Wednesday, December 15, 2004

This could be my most narcissistic post yet. And that's saying something, I suppose. Don't say I didn’t warn you.

Since a few intrepid readers mentioned that they like receiving book recommendations, I thought it would be fun (for me, at least!) to list a few of my favorite authors and some books they've written. The list is heavy on the estrogen, is appallingly North American-centric, and is concentrated in the late 20th century. As you'll see, I'm far from a literary omnivore.

In no particular order:

Louise Erdrich: Love Medicine, The Beet Queen, Tracks. Her lyrical, elliptical prose takes my breath away.

Carol Shields: The Stone Diaries, Republic of Love, Larry's Party. What a loss when she died! She writes with a biographer's scrupulousness and makes ordinary lives sing.

Barbara Kingsolver: Animal Dreams, The Bean Trees, The Poisonwood Bible. Evocative, deeply passionate, and a bit of a scold. I love her a little less than I once did, but when she keeps the polemics from dominating the narrative her books soar.

Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid's Tale, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin. One of the smartest authors I've ever read. Her books are dense and gorgeous and sharp as a razor. When I read The Handmaid's Tale at age 15, it turned my world upside down.

Richard Russo: Risk Pool, Nobody's Fool, Empire Falls. No one writes better about down-on-their-luck men and once-thriving, now-dying small American towns. A fabulous storyteller.

Jane Smiley: A Thousand Acres, Moo, Horse Heaven. Prolific and genre-busting: She can rework King Lear in one book and bite off the head of American academic life in the next; no two books of hers cover the same territory.

Anne Tyler: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Breathing Lessons, The Accidental Tourist. Her prose is deceptively simple; there's a lot of heft behind those graceful, spare sentences.

Michael Chabon: The Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. His writing is just amazing, and if Cavalier and Clay is any indication, his talent is equally matched by his ambition.

Zora Neale Hurston: Their Eyes Were Watching God, Tell My Horse. Thank heavens for Alice Walker's rediscovery of Hurston---otherwise, this Harlem Renaissance writer would have been consigned to obscurity. I especially enjoy her anthropological accounts of voodoo culture.

For those who have read this far: 1) Thanks for indulging me! and 2) Who would you recommend for me?