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Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 10:00 pm
by blizzard
So I really like reading books (mostly fiction), especially when it gets me points (seriously there's no better feeling than getting a toss up on a book you've read and really enjoyed), and I am always looking for new books to read. Ironically, now that the summer is almost over, I will have more time to read and would gladly take any suggestions from people about favorite authors, etc. Thanks in advance!

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 10:05 pm
by 1992 in spaceflight
I find that I really like Magical Realism. Probably the best book of the genre I've read recently is Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig (although I;ve liked everything in the genre I have read).

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 10:53 pm
by Rufous-capped Thornbill
Bolano Bolano Bolano Bolano Bolano Bolano.

(Savage Detectives).

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 11:05 pm
by The King's Flight to the Scots
I'm struggling a bit to come up with something that won't turn this thread into "name all the quizbowl-relevant books you've read." But, I will agree that if you're a high schooler with some free time, most Latin American magical realist* novels are a pretty good route to go. Garcia Marquez's collected short stories are another good place to start; I still like those better than his novels because he's really amazing at capturing the sights, sounds, and scents of a single moment, but doesn't always have a good sense of how many pages of sexual depravity is too many. You're also likely enough to be assigned One Hundred Years of Solitude at some point in a class, but would probably only read one of the stories if any; better to get a different perspective in your pleasure reading.

*Kiss of the Spider Woman isn't really magical realist, fwiw, but who's counting.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 11:29 pm
by vinteuil
As long as this is "name your favorite South American fiction" I'll plug Borges for being awesome and all that.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 12:01 am
by Auks Ran Ova
I just read, and rather enjoyed, this collection of essays by Dwight Macdonald, and I'm currently working through this excellent collection of criticism by Elizabeth Hardwick. Please read them and write dozens of questions about them.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 1:03 am
by Auroni
My reading habits have long since fallen by the wayside, but I was horrified and thrilled by Camilo Jose Cela's The Family of Pascual Duarte when I made my way through it four years ago. I have also done a read-through or two of this gem.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 1:21 am
by Banana Stand
Bret Easton Ellis is probably my favorite author that I haven't come across in quizbowl yet, although he probably has come up a bit at higher levels. Less Than Zero and American Psycho are both personal favorites of mine, and I can see why they would never be asked about at a high school tournament.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 1:27 am
by vinteuil
Banana Stand wrote:Bret Easton Ellis is probably my favorite author that I haven't come across in quizbowl yet, although he probably has come up a bit at higher levels.
http://www.slate.com/articles/life/cult ... it_.2.html

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 8:43 am
by Rufous-capped Thornbill
Kenneth Widmerpool wrote:My reading habits have long since fallen by the wayside, but I was horrified and thrilled by Camilo Jose Cela's The Family of Pascual Duarte when I made my way through it four years ago. I have also done a read-through or two of this gem.
Oh cool, I just started reading Pascual Duarte last night.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 9:25 am
by ThisIsMyUsername
It's really good that you're committing to pleasure-reading, even during the school semester. Were that habit not deeply ingrained in me too, I would have suffered significant drop-off once I transitioned from being an English major in college to being a grad student in a non-literature subject; luckily, forming that habit early has kept me reading fiction.

When I was in high school, I tried to structure my pleasure-reading to fill in the inevitable gaps in the English syllabus I was assigned that year. So, let's say it was American Literature that year: I would then research different conceptions of the "canon" of American Literature to see what major authors were being omitted, and I would try to read them around the same time, so that my school-reading and pleasure-reading were mutually enriching.

The biggest obstacle to pleasure-reading is being stuck in the middle of a book when a wave of real-life obligations suddenly sweeps in and washes away your free time. Sometimes, this leads to your never finishing the book that you started. The way I avoid this is by always keeping at hand a selection of works of different lengths (longer novels, shorter novels, plays, short stories, etc.), so that when I want to start reading something, I can assess how much time I'm going to have in the near future, and I can then pick a book that matches that length of time. This way, I rarely get trapped by starting a book I can't finish.

I've been mainly discussing habits rather than recommending particular books. This is because most of the novels I've loved require a lot of time and energy to read, and I'd feel bad recommending a book you might invest lots of time in and still end up disliking. The richest and most meaningful shorter novels I've read are probably Howard's End by E.M. Forster and Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. Of the authors of longer works that I love, two of them, Henry James and Leo Tolstoy, wrote tons of very good shorter fiction that will give you a taste of their styles. If you enjoy these and feel ready to commit to their longer works, I then highly recommend Anna Karenina and The Portrait of a Lady, two of the finest novels I've ever read.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 11:15 am
by UlyssesInvictus
Given Mattbo's caution about turning this into a "name works in qb" thread, I read Atwood, Saramago, and Murakami because I learned about them in quizbowl and I ended up really liking them. There's also the added benefit that high school curricula tend to cover world lit much less than British/American.

As for American lit, I really loved Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West, and George Saunders's Tenth of December, which came out last year.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 11:35 am
by AKKOLADE

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 12:07 pm
by vinteuil
ThisIsMyUsername wrote: This is because most of the novels I've loved require a lot of time and energy to read, and I'd feel bad recommending a book you might invest lots of time in and still end up disliking.
Yeah, this is why I didn't recommend Proust...

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 1:17 pm
by The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man
If you love South America as much as the people in this thread seem to, Cueto's The Blue Hour is an excellent book you probably won't learn about through quiz bowl.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 3:21 pm
by Chimango Caracara
I enjoyed The Fish Can Sing and was disappointed to learn that there probably won't be tossups on it forthcoming. I also recommend John Cheever's short stories, "Goodbye, My Brother" in particular.

I guess my South American plug will be for Vargas Llosa's The Storyteller.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 4:01 pm
by The Stately Rhododendron
Laszlo Krasznahorkai's works (including his films) are really good.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 4:13 pm
by Muriel Axon
A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold is a book written in beautiful language that rightly stands at the cornerstone of the modern conservation movement. It comes up in quiz bowl once in a while.

I like T. S. Eliot's plays (like Murder in the Cathedral or The Cocktail Party) better than his poetry.

I normally look down on pop-science, but the collections of essays Lewis Thomas wrote for the New England Journal of Medicine, like Lives of a Cell and Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony, are excellent.

EDIT: Oh yeah, Virginia Woolf's Jacob's Room is every bit as good as To the Lighthouse

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 4:15 pm
by No Electricity Required
I'll add some more praise for the Latin American authors. Borges and Garcia Marquez have written some of my favorite pieces of literature (Borges being a short story writer is especially nice if you have a busy schedule). Also Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried is exceptionally good.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 4:48 pm
by Adventure Temple Trail
I usually find that I get more helpful reading suggestions from people when they have some sense of what I've read before, in what context, whether I liked it, what my typical tastes and favorites are, etc. Are there any pointers you could give, Sam, on specific reading experiences you liked or genres/times/places you're looking to break into for the first time (e.g. do you actually enjoy "magical realism" / fantastical elements in your literature or prefer more realistic fare, etc.)? I'm barely literate compared to someone like John, but that may help guide the suggestions you get from the crowd.
Muriel Axon wrote:plays
Yes, plays! I've found that most of the literary discussions I've had tend to focus largely on novels/short stories and undersell drama, which I find unnerving as someone who does theater. It's important to make sure the conversation doesn't get pigeonholed.
It's hard for me to tell what you will like personally, but my favorite playwrights are those who can showcase many different strengths and levels of focus at once (i.e. they can craft complex characters/interpersonal relationships, interesting settings, preferably some bombastic scenery, and bigger themes about humanity as a whole without seeming ham-handed). Plays with multiple layers of focus tend to appeal to lots of different people regardless of the things they tend to focus on while reading; a person who only sees plays in terms of character-relationships will still get a lot out of it, but they'll like it for different reasons than a guy who just LOVES bombastic scenery. I'm sure you've read some Shakespeare at this point - read more. (My favorites are Macbeth, King Lear, and Measure for Measure; remind me to go back and reread The Tempest and Antony and Cleopatra). Henrik Ibsen and George Bernard Shaw also offer a lot to many different kinds of reader/viewer (though Ibsen in particular tends to be short on the bombasticity). Two contemporary plays which do a great job of merging epic/archetypal themes and real-seeming characters without breaking under their own weight are Peter Shaffer's Amadeus (also the basis for a less-good film) and Tony Kushner's magnificent Angels in America.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 5:04 pm
by ryanrosenberg
RyuAqua wrote:
Muriel Axon wrote:plays
Tony Kushner's magnificent Angels in America.
Seconding Angels in America. Another modern American play that I enjoyed immensely was Oleanna by David Mamet. It's nowhere near as grandiose as Angels, but the intensity it reaches for a two-character play is astounding.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 5:30 pm
by Beevor Feevor
Good modern playwright is David Ives; All in the Timing was one of the best collections of plays I've read in recent memory. A bunch of other modern playwrights really appeal to me as well, like Tom Stoppard and Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter. In terms of novels, Madame Bovary is very good, as is basically anything by Nabokov.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 8:00 pm
by evilmonkey
At lot has already been said about them, but I'll chime in that Borges and Marquez are at the top of my list.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 10:22 pm
by The Bold Ideas of Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
I'll also throw my two cents in for Borges, but I've always enjoyed darker fiction for novels whether it be Gothic or anything 20th/21st century. Rebecca stands alone as my favorite novel, but two more recent works I particularly enjoy are Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections and Richard Russo's Empire Falls. Oddly enough, Frankenstein also would make my top 10.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 12:16 am
by hydrocephalitic listlessness
UlyssesInvictus wrote:Given Mattbo's caution about turning this into a "name works in qb" thread, I read Atwood, Saramago, and Murakami because I learned about them in quizbowl and I ended up really liking them. There's also the added benefit that high school curricula tend to cover world lit much less than British/American.
Seconding this. As for specific works, for Saramago I especially liked The History of the Siege of Lisbon, Blindness, and The Double, and for Murakami, A Wild Sheep Chase and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, as well as pretty much all of his short fiction.

As others have said, Garcia Marquez's short stories are great--Strange Pilgrims is probably my favorite collection of his.

In terms of American authors, I'll throw in a good word for Cormac McCarthy. My favorites of his are No Country for Old Men, Outer Dark, and if you're feeling especially adventurous, Blood Meridian.

Also, pretty much any non-Catcher Salinger: Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, etc.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 12:43 am
by samus149
You may have already read it, but Catch-22 by Joseph Heller is my all time favorite non-Star Wars book. Also great is Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (both the book and the movie).

If you're looking just for something fun to read, you can't go wrong with anything by Ian Fleming or John le Carre.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 11:33 am
by blizzard
ThisIsMyUsername wrote:It's really good that you're committing to pleasure-reading, even during the school semester. Were that habit not deeply ingrained in me too, I would have suffered significant drop-off once I transitioned from being an English major in college to being a grad student in a non-literature subject; luckily, forming that habit early has kept me reading fiction.

When I was in high school, I tried to structure my pleasure-reading to fill in the inevitable gaps in the English syllabus I was assigned that year. So, let's say it was American Literature that year: I would then research different conceptions of the "canon" of American Literature to see what major authors were being omitted, and I would try to read them around the same time, so that my school-reading and pleasure-reading were mutually enriching.

The biggest obstacle to pleasure-reading is being stuck in the middle of a book when a wave of real-life obligations suddenly sweeps in and washes away your free time. Sometimes, this leads to your never finishing the book that you started. The way I avoid this is by always keeping at hand a selection of works of different lengths (longer novels, shorter novels, plays, short stories, etc.), so that when I want to start reading something, I can assess how much time I'm going to have in the near future, and I can then pick a book that matches that length of time. This way, I rarely get trapped by starting a book I can't finish.

I've been mainly discussing habits rather than recommending particular books. This is because most of the novels I've loved require a lot of time and energy to read, and I'd feel bad recommending a book you might invest lots of time in and still end up disliking. The richest and most meaningful shorter novels I've read are probably Howard's End by E.M. Forster and Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. Of the authors of longer works that I love, two of them, Henry James and Leo Tolstoy, wrote tons of very good shorter fiction that will give you a taste of their styles. If you enjoy these and feel ready to commit to their longer works, I then highly recommend Anna Karenina and The Portrait of a Lady, two of the finest novels I've ever read.
Thanks for this. Due to being really busy year-round, finding time to read is very difficult, so I really appreciate the tips.
RyuAqua wrote:I usually find that I get more helpful reading suggestions from people when they have some sense of what I've read before, in what context, whether I liked it, what my typical tastes and favorites are, etc. Are there any pointers you could give, Sam, on specific reading experiences you liked or genres/times/places you're looking to break into for the first time (e.g. do you actually enjoy "magical realism" / fantastical elements in your literature or prefer more realistic fare, etc.)? I'm barely literate compared to someone like John, but that may help guide the suggestions you get from the crowd.
My reading habits are very scattered; I haven't really focused on one region or genre, so whatever piques my interest ends up as what I read next. However, I do prefer novels and short stories to poetry and plays. Also, I am very interested in world literature, I guess because I like the new settings and experiencing a country through its literature.

I have read some South American works (Love in the Time of Cholera, One Hundred Years of Solitude, and The House of the Spirits) and I am definitely interested in other authors from there, including Bolano and Borges.

Some of my favorite things I have read:

1. Jhumpa Lahiri. By far my favorite author, I liked the perspective of immigrant experiences being juxtaposed with life in the country they are emigrating from that was found in Interpreter of Maladies, and her other two works were just as incredibly amazing.

2. The Thing Around Your Neck- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I found this to be in the same vein as Interpreter of Maladies, and really loved it. I will definitely be reading her other works.

3. One Hundred Years of Solitude- Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I really liked this, and I am interested in Garcia Marquez's short stories and works like Chronicle of a Death Foretold, though I thought Love in the Time of Cholera was a lot weaker than One Hundred Years of Solitude.

4. Margaret Atwood. I have read The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake, and The Year of the Flood and really liked all of them.

5. Other books I have enjoyed are The Joy Luck Club, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Life of Pi, The Poisonwood Bible, and Runaway by Alice Munro.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 2:14 pm
by vinteuil
I have to assume you like/will like Rushdie.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:39 pm
by Chimango Caracara
In the light of the other books you've liked, I recommend Zadie Smith and Edwidge Danticat. You might also enjoy The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, which is about the immigrant experience in a bit of a different way.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:57 pm
by vinteuil
Chimango Caracara wrote:Edwidge Danticat
She's the hero high school quizbowl deserves, but not the one it needs right now.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 5:38 pm
by geowzrd
I've always perfered nonfiction for some reason. Some of my Favorites include Lies My Teacher Told Me, Freakanomics,An Incomplete Education, and T. Hary William's biography of Huey Long.

Re: Favorite Books or Other Works of Literature?

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 11:32 pm
by Tanay
Chimango Caracara wrote:In the light of the other books you've liked, I recommend Zadie Smith and Edwidge Danticat. You might also enjoy The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, which is about the immigrant experience in a bit of a different way.
Monica Ali and Dinaw Mengestu are also fantastic writers of immigrant literature.