I want to read something really intelligent and beautifully written

(253 Posts)
SalveRibena Sun 06-Oct-13 18:03:05

I have been reading crap on my Kindle for too long and now want to go back to reading Proper Books. Past favourites include Atonement, Bring Up The Bodies, The Poisonwood Bible, The Sea and The Line of Beauty.

Any advice?

DuchessofMalfi Sun 06-Oct-13 18:59:08

How about some more McEwan? I liked Enduring Love, was very good.

Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami, Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink.

bakingaddict Sun 06-Oct-13 19:18:40

The God of small things by Arunthi Roy

The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa

Secret History by Donna Tartt

coffeeinbed Sun 06-Oct-13 19:21:13

Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood

maillotjaune Sun 06-Oct-13 19:23:29

John Williams - Stoner is the one people have been raving about but I liked Augustus even more.

Harvest by Jim Crace

Habbibu Sun 06-Oct-13 19:24:33

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

I was also going to suggest Margaret Attwood.
Also anything by Alice Munro or Alison Lurie.

HilaryM Sun 06-Oct-13 19:27:42

Have you read any Kent Haruf? So beautifully written.

I also loved and would recommend 'the garden of evening mists' by Tan Twan Eng.

Barbara Kingsolver definitely

I liked the Lacuna too though it took some getting into - worth persevering

Also the Bean Trees & the Pigs in Heaven

(Not the Pigs - just Pigs!)

tumbletumble Sun 06-Oct-13 19:30:42

Have you read Captain Corelli's Mandolin? For some reason your list made me think of that.

difficultpickle Sun 06-Oct-13 19:31:31

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. One of the most beautifully written books I have ever read.

Amandine29 Sun 06-Oct-13 19:38:42

Have you read I Capture the Castle or The Great Gatsby? These were my first thoughts and they are certainly beautifully written. I would also recommend Ernest Hemingway, I particularly like A Farewell to Arms.

SalveRibena Sun 06-Oct-13 19:51:26

Ooh, lots of suggestions. Thank you.

Duchess, I have read most of McEwan, but I think Atonement/On Chesil Beach were my favourites.

bakingaddict, I have read The Secret History, it's brilliant!

Amandine I have read I Capture the Castle, loved that too.

I will make a list of the others... keep them coming!

Paula Fox? Anne Tyler?

ggirl Sun 06-Oct-13 19:58:13

the woman in white -wilkie collins
a fine balance -rohinton mistry
the shipping news -annie proulx

ParsingFright Sun 06-Oct-13 20:01:02

Beloved by Toni Morrison
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Lolita - Nabakov
Paula - Isabel Allende

Sunnysummer Sun 06-Oct-13 20:03:24

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is one of the most beautifully written books I've read. I read it before having children and her description of a dying man watching his sleeping son came back to me last night as so accurate and beautiful that I had to reread.

That said, it is not fast paced and has a lot about American religious history. Definitely not my usual (plot-driven) cup of tea, and may not be yours... But I think it's amazing!

MarianForrester Sun 06-Oct-13 20:05:11

A Lost Lady by Willa Cather.

It fits exactly with your description. Beautiful writing, good story.

ParsingFright Sun 06-Oct-13 20:05:28

A Tale of Two Cities and Bleak House?

Dickens is quite variable, but these have their moments of beautiful writing.

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.

Almost Moon by Alice Sebold. Amazing.

Bexicles Sun 06-Oct-13 20:08:33

I have just finished rereading The handmaid's tale. I love Magaret Atwood, every book I have read of hers has been beautifully written.

ParsingFright Sun 06-Oct-13 20:12:09

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, if you like Austen.

Some Daphne du Maurier or Rumor Godden?

christinarossetti Sun 06-Oct-13 20:14:59

Umberto Eco

Sarah Walters

Sebastian Faulks

were my first thoughts

IDoAllMyOwnStunts Sun 06-Oct-13 20:17:04

Have you tried any Sebastian Faulks, how about 'Birdsong'? Harrowing account of life during WW1 in the trenches, ultimately a love story but beautifully written.

nevergoogle Sun 06-Oct-13 20:17:14

A fine balance, rohinton mistry. beautifully written.

ParsingFright Sun 06-Oct-13 20:19:31

Oh, The English Patient, of course. And I suppose other Ondaatjie, though I haven't read any.

And any Nadine Gordimer or Andre Brink.

ParsingFright Sun 06-Oct-13 20:21:18

Regeneration by Pat Barker knocks spots off Birdsong, imho but I can't stand Faulks anyway, so don't listen to me.

Lizzylou Sun 06-Oct-13 20:21:19

Sunnysummer, loved Gilead too. Also Home and Housekeeping by the same author.

FaddyPeony Sun 06-Oct-13 20:21:51

Alice Munro
John Banville
Marylinne Robinson

Hassled Sun 06-Oct-13 20:22:17

Tender is the Night - F Scott Fitzgerald. One of my favourite books in the world.

I'd like to second (or even third?) A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. My favourite book

The first in the Regeneration trilogy is good, but the other two (especially the 2nd) are terrible. Not as bad as Life Class though, which is embarrassingly awful.

Longtallsally Sun 06-Oct-13 20:27:31

Ooh lots of my favourites in your OP - specially Atonement and The Poisonwood Bible. Have you read Blind Assassin - Margaret Attwood. That would certainly fit alongside those two, also Alias Grace too.

I hated hated hated A Fine Balance. It makes Jude the Obscure look like a picnic in the park on a sunny day! I have travelled in India and loved the country, but am not sure I could ever go back now!!

ParsingFright Sun 06-Oct-13 20:28:32

Ah, thank you for the warning, Remus, I shan't bother with Life Class then.

AuntPittypat Sun 06-Oct-13 20:29:09

How about some old classics? I find Russian literature beautiful to read, especially Anna Karenina, Dr Zhivago or, if you've got stamina, War and Peace which I've still not finished, 7 years after starting

kiriwawa Sun 06-Oct-13 20:29:56

Has no one suggested Rose Tremain yet? Restoration is an obvious one but Music & Silence is wonderful, as is The Colour.

notnowImreading Sun 06-Oct-13 20:31:11

Have you read Possession by A S Byatt or Headlong by Michael Frayn? Both mysteries of a sort, very readable, with very vivid passages and the depiction of worlds you really want to live in.

mummybare Sun 06-Oct-13 20:35:21

I was also going to suggest A Fine Balance. And pretty much anything by Margaret Atwood. Feel really unoriginal now...

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson is good.

ShatterResistant Sun 06-Oct-13 20:36:08

I've just finished re-reading Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. Might not be serious enough for you, but it's really beautifully written, and a cracking read.

MinnesotaNice Sun 06-Oct-13 20:36:31

She's Come Undone, The Hour I First Believed, and I Know This Much Is True - all by Wally Lamb

LordEmsworth Sun 06-Oct-13 20:41:27

If you like Ian McEwan, you might also like Graham Greene. Maybe: The End of the Affair, Travels With My Aunt, or Brighton Rock to start. The Heart of the Matter is my personal fave...

I second Rumer Godden. And throw in Barbara Pym - Excellent Women.

Parietal Sun 06-Oct-13 20:42:30

clare messud - the last life.

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 06-Oct-13 21:07:04

Not fiction, but a memoir: What to Look for in Winter by Candia McWilliam

CooEeeEldridge Sun 06-Oct-13 21:10:04

Donna Tart - The Secret History, she has a new book coming out soon also..

Waswondering Sun 06-Oct-13 21:15:35

Grace Notes by Bernard Mclaverty. Beautiful book.

nettie Sun 06-Oct-13 21:28:15

Elegance of the Hedgehog, can't remember who it is by, but everyone in my book group loved it.

Kleptronic Sun 06-Oct-13 21:31:21

Another vote for AS Byatt's Possession. This is my favourite book; lyrical, passionate, learned, scholarly, a mystery, a love story, just beautiful.

If you want something longer in the same vein, Robertson Davies The Cornish Trilogy is good.

ParsingFright Sun 06-Oct-13 21:37:00

Yes yes YES to Possession. <happy sigh>

Habbibu Sun 06-Oct-13 21:38:57

I prefer The Little Friend by Donna Tartt to the Secret History.

stillstanding29 Sun 06-Oct-13 21:40:51

Have you read White Light by Susan Fletcher it's beautiful and captivating. '
I also read Clare Balding's autobiography recently - that's a good read.

Mefisto Sun 06-Oct-13 21:46:33

Jim Harrison? The English Major is superb. His writing is beautiful and bittersweet.

Second Graham Greene, John Banville and Fitzgerald.

UriGeller Sun 06-Oct-13 21:48:28

Michael Ondaatje - In the Skin of the Lion.

So beautifully written I didn't want to finish it. I eked it out over months, savouring every single sentence.

LeoTheLateBloomer Sun 06-Oct-13 21:50:11

Have you read any Ann Pachett? Bel Canto and State of Wonder are both beautiful.

Beamur Sun 06-Oct-13 21:51:54

Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
Lots of lovely suggestions in this thread.
Beautifully written, but maybe not the most intellectually demanding - anything by Nancy Mitford.

NightLark Sun 06-Oct-13 21:55:14

Found my recommendation (Gilead) eloquently put by sunnysummer upthread. One of the most beautifully written books I have ever read.

I also enjoyed Women on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy.

letsgetreadytoramble Sun 06-Oct-13 22:05:10

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris is fantastic.

Anything by China Meiville is beautifully written and will stay with you forever.

nosleeptilever Sun 06-Oct-13 22:05:17

the Cornish trilogy by Robertson Davies or anything by him. A truly under celebrated author. I found myself having to check the dictionary for some of his words but when I learned their meaning I thought to myself "that is the perfect word!".

Mefisto Sun 06-Oct-13 22:36:30

Christopher Isherwood -A single man or Goodbye to Berlin.

Roberto Bolano -The skating rink

Poe Ballantine's short stories are beautifully written and hilarious in parts.

Angela Carter?

John Updike's Rabbit series?

originalpiratematerial Sun 06-Oct-13 22:37:46

Have you read Any Human Heart by William Boyd - I've just finished it, I think it will stay with me for a long time.

Going back a bit, but I bet you'd love Carol Shiend lds if you haven't discovered her stuff already. My favourites are Unless and Larry's Party.

Ohwhatfuckeryisthis Sun 06-Oct-13 22:47:11

Life after life . Kate Atkinson.
House of rumour. Jake Arnott.
There is some utter bollox on Kindle. Maybe allsome of those people who publish there cant get a proper publishing deal for a reason.

highlandcoo Mon 07-Oct-13 10:35:32

YY to Ann Patchett, and the two that Leo mentions are the ones I would also recommend. The clarity of her prose is fantastic.

These book threads are great - I had literally (literally literally, not OED literally) never heard of Ann Patchett!

Have just ordered State of Wonder to begin with (Kindle version as I'm going on holiday soon. If I love it I will buy actual books when I get back smile)

somewherewest Mon 07-Oct-13 20:58:38

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is one of the most beautifully written books I've read. I read it before having children and her description of a dying man watching his sleeping son came back to me last night as so accurate and beautiful that I had to reread

Yes! It's a joy to read. Her Housekeeping is also fantastic. Apart from things already mentioned I loved Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose and Margaret Attwood's The Handmaid's Tale, both of which also have the advantage of being page-turners. Also Carson McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things. The first of those in particular is gorgeous.

Mefisto Mon 07-Oct-13 21:04:52

Oh yes, Carson McCullers was a wonderful writer.

CelticPromise Mon 07-Oct-13 21:11:04

I second Life After Life, amazing book.

Off to look at some of the other suggestions.

Many many years ago I worked in the warehouse at P*nguin Books & used to nick borrow masses of books inc Carson McCullers, Muriel spark, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Graham Greene & many others mentioned above

I know I loved them all at the time but have forgotten the details now & have mislaid them all

I should start again, shouldn't I? (& pay for them this time blush

bigbadbarry Mon 07-Oct-13 21:21:26

Kate Atkinson or Maggie O'Farrell

Anjou Mon 07-Oct-13 21:28:37

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Quite lovely.

Bearleigh Mon 07-Oct-13 21:29:53

If you like short stories, there is a fabulous collection by Edith Pearlman that was published recently. Like Alice Munro (whom I love) but morevaried.

Elizabeth Taylor (the writer)'s recently-published short story collection is also very good, and so are her novels. I have read "A view of the harbour" and "in a summer season" and thought both were really excellent. I have also really enjoyed many of the books published by Persephone Books.

MrsAMerrick Mon 07-Oct-13 21:44:52

I'd second Gilead, one of the most beautifully written books and also clever without being pretentious.

Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels, who is a poet as well as a novelist, and so this novel has poetic undertones. It is heartbreaking and yet uplifting.

LaFataTurchina Mon 07-Oct-13 21:49:47

My 2 favourite 'serious' books, which I go back to time and again -

Herman Hesse - Siddartha
Milan Kundera - The Unbearable Lightness of Being

CoteDAzur Mon 07-Oct-13 22:33:27

I second the recommendations of:
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke
Umberto Eco (especially Foucault's Pendulum)

And I add to the list:
Invisible Cities - Italo Calvino
This Thing Of Darkness - Harry Thompson
Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
Heart Of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

These are very "intelligent" but not at all easy to read. Only if you dare:
Anathem - Neal Stephenson
Umbrella - Will Self
The Atrocity Exhibition - j G Ballard

highlandcoo Mon 07-Oct-13 22:59:38

Oh, and Steinbeck. Try East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath. In the latter especially you can feel his passionate involvement in the theme of families struggling to survive. Simply and beautifully written - his writing really stands the test of time.

'Middlesex' is okay, but I love 'The Virgin Suicides' more (his debut). It is beautifully written and more spare than Middlesex, and to me works better because it tries to do less.

Talking of Steinbeck too, The Pearl is another that packs a real punch in not too many words.

Assume you've read, 'The Outsider' by Camus? Another one - but only read it when you don't mind being thoroughly miserable for a while!

Mefisto Tue 08-Oct-13 20:44:22

Oh Remus I have been meaning to get hold of a copy of the Virgin Suicides. Inspired to go and find it now.

losingtrust Tue 08-Oct-13 20:46:53

There is a book called 'Room' which is a modern book but one of the best things I have read in a long time.

Ilovegeorgeclooney Tue 08-Oct-13 20:56:30

Recently been re-reading Graham Greene, amazing, also Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones is lovely but devastating. Some great suggestions inspiring a rummage on the bookshelves for lost treasures!

MrsWolowitz Tue 08-Oct-13 20:58:03

Les Mis.

Its so beautifully written, sometimes it reads almost like poetry.

(Tip - read the abridged version if you don't want a chapter spent reading about the French sewage system).

snugglesnook Tue 08-Oct-13 21:01:23

How It All Began by Penelope Lively, The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst.

Mr Pip is good. It didn't turn out to be at all as I expected.

On a similar note, Evelyn Waugh's 'A Handful of Dust' is exquisite.

CoteDAzur Tue 08-Oct-13 21:33:38

1984 - George Orwell

I'm re-reading it now, for the 1st time since my teens and am finding it horrifyingly accurate in its socio-economic analysis and predictions of Doublethink and Newspeak ("extraordinary rendition", anyone?)

SinisterSal Wed 09-Oct-13 10:19:29

Isn't it funny Cote how those kind of books will do that? The more you learn about the world around you the more prescient they seem. I had that experience with Brave New World, in it's analysis of the cult of youth and the rather contradictory attitude towards sex we have now.

I second all the Marilyn Robinson recommendations. Housekeeping, for me.

dappledawn Wed 09-Oct-13 10:37:32

Has anyone tried Ondaatjie's 'Fugitive Pieces'? Heartbreakingly beautiful, and so incredibly well-written. Also that one set in Sri Lanka during all the troubles there - but I've forgotten its title - oh yes, I think it's 'Anil's Ghost'. I'm humbled before such talent and his ability to reach straight into one's heart, through his words.

Cote I am a huge Neal Stephenson fan. Currently working my way(slowly) through 'Quicksilver' - first of a trilogy - a huge fat book that you just can't rush, it's so packed with amazing and riveting detail! Found that I couldn't put down either 'Snow Crash' or 'Reamde' - but they were easier reads. 'Diamond Age' was weird and a bit more of a struggle; but I still had to read it all. 'Cryptonomicon' was the first I ever read and I loved it....

CoteDAzur Wed 09-Oct-13 11:47:15

Dapple - I'm a huge Neal Stephenson fan, too smile Yes, I loved Cryptonomicon, too. Snow Crash blew my mind - totally in awe of the story he constructed, especially re the Sumerian mythology angle. I loved Diamond Age, too, even before I had DC. Insights into how to raise a child with an independent mind, cultural analyses (Victorian, Chinese, etc), even a bit of martial arts instruction. Brilliant stuff grin

I was actually quite disappointed with Quicksilver and its two sequels remain the only books by this author that I haven't read. The flippant tone and implausible characters (Blackbeard the pirate? A former harem slave who is now a French Countess? hmm) ruined it for me, I'm afraid.

You really must read Anathem. Truly brilliant and rather brain-hurty smile

ParsingFright Wed 09-Oct-13 12:13:34

Can't believe I've only just remembered Robert Graves: I, Claudius and Claudius the God.

Also wondering whether to suggest Patrick O'Brien, Master and Commander and all the rest. Superb writing, intelligent and gripping. He's been described as Austen- sur-mer, so depends if that takes your fancy.

Another O'Brien - Flann O'Brien. I confess At Swim-Two-Birds is still on my to-read pile, but The Third Policeman was rewarding though demanding.

notagiraffe Wed 09-Oct-13 12:25:21

How about (as IloveGC suggests above) some Graham Greene - his prose is the best ever.
The End of the Affair or Stamboul Train are good, or, if you want a lighter novel, Our Man in Havana is great.

Have you read Snow Falling on Cedars?
The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns?

CoteDAzur Wed 09-Oct-13 13:53:08

I wouldn't call Thousand Splendid Suns "intelligent" in any sense of the word. It is a 400-page tug on heart strings. Not a terribly well-written one at that.

notagiraffe Wed 09-Oct-13 14:52:55

I know lots of people hate it. I don't. It does tug the heart strings and isn't as strong as Kite Runner, but it is still a classic. Hardy and Dickens were mawkish - they are still classics, for what they reveal of the societies they are writing about. Hosseini is worth reading for that alone, imo.

CoteDAzur Wed 09-Oct-13 16:17:34

It's not a question of like or hate. OP asked for "really intelligent" books and 1000 SS is anything but, since it does not engage the brain at all.

It is not a classic except maybe among chic-lit readers. It is a sob-fest written in English by an American whose "knowledge" about Afghanistan dates to his childhood. The book is not only far from well-written but is full of factual mistakes. (And I'm choosing my words here not to offend its fans'

dappledawn Wed 09-Oct-13 16:30:38

Back to Neal Stephenson - yes, Cote, 'Anathem' is on my 'to read next' pile, and I'm grateful for your recommendation - from the blurb, I hadn't thought it would be as good as it obviously is. 'Quicksilver' is indeed somewhat heavy going at times, but I find his writing about Reformation/post-Cromwell England etc really fascinating - he must have done loads of research into that historical period! (I'm not yet halfway through it, so haven't yet encountered Blackbeard et al...) What a mind that writer must have. - I'm also impressed that I hardly ever encounter the usual irritating/intrusive Americanisms in his writing, as one would expect. I agree with you too about the themes of interest in 'Diamond Age' re: children's education, the pre-eminence of China in his futuristic world, and the extraordinary way he uses the much-maligned Victorian era as a kind of role-model of an ideal future society!

'Snow Falling on Cedars', notagiraffe - sorry to say that I tried hard with it but in the end just couldn't stand it. It seemed to me to be just semi-autobiographical wish-fulfilment daydream by an American who really fancies Japanese girls! I'm probably being unfair; still....[hmmm]

CoteDAzur Wed 09-Oct-13 16:38:07

It's not a question of like or hate. OP asked for "really intelligent" books and 1000 SS is anything but, since it does not engage the brain at all.

It is not a classic except maybe among chic-lit readers. It is a sob-fest written in English by an American whose "knowledge" about Afghanistan dates to his childhood. The book is not only far from well-written but is full of factual mistakes. (And I'm choosing my words here not to offend its fans)

I will just pretend I didn't see you liken Hosseini to Dickens grin

CoteDAzur Wed 09-Oct-13 19:56:12

dapple - I enjoy reading difficult books so have read many, but Anathem is really a challenge. There were parts of it where I had to put it down because I started getting a headache from trying to keep up with author's reasoning. Very intelligent and rewarding book. Like you, I also wonder what sort of a weirdo genius Neal Stephenson is.

After Anathem, I was very disappointed with Reamde. I hope he didn't have a lobotomy or something, because it seems impossible that the brain that wrote Anathem then went on to wrote the light action movie Reamde is. I wonder if he presold film rights.

Bearleigh Wed 09-Oct-13 20:08:33

I am reading Mansfield Park. I read it when I was in my early twenties, but have found I have got so much more out of it with, ahem, more life experience.

Agree entirely that Dickens is mawkish. Can't stand him, myself.

I liked The Kite Runner but detested Splendid Suns one - I thought it was shoddily written and that the characterisation was lazy.

Jane Austen is the best, of course. In fact, OP, ignore everything else on here and read/re-read her immediately.

Quangle Wed 09-Oct-13 23:59:20

Seconding Wally Lamb. Have read all three mentioned but could not step away from I Know This Much Is True.

blossomblowing Thu 10-Oct-13 06:33:00

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
Life After Life, Kate Atkinson
The Light Between Oceans, ML Stedman
The Night Circus Erin Morgenstern

just finished and really enjoyed The Winemaker by Noah Gordon (he has written others, can anyone recommend?)
and just starting feast of the goat
and sounds like i should give Cryptonicum another go..
and happy to see The Book Thief on this list, very beautiful

dappledawn Thu 10-Oct-13 09:16:53

Hi again Cote ( = fellow NS-fan, so more of the same here!). Interested to read your comments on 'Reamde': I do agree that towards the end it just turned into a superficial action-movie-type thing - it got rather silly and pretty superficial (though admittedly breathtaking, with Forthrast and Zula's multiple hairbreadth escapes from the rather intriguing ruthless terrorist Jones...) I also thought it had a cast of far too many characters, with consequently limited depth and development of same. But, as action-movie type novels go, it kept me well gripped (unto reading it into the small hours of morning and yawning all the next day, for quite a while!) The end was a let-down, like he just couldn't be bothered with it any more after 1042 pages. - What I did really like about it was the very topical exploration of virtual reality games/worlds (T'Rain etc), and computer viruses (a bit like Snow Crash) which are indeed a real threat in RL. Also liked the way the Chinese hacker was shown mercy, and then turned out to be one of the good guys! so some nice touches there. I don't know that much about computers but am interested, so NS's writing also helps me get up to date on IT through the medium of fiction!

I think he is just vastly talented, and likes to explore all the different kinds of writing that he can do...(a bit like Iain Banks/Iain M Banks who is also one of my heroes, now sadly deceased). - Well I'm getting keen now to get on to 'Anathem' once I've finished 'Quicksilver' (which makes me laugh because Hooke, Newton etc keep swigging mercury, thinking it is a cure-all! grin)...I like my brain to be a bit hurted, in a literary sense, mainly because it gets so little other (refreshing) stimulation, in these days of motherhood!! Which bit hurt your brain most? (so I can look out for it... then we can see who is the more rocket scientist of us maybe...)

AlisonClare Thu 10-Oct-13 13:19:26

Of Human Bondage - Somerset Maugham
Memory of Love - Aminatta Forna
Star of the Sea - Joseph O Connor

spicynaknik Thu 10-Oct-13 13:21:05

Marilynne Robinson - Gilead, Housekeeping are stunning.

A.S Byatt - Still Life is my favourite, but Possession is quite gripping too. In latter years she has got a bit pompous and is often badly in need of a good editor imho.

Doris Lessing - Children of Violence series and Canopus in Argos: Archives series.

CoteDAzur Thu 10-Oct-13 14:17:55

dapple - I want to recommend to you Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It is what Reamde wants to be. Definitely not literature, but a great read along Snow Crash lines of virtual reality, computer games, etc. Really gripping, interesting book.

Re Iain Banks - I read about 8 of his books, thinking they are kind of OK although not genius, but then gave up. Frankly, I just couldn't take anymore that mediocre dumb rubbish about humans and robots happily living together etc. If I'm going to read space opera, I'd rather read Asimov & Arthur C Clarke. Now that there is so much more intelligent sci-fi / speculative fiction being written in the last 20 years or so, superficial stuff like Banks' Culture books are imho not a great use of the little time I have for reading. (Sorry smile)

Re brainhurty bits of Anathem - Trust me, when you get there you will know! It took my entire concentration to follow the plot at one point, of what they were talking about and where they were going with it. I have no idea how Stephenson wrote that book, but I do understand why he had to follow it with (relatively) light fluff like Reamde.

SinisterSal Thu 10-Oct-13 14:42:46

I put down Quicksilver half way through. The overuse of that irritating gimmick 'phant'sy' made me do it. Once I'm over it I'll pick it up again. It was very interesting and well researched but a little too much emphasis on getting that across to the detriment of the flow and 'grippiness' of the book.

Louise1956 Thu 10-Oct-13 20:20:09

White Teeth by Zadie Smith is very good, great characters and very amusing.

I never get tired of Barbara Pym, Excellent Women is my favourite, and Jane and Prudence and A Glass of Blessings are great too.

pippibluestocking Thu 10-Oct-13 20:26:14

Also recommend The Strangers Child by Alan Hollingshurst - beautifully written

dappledawn Fri 11-Oct-13 11:33:49

Hi there fellow NS-readers - hi to SinisterSal, yes I do know what you mean about the highly irritating use of 'phant'sy' word in Quicksilver (and a few other similar examples - like, WTF is a 'glacis'??). I think NS has tried here to so oversteep himself in the history, culture, mindset and language of the era that he has misjudged this, and in the language aspect, gone a bit too far. He has not adapted the archaic language absolutely consistently, so such gimmicks stand out much more awkwardly as a consequence (tbh, had he done so, it could well have made the novel quite unreadable). I am still ploughing on with it when I get a chance to read - it's so illuminating to get his take on the London of the Great Plague, Great Fire, etc and the gruesome ways they did experiments on live animals to satisfy their thirst for new knowledge.

Cote thank you so much for the book recommendation - I will certainly be looking out for the Ernest Cline book; it's so good to be able to get such feedback from readers who seem to have similar tastes!

In support of Iain M Banks, I personally do enjoy his big ideas of The Culture (the benevolent quasi-deity superculture who subtly intervene at times into less advanced civilisations - a kind of UN of the universe! -) because I think that's rather inspired; his novella 'State of the Art' I found particularly poignant; it's one of my all-time favourites. I also found the ideas that he played with recently in 'The Hydrogen Sonata' (re: advanced civilisations eventually subliming themselves, and the discovery of the experimental lies regarding their religion/holy book that had been originally told) really intriguing. (His own atheism rather comes through as the underlying premise there, IMO). I find Asimov and AC Clarke a bit outmoded now - though good.

Back to Neal Stephenson: I'm also really looking fwd to getting into Anathem now. If only I had more time/energy to READ! (and little enough housework gets done these days, as it is).

notagiraffe Fri 11-Oct-13 19:32:21

Hmm Cote, we still have to agree to differ. I have a first degree from Oxbridge and a PhD both in Eng Lit, and teach at MA level, so I do know something about what makes good fiction. Kite Runner does imo. I could argue why but I'm off duty, so am happy to leave it at I loved it and therefore recommend it.

I agree 1000SS is far less impressive but it's not without literary merit. It's quite tiresome when people wheel out the 'full of factual errors' stuff to downgrade a novel. It's fiction. It doesn't have to be accurate in any way, factually. It just has to have its own integrity as a fictional world and a coherent narrative.

letsgotostonehenge Fri 11-Oct-13 19:33:24

E=MC squared?!

AnonymousNameChange Fri 11-Oct-13 19:41:58

I adored Engleby by Sebastian Faulks.

Also Cold Mountain by Charles Frazer.

CoteDAzur Fri 11-Oct-13 19:58:15

notagiraffe - I haven't read nor ever commented on Kite Runner, so can't see why you think you are disagreeing with me about it. Much less why you are talking about which university you went to.

As for 1000SS and other such books whose widespread errors make it clear that their authors know pathetically little about the subject they have chosen to write about: "Fiction" refers to the plot, not inaccuracy of the references. I'm surprised that this was not mentioned in your English lit classes wink

If you were reading a book about the Inquisition where Christians follow the teachings of Mohammad, you would presumably think that the author is a moron. You would not say "It's fiction so who cares if he was wrong about something so basic and fundamental to his subject". Similarly, for those of us who know a bit about Islam, the book doesn't work because it is so shockingly wrong about quite a few basic and fundamental issues that the author loses all credibility.

Other than that, if you really believe 1000SS had such literary merit, I'd be interested to hear about it. Was it the characterisation you found so strong? Was it the cleverness and originality of the plot that led you to so respect the author? Was it the repetitious, limited vocabulary? Please share - in your professional opinion, what makes 1000SS a literary success?

HomicidalPsychoJungleCat Fri 11-Oct-13 20:05:18

The collector by John Fowles.

The characterisation in 1000 SS was v poor tbh: cardboard cutout characters and caricatures. The Kite Runner has more integrity imho, whereas as I suspect that 'Suns' was rushed out to please the publisher who was braying for the 'next Kite Runner.'

Bumpsadaisie Fri 11-Oct-13 20:20:34

Have you read Brideshead Revisited? Very beautifully written.

somewherewest Fri 11-Oct-13 20:27:13

I know very little about Afghanistan and wouldn't call it great literature, but for some reason A Thousand Splendid Suns really stuck with me. There was something about the story and character of Mariam (the older wife) that has stuck in my mind ever since and some parts (the description of Mariam and Rasheed's wedding) are beautifully written. Its at its best when describing the little details of Mariam's married life, not so much with the Laila plotline.

gastrognome Fri 11-Oct-13 20:28:03

The God of Small Things is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. It's incredibly evocative and you can almost taste the colours leaping off the page. Just lovely.

somewherewest Fri 11-Oct-13 20:32:44

I keep remembering things! If you enjoy short stories James Joyce's Dubliners has some fantastic ones. A Painful Case is my favourite, but the end of The Dead is gorgeous.

Longdistance Fri 11-Oct-13 20:41:07

The Door by Magda Szabo.

Recommended thus book for our book club. Everyone loved it.

There is also a film, that has Helen Mirren as the main character.

Robbabank Fri 11-Oct-13 20:46:22

Another vote for Nobel prize winner Alice Monro. Also for 'Gilead' and 'Home' (the sort of sequel) by Marilynne Robinson. Also Wila Cather mentioned up thread I think. Also Jeffrey Eugenides and Johnathan Franzen's epic and excellent 'The Corrections'. That's the Canadians/ Americans sorted (flippant).
For some truly classic 'English' writing, start with the early novels of Elizabeth Jane Howard (ex-wife of Kingsley Amis, but a far better writer IMHO.) And once you've fallen in love with her books, her autobiography is fascinating.
Have just read 2 Dorothy Whipples back to back. Pre WW1 fiction, but gripping and touching, and so beautifully written. Persephone (publishers) have other great forgotten or out of print gems on their list and if you ask to be on their mailing list, their brochure and biennial magazine are very handsome and a pleasure to receive. (Would also love to attend some of their events, if I was in London.)
'Slightly Foxed' is a lovely journal which is written by readers for readers and I always pickup new ideas for reading from it.
Grants is also great for new fiction and new writers.

Robbabank Fri 11-Oct-13 20:52:03

Sorry that should be GRANTA (not Grants). Usually available in larger WhSmiths etc.

AnonymousNameChange Fri 11-Oct-13 20:55:25

I liked 1000SS grin Cote, out of curiosity, what were some of the errors?

womma Fri 11-Oct-13 21:03:00

I'd recommend Anne Tyler, she's a wonderful writer. The first book I read was The Starter Marriage, it's a brilliant book. Also Digging to America, Breathing Lessons, The Accidental Tourist, Ladder of Years and Morgan's Passing.

alarkthatcouldpray Fri 11-Oct-13 21:04:36

I liked The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry.

Anything by Anne Fine.

showmethemoneyhoney Fri 11-Oct-13 21:06:54

Got to agree with Robbabank - Persephone books have some real forgotten gems that are well worth a read. I've recently read Saplings by Noel Streatfeild and Greenery Street by Denis Mackail. Added bonus is that they all look beautiful on your bookshelf!

alarkthatcouldpray Fri 11-Oct-13 21:06:59

Anne Tyler is who I was meaning (though Anne Fine good too!).
The Clock Winder is my favourite.

spanky2 Fri 11-Oct-13 21:07:17

Memoirs of a geisha .
Jayne Eyre Charlotte Bronte .

spanky2 Fri 11-Oct-13 21:12:01

The picture of dorian grey. Oscar wilde .

Balloonist Fri 11-Oct-13 21:14:53

Another vote for "This Thing of Darkness"- an absolutely gripping and fascinating read about the relationship between Darwin and the amazing Captain Fitzroy during their voyage on the Beagle and beyond. Breathtaking.

ParsingFright Fri 11-Oct-13 21:17:16

If This Is a Man by Primo Levi.

And probably his Periodic Table, but I can't remember anything about it.

This Thing of Darkness and Dorian Grey both superb/

The Woman In White

MissRabbitsCV Fri 11-Oct-13 21:26:59

Agree 100% with others suggesting anything by Margaret Atwood and Anne Tyler and A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry and Possession by A S Byatt.

Also cannot recommend enough Winter in Madrid by C S Sansome.

The last three books I've read have also been good:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Twins by Saskia Sarginson, and
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty.

You MUST read Perfume by Patrick Suskind. Beautifully written, evocative and thought provoking.

Shockingundercrackers Fri 11-Oct-13 21:38:25

If This is a Man? Oh lord. It's beautiful and literally haunting. But once read you can never unread it. Not for the faint hearted OP.

In a similar vein and also with a similar theme I was going to recommend Austerlitz by WG Sebald. It's also about the effects of the Holocaust but with a little more distance. One of the most incredible books I've ever read.

Will second Any Human Heart and married my DH because of this book. Long story! and Wolf Hall / Bring Up the Bodies.

How about Philip Roth? Not for everyone, but I've never been disappointed. American Pastoral is a good place to start.

I second everyone who's recommended the Persephone Books catalogue. A real treat.

I've just started A Tale For the Time being. One of this year's Booker nominees. So far so good.

Am I missing something re: Anne Tyler? I've read a couple of hers and engaged with the characters, then waited for the whole rest of the book for something to bloody happen!

I think maybe I'm just not as clever as I used to be grin <picks up another Jack Reacher>

Quangle Sat 12-Oct-13 09:53:21

I didn't get Anne Tyler either. Or Marilynne Robinson. But then I got a lot out of A Thousand Splendid Suns so am clearly a huge idiot.

I don't know if you have to read this when young but I have never stopped loving Frost in May by Antonia White. That's the one I always go back to.

Chubfuddler Sat 12-Oct-13 09:58:23

The end of the affair
Never let me go
Jane eyre
Tess of the d'urbevilles
The great gatsby
Black beauty
Notes on a scandal
The pursuit of love
Brideshead revisited

That's the top shelf of my bookcase

tumbletumble Sat 12-Oct-13 10:23:34

I think Anne Tyler only works if you like the kind of books when nothing much happens - that's her style. She's all about characterisation and exploring your emotions, but go elsewhere if you like a gripping plot.

I enjoyed Kite Runner but I haven't read 1000 Splendid Suns - interesting to see such mixed reviews on this thread!

womma Sat 12-Oct-13 10:48:12

Hmm, you're right about Anne Tyler, she's great on characters and writes both men and women very well. I've read a few if her books and been a bit 'meh' about them, but I think when she's good she's one of the best authors I've read. But I concede that she's not one for a galloping storyline.

Also have to vote for Any Human Heart by William Boyd, a wonderful book. Also, South Riding by Winifred Holtby. And anything by A M Homes.

alarkthatcouldpray Sat 12-Oct-13 11:00:46

For me, Anne Tyler, more than any other author I can currently think of, captures the grumbling nothingness of real ife where things don't always have a defined beginning or end. Her characters are people I actually feel I know. If you described her books to me I wouldn't anticipate that I would enjoy them and I'm not even sure that enjoying them is the best description of how I feel about them, but they have a profound emotional impact on my. Part of their intrigue is trying to work out why. I'm not sure I've succeeded as yet.

The Time Traveller's Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger are also great.

AlisonClare Sat 12-Oct-13 11:37:21

re Anne Tyler - I recently reread 'Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant' and I enjoyed it so much. I occasionally write an Amazon review and I've just dug out a paragraph that I wrote:

'The story itself is just about a family - the Tull family, from Pearl Tull as a young woman wondering if she will ever marry, to her marriage to Beck, the birth of three children, the disappearance of Beck and the children as they grow and build their own lives and families. It is a tale that is more full of heartache and misunderstandings than anything else, and, as we are all sons or daughters or brothers or sisters, there is something for us all to recognise in ourselves.'

But it's more than that - as a lifelong reader, I think that the new novels that are pushed as 'bestsellers' by publishers are unsatisfying pap that can be read in two or three days. At my usual reading pace, this novel took me a week. And I enjoyed every minute.

mignonette Sat 12-Oct-13 11:51:47

The new Donna Tartt called 'The Goldfinch' looks meaty.

Wally Lamb has a new book out called 'We Are Water' but I can also recommend 'She's Cone Undone' 'The Hour I First Believed' and 'I Know This Much Is True'.

Barbara Kingsolver's 'Prodigal Summer' and 'Flight Behaviour' are great as is 'Animal Vegetable Miracle' her account of her families year of Locavore eating and living.

Michael Lee West's 'Consuming Passions' and 'She Flew The Coop' here are brilliant modern Southern novels as is the wonderful Bailey White. I have read and re read her novel 'A Good Year For Plums' and her collections of short stories 'Sleeping At The Starlite Motel' and 'Mama Makes Up Her Mind'.

Karen Russells' Swamplandia is one of my all time favourite novels. set in Florida it is about a family of Florida 'Crackers' and has the most beautifully written magical realism. I also love Janice Owens, another Florida set author. Her 'American Ghosts' is just wonderful.

Loved this by Paul LaFarge and this about a Jewish family in the Deep South.

I can recommend Daniel Woodrell (Winters Bone) and Tim Gautreaux for great characters from Louisiana's Cajun community.

Kitty Aldridge's 'A Trick I Learned From Dead Men' is unusual, a small little novel in length only but big in its themes of death, undertaking and family loyalty.

Finally Hector Tobar's 'Barbarian Nurseries here about what happens when both Parents each think the other is looking after the kids in the middle of a family crisis. I like the LA/Mexican setting.

Shockingundercrackers Sat 12-Oct-13 11:52:01

Yes to am homes. Particularly this book will save your life. And tc Boyle also great.

I like initialled authors, clearly. Also for nice homely but well written writing I'd recommend Penelope Lively. Moon Tiger won the booker and is a good place to start.

tumbletumble Sat 12-Oct-13 13:23:00

I love Penelope Lively. Moon Tiger is great; my favourite is The Photograph.

I've recently read two books by Tan Twan Eng - The Gift of Rain and The Garden of Evening Mists. Enjoyed both, but the second is particularly beautifully written.
Other books that have stayed with me include Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels, Music and Silence by Rose Tremain and The Famished Road by Ben Okri.

Just re-read this thread and I can't believe that no-one has mentioned Gabriel Garcia Marquez (forgive me if I missed it). Love In The Time of Cholera is a fantastic story and I also really enjoyed Chronicle of a Death Foretold. That reminds me, I must read more of his books.....

mignonette Sat 12-Oct-13 14:54:00

I second T C Boyle's 'Tortilla Curtain' and Tan Twan Eng's 'Garden Of Evening Mists'.

Laura Esqivel's 'Like Water For Chocolate' and Isabel Allende's 'Aphrodite' are two particular favourites of mine.

What a great thread.

I find Anne Tyler v boring. And I've tried to read 'Gilead' a couple of times and it did precisely nothing for me. The English Patient is another one - it's good writing but so, so dull that it ultimately feels pointless to me. And Ishiguro (sp?) is the same - especially the butler one - yawn. I clearly need excitement and plot; perhaps the odd zombie or robot or mass murder or two!

Aphrodite is excellent - Allende's non-fiction is superior to her fiction imho.

I love Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey/Maturin novels though I know it's not everybody's taste. Beautifully written though.

I've returned to The Millstone by Margaret Drabble again and again since I first read it at around 18.

I also really enjoy RF Delderfield's historical sagas. The Horseman Riding By trilogy and the two Avenue books are my favourites.

CoteDAzur Sat 12-Oct-13 15:01:10

I wouldn't call Garden Of Evening Mists "intelligent" although it was pretty good and atmospheric. It left me with the feeling that it wasn't really thought out very well.

I was especially hmm about her living through the horror of progressive memory loss and at the same time being totally OK with throwing away the map to a nation's treasures - not only monetary wealth but also cultural. Why?

A friend met the author and asked him this question. He answered a vague "I wanted everyone to make their own minds about the issues in my book".

Also the Sword of Honour trilogy, Evelyn Waugh

mignonette Sat 12-Oct-13 15:10:26

Remus I also thought the edition of 'Aphrodite' that I bought a little work of art in itself w/ all the lovely illustrations and prints of famous art works (ManRays 'Peaches being my favourite).

mignonette Sat 12-Oct-13 15:23:26

A few more-

I second Steinbeck's 'The Pearl' plus 'Cannery Row' and 'The Red Pony'.

Kathleen Jamie's 'Sightlines'- Beguiling delicate meditations on nature, life, loss. They will stand rereading many a time and can be returned to when life events cause you to seek solidarity and greater understanding. Her other book 'Findings' of this nature should be read too as I couldn't choose between them and thankfully do not have to. The books in themselves are beautiful little things to own w/ delicate line drawings.

Monica Truong's 'Book Of Salt' sent to me by a friend travels from the Indochine to Paris and is the tale of the Vietnamese cook for Alice B Toklas and Gertrude Stein. A novel of travel, exile mitigated through food and misrepresented too. Loved this.

Yes, the pictures are gorgeous. I gave mine to the charity shop last month and am slightly regretting it now you've mentioned it! Don't think I'll either forget the sea urchin though. smile

Mumzy Sat 12-Oct-13 15:25:31

Hotel du lac by Anita Brookner. In fact all her books are beautifully written and intligent. After day Jane Austen

Mumzy Sat 12-Oct-13 15:26:11

A latter day Jane Austen

thegoosemama Sat 12-Oct-13 17:32:32

I'm in the middle of doctor sleep by Stephen King. It's a great book and really creepy! Thoroughly recommend it

mignonette Sat 12-Oct-13 17:42:20

Yes the Sea Urchin- not something I'll be in a hurry to eat as the idea of eating the Gonads of a still living creature is a bit shock.

TheGoose I devoured Doctor Sleep. King is such an underrated writer.

I really enjoyed Doctor Sleep but it's not something I'd say belongs on a 'beautifully written' thread, much as I love Mr King. Though I must say that some bits of The Dark Tower series really are beautiful. Can't say which bits without spoilers though!

mignonette Sat 12-Oct-13 18:06:43

No Remus I agree (a little as some of his work is spellbinding) but feel truly guilty for saying it as I luffs him.

thegoosemama Sat 12-Oct-13 18:30:16

ha yes I noticed the beautifully written part after I posted about doctor sleep. new to mumsnet and the first time I ever used the app. Bit of a fail there. Great book thoughsmile smile

Have you read The Dark Tower series, Goose? So good! smile

thegoosemama Sat 12-Oct-13 18:57:23

Yes Remus I've read The Dark Tower series. I loved them. Did feel that some parts were unnecessary and dragged a bit but on a whole they were absolute genius. Saying that, I'm only part way through The Wind Through the Keyhole. Keep forgetting to include that one! I'm a huge Stephen King fan and have read most of his books. I'm still to read Joyland. Don't get as much time to read now I'm a mummy sad

mignonette Sat 12-Oct-13 19:04:07

Welcome Goose. Joyland was great. I love the retro pulp crime novel cover and it is a great little read. Vintage Americana in its detail.

Agree that the cover for 'Joyland' is great. I was disappointed by the ending but loved the rest of it.

Was v v disappointed with, 'The Wind Through The Keyhole' though.

mignonette Sat 12-Oct-13 19:13:57

King does have an issue with endings I think. They do tend to fizzle out.

thegoosemama Sat 12-Oct-13 20:43:50

which has been your favourite Stephen King? I think the Stand is mine. I've read it over and over and it never gets old. Totally epic and the characters are the kind that stay with you forever.

Dark Tower and then The Stand for me. And the short stories, Survivor Type and The Langoliers.

acsec Sat 12-Oct-13 21:48:05

I'm reading Elijah's Mermaid by Essie Fox at the moment and I'm really enjoying it!

LEMisdisappointed Sat 12-Oct-13 21:59:36

Shameless place marking for later reading smile

LEMisdisappointed Sat 12-Oct-13 22:05:46

Books that left me bereft when i finished them were:-

Crime and punishment - breath taking! Absolutely blew me away, which surprised me because i thought it was going to be heavy going, but it read like a beach read (to be fair i did read most of it on the beach - in this country). Just amazing. I have tried to read another of his books and have found it quite confusing with all the russian names as they seem to have about four names which they use interchangably! I don't tend to read high brow books so was very pleasantly surprised by this and would urge anyone to read it.

Life of pi - loved this

Rebecca - the atmosphere was amazing.

Human traces - sebastian faulks - this was brilliant and thought provoking.

suebfg Sat 12-Oct-13 22:10:45

My favourites are:

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
The Road Home by Rose Tremain
Wuthering Heights
Life of Pi

I also very much liked the Girl at The Lion d'Or by Sebastian Faulks

stubbornstains Sat 12-Oct-13 22:20:24

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

Out of Africa by Karen Blixen. So beautiful it made me cry.

Aaaawwww Invisible Cities is my favourite book ever! It makes me so happy to see other people recommending it.

I would also third the Master & Commander books by Patrick O' Brien. I was initially put off them by thinking they'd be some kind of generic action books, but they are very well written, and he is very acute and perceptive about human nature. There's also a great deal of globetrotting and digressions into the political and natural history of pretty much any country with a coastline, via the agency of Dr Maturin.

SnoozyGiraffe Sat 12-Oct-13 23:02:30

Anything by Sarah Addison Allen. I'm a skim-reader but have to be slowly savoured!

southeastdweller Sat 12-Oct-13 23:13:04

Now and Then, by William Corlett.

betterwhenthesunshines Sat 12-Oct-13 23:13:49

Came on to say Ann Patchett and Jim Crace, but someone got there first on both counts.

What about Helen Dunmore The Siege?

zenoushka Sat 12-Oct-13 23:36:00

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese - beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I cannot recommend it enough.

rumtumtugger Sun 13-Oct-13 02:49:51

Donna Tartt's third book, The Goldfinch, is out soon. Could. Not. Be. More. Excited!

tiggyhop Sun 13-Oct-13 04:48:30

Helen Dunmore's Russian trilogy, the first is Leningrad I think and the second is the betrayal and she hasn't written the third yet,....wonderful

ilovecolinfirth Sun 13-Oct-13 07:57:57

Any of the novels by Khaled Hosseini. Absolutely beautiful novels.

Lizzabadger Sun 13-Oct-13 11:23:35

Not novels and quite light but you might enjoy David Sedaris' writing e.g. "Me talk pretty one day".

Mefisto Sun 13-Oct-13 11:50:58

Am really enjoying this thread! Am ashamed to say I've had the Deptford Trilogy and The Diamond Age in my to-read pile for ages so shall be mov

Mefisto Sun 13-Oct-13 12:02:31

Oops, sent too soon. Shall be moving them to the top of the pile. Also will be adding Invisible Cities, Any Human Heart and the new Donna Tartt once it's out.

A few more suggestions. Richard Brautigan can be a bit whimsical but there are some delights in his work. So the Wind Won't Blow it Away is wonderful, and nostalgic and terribly sad.

His daughter Ianthe Brautigan wrote a very moving, poetic biography of her father, You Can't Catch Death. Particularly powerful for anyone affected by suicide.

Going back a bit I second (third?) the suggestion of Russian writers. Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time and Chekhov's short stories in particular.

There was a Hesse mentioned up thread and I would add Steppenwolf.

Finally Frankenstein is terrific.

VillandraMcTavish Sun 13-Oct-13 12:11:39

Ann Tyler is brilliant at the quiet thought that goes on behind the mundanity of people's lives. I've enjoyed her most at times when life was a bit broken.

Take a look at Sara Maitland's short stories too. My favourite is A Book of Spells but they are all brilliant.

mignonette Sun 13-Oct-13 12:24:52

Some Oldies But Goodies -

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte- Brave writing about big topics- a fair days pay for a fair days work/ Womens working/ slavery/ religion and hypocrisy. I was stunned when I read this aged thirteen.

Sons And Lovers - I get so mad at Paul Morels Mother but the beauty and dependence of her death moves me every time I read it. I found resolution in it even if Paul did nit.

Candide by Voltaire.

Oh, oh, The Glass Bead Game is lovely. Hard work - but worth it.

SugarMouse1 Sun 13-Oct-13 14:46:54

The Penelopiad, is my favourite Margaret Atwood

Rebecca, Daphne DuMaurier

Second Lolita and Beloved

Wuthering Heights

The Bell Jar

Sophie's Choice

Suite Francaise

noddyholder Sun 13-Oct-13 14:47:54

Swimming in the moon

LatinForTelly Sun 13-Oct-13 16:18:30

What I loved by Siri Hustvedt was quite beautiful and poignant.

I also love Life of Pi and The Road Home.

Am intrigued by the pp who said she married her DH because of Any Human Heart. I was given it by an ex hmm but haven't read it yet.

snowynight Sun 13-Oct-13 16:18:48

'The Road', and 'No Country for Old Men' by Cormac McCarthy -wonderful, spare writing. Very thought-provoking and beautiful, although not light- hearted by any means!

Rewindtimeplease Sun 13-Oct-13 17:35:13

Love this thread, thank you for inspiring.

I seldom Conrad, heart of darkness.
Also enjoyed The Road
And Fisgraced by Coetzee

Re. The debate upthread surround 1000SS. I enjoyed the book for what it was.
But as for notagiraffe i have a first degree from Oxbridge and a PhD both in Eng Lit, and teach at MA level, so I do know something about what makes good fiction'. Seriously, who describes themselves as having a first from 'Oxbridge'? Wouldn't you just clarify Cambridge or Oxford. I am somewhat skeptical!

Rewindtimeplease Sun 13-Oct-13 17:36:19

Sorry, please read 'i second' for 'seldom'. And disgraced for Fisgraced. I am feeding as I type,

ratqueen Sun 13-Oct-13 19:58:49

I loved The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler but the rest of my book group hated it.

Other books I remember really loving are Rebecca, Dracula, The Millstone, Revolutionary Road, The L Shaped Room trilogy, most things by Margaret Atwood, The Secret History and On Beauty by Zadie Smith.

spicynaknik Sun 13-Oct-13 20:22:35

Rewind - people say Oxbridge instead of specifying which institution as it affords them some level of anonymity. The same way as some people say they graduated from a Russell Group university.

notagiraffe Mon 14-Oct-13 13:51:34

And the phrase 'a first degree' refers to the first degree you read, e.g. a BA or BSc, not what grade was awarded.

pertempsnooo Mon 14-Oct-13 18:02:50

....and when you need some light murderous relief from the heavy stuff again I found Elizabeth Haynes un-put-downable.

ScarerAndFuck Mon 14-Oct-13 18:30:40

ALarkThatCouldPray - The Clock Winder is my favourite by Anne Tyler as well, although a couple of others jostle for second place.

Someone recommended William Boyd and I love his book Brazzaville Beach. It's set in Africa and tells the story of three parts of Hope Clearwater's life, from her marriage in London to her time on the Grosso Avore Chimpanzee Reserve and finally how she came to Brazzaville Beach. It's one I can read time and again.

I will second The Collector and Tender is the Night too.

ScarerAndFuck Mon 14-Oct-13 18:32:25

Oh, and Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple.

nogoodusernamesleft Mon 14-Oct-13 18:50:17

I know it's not the most intellectually challenging, but I am a bit obsessed with Laini Taylor's books, particularly Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Her writing is just beautiful. I read the above, and then went onto her short stories - one was called Goblin Fruit, and I was completely blown away by it. She just has such a way with words that seems to resonate with me, I almost feel like I know her, or like we should be friends - I'm know that's a bit stalkery! grin

Oh gods - The Collector gave me nightmares. I could never, ever re=read it.

Dawndonnaagain Mon 14-Oct-13 19:24:39

The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
Anything by Angela Carter.
Anything by Toni Morrison.
Dance, Dance, Dance and Norwegian Wood, Murakami.

I too am eagerly awaiting the new Donna Tartt!

mignonette Mon 14-Oct-13 19:29:35

A Farewell To Arms by Hemingway -How could I forget this?

in no particular order

What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt
The Wind up Bird Chronicle by Murakami
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

persimmon Mon 14-Oct-13 19:39:14

Music and Silence by Rose Tremain.
The Book of Silence or Gossip from the Forest by Sarah Maitland (not fiction).

ScarerAndFuck Mon 14-Oct-13 20:21:44

Alys, Always by Harriet Lane was very good as well.

I enjoyed, 'Gossip From The Forest' overall - especially when she wasn't writing about herself! Some of it is really lovely.

Suite francaise by Irene nemirovsky is beautifully written and if you read up on the author herself and what happened to her, very poignant.

CaptainUndercrackers Mon 14-Oct-13 20:29:28

The Collector by John Fowles
The Book of Human Skin (can't remember author's name)
Perfume by Patrick Suskind
What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt
Chekhov short stories are fabulous
The Odyssey (I really enjoyed the Robert Fitzgerald translation)
We need to talk about Kevin - Lionel Shriver
In Cold Blood - Truman Capote
The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
The reader - Bernhardt Schlink
Revolutionary Road
Q & A by Vikas Swarup (may have been republished as Slumdog Millionaire as it's the book the film was based on, but it has far more going on and is a rollicking good read)

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee - Rebecca Miller

The Fire Next Time - James Baldwin (not a novel, it's a collection of two essays. They are incredibly powerful, heartbreaking, beautifully written and so so memorable).

Ooh this is inspiring, I've just got back into reading good stuff after months of 'fun' stuff cough Twilight fan fiction so I will be going through this thread and making a Kindle wish list smile.

mummybare Mon 14-Oct-13 20:43:54

If you like speculative fiction, Wind-up Girl is good - I forget who it's by, and Flood by Stephen Baxter is a good page turner.

Mefisto Mon 14-Oct-13 20:44:45

A bit of a departure from fiction, but The February House is a pleasure, describing the lives of Carson McCullers, WH Auden, Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten and other interesting types during a period when they shared a house in New York, just before WW2.

mummybare Mon 14-Oct-13 20:45:39

Also, I've just started The 100-year-old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared, which seems quite fun so far.

debbietheduck Mon 14-Oct-13 21:18:05

Recently read Night waking, by Sarah Moss - a wonderful description of motherhood with a wakeful toddler, and of how having children makes you confront mortality. Also laugh out loud funny and some interesting Scottish history thrown in. I really, really recommend it.

Would also second Anne Tyler and Alice Munro.

And for something completely different, Dr Zhivago is truly amazing.

ScarerAndFuck Mon 14-Oct-13 22:07:06

Someone here suggested Rumer Godden.

The Book People have three of her books in a set for £4.99 and you can get 10% off with the code Nutcracker if you order from them by 11pm tonight.

McFox Mon 14-Oct-13 22:10:52

The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas is amazing - so clever and really well written smile

ScarerAndFuck Mon 14-Oct-13 22:30:55

I love that book McFox and I liked Our Tragic Universe as well.

CoteDAzur Mon 14-Oct-13 23:27:47

The End Of Mr Y started out so well and it could have been so fantastic. But what was it rambling about in the last 1/4 or so? All I remember is that it made no sense whatsoever.

upsydaisy33 Tue 15-Oct-13 09:36:57

AS Byatt, any but The Children's Book is excellent. I suspect you other love or hate Byatt...

Anything from the Persephone books imprint (google them)

Just out - Hannah Kent, Burial Rites

mignonette Tue 15-Oct-13 10:25:38

Thank you Scares. The 'Diddakoi' was a favourite childrens book of mine alongside 'Miss Happiness and Miss Flower' and 'Little Plum'. I will order her adult books forthwith!

FaddyPeony Tue 15-Oct-13 10:32:53

I second the vote for Sarah Moss's Night Waking. If you are an intelligent culture-craving woman who has been through the madness and sleep deprivation of motherhood...you need to read it.

mignonette Tue 15-Oct-13 10:46:16

For anybody who loves art history then I can recommend this. The book traces the history of the Arnolfini Portrait by Van Eyck in a meticulous yet evocative and beautiful manner. I love this and return to it time and time again. What Carola Hicks doesn't uncover probably isn't worth knowing.

mignonette Tue 15-Oct-13 10:51:27

Flight behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver is 99p on Amazon Kindle offers.

Other offers are-

The English Patient
Oscar and Lucinda
Crooked Letter Crooked Latter (great)
The Hours
Boxer Beetle
Somewhere Towards The End (Diana Athill)
The American Boy

Here is the page.

SuperScribbler Tue 15-Oct-13 11:08:55

I adore The Saddlebag by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani and I've never met anyone else who has read it. A beautiful, lyrical novel.

CoteDAzur Tue 15-Oct-13 12:09:11

Thanks for that, mignonette. Although I couldn't find the books you mentioned there, I did see that Pure by Andrew Miller is at 1.49 and bagged it thlsmile

Remus - Pure might just be your cup of tea.

girloutofglasgow Tue 15-Oct-13 15:32:03

Yet another vote for Alias Grace by Margaret Attwood - engrossing, engaging and thoroughly enjoyable. Have also read and enjoyed many of the other suggestions. Jim Crace's Quarantine is a vivid re-imagining of Jesus' Forty days in the Wilderness...definitely beautifully written, very sparse but incredibly thought-provoking...was this how Christianity started? Life after Life by Kate Atkinson one of those playful hypothetical novels. Just finished A Commonplace Killing by Robert Peston's late wife, Sian Busby...very evocative of post WW2 London...you could taste the trauma, grime and privations. In that vein, but of course so much more so, Primo Levi and If this is a Man.
For an expansive overview of contemporary London, Hearts and Minds by Amanda Craig. Love most William Boyd and the few Stephen Kings I've read have been beautifully executed. Would recommend his 11/22/63 again a playful re-imagining of the events leading up to JFK's assassination - topical with the 50th anniversary approaching.

girloutofglasgow Tue 15-Oct-13 15:49:01

One which took me out of my comfort zone was "The Watch" by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya. The Wall Street Journal called it the first great novel of the war in Afghanistan..a re-working of the story of Antigone. Surprisingly there are only three reviews of it on Amazon but it deserves to be read much more widely.

Homsa Tue 15-Oct-13 18:30:28

Donna Tartt has a new book out, called The Goldfinch. It will be only my Christmas list.
The Magus by John Fowles is brilliant.
Another vote for Norwegian Wood.

Will get, 'Pure' - thanks, Cote. I have a beautiful new Wilkie Collins and a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge Everest book to read first.

Agree that Mr Y promised so much and ultimately failed dismally. Some passages in it (in the earlier part) are v beautifully written though.

Not fiction, but Nabokov's autobiography, "Speak, Memory," is fantastic, it is just beautifully written and worth reading whether you care anything about Nabokov or not.

imip Tue 15-Oct-13 20:38:48

The service of clouds, delis falconer. So beautifully written, I could weep. I quite like tim winton also....

Gosh yes to, 'Speak, Memory.' Must re-read.

Dp has just read, 'Lolita' for the first time and didn't like it. I may have to LTB. smile

nkf Tue 15-Oct-13 20:44:35

Rumer Godden. I second her. Lovely writing. Edith Wharton

Squiffyagain Tue 15-Oct-13 21:46:54

My top shelf is full of books by the following-
Primo Levi
William Golding
Julian Barnes
John Fowles
Ernest Hemingway
Kazuo Ishiguro
Cormac McCarthy
Umberto Eco
Italo Calvino

Theyre all pretty old-fashioned, but if I were stuck on a desert island I'd be happy with that lot to keep me company.

<bottom shelf of said bookshelf is full of my filthy little secret stash of crime novels that I'd also smuggle into the boat>

suebfg Tue 15-Oct-13 22:04:58

The Primo Levi book 'If this is a man' is the saddest book I have ever read. I couldn't describe it as an enjoyable book but it is a must read.

nkf Tue 15-Oct-13 22:06:32

I recently read The House of Mr Biswas and can't recommend it too highly. It's funny and moving and feels exactly like real life. I lived with Mr Biswas and his family this summer.

Thewhingingdefective Tue 15-Oct-13 22:07:39

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

Silvaspring Tue 15-Oct-13 22:10:25

If I want intelligent writing I read:
Milan Kundera
Thomas Mann
Iris Murdoch
If you haven't tried them, do.

mignonette Tue 15-Oct-13 22:40:41

Cote That's a shame you couldn't find the other books I listed. I wonder why that was as they were all listed on the Amazon Deal of The Day offer.

They are on this link here, Cote and anybody else that is interested. I am very much looking forward to reading the Diana Athill.

highlandcoo Tue 15-Oct-13 23:23:13

Thank you so much for that mignonette. I've just bought The English Patient. I believe the film only scratched the surface of an excellent novel so I'm looking forward to reading it.

The Observations by Jane Harris is well worth getting - quirky, funny and intriguing and also on offer for 99p on the same link.

I'm sure you'll enjoy Diana Athill's book. I was lucky enough to hear her talk about it in London last year. What an amazing woman - one of a dying breed I think.

mignonette Tue 15-Oct-13 23:38:08

You are lucky to hear Ms Athill, Highland. I agree she is one of an inspirational kind. I liked Kathleen Jamies non fiction; they have that same disciplined 'roaming' across whatever interests the writer.

I downloaded 'Pure', 'Oscar and Lucinda' 'Flight Behaviour (despite owning the hardback), 'Somewhere Towards The End' and a couple of the less 'literary' thrillers. Looking forward to the next list of offers.

I'll download 'The Observations' upon your recom Highland. Thanks.

dappledawn Wed 16-Oct-13 13:08:07

One of the most influential, formative and profoundly moving books I have ever read is 'The Story of an African Farm' by Olive Schreiner. Old fashioned, less well-known, but visionary; so ahead of its time.

'Under the Volcano' by Malcolm Lowry. Unforgettable, almost poetic exploration of the tortured world of an alcoholic British diplomat, deserted by his wife, against the hallucinatory background of a city in Mexico on the Day of the Dead. Another book that will never leave me.

BTW Cote I have now got a copy of Ready Player One and started reading - fantastic - thlgrin just my cup of tea! Really grateful, for the recommendation - thanks.

CoteDAzur Wed 16-Oct-13 14:25:39

Enjoy smile If you find a book along those lines, please share.

Lord of the Flies
Flaubert's Parrot

sweetsoulsister Wed 16-Oct-13 17:58:14

The Way the Crow Flies and Fall on Your Knees by Anne Marie Macdonald. My only complaint about this author is that she's not writing more books!

Next best thing to Margaret Atwood.

mignonette Wed 16-Oct-13 19:20:47

Sweet I have read those books. They are lovely thick, meaty reads.

MarshaBrady Wed 16-Oct-13 19:23:15

Posting do I can have a look next time I'm in a book shop or library. I think must get that then often forget.

ParsingFright Thu 17-Oct-13 10:01:26

Yes indeed, Story of an African Farm, dapple.

And thank you for this thread OP. It may be the kick I need to put down the laptop and start reading and re-reading my books.

Though as the hand wavers over the bookcase, it's so hard for it not to come down comfortably on an Austen. <settles in down next to Remus>

mignonette Fri 18-Oct-13 09:11:32

Kindle daily deals has a great non fiction book about Paris worth reading plus Susan Hill's 'Howards End is on the Landing' for £4,63 in the general Kindle Store.

ggirl Sat 19-Oct-13 11:41:10

sweetsoulsister totally agree about Ann Marie Macdonald ..loved those books.

Caitlin17 Sat 26-Oct-13 03:24:47

All and everything by David Mitchell but especially Cloud Atlas.

Caitlin17 Sat 26-Oct-13 03:30:41

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thorton Wilder

dizhin79 Sun 10-Nov-13 22:58:09

Apologies if already mentioned but absolutely anything by Kate Mosse, she is incredible!!

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