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    What are you reading?

    I love books. And I love talking about books--more than politics. Actually, WAY more than politics.

    Right now, I'm reading Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan. It's a fictionalized version of a love affair that Frank Lloyd Wright had with a woman he designed a house for. So far, I like it and I especially like that it happened in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago where Wright designed many houses. I'm not far enough into it yet to say much more than that.

    But my "To Read" list is getting kind of short, so I've decided to solicit suggestions. To be fair, I'm going to suggest some good books myself. My favorites list is in a constant state of flux. I change my mind a lot. But for now, here are five top reads.

    Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

    A retelling of Arthurian legend, but from the women's perspective. I fell in love with this book when I was seventeen years old and read through the night to finish it. The book begins with Arthur's mother and her sisters and continues with Arthur's sister, Morgaine, and his wife, Guinevere. In this telling, Morgaine is not a witch, but a powerful priestess. Guinevere is sort of a wimp, but you still end up feeling a little sorry for her. I love it for it's powerful females and the conflict of old and new.

    Persuasion by Jane Austen

    I love everything by Jane Austen. I read them all over and over and I always find something new to make me laugh out loud. Persuasion is my favorite, maybe because of all Austen's heroines, I identify most with Ann Elliot. She has to wait a long, long time for her happiness, and it tortures the reader. But because it's Austen, you know Ann is going to get her happy ending.

    The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

    Maybe one of the best books of the modern era, Kingsolver weaves the story of four sisters, telling each of their parts in a different voice. The book is almost wholly set in Africa as the sisters and their mother struggle to come to terms with a harsh and unfamiliar life that their missionary father has forced them into. It's one of those "you'll laugh, you'll cry" kind of books that I count as a masterpiece.

    The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

    I am totally not a romantic, but this love story made my heart ache. I don't want to say anything else about it because it is such an original story I don't want to give anything away.

    Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley

    Smiley is another author who doesn't write anything not worth reading. Horse Heaven is an ambitious story told from the perspectives of so many characters you think you'll never get them straight. Oh, and four of them are horses. The first 50 pages or so are difficult. But if you stick with it, everything clicks and you won't be able to put it down.

    Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

    Patchett's prose feels like it's singing. In this story, a group of people are attending a concert given by a world famous opera singer in a fictional central American country. The performance is interrupted when rebel forces crash the party and hold everybody hostage. This is another one where less is more. Just read it. Soon.

    (Okay, six. I couldn't narrow it down further.)

    So, what are you reading?


    I'm currently not reading anything but blogs, but having seen your Top 5 list and knowing 3 of the books on it, I'd like to suggest two more:

    The Wandering Unicorn by Manuel Mujica Lainez (we chatted already about it, but it's so worth the read)

    The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (excellently weird Russian novel translated by Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O'Connor)

    Oh, and of course, ANYTHING by Christopher Moore (Blood Sucking Fiends is a great place to start)


    Three more:

    The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kaye Penman (a must-read if you haven't read it already years ago)

    The Hours by Michael Cunningham (which inspired the excellent film starring Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep)

    The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst (it's weird, sad, and interesting)


    One more:

    Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald.  It's sometimes painful, sometimes hysterical, and always poignant. 

    There, that should keep you reading through the winter!


    O, if I may be so bold as to criticize, if only to demand more of your terrific writing, can we get some more beef here? Why should we read these?

    PS Avalon is great, but #1?

    Yes, but only if we call it something else. I'm a reformed vegetarian...no beef. Also, it will have to wait until tomorrow. My brain is incapable of forming cogent thoughts right now. P.S. Avalon is #1 only chronologically. It was my first, and therefore most enduring, favorite.

    Well, now it's going to bug me...editing coming right up.

    P.P.S. You're such a noodge. Tongue out

    Isn't that what self-appointed editors are for?

    Excellent additions.

    My favorite Smiley book is The Greenlanders, a fictional account of the decline of the doomed Norse Greenland colonies. Narrated sparsely in the manner of Icelandic sagas, it's not for everyone, but I found the sad, haunting tale of medieval colonists succumbing over generations from the Little Ice Age, Inuit attacks, and social dissolution to be incredibly moving.

    Other favorites of mine:

    The World According to Garp - hilariously tragic story of a misfit writer trying to live a normal life as a husband, father, and wrestling coach while his stern but beloved mother becomes a feminist icon. I'm not doing justice to it, but it's Irving at his best -- biting and funny yet tender and poignant.

    Tom Jones - I love the early novels. Without a history of literature to guide them, inventors of the novel like Fielding were incredibly original and free-wheeling. The clever satire of Tom Jones is still relevant and funny two centuries later. It's a must read for serious readers.

    The Sparrow - Not your father's sci fi. Mary Doria Russell tells a profound and gripping tale of a Jesuit space mission to to enage an alien civilization. Rich with allusion to Christian theology and European colonization, the Sparrow is suspenseful, thoughtful, and unsettling.

    Liars and Saints - Maile Meloy's story of the slow motion implosion of a Catholic family in California through three generations is one of the best first novels I've read. You can't help but share Meloy's empathy for her characters as they struggle to to contain secrets and inner turmoil in the face of familial expectations and illusions.

    A friend told me about Liars and Saints a long time ago, but I haven't gotten around to reading it. I think it might still be on my bookshelf.

    I'm reading that Benazir Bhutto book on democracy and Islam and relations with the West -- and feeling quite pleased with myself for being able to say that I'm reading a non-fiction book.  Because the truth is that the only I actually get around to reading those non-fiction books I always think I should read is when I take the bus frequently.  Here's to public transit!

    Kingsolver's book is on my coffee table. My stepdaughter gave it to me. The premise reminds me of Mosquito Coast, which was a great book and an interesting, though comparatively tame film.

    I'm reading Lay of the Land, which follows The Sportswriter and Independence Day in the travails of Frank Bascomb. I'm supposed to be finishing Planet of Slums and Fat History one of these days.

    thanks for the recs. haven't read any of those so i will be adding them to my amazon cart shortly.

    This has been an unusally bad year for me in my reading selection. I am currently reading Netherlands by joseph O'Neill, and I'm having a tough time finishing it. The story is still meandering a couple hundred pages in, and there's a lot of stuff about cricket in it that just hasn't captured my interest.

    Other books I've read recently and DON'T recommend include:

    The Yiddish Policeman Union by Chabon. That was just a bear of a book to finish. i love his writing, but despite an interesting 'alternative history' premise, the story is a snoozer.

    Choke by Chuck Palahniuk. It was okay, but a disappointment given this was the first book i've read by him. i love the imagination of the writing and the eccentricities of the characters, but I just didn't feel moved or enlightened by the end. They made a movie of the book which apparently came and went very quickly.

    Falling Man by Delilo. A 9/11 novel that seemed rush with rather uninteresting characters.

    Boomsday by christopher Buckley. Really enjoyed Thank You For Smoking, but while the book's premise was just as topical, the story was bleech and unbelievable.

    Recent books I've read and actually enjoyed:

    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - great energy in the writing, fascinating Dominican history.

    The Kite Runner (I know, Im a bit behind the trends) was also good, a bit maudlin, but fast-paced, and again great for the historical lessons.

    And I loved Then We Came to the End, which was reminiscent of The Office TV show, but sad and semi-tragic.

    Found this literate video fantasy on Daily Dish.


    I work for Regal Literary, the literary agency that represents Audrey Niffenegger. We noticed your interest in Audrey Niffenegger and THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE and want you to know we’re giving away Advance Reader’s Copies of HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY now to bloggers who have written about Audrey’s work. To get yours, click below or you can contact me directly at [email protected] with your mailing address.


    Look forward to hearing from you,


    If you were a fan of Time Traveler's Wife,


    You might be interested to know that Regal Literary is giving away ten advanced reader's copies and three first edition hardcovers of the new Audrey Niffenegger book, Her Fearful Symmetry, on October 1st in a lottery to people who join the facebook page as a fan and send an e-mail to [email protected]. Good luck!


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