Friday, June 20, 2008

A Really Great Story

Reading is pretty much my life. I read history books, I read historical documents, I read the news, I read some blogs, I read more history books. It used to be that I read good books for fun, but since I've begun graduate school, I've suddenly found myself in that category of people for whom reading for fun just takes too much effort. A small disclaimer: I do read romance novels to escape it all. But there's no real effort involved in that. I mean, seriously. even when the would-be lovers are stubbornly angry at each other, or one is held at gunpoint, it's kind of a no-brainer. Clearly, some third party will help mysteriously resolve the conflict, or the hero will take a bullet for the heroine, and thank god it always lodges in soft tissue only. Point is, from page one to page 354, you always know how it's going to end, more or less. The fun part is how they get there. Minimal emotional or intellectual investment required. Anyway, I'm sick of it. I want to read good books again.

I used to LOVE book stores. Still do, actually. I guess what I mean, is, I used to walk into the fiction section and, almost instinctively be able to find good books. No longer. A few weeks ago after I emerged from my post-comprehensive exams coma, I went to the book store, walked into the fiction section, and stood there looking blankly around. I had no idea where to even start. WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY????? Why have I let myself get to this state? Totally stupid of me, because there are few things better than a really good book. You know the kind, where you slow down as you get to the end, lovingly holding on to each word in an effort to prolong the experience. And when you finally get to the last page, and finish reading the last sentence, you just sit there with the book open on your lap for a little while, wishing you could start over and read it again for the first time.

Well, I finally found a good one, thanks to my darling sister Umulu, who has been after me to read The Sunne In Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman for years. I remember when Umulu first read this book, over New Years Eve weekend in 2001. She was so hooked that when it came time to go out for the New Year celebration she totally just stayed in to read that book. I finally read it last week, and it was indeed a ripping good story. I highly recommend it. Now I'm reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. I've got to confess, it hasn't yet grabbed me by the short and curlies and refused to let me get up off the couch, but it's still pretty damn amazing. But what will I do when I run out of Márquez? I need more good books to read on my month of vacation before I head off to Central America!

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to give you all a list of some of my favorite books of all time, and I'd like you to leave suggestions in the comments for books you think I'd love. Deal?

OK, in no particular order, here are some of my favorite books of all time.

The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver. Also, anything else she's ever written.
Corelli's Mandolin, by Louis DeBernieres
Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns
An Instance of the Fingerpost, by Iain Pears
Mama Day, by Gloria Naylor
A trilogy by Louis DeBernieres, titled as follows:
The War of Don Emanuel's Netherparts
Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord
The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman
The Bluest Eye
, by Toni Morrison
Raney, by Clyde Edgerton
The Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay
The Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
The In-Between World of Vikram Lall, by M.G. Vassanji

I'm sure more will pop into my head as I continue mulling over my greatest hits list, so I'll come back and update this in a day or two. Anyway, hope some of you check out at least a few of these books, because they are simply stunning. Now give me suggestions, please! Can't wait to start reading...

I'm off to No-Internet-Landia (aka The Beach) for the weekend, so I'll post again on Monday. Love to you all!


Anonymous said...

I'm readint The Bean Trees for the twelve-hundreth time right now, actually. Love that one.

I recommend "Hulk", Hulk Hogan's autobiography. Kidding. To go completely and entertainingly brainless, I like to read Jennifer Weiner's stuff. Cold Mountain by James Ingram was good, too.

Judy said...

That's so funny I'm also reading 100 years of solitude right now too, Cheastypants! We'll have to indeed swap our opinions afterward. A really great book I like is A Widow for One Year by John Irving.

Jen said...

I've read "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" by Tom Robbins and "Cloud Atlas" by David Mitchell recently. Both were very good reads.

If you want to get into a Latin American frame of mind, I suggest "Santa Evita" by Tomás Eloy Martínez and "Kiss of the Spiderwoman" by Manuel Puig. I like "Spiderwoman" because the entire thing is written as a dialog between two people.

Renny said...

I'm reading "Like Water for Chocolate" right now, and it's really good. I also LOVED "Bel Canto"-- you must read that one!!

H-SPO said...

Um...what are "short and curlies"?


'Their Eyes Were Watching God' Zora Neale Hurston

'The Red Tent' Anita Diamant

'Rebecca' Daphne du Maurier

'Memoirs of a Geisha' Arthur Golden

'To Kill A Mockingbird' Harper Lee

The Creative Housewife said...


*Anything by Amy Tan and/or Isabel Allende
* "The Ha-Ha" by Dave King
* "Love in the Time of Cholera"--Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Alison said...

* "The Bone People" by Keri Hulme
* "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov
* Alice Munroe's short stories
* Most work by Milan Kundera

*sigh* you're making me wish I could read instead of doing statistics :-(

Romi said...

Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, all by Diana Gabaldon. You will absolutely fall in love with Jamie and Claire.

holly said...

History books, huh? Do you like historical fiction? The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara is the best ever. But then his son Jeff took it all a step further after his dad died and completed the full trilogy of the American Civil War. He's also now written historical fiction on the American Revolution, Mexican-American War, WWI and WWII. I'm behind on the recent ones, but he's brilliant. Another good one (and it's super short) was "The Fires of Jubilee" by Stephen Oates (who also wrote a one-volume biography of Lincoln), about the Nat Turner rebellion. My latest read was a memoir, "The Glass Castle," by Jeannette Walls. It took me a while to get into her style, but then I got totally sucked in. Lately I've just been reading election news, but you're making me want to crack open a book! (and thanks for visiting my blog!)

colie said...

"the wind-up bird chronicle" or "the elephant vanishes" by haruki murakami. do you know how much it kills me that i have to use quotation marks because you can't italicize comments? wow, i totally have something stuck up my butt.

elephant vanishes is short stories, wubc is a (kind of long, but simple to read) novel.

also, beloved (toni morrison). because damn.

Cheasty said...

holy sheetballs, batman. that's a lot of good books. thanks for all the recommendations -- I've got a nice list to work my way through, now, and you've reminded me of many excellent reads that i'd forgotten about. rubbing my hands together briskly in anticipation of a fine fine summer of reading....