Friday, September 4, 2009

Reading List

The New York Times reminded me today of one thing I will very much miss about New York City: reading on the subway. Lately I've had the unusual luxury not only of having stumbled upon two remarkable and compelling books, but also of possessing broad swaths of time unoccupied by things legal in which to enjoy them. I expect this time of luxury to end next week, as the school year sets in for real and I return to the academic doldrums. But, as the Times points out, we in New York all have to get where we're going, and the subway is blessedly free of internet and cell reception, which means I get a good hour every day to burrow into some good fiction. I'm taking recommendations, and I'd love to hear what people are reading on this blog. Here's my list.

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman. Thanks to the tip from NPR via Gale, which billed this book as Harry Potter for grownups. Actually, it's a good deal better than that. Grossman writes beautifully, takes seriously our lonely childish longing for fantasy, and, unlike JKR, is unafraid to give his characters' flaws real and irrevocable consequences. Anyone who read C.S. Lewis and T.H. White as a kid and harbors mixed feeling about HP should read this. Plus, Grossman himself is a Yale CompLit PhD drop out like yours truly, so I feel a special affinity.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson. Thanks again to Gale. I was skeptical of the title, the bestseller-y-ness, and the sexual violence, but you got to give to these Scandinavians, who really know how to write dark, quasi-philosophical, and incredibly satisfying mysteries. I couldn't put it down AND it made me think, which is more than I can say for most of what I read these days.

Next on my list: Motherless Brooklyn, the fourth Twilight book, and The Girl Who Played with Fire (next book in Larsson's triology). Anything else I should add?


gale said...

I'm reading Heyday, by Kurt Anderson. It might be too nineteenth-century for you, but I love reading fictionalized versions of my research, and he does an excellent job capturing the vibrancy of New York City and Paris in the revolutionary year.

I'd also recommend The Song is You by Arthur Phillips. Still in hardback, though. It's another father-who-lost-a-child book. I have a complicated relationship with it because on the one hand, it captures a feeling I had about music when I was younger, and so I really liked it. On the other hand, I wonder if the 40-something protagonist shouldn't have moved beyond that already. Nonetheless, I like Phillips' writing, and I loved the musical references.

gale said...

Another couple of books to recommend - Richard Powers, The Echo Maker.

Kate Atkinson, Human Croquet (recommended to me by Erin, and a delight. It's like Darkmans, also reviewed here, but it makes more sense in the end.) Unlike her Jackson Brodie books, this (like Behind the Scenes at the Museum) is decidedly more cryptic.