(remember that awefull is not awful, and for those who need further explanation, dig around in the Snarkives for the post about Amulet of the Samarkand).

You can nominate three novels. They should be relatively recent, within ten years of first publication. Novels you loved, novels that made you see the world in a new way, novels that made you give up writing for a month cause you couldn't imagine writing that well.

Here are mine:

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead

Motherless Brooklyn by Jon Letham

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell



What are yours?

183 comments:

Nessie said...

I recently finished Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey.

It's a 1000 page adventure story with the best characters. I think about them all the time and lose sleep because I have to find out what happens next. For a volume that size, its dangerous.

Brian said...

I will nominate:

EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE by Jonathan Safran Foer

THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND KLAY by Michael Chabon

A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY by John Irving

Anatidaeling said...

The Golden Compass
by Philip Pullman

Lizzy said...

LIVES OF THE MONSTER DOGS by Kirsten Bakis.

Helen said...

"The Corrections" by Jonathan Franzen

"We need to talk about Kevin" by Lionel Shriver

"The Republic of Love" by Carol Shields (I'm not sure if this was written in the past ten years, though)

Oh, and I second the nomination for "A Prayer for Owen Meany", but that definitely wasn't written in the past decade.

Dwight The Troubled Teen said...

Damn, Brian!

We are kindred spirits! You poached my picks, man.

Eerie.

Anonymous said...

I love A Prayer for Owen Meany!

Anonymous said...

Roth's SABBATH'S THEATRE, because the protag goes against the Roth grain: fat, gentile, loud, and neither terribly learned nor neurotic.

Anthony Doerr's ABOUT GRACE. The level of observation (and observation's importance to both plot and character) is inspiring and intimidating at once.

David Schickler's novel-in-stories or linked stories or whatever KISSING IN MANHATTAN. Funny, strangely pulpy and surreal, witty, poignant when least expected.

Mina said...

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Shah of Blah said...

I have 2 nominations...

ISLAND OF THE DAY BEFORE by Umberto Eco

SHALIMAR THE CLOWN by Salman Rushdie

Tasha Alexander said...

CLOUD ATLAS by David Mitchell

mamalujo1 said...

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
Earthly Powers, by Anthony Burgess
Child of God, by Cormac McCarthy

Yes I know, two of my choices are more than ten years old. Sue me.

Jude Hardin said...

BAG OF BONES by Stephen King

MYSTIC RIVER by Dennis Lehane

THE ROOFER by Erica Orloff

I read mostly crime/suspense, but I think these three transcend genre labels.

Anonymous said...

Motherless Brooklyn would by on my list also.

The entire Foreigner Series by C. J. Cherryh

-JTC

viscose turnip said...

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.
Runaway by Alice Munro.
Journey into Moonlight by Antal Szerb. (This is a big cheat - the book was actually written in 1937 - but was only translated into English in 2000 and is a brilliant, brilliant novel, so please don't set Killer Yapp on me, nice Miss Snark.)

Kendall said...

Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell

The Burning Land & The Awakened City by Victoria Strauss

Anonymous said...

GILEAD, by Marilynne Robinson (2004)

This is a deceptively simple novel: gently nonlinear but quietly forceful. I've seen it praised by devout Christians as well as by postmodern critics in Harpers. It has lots of friends because it's good.

SPIN, by Robert Charles Wilson (2005)

This is one of the best SF novels I've read in years. It has an evocative, well-considered premise that is scrutinized in every conceivable direction. Best of all, it does this while remaining strongly grounded in the emotional realities of its protagonists. I hope it wins the Hugo.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, definitely A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, as Mina said.

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Bel Canto

Anonymous said...

Old Boys, Charles McCarry. None of that Ludlum/Clancy comic book-for-grown-ups action hero crap. This is what it feels like to be a spy for the United States. McCarry cares about the Christophers at least as much as Faulkner cared about the Snopes.

Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace. Being mislabeled as a Gen-X prophet led him to write a lot of crap, but DFW's one certain contribution to the canon is this quintissential catalog of American pain. No one has dissected the American psyche so deeply, or so sincerely, since Ahab stomped the decks of the Pequod. No shit.

Wittgenstein's Mistress, David Markson. Rejected by 54 agents and publishers, there is not a tear-stain-free copy of this litfic experiment in 1st POV in any library in the greater DC area. Markson is a NY/Village staple and friend of William Kennedy, Jack Kerouac, and Dylan Thomas. Kate's odyssey across the depopulated continents of Western Civilization will cure every writer's most lonely moments.
-kd

Anonymous said...

Easy.

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (I cannot wait for Thirteen Moons);

A Sudden Country by Karen Fisher;

and

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

After reading each, I felt so foolish when I sat down to write. But then I remembered the interview with Carol Shields on Fresh Air and thought, "perhaps..."

katie w. said...

Hotel World--Ali Smith

Fortress of Solitude--Jonathan Lethem (Miss Snark, I met him and shook his hand and had an awkward conversation with him. GOOD TIMES! I also love "As She Climbed Across the Table")

Housekeeping--Marilynn Robinson

alau said...

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

Wild Swans by Jung Chang

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Anonymous said...

COLD MOUNTAIN

Marva said...

The three books of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. With a total of approximately 2400 pages, I haven't had time to read anything else.

domynoe said...

nessie, I couldn't make it through Kushiel's Dart -- interrupting the story for pages upon pages of culture information was just too much for me.

My nominees:

Ombria in Shadow by Patricia McKillip

The Mists of Avalon by Marian Zimmer-Bradley (okay, so too old, but it had the biggest influence on my writing)

Acre said...

My nominations:

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Tales of Burning Love by Louise Erdrich
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

lady t said...

Hard to pick just three but let's see:

A Widow For One Year by John Irving

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey
Niffenegger

The Crimson Petal and The White by Michael Faber

Emma said...

Storm of Swords by George RR Martin.

Fool's Fate by Robin Hobb

Ash by Mary Gentle.

Yeah, I'm a fantasy nerd. *grin* But they're seriously amazing books.

(I was also tempted to add Carey for Kushiel's Dart, I loved that too.)

Bren said...

I nominate:

1. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
2. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
3. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

NinaBJ said...

My picks: Sterling Watson's SWEET DREAM BABY, Dennis Lehane's MYSTIC RIVER, Stewart O'Nan's A PRAYER FOR THE DYING - aweful writing with sometimes awful subject matters.

Tanya said...

The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

We Need To Talk About Kevin - Lionel Schriver

Ray Goldensundrop said...

Huh. All my recent favorites are over ten years old, except The Life of Pi, and that's already been listed. It didn't exactly fill me with awe, but it is a page turner and the ending has a nice twist. The author told a story on NPR about people at signings asking him if the story is true.

He finally gave up and now tells them that it is. Why argue against nitwits with money?

Anyway, if you want to read a short novel that will fill you with awe, try Far from the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins (1986). Sure, it's twice as old as requested, but if measured in awefullness, it's at least twice as much. Not bad for a Japanese woman who only wrote one novel about her family getting out of Korea at the end of WW II. She was eleven years old at the time. It runs 186 pages, including the publisher's notes.

I dare any snark to read this and *not* blubber. It might be deadly for maudlin types.

Jonathan Stephens said...

LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green

UNDER THE WOLF, UNDER THE DOG by Adam Rapp

ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card

Karen said...

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean (is genre fiction allowed? This is technically fantasy, but I love the book so much that I reread it almost every year.

The Soloist by Mark Salzman (for such a short book, he wraps up multiple plot lines wonderfully well).

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. A great read all the way through followed by humanity-affirming ending.

Honorable mention for Carl Hiaasen's Tourist Season just because of the perfect balance of personalities between protagonist and antagonist.

(And to the person who liked Kushiel's Dart ... that series just keeps getting better. I recently read the fourth one (Kushiel's Scion and it was like a reward for reading the first three... as if the first three were any great chore to begin with).

Lorra said...

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Keeping Watch by Laurie King

Many, many more, but these, especially the first one, come to mind first.

bordermoon said...

City of Shadows by Ariana Franklin

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

Kate Thornton said...

The Ground Beneath her Feet by Salman Rushdie

Malia said...

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. Only an extraordinarily gifted writer can keep you enthralled and glued to your seat for a 300,000 word book. ;)

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

This is hard.

There are many books that make me smile. There are fewer that take me to another world where I suspend belief and get lost. There are fewer still that pull me into a world that I would otherwise reject but don't want to leave once I'm there.

I can't come up with a list of the awful.

Can I substitute a list of characters? Characters, more than whole books, hold me.

1. Aphrael, the little goddess. I think I identify with her. There's a lot of my personality in her.

2. This space reserved.

3. Merrideth, Mary Princess of the Dark Court. She's a nasty bit of gorgeous unseelie Sidhe. (That's pronounced as "Shee.")

If I could extend the list to past ages, I would add Lirazel, the King of Elfland's Daugther.

These characters are better than the books in which they appear. I admire the authors; they're master's of their craft. But of all their characters, I can believe these to be alive.

Moon Goddess said...

In no particular order...

THE POISONWOOD BIBLE by Barbara Kingsolver

KUSHIEL'S DART (and the rest in the trilogy) by Jacqueline Carey

ORYX AND CRAKE by Margaret Atwood

overdog said...

I loved Atwood's "The Blind Assassin." And perhaps this one isn't obscure enough, but Michael Cunningham impressed me enough with "The Hours" that I couldn't bring myself to see the movie.

Anonymous said...

Here are some of my favs:

"Beauty" by Robin McKinley

"The Princess Bride" by William Goldman

"The Hot Rock" by Donald Westlake. Heck, the entire "Dortmunder" series.

Leslea said...

Another vote for the His Dark Materials series by Pullman. I think it made me literally lose my religion, and that's not a bad thing. However, I prefer Stroud and Rowling in this genre.

Also, the whole Harry Potter thang made me decide to stop futzing around and start writing.

RealLivePreacher.com--yeah, it's a book.

Bethany said...

Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville. This book got me interested in speculative fiction again, when I'd given up on it. Turns out that once you sift through all the dragons and magical swords and secret heirs to the throne, there really are interesting and original stories still being written in the fantasy and sf departments.

The God of Small Things, as someone else already said.

And this one I just read, so I suppose the shine may fade soon, but for now: The Light Ages, by Ian McLeod

Brooklyn Boy said...

I'm reading MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN myself right now. Imagine what it would take to play the lead character if it became a movie!

One of the best books I've read in decades is actually from 1968 or so and I bought it from Amazon for one cent (I'm ashamed but also proud to admit; then again, most of my out of print books are available for a similar price) called SIAM MIAMI by Morris Renek. (Just wanted to get his name in print...somewhere).

jaywalke said...

First Pullman, now Lethem. I just don't get it. I like a lot of the other authors listed here, but those two just do nothing for me. I read _Gun with Occasional Music_, and I spent the whole time waiting for it to get better. It didn't. I would ask someone to explain it for me, but I suspect that it's like jokes: you get 'em or you don't.

Nothing in the last 10 years has moved me so much as my real favorites:

_The Road Home_ Jim Harrison
_Neuromancer_ William Gibson
_Ender's Game_ Orson Scott Card

Anonymous said...

Awful - House of Sand and Fog

Great - Cold Mountain, The Club Dumas (or any of the books by Arturo Perez-Reverte) Corelli's Mandoline, Year of Wonders

Kim said...

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving - I know this one's more than a decade old, but it's one of the greatest books I've ever read (and read and read again!), and it's had such an impact on my own writing so I'm nominating it anyway.

Nessie said...

oh my god I get to pick more than one!!!!
Miss Snark the generosity!

Ok so than I continue...

The ENTIRE Wheel of Time Series because everytime I pick it up its almost impossible to believe that one mind had such imagination.

The Dark Materials Series is very special. It touches on the inner conflicts of living with a science mind but having spiritual aspirations. I recommend another aweful series by Robert Sawyer Huminids - very good & Canadian at that. (suprise)

And the Sound of Waves because Mishima wrote in so few words what we attempt to achieve in a lifetime. Simple yet true. Who could even try and beat that?!
So everytime I sit infront of my computer, I hear their voices and feel this DREAD of being incapable of doing even a little bit. But at least they shared it with me/us. Thats all that matters, right?

Nessie leaves the labtop to head for the kitchen where her favorite - sake (light and gets to the head without the bad breath of other hard liquor) is stored.

Poohba said...

Katherine by Anya Seton

It was written over 50 years ago, and shows it some parts, but it's aged remarkably well otherwise. It made me cry when I got to the end simply because I'd invested so much in these characters - and the adventure was now over.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Gabaldon is an amazing writer. Her works defy convention (and classification.)

The Short Day Dying by Peter Hobbs

This is a new one I just picked up. I've heard it described as "agonizingly beautiful" and that about sums it up.

dink said...

eeek, that 10 year thing was a bit of an issue but I came up with two and a contender

The Collected Works of Billy the Kid~ Michael Ondaatje

Coming Through Slaughter~ Michael Ondaatje

A contender for "awefull" (because I haven't finished it yet): A Sudden Country ~Karen Fisher

Definitely "awefull" books.

Now, if you asked me the most awful book in the past 10 years I wouldn't even have to think about it ...heh.

mkcbunny said...

I second Kavalier and Clay.

Cruddy - Lynda Barry

And I have to say Hyperion, by Dan Simmons. It's too old [1989], but the series didn't wrap up for another decade. I wasn't as enthralled with the second pair as the first two, but Hyperion itself knocked me out.

Laurie said...

I am in awe of:
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
The Hours by Michael Cunningham

gdotcom said...

I can believe nobody's mentioned "Fight Club;" it's changed the way a lot of people write the past several years. Or is it just uncool to admit?

Just to keep it noiry, let's add "Kiss Me, Judas" by Will Christopher Baer, and "House of Leaves" by Danielewski.

teg said...

SPECIMEN DAYS, Michael Cunningham

THE NIGHT COUNTRY, Stuart O'Nan

THE CONFESSIONS OF MAX TIVOLI, Andrew Sean Greer

dink said...

Whoops, correction Coming Through Slaughter was published in 1976--who knew?

dink said...

Whoops, correction: The Collected Works of Billy the Kid was published in 1970 and Coming Through Slaughter was published in 1976--who knew?
Obviously I don't pay much attention to when things were pubbed only when I discover them.

Guess I only have my contender, "A Sudden Country"

sigh.

Anonymous said...

GILEAD Marilynne Robinson
THE MASTER Colm Toibin
THE NAMESAKE Jumpha Lahiri

Those are just my picks from this century, so far.

Any short fiction by Alice Munro--stories that are as complete and full and rich as any novel.

litagent said...

Owen Meany, without a doubt. I'm still haunted by my own mental images of the climactic scene of the book. As for something recent: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Jess said...

Eveless Eden by Marianne Wiggins
Wiggins creates voice like nobody I've ever read. This is a WILD RIDE through the late 20th century (and her earlier composite novel, Separate Checks, also rattled my bones).

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Brilliant take on why "story truth" is often truer than "happening truth." A compelling argument for the power of fiction and a great story--even though the story keeps changing and changing.

Jazz by Toni Morrison
Vibrant, sensual, improvisational prose that convinced me it's possible to find happiness amid life's inevitable imperfection.

Honorable Mention:
The Moor's Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie (Wiggins's ex)

Some of these may miss the 10-year cutoff, but I think they all fall within the last 20 years...

HawkOwl said...

I have hardly read at all this millennium, let alone books written in this millenium, but I would have to say that the most awefull one was far and away No Great Mischief by Alistair McLeod. Green Grass Running Water by Thomas King was awefull but not that recent. And The Jungle by Upton Sinclair was very awefull but about a century old.

Awful books, on the other hand, are easy to come by. Life of Pi, notwithstanding critical acclaim, I thought was surpassingly stupid, as was The Crimson Petal and the White. The Known World, Pulitzer and all, was the very caricature of "literary fiction." I'd go on, but that's three right there.

Greg said...

It looks like no one has nominated Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. So I'm doing it.

It did exactly what you're talking about -- I felt miserable for weeks, because I'd never put words together like Susanna Clarke did. Rather like Wodehouse, it was a delight to read whatever she was talking about. And I love footnotes.

otterb said...

A bit too old, but THE SPARROW by Mary Doria Russell.

Ken Boy said...

I've read nothing recently published that was transportative for me. My favorite recent book is The Mammoth Cheese by Sheri Holman. I'm so provincial.

JerseyGirl said...

Fevre Dream - George R. R. Martin

I didn't think a vampire novel could take place in the pre-U.S. Civil War south - but it can, when it's in capable hands. Although somewhat gruesome, I read it through to the very end. An excellent read.

The Burning Land - Victoria Struass

Someone upthread mentioned this, and I have to 2nd it (haven't read the 2nd book as yet). Intelligent fantasy, dealing with two people on different points in the religious spectrum, and how they deal (or learn to deal) with their preconceived religious notions when everything is turned upside down. I just need to get the 2nd book! :-)

Winter's Orphans - Elaine Corvidae

This was a surprise to me. I read a brief synopsis of it, and it sounded interesting to me. A woman named Mina Cole is working as a slave/indentured servant in a mill town (think the Industrial Revolution of the late 1800s) when she helps a young girl whose hair becomes entangled within a loom; but not by touching her with her hands, but with her mind. She later finds out she is partially of faery blood. An intriguing tale, with some great characters, and a touch of romance/sex (the 1 sex scene near the end of the book I thought was handled tastefully). Also has someone in a wheelchair, which is not seen too often (not at all?) in fantasy. A fast paced, energetic read with great, believable characters...nice!

~Nancy

Anonymous said...

My picks:

THE WOODEN SEA by Jonathan Carroll

THE LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel

SusanT said...

The only book I read which made me question my own talent was
"Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer.

I am a big reader and very picky. A story needs to grab me from page 1 or else it's over. I don't look for literary greatness when picking a book. I want to be thrilled by an amazing story.

The Rejected Writer said...

Confessions of a Pagan Nun by Kate Horsley

Certain Women by Madeleine L'Engle

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

could do more, but don't want to be a nitwit.

TRW

Emma said...

I change my vote...

Fevre Dream, GRRM - Best vampire story I've ever read. Amazing.

Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card - Such a twist!

Beloved, Toni Morrison - What can you say?

(I have read the Kushiel's trilogy, can't wait to get the next one!)

blaironaleash said...

Last ten years? Last ten years? How, in the absence of a time machine, can I nominate The Dud Avocado for ... oh, stuff it. Sucking it up already.

1 'The Hottest State', Ethan Hawke. Yes I know he's a lame actor who's dumped quality women in his time. But when I was getting to know the boyf, he coyly intimated that he had a favourite novel, one that had affected him deeply, had changed his views on some things, had performed open heart surgery minus anasthaesia on him etc etc. "Is it 'The Hottest State'?" I idly enquired. Like that was going to be the answer, out of all the books in the world.

Yeh. It was. Spooky, huh? Plus, great book.

2 'The Secret History', Donna Tartt. As a character Julian sucks arse, a blank wall upon whom the characters merely project the fantasy of character, personality. Maybe that's the point. The 'please-victimise-me' anti-heroine is irritating too.

But the narrator is credible and sympathetic, despite his own best efforts to repel, and the atmosphere is stifling, but reading it I don't need to breathe. (One of the best male narrators rendered by a female writer I've come across). Doom, sorrow, intense little moments, the physical environment rendered so you can almost feel, hear, smell it, most of my favourite things. Entirely worth the hype.

3 'Saint Maybe', Ann Tyler. I can't read the first three chapters anymore. They're not sad, they're painful, painful like a member of your family dying. No, not dying, like a loved one failing, failing humiliatingly, being crushed by life. Like seeing the elderly poor, suffering, without resource.

The rest of it, gradual redemption, grace, compromise, a return to life, to joy. That I can read.

Corn Dog said...

The Bird Artist by Howard Norman

The Restraint of Beasts by Magnus Mills

sarahsbooks said...

Every two years or so I re-read Mark Helprin's novels "Memoir from Antproof Case" and "A Soldier of the Great War." Prose masterpieces both, full of beauty, humor, pathos, tenderness.

A Reader said...

I heartily second "Jonathan Strange" and add "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

As for "We Need to Talk About Kevin," I would create a new category: god-awful. Someone please explain the draw. Ditto "The Corrections."

Beebs said...

- Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

- The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

- Possession by A S Byatt (I know, it was published in 1989 but the combination of poetry and prose completely blew my mind)

bookfraud said...

Ditto for many of these books.

mine shall read:

cloud atlas/david mitchell

oryx and crake/margaret atwood

the moor's last sigh/salman rushdie

but i could go on and on. "the things they carried, "the poisonwood bible," "owen meany"...

Anonymous said...

Thanks, everyone here. I now have a very lengthy list of books I must read. And that's in addition to the read it before you die list of 30 books. At the top are A Prayer for Owen Meany and The Life of Pi. Hey. So I like the older stuff and haven't gotten around to these yet. -JTC

tealicious said...

coming out of the shadows to nominate Zadie Smith's White Teeth (first novel) and On Beauty (newest novel)!

Katharine said...

The Madam, by Julianna Baggott

Girl Talk, by Julianna Baggott

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon

jillykat said...

The Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart

This book is quite simply beautiful. More than 10 years old, but I had to mention it.

poster said...

JURASSIC PARK
(Read that, and tell me it doesn't change how you see things.)

Anonymous said...

Scrolling down, I kept thinking "Oh yes, that one, and that one too."

Diana Gabaldon is very inspirational, and her essays on writing in the Outlandish Companion as well as her web site are really wonderful.

Inez said...

The following three just shook my world upside down

Bastard Out of Carolina
by Dorothy Allison

The Lives and Loves of a She Devil
Faye Weldon

Castles Burning
Magda Denes



Okay, these are all older than 10 year--and the last one's a memoir
but wait!
Stephen King's Misery is just an incredible tour de force!
No kidding!

Miss Scarlett said...

Obviously missing:

THE NAMESAKE and INTERPRETER OF MALADIES by Jhumpra Lahiri. I sometimes have to stop a re-read a sentence because just that sentence is so beautiful.

Also, this last time I got chills reading a book was the last few pages of THE HOURS by Michael Cunningham.

Elektra said...

Grrr...William Goldman DID NOT write the Princess bride. He abridged it. The complete novel is by Morgenstern.

Christine Fletcher said...

EMPIRE FALLS, Richard Russo (plus anything else by RR)

The Border Trilogy (ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, THE CROSSING, CITIES OF THE PLAIN), Cormac McCarthy

JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL, Susannah Marks

Stephen said...

I'm really struggling to come up with books from the last 10 years that have had as much impact as books I read in the previous couple of decades.


Sean Stewart's Galveston was great.

So was David Liss' A Conspiracy of Paper.

Best of all, perhaps Julian Rathbone's A Very English Agent.


But nobody recently has had the impact of, say, Cormac McCarthy, or Adam Thorpe, or Dan Simmons or Vernor Vinge.

Carmen said...

Seconding Kushiel's Dart. The giving up writing for a month thing -- I did that. Jacqueline Carey's writing is perfect.

Also, Umberto Eco's Baudolino.

Carmen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Marissa said...

WINTER'S TALE by Mark Helprin. More than ten years old, but tough noogies. It's one of the most amazing books in the language. Most books by Helprin are.

JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL I know Miss Snark didn't like it. To each her own. I thought it was brilliant.

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY by Kazuo Ishiguro. It thoroughly deserved the Booker.

Hurrah as well for HIS DARK MATERIALS and the KUSHIEL books. And these weren't lifechanging, but were two of the few books I've read recently that didn't get thrown at the wall after page thirty: Madeleine Robins' Sarah Tolerance books, PETTY TREASON and POINT OF HONOUR. Just wonderful.

Gina MarySol Ruiz said...

Unless by Carol Shields

The People of Paper by Salvador Plasencia

Queen of the South - Arturo Perez Reverte

Annie Dean said...

Elaine Corvidae is a brilliant writer, and I don't say that because she's one of my crit partners. She's going to be thrilled by the mention.

Here's my three:

The Rule of Four
Odd Thomas
The Hummingbird's Daughter (try this if you like Marquez)

I would have chosen The Historian, but she really could've benefited from an stricter editor. I think 100 pages or so could've been cut, to the novel's benefit.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Damn, I can't nominate anything new here... so I second:

FIGHT CLUB

ENDER'S GAME

Oh, and here's something to add to the list:

SAVAGE THUNDER by Johanna Lindsey

Yes, it's a romance novel. It's damned good, damn it. Had a huge influence on my writing.

caren1701 said...

1. CHOKE, by Chuck Palahniuk

2. RIDING WITH THE QUEEN, Jennie Shortridge [This is the only book I've ever read that pushed my own characters into the background. I still can't get Tallie & Co. completely out of my head. Gotta love a book like that. :)]

3. ANIMAL DREAMS, by Barbara Kingsolver [Ok, too old, but this is still my favorite book of all time & I usually read parts of it before diving into editing my own novels.]

Substitute for #3 (since it's too old) is LULLABY, by Chuck Palahniuk.

Anonymous said...

THE LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel

THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE by Haruki Murakami

LIVES OF THE MONSTER DOGS by Kirsten Bakis

marie-anne said...

A Home At the End Of the World, by Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours. I Loved that book so much, I read it three times in a row and it reiterated everything about why I want to be a writer. I think that book made me not give up on my writing.

Nick said...

Cripes, all the ones I'm thinking of aren't ten-years-recent. Can I still mention Anthem by Ayn Rand?

Anonymous said...
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Angelle said...

First, I'd like to thank all the other snarklings for giving me great stuff to add to my to-read list, especially in fantasy which rarely gets mainstream reviews.

I second Eugenides' MIDDLESEX, so I'll list three others

MICROSERFS by Douglas Coupland. I know it's not the book that made his name, but it still stands up brilliantly as his best.

AN INVISIBLE SIGN OF MY OWN by Aimee Bender. Gorgeous, dark and strange.

PATTERN RECOGNITION by William Gibson. And not just because Nueromancer doesn't make the decade cut-off point.

CG said...

"The Corrections" by Jonathan Franzen.

I would have said "Motherless Brooklyn" but I'd be snarking up the same tree, so, "White Teeth" by Zadie Smith.

And, since I'm originally from South Africa, I'll give a nod to "Digrace" by j.m. coetzee.

Miss Snark said...
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Anonymous said...

I second (or third) WINTER'S TALE by Mark Helprin, even though it's older than the guidelines. It was the first book I can remember going back to reread single paragraphs not because I didn't understand something, but because the language was so lyrical that I wanted to let it wash over me again and again.

Anonymous said...

Get no respect:

GOODBYE, CHUNKY RICE
HOUSE OF LEAVES
PEOPLE OF PAPER

Deservedly recognized:

KITE RUNNER
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME
JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL

Inexplicably overrated:

GILEAD
LIFE OF PI
LOVELY BONES

Anonymous said...

Homestead by Rosina Lippi
The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Julie Leto said...

BOY'S LIFE by Robert McCammon, which I realize is older than 10 years, but it's lyricism wrapped up in a thriller stayed with me for years.

I know there are others, but at the question, this book immediately sprung to mind.

moonpunter said...

Whoo hoo, I've actually read some of these! But Owen Meaney is one of my least favorite Irving novels.

Termagant 2 said...

I can't believe nobody's mentioned Connie Willis. Or are we not supposed to include genre fic? Well, to snarkereens with that.

I nominate DOOMSDAY BOOK by the abovementioned genius, and COMING HOME TO YOU by the late Fay Robinson, probably the perfect genre romance in the last who-knows-how-long.

T2, who can't think of a third book--gimme a minute.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No one's mentioned Ben Sherwood's The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud? *tsk tsk*

Infused with a sense of wonder and innocence, this love story is carefully and simply told. It didn't make me quit writing for a month -- nothing can do THAT -- but it sure made me long to be part of Sherwood's literary circle. What a talent.

M. G. Tarquini said...

A Year in Provence By Peter Mayle.

It made me laugh. Out loud and long and hard. Under the grimmest of circumstances.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquival.

It made me pay attention to my cooking.


How We Die by Sherwin B. Nuland

Because its so terribly inevitable.

a reader said...

I heartily third or forty-fifth or whatever the inclusion of Mark Helprin's amazing works of fiction, especially "Winter's Tale" and "Memoir From Ant-Proof Case." (But don't forget the "Swan Lake" triology...) I wish I'd never read them, just so I could read them all again for the first time.
Madeleine L'Engle's early kiddie lit is pretty amazing stuff.
Did Harry Potter get mentioned yet?

TR said...

MEMOIR FROM ANTPROOF CASE by Mark Helprin

EUREKA STREET by Robert McLiam Wilson

EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED by Jonathan Safran Foer

nice anonymous said...

Four authors whose books have most thrilled me:

Michael Chabon, "Kavalier & Clay"
Michael Cunningham, "The Hours"
Andrea Barrett, "Servants of the Map"
Alice Munro, anything, nearly

Four books within the historical novel genre (which is what I'm focused on right now) that I admire & study, hoping to learn from:

- Emma Donoghue, "Slammerkin"
- Michel Faber, "Crimson Petal & the White" (sorry, anon, I thought this was really exciting, even if flawed)
- Tracy Chevalier, "Girl With a Pearl Earring"
- Margaret Atwood, "Alias Grace"

Four poets whose books have thrilled me:

Alice Fulton, anything
Anne Carson, "Glass, Irony & God"
B. H. Fairchild, "The Art of the Lathe"
Ellen Bryant Voigt, "Kyrie"

nice anonymous said...

I'm sorry I gave you four apiece, rather than three. (Obviously, I cannot follow directions.) I'm just so enthuasiastic about these books that I had to offer a runnerup for each category.

Cath Smith said...

Kafka on the Shore,
Norweigan Wood and
The Wind Up Bird Chronicle -

all by Haruki Murakami.

He's the kind of author who makes me want to burn all my notebooks and put an axe through my hard-drive.

Julie said...

Awesome:
Winter and Night S.J. Rozan
Hocus Jan Burke
The Grass Widow Teri Holbrooke

All mysteries, my primary reading ground.


Book that most influenced my writing -- well-done and left me with, "Oh, if only I can come close to that, I'll be happy for life."

Crocodile on the Sandbank, Elizabeth Peters
I've loaned this book to ten or more people -- never got one of them back. I've resorted to buying used paperback copies when I can find them, just to have them to lend. I adore what she's done with this series.

Anonymous said...

WONDERBOYS by Michael Chabon

WONDER WHEN YOU'LL MISS ME by Amanda Davis

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark, how did you read Winter's Bone when Amazon Says that it hasn't been published yet?

Cheryl Mills said...

I refuse to read these comments because my TBR pile is already 30 books deep.

But I'll be back later...

Mama Rose said...

Talyn by Holly Lisle

The Color of Distance & Through Alien Eyes by Amy Thomson

Otherland (all four books) by Tad Williams

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I can't stick to this decade:

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (2002);

• I'll second The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon; and

The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman.

The last mentioned book is what started me writing. It turned my preconceived notions about Richard III upside down and sent me to research who he really was. It's been three years, Richard is still on my mind and I've started my third book where he's the MC.

Anonymous said...

Not within the last decade, but...

STILL LIFE WITH WOODPECKER by Tom Robbins

I gave up fiction writing after I read that (what, 30 years ago?) and have never tried again since. No point.

Busywriter said...

Lets see...

The first two books in JV Jones Sword of Shadow series: A Cavern of Black Ice & A Fortress of Grey Ice.

Just One Look by Harlan Coben

Gone for Good by Harlan Coben

and one I'm reading now,

The First Betrayal by Patricia Bray

Miss Snark said...

Re: Woodrell's Winter's Bone- I read it in galleys. First book of his I'd read. Won't be the last. He's amazing. Utterly amazing.

The Rentable Writer said...

WINTER'S BONE is listed on some sites as having been released "June 2006."

marie-anne said...

ummm, Elektra, because I'm an idiot I can't tell if you are joking about Morgenstern/Goldman. Goldman made Morgenstern up, he's part of the narrative as is the prologue. Goldman wrote the whole of Princess Bride.

Rather like the guy who supposedly wrote Memoirs of a Geisha. THe whole introduction is part of the story.

But then you probably already know that, because I'm an idiot and I cant tell when people are joking in writing sometimes.

lottery ticket said...

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Einstein's Dreams by Aaron Lightman

Chumplet said...

I gotta do some reading. Obviously. The only recent stuff I've read is crap, except for Life of Pi, which I mentioned already.
Can we have a crap thread?

Carmen said...

Miss Snark, you're going to end up as blurb material if you keep talking like that about an unpublished book!

Anonymous said...

TO THE POWER OF THREE by Laura Lippman

A Reader said...

The 3 that most inspired me to write are:

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
The Centaur by John Updike
Dreamtigers by Jorge Luis Borges, which is actually a collection of various pieces.

I like magic realism.

Pamela said...

1. An Equal Music, by Vikram Seth.

2. I second the mention of Alistair MacLeod's No Great Mischief.

3. A College of Magics, by Caroline Stevermer. Ok, it's more than 10 years old, but a sequal was just published, so it kind of counts, right?

SPOGG said...

THE BOOK THIEF, by Markus Zusak

poster said...

Why do people praise LIFE OF PI so much? It wasn't that amazing. I mean, it was good, but it wasn't something you'd HAVE to read before you die. In fact, it would be low on my list. Real low. Martel wrote a good story, but it wasn't life-changing for me at all.

lizzie26 said...

WELCOME TO THE WORLD, BABY GIRL by Fannie Flagg

STANDING IN A RAINBOW by Fannie Flagg

THE POISONWOOD BIBLE by Barbara Kingsolver

Anonymous said...

"The Alienist" by Caleb Carr helped me come to grips with being a mystery writer when all the "literary" writers out there seem to look down on genre. I loved his follow-up "The Angel of Darkness," too.

Also have to give Stegner's "Angle of Repose" its due, although I'm not sure how old it is.

Anonymous said...

Well Poster, I guess we're all saying what we found significant. I really like Life of Pi but it didn't grip me like The Sunne in Splendour (actually, when it comes down to it, it was really the non-fiction book which followed--Richard the Third by Paul Murray Kendall that affected me the most). However, I listed Penman's book because it changed my life.

So Pi didn't change yours or mine, but others feel differently.

Just Me said...

This is wonderful. I'm taking notes here.

I'll second The Secret History, even though we're cheating a little on dates. The first time I read it, it took my breath away; I was in a daze for days afterwards. For the rest of my life I'll feel like I've actually known the characters.

I'll also third or fourth The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. When you finish it, you have culture shock.

And third is probably David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas.

Weirdly, I reread the first one about once a year, but the other two are the kind you can't reread too often without blowing up your head.

Anonymous said...
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Nessie said...

I read the first JV Jones and loved it! Very good read!

Also, the Power of One by Bryce Courtney. That book was so touching, I couldnt read for a month after. It was too much. Buy it!

Anonymous said...

....such a beautiful book that will bring you to tears and make you feel as if you will never be alone again is EVA MOVES THE FURNITURE, by Margot Livesey.

I drove to one of her readings a few years ago to get my copy signed. She is a lovely woman as well.

Anon,
I heart Killer Yapp

islandpiper said...

Karen Fisher's "A Sudden Country"
Ursula K. LeGuin's "The Other Wind"

and because I can't help it, his writing is so incredibly rich even though it's outside of the 10 year limit,

Patrick White's "The Tree of Man."

Anonymous said...

Holy Americans! Your own very brilliant E. Annie Proulx's The Shipping News was an incredible book -- a gift to the world. And Wally Lamb makes me want to hang it up even as his words say hang in there. But Canada has the very special Alice Munro. From her, as from all the greats, I learned to love what I do. And Miss Snark, you above all, are the best read of my day. The kindest cut of all. Isn't it great to love something that knows no borders?

Cath Smith said...

Anon - if you're interested in Richard III, have you read Josephine Tay's "Daughter of Time". She's one of the great mystery writers as far as I'm concerned. {/off topic post!}

Anonymous said...

"poster said...
Why do people praise LIFE OF PI so much?" I agree...

I have to admit that as much as I really, really want to love LIFE OF PI, I have started it 4 times and never get beyond the sloth. Granted, I love the sloth part, but I put the book down after that to nap (the sloth part is so relaxing and slow) and it doesn't get picked up again. Please tell me how I can get over this hurdle to fall in love with the book.

amiguriken said...

I agree with the calls for Kavalier and Clay (it's my favorite Chabon work so far).
And I'll add some oddballs:

Lamb by Christopher Moore
This exceptionally blasphemous book made me laugh out loud frequently. It also had the perhaps odd effect of making me interested in learning more about my own religious beliefs.

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire
I loved Wicked, but I think Ugly Stepsister is a better work, and one too much ignored for its predecessor. This book is a fabulous retelling of the Cinderella story that, much like Wicked, twists the tale by telling the story from the point of view of one of the traditional villains.

Maus by Art Spiegelman
The graphic novel is sorely underrepresented here, and Maus is one of the finest representations of the art form, so I'm going to pretend it doesn't miss the ten year mark by a few. Spiegelman uses art and words to tell two stories: one is his father's escape from a Nazi concentration camp, the other the story of his troubled relationship with his father. I was simply blown away by the emotion and the beauty of the whole thing.

Honorable mentions in graphic novel land: Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (and Watchmen, though it is a few more than 10 years old); Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: Season of Mists (also a little old, but easy to find).

Emma Ray Garrett said...

1. From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz

2. Tropic of Night by Michael Gruber

3. Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Ralph Nadir said...

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Foucalt's Pendulum by Umberto Eco

L. A. Confidential by James Ellroy

Stacy said...

No books to add
Which makes me sad
"The last ten years"
She said in tears,
"No free time I have had."

Ig said...

Yes, please, let's mention the graphic novels.

Fun House, by Alison Bechdel
Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
Clumsy, by Jeffrey Brown

Anonymous said...

"The BLind Assassin" by Margaret Atwood: So brilliant, not only did I think I couldn't write, I wasn't sure I deserve to read.

"The London Pigeon Wars" by Patrick Neate: Absolutely amazing, the language and persona he gives his pigeon narrator, and the way the story unfolds -- out of sequence, yet perfectly logical. (Also, I cried.)

"The Fingersmith" by Sarah Waters: The plot took my breath away, and I think my heart might have stopped beating for a second, I was so astonished. And then my heart broke, but eventually I felt better. I've read it four times, and I almost never reread.

P.A. Dear Mss Snark, please read "Birdsong." It's lovely. The trenches are terrible, of course, but the book is lovely.

Anonymous said...

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm afraid I don't really look at dates, but here's my pick of recent books I've read:

"Hyperion:Cantos" by Dan Simmons. My God that was a beautiful book! Or maybe I should say two books because it contains "Hyperion" and "Fall of Hyperion". It was one of those books that's impossible to put down until the end.

Kafka on the Shore/Anything by Murakami. The man is a genius. His melding of literature/fantasy/science fiction is beyond amazing.

American Gods: by Neil Gaiman. I don't think I've seen one person vote for any of his books yet!!! American Gods was a tour de force and completely inspired me!

And yes, Connie Willis. For me, though, To Say Nothing of the Dog was my favorite.

And Orsen Scott Card's Ender Series. Oops, I think I went over three, didn't I?

MLR said...

It's a rare book that changes my life, but here are some books I've enjoyed:

Sunshine by Robin McKinley (2003)

I reread this book regularly. It's the only vampire book I actually like. To paraphrase one reviewer, who knew cinnamon buns and blood went together so well?

Passage by Connie Willis (2001)

Something about this book haunts me. The author's prose is plain and straightforward, but the execution of the idea really moved me at the climax. The novel is about scientific exploration of near death experience. Nothing like the movie "Flatliners," however.

A Widow for One Year by John Irving (1998)

What can I say about Irving? You either like his type of book or you don't. I particularly liked this one.

McKoala said...

HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff made me feel like the most hopeless YA writer on earth.

THE LOVELY BONES by Alice Sebold had a similar effect, because my characters are often confronted by events that their minds and bodies are not ready to handle (not that anyone would be, oh, you see what I mean...).

THE TIME TRAVELLER'S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger has proven to be irritatingly unforgettable.

This is a great reading list, but I fear that most of them will have the Meg Rosoff effect on me...

Karen said...

Ok, I've already posted on this thread with my list, but you people are reminding me of more of my favorite books. Seconding (or thirding) The Doomsday Book (Willis) and An Equal Music by Seth.

And I just finished The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue, which was a book that made me go, "damn, I wish I had thought of that." Great read.

Peter L. Winkler said...

What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Schulberg.

The Disenchanted by Budd Schulberg.

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler.

Rashenbo said...

I found Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven very thought provoking and I enjoyed it.

donroc said...

Forgot to mention this: In the 1930s, the orginal VANITY FAIR asked the famous to list the most boring novels. As you might expect, the list inclided Hardy, Dostoyevsky, and others of their quality.

Miss Snark, you might want to reprint that list to amuse and inspire.

Anonymous said...

Alright. I think we'll agree it's time to end the thread when books like The Five People You Meet in Heaven get mentioned.

What's next? Who Moved My Cheese?

Kanani said...

THE BEHOLDER by Thomas Farber. This is quite sad, because I think he is incredibly sexy, a wonderful writer (of non-fiction), a good thinker, is kind and would probably make a very good shag. You have no idea how much this distresses me. But I will forgive him this book for a nice shag.

teg said...

To anonymous who thinks it's "time to end the thread" due to the mention of "The Five People You Meet in Heaven":

It happens not to be my type of book, but what's been so wonderful about reading the (thus far) 158 comments is being reminded that taste is personal and subjective. (That people seem willing to come to blows over the legitimacy of Life Of Pi as an "awefull" book seems to me a wonderful thing.)

As a writer, it reminds me that not everyone will love your work (and if some people do, that's freaking wonderful), and reminds me, too, of the legitimacy of dissenting opinions.

Amra Pajalic said...

I'm glad that Gabaldon got a few nods. I love the Outlander series although the last few haven't been floating my boat.

S. W. Vaughn-you are my hero for mentioning Johanna Lindsey. I had all her books and am still cursing I got rid of them all over 12 years ago. It took me years to collect them.

My picks are:

1. Year of Wonder by Geraldine Brooks
I love this book. Such beautiful precise language, a strong woman who defies her times, and a page turner.

2. Looking for Ali Brandi by Melina Marchetta
This is a young adult book set in Australia about a girl who is of Italian descent and making sense of her identity. Really influenced my current novel and I loved the story. Not many novels are written about migrants so it was great to read about someone like me.

3. She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb
A saga of a book about a woman who doesn't really do much, but it was so gripping. Love the journey she underwent and the way she put herself together. Found it inspirational because we all think that to live is to be a movie star in our own life, but this book made me think about the value of a life fully lived, whatever your definition may be.

Scott Oden said...

GATES OF FIRE by Steven Pressfield

ROMAN BLOOD by Steven Saylor

THE PRAISE SINGER by Mary Renault (yeah, yeah, it's older than ten years but it's a damn fine book).

Anonymous 17 said...

The responses here are indicative of how "popular" writers are overlooked when it comes to scholarly discussion.

To me, for a book to be crowned truly timeless, it has to affect me in such a way as to change my everyday outlook on life. "To Kill A Mockingbird" did that. So did "The Bluest Eye." My favorite books are *old* books and can't be considered Most Awefull for a new millennium.

Of all the books I've read in the last ten years, only one really stands out as inspiring. And I know you're all going to laugh, and that's why I remain anonymous for this post --

My nomination is "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon," a delicate, beautiful novella by Stephen King. The ending isn't perfect, but the rest of the book is so sublimely attuned to the human condition that it can't be ignored. I've enjoyed stacks of Stephen King's books, but this one -- this one made me -- change myself. And that's what an Awefull book *should* do, isn't it?

rlmitchell29 said...

I tried not to comment, but I can't help myself.

ZZ Packer "Drinking Coffee Elsewhere"

Edward P. Jones "The Known World" a simply amazing book. Can English teachers everywhere please put down "Beloved" and pick up this book.

And yes, "Persepolis" makes my list too.

Remodeling Repartee said...

THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS, Arundhati Roy
THE SHIPPING NEWS, Annie Proulx
MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN, Jonathan Letham

Not necessarily in that order.

McKoala said...

Amra, have you read Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta? I think it's even better.

Anonymous said...

For those who love OSC's Ender series, I'll put in for the Shadow series which is about Bean. I loved both series, but Shadow has the edge for me.

Gabaldon's Outlander series is one of my picks, although I have to say I was somewhat disappointed with the last one. I thought it dragged considerably in the first 500-600 pages, but when it picked up I was back in her world. It was like she had to get a bunch of vignettes out she'd edited out of the earlier works. Hopefully, she got it out of her system and the next book will be considerably tighter.

grasshopper said...

Three Awe-Full Books:

QUARANTINE by Jim Crace
MIDDLESEX by Jeffery Eugenes
IDEAS OF HEAVEN by Joan Silber

Anonymous said...

Amens:

Gilead -- best of the last twenty

Middlesex -- No one's ever been persuaded to read it by a plot synopsis. But it is the only great comic novel ever set in Detroit.

History of Love.

No need to bother with anything else
-- rams

Amra Pajalic said...

McKoala-Yes, I've read Francessca too. It was a much better written book because she'd really mastered her craft, but Looking for Ali Brandi still appeals more to me. There's something about that story that holds a primal appeal. Although I prefer how she changed the ending and a few things from the novel in the screenplay for the movie. The novel was a bit too pat but the movie came across as much more realistic.

Kim said...

Eeeek! I know I already posted my choices, but I wanted to kick myself when I saw Anonymous' suggestion of 'The Alienist'! It's sitting right here on my shelf, along with 'Angel of Darkness' and they are two kick-ass books! I wish Carr'd write another, but I don't think he's ever going to :(

dana p said...

AS MEAT LOVES SALT by Maria McCann.
Couldn't bear to keep reading it. Couldn't bear to stop. It broke my heart and haunted me long afterward.

THE ZOO WHERE YOU'RE FED TO GOD by Michael Ventura.
A man undergoes a spiritual awakening, yet has no idea what's happening to him. It looks like breakdown, it feels like madness. Told sparely, unpretentiously.

Am keeping the third spot open in case I remember another book of comparable caliber...

Maggie said...

INCOMPETENCE by Rob Grant, for sheer funny. The first paragraph had me on the floor and by Chapter Two I stopped trying to get up again. Anyone can be kind of funny, but this is truly awe-inspiring humour.

I'm currently reading THIS BLINDING ABSENCE OF LIGHT by Tahar Ben Jelloun, which is aweful in the creepy way. It's very matter-of-fact about the whole sitting-in-a-dirty-cell-for-twenty-years thing.

Also, AT SWIM, TWO BOYS by James O'Neill. Sad, but awesome.

Kat said...

Amazing list, though a number of the most praised passed by me without the slightlest touch.

1. Douglas Coupland - MicroSerfs
(Yes I agree, the best he's ever done)

2. Ann Patchett - Bel Canto

3. Witold Rybczynski - One Good Turn
(okay, not fiction, but it'll change the way you see the world for sure!)

Kay Qy said...

Wow. I am slightly shocked that not only have I read almost none of these must-reads, but I haven't even heard of most of them. I'll have to take a closer look at them, but for now, I have my own contributions:

The Curse of Chalion, by Lois McMaster Bujold. Just about anything written by Bujold could go here, really. Reading her, I first realized that great characters weren't only three-dimensional, but four-dimensional: they change over time, grow older, maybe wiser, (maybe not), find different goals and relationships and purposes in life. And then she sets these characters in a fascinating world, and through these elements builds an interesting, original plot with a dash of humor and a large dose of insane brilliance. What really blows me away, though, is the wisdom that she sneaks into every book. She doesn't preach at you, but when the characters fight their way through suffering to understanding... it's simply amazing. And I think I may have gone a little overboard, but she is definitely the one to whom I would say, "I'm not worthy!"

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King. (And its many sequels.) In the interest of space, I will simply say: Best Sherlock Holmes Series Ever. That includes the original by Doyle.

1632 by Eric Flint. I'm not normally a fan of military or alternate history novels, but not only does he keep the strategy and jargon down to bearable levels for the most part, not only does he have a full cast of great characters and story, but this story starts at the very point that their history diverged from our own, and explores how it changes from the ground up, rather than guessing at what the present day would be like if such-and-such had happened. (It also contains the least gratuitous sex scene I've ever read--as in its description was actually essential to plot and characterization.)

Yes, these are all categorized under "genre" labels. So? Dismissing them because of a label would be the height of foolishness, and you'd be the one to miss out.

And just for fun, I'll add Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, because books that make you cry and think are all well and good, but we need some laughter, too.

Kostya said...

I'm nominating "Living on Love - The Messenger" by Klaus Joehle.

Rainy night. Klaus comes to a bar. Strangers talk to him and ask for his story. So he tells how he searched for happiness with no succeess. About mysteries events that made him want to live. How he used meditation to win sports bets (instructions). And how this brought him face to face with an Angel from his childhood plays at the forest. Angel teaches Klaus the magic of sending love. Stories on how Klaus used sending love to get all he has dreamed about. Instructions for sending love.

The book is online. I found it in 1998. Loved it so much that translated the book into Russian and now it's sold 65,000 in 10 months.

By the way, I'm advising Klaus to get a Literaty Agent in the States. I realize now how important it is to see his book published by big publisher this year instead of in 3-4 years :)) I'm friends now with Russian publisher of his books and they listen to my book recomendations very attentively.

Kato said...

My Voice Will Go With You by Sidney Rosen

This book changed the way I think about speaking. Words truly are capable of healing, shaping, and inspiring. Milton Erickson was without equal.

Atrix Wolfe by Patricia A. McKillip

McKillip has such a beautiful writing style. Often, reading her writing is like diving into a dream.

Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind.

This is one of my all time favorites. I read all 848 pages in a single sitting. Vivid characters, great conflicts, and a world that is believable. Unfortunate that some of his other books do not measure up.

Precie said...

I'll vote for two from the past decade...

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
by Jonathan Safran Foer

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey
Niffenegger

In both cases, the novels revised my thinking of fiction. Neither are what I'd call traditional fiction. Foer's deeply set POV narrators and disjointed narratives weave together so expertly and so powerfully. Likewise, Niffenegger's disjointed narrative is expertly woven to carry the reader along the same uncertain zigzag path the characters travel while spurring us to care deeply and genuinely for characters we get to know in bits and pieces. I would absolutely add them to my personal top 100 novels of all time. And both absolutely made me stop writing for a while because I was in awe of their brilliance.

Anonymous said...

THE HOUSE OF PENDRAGON I; THE FIREBRAND by Debra Kemp

THE BELIEF TEST by Kate Chaplin

THE CRYSTAL THRONE by Kathryn Sullivan

Anonymous said...

1) Beach Music (or almost anything else by) Pat Conroy.

2) Talk Before Sleep (or almost anything else by) Elizabeth Berg.

3) The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans.

Honorable mention to Stephen King's Bag of Bones, which was an amazing novel with some flaws.

Thomma Lyn said...

I'll nominate:

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

Girl Detective said...

Sorry I'm late to comment, and I notice an interesting number of books I loathe on this list. I agree with Miss Snark's Intuitionist and Motherless Brooklyn, so I will check out the third, which I'm not familiar with. Mine are three I read last year that all made me go wow for one reason or another:

Bangkok 8 by John Burdett
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt

blaironaleash said...

Can't believe I forgot Diana Wynne Jones. And Iris Murdoch.

Who do you boot, that's the question.