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Topic: Favorite literary novels?

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Subject: Favorite literary novels?
Date Posted: 8/21/2008 11:11 PM ET
Member Since: 12/23/2004
Posts: 253
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I am seeking recommendations for the best literary novels - like the kinds of novels that won the Booker Prize, many with exquisite language, style and character development. This year I've read On Chesil Beach and Atonement by Ian McEwan (also Saturday, but I don't recommend that one) The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, Desai's Inheritance of Loss, and Roy's God of Small Things. They are all far better quality than most popular fiction. I'm going through the list of Booker prize winners to choose more great novels but am interested in the recommendations of Pbswap readers. What are your favorites?

Booker Literary prize information:

Tracy Marks

Date Posted: 8/22/2008 9:41 AM ET
Member Since: 6/18/2008
Posts: 1,050
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I loved Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald. It's the story of a girl who is sent to America from Iran, by her parents, to find a husband so she can stay in the States. I am usually a "chick lit" girl, but I thought the main character was very well developed. Highly recommended.

Subject: favorite literary novels
Date Posted: 8/22/2008 12:48 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2008
Posts: 66
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i read  'resistance' by owen sheers, this year.  it is not a book with a satisfying ending - it leaves a lot of questions.  but the language is amazing.  his descriptions are worth writing in a journal if you kept such a thing.  it is also set in wales and that interested me.  he is an acclaimed poet and this is his first novel.

if you like deep description and characterization then you should try elizabeth goudge.  (pilgrim's inn, or the dean's watch, or the scent of water are a few of her titles. )

one of the most unusual books - totally unique - that anyone ever recommended to me was 'dandelion wine' by ray bradbury.  it is in a class of it's own.  i loved it.  he can pack so much into a succinct sentence.  i can't describe it.  but i loved it.  it is classified as sci-fi but it reallly isn't an apt classification.  it is his version of a small town boy's long ago illinois summer.  if you do try it, don't give it up at first because it's so strange - keep with it and i really think you will be amazed by it.


Date Posted: 8/23/2008 1:12 PM ET
Member Since: 7/2/2008
Posts: 91
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If you liked Housekeeping, maybe you would like Gilead, by the same author. I read Gilead not long ago (it's on my bookshelf), loved it and subsequently ordered Housekeeping, from PBS! It arrived not long ago and I can't wait to get to it! I'm going to look thru my BIR list for you for a few more recommendations...


Date Posted: 8/23/2008 9:34 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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It's a few years old now, but White Teeth, by Zadie Smith, would meet your criteria for a novel a cut above most of the "bulk fiction" that comes out nowadays.  Smith is a Jamaican by birth, but this novel (her first) was set in North London, where so many immigrant groups to the UK seem to settle.  Her collection of characters is truly colorful, and diverse indeed, and the way the various groups clash and/or cooperate is marvelous to read about.  She followed White Teeth up with another novel entitled The Autograph Man , but I haven't read that, so cannot recommend it to you.

Another British writer who has been around longer is A. S. Byatt, and if you read her Possession, you will see how much of the story had to be left out when the film was made, in order to get it down to a reasonable playing time.

"Bulk fiction" is a term I have adopted to signify all those authors who churn 'em out, every year or eighteen months or so.

P.S.   In the late 80s, I was in a World Lit class in which we read Anita Desai.  The selection (then) was her Clear Light of Day.  (The other 'Indian' writers we read were R. K. Narayan and V.S. Naipaul (both worthy of your consideration).

Last Edited on: 8/23/08 9:38 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/25/2008 1:56 PM ET
Member Since: 2/7/2008
Posts: 309
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Possession by A S Byatt is one of my all time favourites. That would be my first recommendation! From a quick trawl along my keeper shelf, here are some others:

A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

Beach Music, Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. Although he deals with some very un-lyrical subjects, his language is amazing.

The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco.

Peace Like a River - Leif Enger.

English Passengers - Matthew Kneale

The Voyage of the Narwhal - Andrea Barret

The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood


Subject: Some more ideas...
Date Posted: 8/25/2008 5:43 PM ET
Member Since: 7/2/2008
Posts: 91
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I've been looking over my book club's list and have a few more suggestions that might be of interest --

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro,  Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel,  Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner,  The Photograph by Penelope Lively, The Quiet American by Graham Greene,   Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. 

Hope that helps!

Happy Reading,



Last Edited on: 8/25/08 5:54 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/26/2008 10:25 PM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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Here are a few that I felt were outstanding:

Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake, both by Jhumpa Lahiri. Excellent writer.

The Secret River - Kate Grenville

The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurtry

We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver

Death Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather




Date Posted: 9/1/2008 9:45 PM ET
Member Since: 4/16/2008
Posts: 576
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Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri was wonderful. It's a collection of short stories but still it was wonderful. I couldn't put it down. She definitely has a way with words and she really creates wonderful characters. They felt like real people with real emotion. I'm telling everyone to read it! EDIT: Love in the Time of Cholera is also more weighty.

Last Edited on: 9/2/08 6:39 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/4/2008 9:44 AM ET
Member Since: 6/18/2008
Posts: 1,050
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Right now, I am half-way through The Biograph Girl by William J. Mann. The length of the book would normally be intimidating considering what I am used to reading, but this one has held my attention completely! It goes back and forth between Old Hollywood and present in the eyes of a 106 year-old actress in a nursing home. I highly recommend it!

Date Posted: 9/6/2008 10:35 AM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2008
Posts: 6
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The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell is very thought provoking.  Ahabs wife - Sena Jetter Naslund, I second Crossing to Safety. I also thought that Balzac & The Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie was a little gem of a book.

Subject: Books
Date Posted: 11/14/2008 7:06 PM ET
Member Since: 7/29/2007
Posts: 195
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   Boy there are so many of those Authors I have not heard of . I will have to check some of them out .


                                                       Dolores H.

Date Posted: 11/17/2008 8:35 PM ET
Member Since: 8/8/2007
Posts: 4,460
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Hi, I read this post earlier this fall and clicked on the link for the Booker Prize in the original post. I am right now reading Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee. I am half way into it and find it very well done. It takes place in post-apartheid South Africa from the perspective of a university professor. It reads very quickly but it is by no means an easy read.

I love PBS as I have discovered great books that I would probably not have otherwise read. This is just one great example of that.

Interpreter of Maladies is in my TBR pile and am glad to hear good things. I have read every one of Pat Conroy's books and love them all. My favorites are The Lords of Discipline and of course The Prince of Tides.

Last Edited on: 11/17/08 8:50 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/17/2008 9:08 PM ET
Member Since: 6/21/2008
Posts: 6,567
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I don't think I have heard anyone mention Alice Walker's Temple of my Familiar or Possessing the Secret of Joy in a long time.  If you haven't read them yet, they would be two of my choices for this topic.  Also, I have always thought that Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy is not widely enough read.  It is three novels about WWI and really captured me.  The first deals with the first doctors who insisted on the recognition of PTSD in soldiers who have seen combat.  Very well written.

Last Edited on: 11/23/08 6:06 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 11/18/2008 8:32 AM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2008
Posts: 573
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The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat. I've read this twice. The second time was equally moving. Lyrical, compelling. Many of the passages and images stay with you long after the read.

Last Edited on: 11/20/08 8:43 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/20/2008 8:42 AM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2008
Posts: 573
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Half of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Great storytelling, masterful use of language.

Date Posted: 11/23/2008 7:27 AM ET
Member Since: 6/26/2007
Posts: 87
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I agree with the recommendations for Possession-- I'm reading it now and it's wonderful!

Karen B. - ,
Date Posted: 12/2/2008 5:31 PM ET
Member Since: 3/31/2007
Posts: 32
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How about Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's wife? A complicated and well written book I've recommended many times.
Date Posted: 12/4/2008 11:25 PM ET
Member Since: 4/20/2008
Posts: 1
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I loved Thirteen Tales by Diane Setterfield. Also, I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb.
Date Posted: 12/21/2008 8:08 PM ET
Member Since: 7/2/2008
Posts: 91
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Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins. Poetic, beautiful....not to be missed!


Date Posted: 1/7/2009 4:55 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 344
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On Beauty by Zadie Smith (I know someone recommended White Teeth, but this one is great, too!)

My book group finished The Corrections a couple months ago and, although half of us hated it and the other half loved it, we all could agree that it was thought-provoking and well-written.

Falling, by Don DeLillo, is a very sad book but I thought a well-written one. Certainly a loaded topic, but I thought he did a very good job coping with all the emotion that the book provoked.

Life of Pi won the Booker Prize a number of years ago (5, maybe?) and is still one of my very favorite novels.  It is a little slow to start with, but once you're on the lifeboat - wow!

Date Posted: 1/7/2009 9:17 PM ET
Member Since: 4/11/2006
Posts: 830
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I second 'The Life of Pi' by Yann Martel.  An allegory...our book club had a heated discussion.

Susan, I was one of those who hated Corrections ;)

Subject: Literary fiction
Date Posted: 2/9/2009 6:05 PM ET
Member Since: 11/8/2007
Posts: 7
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I tend to use the Booker site as a guide when I'm looking for something new to read.  Some favorites that I've read recently:

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

Clearly I've been on an Indian writers kick lately...


Subject: P.S.
Date Posted: 2/9/2009 6:07 PM ET
Member Since: 11/8/2007
Posts: 7
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I LOVED The Life of Pi and so did my kids!


Subject: literary novels
Date Posted: 2/9/2009 6:10 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2008
Posts: 66
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i just thought of an author that you might really enjoy trying out if you've not read him before.  p. g. wodehouse.  i think i first listened to his novels on tape, but now i collect his books.  his jeeves books with bertie wooster are his best.  and i love the blandings castle books with the beloved pig.  these are very dry british wit.