I sat down this afternoon to answer Doris Heilman’s interview questions (which in the course of time will appear on 111publishing.com), and it made me think more deeply about my own reading.
I read for pleasure and to admire the workmanship of my betters, so I was not surprised to find that my list included exactly zero books from my own genre, historical mysteries (example one and only so far is Treasure of Saint-Lazare, which hit #25 on the Amazon historical mysteries best-seller lists. It will be followed by a sequel, whose working title is Last Stop: Paris). Click the cover image at right to see the current book’s page.
Although I write about Paris, I don’t read much about Paris, short of the métro and bus timetables, and even those have been replaced by an iPhone app. I look for books by good writers, wherever I find them.
In no particular order, here are the books I listed in my answers to Doris. I hope you’ll look at them and, if you do, will enjoy them as much as I did:
– ATONEMENT, Ian McEwan (2003). http://amzn.to/1rr3YiV. A deep book about morality. (Its successor, Solar, was about the same subject, but not so satisfying. Still, I enjoyed it, too. Sweet Tooth was more Cold War-ish but daring in its execution. Read all three.)
– TO THE END OF THE LAND, David Grossman (2010). http://amzn.to/1rr4v4n. An Israeli novel, masterfully translated, about family and country. Beautifully written. It’s hard to overstate the impact of this book.
– THE FLAMETHROWERS, Rachel Kushner (2013). http://amzn.to/1rr4RI6. Italy in the time of anarchy, the Salt Flats in the time of motorcycle racing. Masterful, by a writer who says her neighbors think she’s a housewife who doesn’t sweep her porch often enough. Her earlier novel, Telex from Cuba http://amzn.to/1rr5h1e, was almost as good.
– THE GOLDFINCH, Donna Tartt (2013). http://amzn.to/1rr5x0f. Stephen King said it was “a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind,” which is fuzzy but unarguable. A must read, but BIG – 700+ pages.
– BEL CANTO, Ann Patchett (2009). http://amzn.to/1rr5UYx. I had read exactly zero Ann Patchett until I started hearing about her new story collection, which prompted me to read more about her and land on this book. Recommended.
This list omits a lot of books, but it’s a place to start. Try them — your life will be better for it.