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Michael A. Bailey

 

Book Recommendations – Fiction

Title

Author

Comment

Cloud Atlas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reamde

 

 

The Amazing Adventures of Clay and Cavaliar

 

Atonement

David Mitchell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Neal Stephenson

 

 

Michael Chabon

 

 

Ian McEwan

Wasn't sure about this at first -- all this about post-modernist novel and disconnected sections and confusing and all that.  But really?  A pulp-fiction mystery with a couple of post-apocaliptic sci-fi/fantasy and historical fiction sections built in.  Each story worked; each had its own voice and the links, as paltry as they were, were somehow thrilling.  Little tiny hints here and there.  Unifying theme: our will to power, our science and those v. faculties that elevated us from apes, to savages, to modern man are the same faculties that'll snuff out Homo sapien

 

Computers, conspiracies, violence – all good stuff.  A long book, but I didn’t want it to end. (Diamond Age by Stephenson is great too.)

 

Comic book heros and writers - their ups and downs.  The flow of the writing is remarkable.  Chabon is a very good story teller.

 

A slow start, but a truly excellent book.  Great characters, with a great storyline; raises more questions than it answers.  Leads by example good fiction does - brings you inside the lives of others. [Spoiler ... Ends with protagonist making it unclear whether the story was true or made up; even though this is fiction, it matters.]

 

The Enormous Room

e.e. cummings

About ambulance driver in World War I.  I read this long ago and can hardly remember it, but have always liked what cummings can do with the world.

Memoirs of a Geisha

Arthur Golden

Great read.  Extremely convincing and compelling.

A Map of the World

Jane Hamilton

Picked this up at the airport.  If the blurbs were at all honest about what is inside, I never would have read it.  It's about a woman whose life falls apart after a neighbor's child drowns while at the woman's house.  How's that for a pick me up?  Nonetheless, this is very well written and makes a good use of the Rashomon-type technique of narrating from multiple perspectives.

A Fine Balance

Rohinton Misly

Two guys who definitely don't answer to "lucky". 

Crossing to Safety

Wallace Stegner

Read while awaiting tenure decision - about a guy who didn't get tenure.  I think it would be riveting regardless.

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle

Haruki Murakami

The start is oddly compelling.  A man's cat disappears.   He gets a call from an unknown woman asking to meet her.  By the end, though, it has fallen into such an alternative universe that it's hard to finish.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

Milan Kundera

Laughed and now forgot the story.  Damn, he's good.

Feast of the Goat

Mario Vargas Llosa

The story is well crafted and the evocation of both sides of tyranny is very compelling.  About Trujillo dictatorship in Dominican Republic.

The Corrections

Jonathan Franzen

A bit long, but a harrowing depiction of dementia at the end is quite memorable.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series

Douglas Adams

 

Instance of the Fingerpost

Iaian Pearns

Murder in 17th century Oxford with a dash of Rashomon (actually "Yabu no naka") tossed in.

Bel Canto

Ann Patchett

Excellent book - would make great movie.  Carmen is revolutionary girl from country.  Protagonist is Japanese pianist.  Chick flick wrapped in terrorist/kidnapping plot.

Night Soldiers

Alan Furst

I've liked every book by him I've read.  Very evocative of clash of Nazis, Communists and the West in pre-WWII central Europe.

Me Talk Pretty One Day

David Sedaris

Funny, funny, funny.

The Man Called Thursday

G.K. Chesterton

 

Good Omens

Neil Gaimman and Terry Pratchett

VERY funny.  Page 14: "God does not play dice with the universe.  He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of the other players, to being in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won't tell you the rules..." Page 163 - British kids talking about rumor that an American ice cream shop had 39 flavors - "there aren't thirty-nine flavors in the whole world"

Middlesex

Jeffrey Eugenides

Fantastic.  The author is a shameless storyteller -- how else could you describe someone who writes a novel called "middlesex" about a hermaphrodite.  But the thing is, this book is really interesting.  There is always just the right amount of dramatic tension - we have the main story line about Calliope being slowly revealed, but also have other story lines developing simultaneously.  It's never complicated, but the author is darn sure he's going to make it a good ride.  We don't just get Greek grandparents (who are brother and sister), but they narrowly escaped a Turkish massacre and another grandparent (Turkish) founded the Nation of Islam (that bit was a bit odd - are we supposed to "believe" it as part of the story).  There's perhaps a bit of overkill with the death of the father at the end but at that point, the main story line has mostly played out and the author is saying "I'm not done yet...".

The Dogs of Babel

Carolyn Parkhurst

Paul is a college professor distraught over death of wife, Lexy.  Lexy is headstrong and fragile.  The story unfolds as the narrator (Paul) slowly reveals all he knows - as much to himself as to the reader.  In his distress, he tries to get their dog (who witnessed Lexy's death by fall from an apple tree in their backyard) to talk.  You don't know if suddenly you'll turn the page and have a dog-talking

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