New Year, New Books


After a Y2008 reading list characterized by foreign novels and non-fiction, for 2009, I have decided to stack up on and read more books originally written in English. These include

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
Hairstyles of the Damned by Joe Meno
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

The latter three all recommended by my friend Melissa. I have also included one Moroccan book — Year of the Elephant by Leila Abouzeid — and the French novelist Michel Houellebecq’s Elementary Particles. Finally, I have not been reading very many novels written in Spanish recently, but when I get back to Madrid, I will try to get a copy of something by Roberto Bolaño. Any recommendations?



Filed under Literature

5 responses to “New Year, New Books

  1. Melissa

    Yay! I love it when people read the books I recommend. Though I must add my Joe Meno caveat, which is that *Hairstyles of the Damned* is light reading. (I loved it, though.) Here are a few more: *The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears,* by Dinaw Mengestu (so sad and beautiful, about an Ethiopian immigrant in DC); *Petropolis* by Anya Ulinich (falls apart at the end but really wonderful for a long time); and we’ve discussed *The Corrections,* right? By Jonathan Franzen? It’s still one of my most favorite books ever. I’ve read it twice and am due for another reading shortly!

  2. Melissa

    PS – When I was at my MFA program I had breakfast with Amitav Ghosh. I wasn’t aware enough of his work to appreciate him. (I’m still not, actually.) Mostly he talked about writing for The New Yorker, and how their budget is so huge that you can just ask for a helicopter in the middle of the Burmese jungle and get one. Let me know what you think of the new novel.

  3. eric


    Thanks for the earlier recommendations, but the new ones will have to wait for my next trip home. BTW, I am so excited about these books. I have already started reading “Sea of Poppies” and it is excellent (so far) but a bit dense due to the some of mixing of language and terminology.

    Re The Corrections, I have it but haven’t read it yet (I was just the other day trying to remember who had recommended it to me).

    Thanks again and Happy New Year!

  4. Randy Bergmann

    I’m a little late to this thread, but here are a few books I would recommend if, by chance, you haven’t already read every book in the Library of Congress catalog:
    Two by Bill Bryson, “Shakespeare: The World as a Stage” – everything you wanted to know about Bill, told in Bryson’s inimical, amusing way, in fewer than 200 pages. And “In A Sunburned Country,” a wonderful travelogue on Australia, one of my three favorite countries – Ireland and Panama being the others.
    Two others I would recommend: “FDR,” a biography by Jean Edward Smith, which gives us a few hints on how to combat a depression and defeat totalitarians, and, finally, “Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Book.” If you love the show, as I do, you’ll love the behind the scenes look at the creative minds behind it, the show’s characters and how the series is put together.

  5. eric


    I have not ready any of those books (though I have read about the FDR one). Thanks for the recommendations! I am just about to finish the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which besides being excellent, takes place in New Jersey (along with the Dominican Republic).

    Happy New Year!

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