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pippi123's avatar

Can you recommend a really well-written novel by a contemporary author?

Asked by pippi123 (10 points ) January 4th, 2007
I'm interested in reading books to learn more about writing style and thereby improve my own writing. Do you know of any new authors whose work I should look into? Prefer fictional novels with material that's not too heavy or hard to get through. Thanks!
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42 Answers

ben's avatar
I've just got into "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" by Marisha Pessl. It's well written and very engrossing. (Don't be thrown off by the name, it's an O.C. meets Nabokov (says NYT) murder mystery). I'd recommend it highly.
omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar
I'm currently reading "100 Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It's a little bit long, but it's very engrossing and I'm really enjoying it.
nomtastic's avatar
the god of small things, the moor's last sigh
sarahsugs's avatar
the english patient, by michael ondaatje (a million times more complex and beautiful than the movie). all the pretty horses, by cormac mcarthy. animal dreams, by barbara kingsolver. the brothers k, by david james duncan. all awesome!
gailcalled's avatar
All of Barbara Kingsolver's works (particularly PRODIGAL SUMMER), INDEPENDENCE DAY, by Richard Ford, the other Cormac McCarthy novels, novels of Annie LaMott, THE LIFE OF PI.
gailcalled's avatar
Google the BOOKER PRIZE LISTS (British novels) and the PULITZER FICTION AWARDS..
lilakess's avatar
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon. Also, Sigrid Nunez books, Gracy Paley, Wallace Stegner and Hemingway--he will seem contemporary. Also, the non-fiction of George Orwell, he's a brilliant writer. I could go on and on...
andrew's avatar
Second on Kavalier and Clay. Amazing. I also finished Motherless Brooklyn by James? Lethem. Quick read... a mystery novel where the main character has Tourette's.
bob's avatar
Arabian Nights and Days, by Naguib Mahfouz. The book is closely related stories which advance a central plot, much like the original Arabian Nights. Mahfouz won the nobel prize, and he has some other great work, but this is one I really like.
bob's avatar
And my friends all love Haruki Murakami, esp. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.
finkelitis's avatar
If you're interested in some interesting stylistic (successful) experiments, you might look up Don Delillo's White Noise, which blew me away, or almost anything by Naguib Mahfouz, particularly Arabian Nights and Days (if you've read or are a little bit familiar with the story of Scherezade from 1001 Arabian Nights).
finkelitis's avatar
Another thing you could try is to pick up a couple of Granta magazines. They contain short fiction and nonfiction, but it's truly contemporary, and almost all excellent.
burlapmellish's avatar
The winner of this year's national book award was "The Echo Maker" by Richard Powers, which is excellent. "Never Let Me Go" was my second-favorite read this year.
gailcalled's avatar
EMPIRE FALLS and other novels by
gailcalled's avatar
Richard Russo, Mahfouz' PALACE WALK and the following two making up his Nobel trilogy, Annie Proulx's books, and for how to write, a funny book called BIRD BY BIRD, by Annie LaMott. the four books that make up THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN by Paul Scott, THE NAME OF THE ROSE by Umberto Eco.
Chuckie_Darwin's avatar
Third vot on Kavalier and Clay it is great. I just finished The Road by Cormac McCarthy and it was amazing, best book of the year (in my opinion). "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro is also a good choice (really anything by him will not disappoint).
nomtastic's avatar
there's a young writer called daniel alarcon who just put out a pretty excellent book of short stories called "war by candlelight" and there's a novel on the way.
occ's avatar
what other novels do you like? it will be even easier to recommend something if we can know more about your taste... I would second a lot of the books recommended above (White Noise, Kavalier and Clay, Barbara Kingsolver) and there are some contemporary bestsellers that are pretty engrossing that I might add, like The Kite Runner.
omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar
I definitely second The Kite Runner (by Kahled Husseini), it was my favorite read last year.
Supergirl's avatar
The Memory Keeper's Daughter or The Time Traveler's Wife
pippi123's avatar
THANK YOU EVERYONE!! (I'm so excited!)
pippi123's avatar
I'm currently reading "The Secret Life of Bees" which was a NYTimes bestseller. It's a great and inspiring story that keeps the pages turning. The writing is good, sometimes great.
omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar
I read that (The Secret Life of Bees) last year also as part of a reading competition...it was sooo good. I hope you enjoy it!
sjg102379's avatar
I really liked Geek Love.
skfinkel's avatar
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai is wonderful. Won the Booker Prize this year. Also different and interesting is The Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I am also a fan of many the above books. The God of Small things is one of my favorites, as is A Fine Balance. For a fantastic classic, try The Magic Mountain.
anne_bacon's avatar
i'd also throw some Paul Auster in there . . . THE NEW YORK TRILOGY is great.
hossman's avatar
"Lost Boys" by Orson Scott Card. Don't be put off by the cover blurbs and art, the fantastic/horror/magical realism element here is minimal. Both my wife and I openly wept at two points in this novel. A wonderfully crafted story.
lily's avatar
White Teeth by Zadie Smith.
lily's avatar
and Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
dans85's avatar
For something a little more funky, try Tom Robbins. I particularly loved SKINNY LEGS AND ALL.
Supergirl's avatar

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, who also wrote The Kite Runner.

pippi123's avatar

wow.. i need a bigger bookcase!

christybird's avatar

I too loved the God of Small Things & the Time-Traveler’s Wife. Also try “Gilead” by Marilynn Robinson and “Bel Canto” by Ann Patchett. Bel Canto in particular is almost impossible to put down…

gailcalled's avatar

Thanks to this list, I just read THE GOD OF small THINGS and really also loved it. I’d vote for BEL CANTO too.

VMOS's avatar

“The peculiar memories of thomas penman” or “everything is illuminated”

christybird's avatar

I also really like “the Passion” by Jeanette Winterston; her other novels are a bit more hit-or-miss.

cschack's avatar

Julian Barnes’ “Arthur and George” is rather good.

DB_Cooper's avatar

If you’re looking to improve your writing there are several authors who will at turns challenge and confound you but open your eyes to some amazing prose. If you are looking for post modern I would recommend Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, and David Foster Wallace. Modern writers to explore would be Vladimir Nabokov, Samuel Beckett, and James Joyce. Not sure of the breadth of your reading experience but regardless these are names to investigate.

ljs22's avatar

Whatever you do, avoid The Corrections.

kfingerman's avatar

I second Cloud Atlas, it’s one of the most interesting and innovative things I’ve read in years. Also, On Beauty by Zadie Smith was amazing. I’m also very into Amitav Ghosh – Shadowlines or The Hungry Tide.

thesparrow's avatar

I’m reading Secret Life of Bees right now for a class. AMAZING! Not for all audiences, definitely.. I’d say more of a female leaning. For a white author Kidd approaches the topic of racism with a lot of passion and sensitivity. A few academics I’ve known were calling it hypocritical, ‘white’ domination of black culture in literature (i.e. portraying black slave culture through a ‘white’ Western lens) but there’s a great part in the novel where Kidd herself seems to acknowledge it.

Rosaleen (the black maid) acknowledges her situation with regards to the little girl; she says ‘what do you think I am, a nigger that needs saving?’ Something along those lines. I think that beautiful meta-literary step—so to speak—allows us to understand that Kidd very much recognizes that she is writing from a ‘white’ perspective so that her writing seems more genuine. The reader knows that Kidd knows that she is writing from a ‘white’ perspective.

But does being white necessarily make us racist? Some of the biggest anti-racists I’ve known were whites. Some of the most adamant feminists were men.

WMFlight's avatar

Perdido Street Station by China MiƩville.

Review: Michael Moorcock reviewed the book and said “Perdido Street Station, a massive and gorgeously detailed parallel-world fantasy, offers us a range of rather more exotic creatures, all of whom are wonderfully drawn and reveal a writer with a rare descriptive gift, an unusually observant eye for physical detail, for the sensuality and beauty of the ordinarily human as well as the thoroughly alien.” However, he suggests “Mieville’s determination to deliver value for money, a great page-turner, leads him to add genre borrowings which set up a misleading expectation of the kind of plot you’re going to get and make individuals start behaving out of character, forcing the author into rationalisations at odds with the creative, intellectual and imaginative substance of the book.” He concludes, “That aside, Mieville’s catholic contemporary sensibility, delivering generous Victorian value and a well-placed moral point or two, makes Perdido Street Station utterly absorbing and you won’t get a better deal, pound for pound, for your holiday reading!”

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Review: Ray Bradbury’s moving recollection of a vanished golden era remains one of his most enchanting novels. DANDELION WINE stands out in the Bradbury literary canon as the author’s most deeply personal work, a semi-autobiographical recollection of a magical small town summer in 1928.

Twelve-year-old Douglas Spaulding knows Green Town, Illinois, is as vast and deep as the whole wide world that lies beyond the city limits. It is a pair of brand-new tennis shoes, the first harvest of dandelions for Grandfather’s renowned intoxicant, the distant clang of the trolley’s bell on a hazy afternoon. It is yesteryear and tomorrow blended into an unforgettable always. But as young Douglas is about to discover, summer can be more than the repetition of established rituals whose mystical power holds time at bay. It can be a best friend moving away, a human time machine who can transport you back to the Civil War, or a sideshow automaton able to glimpse the bittersweet future.
Come and savour Ray Bradbury’s priceless distillation of all that is eternal about boyhood and summer.

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