BOOKS YOU LOVE
When you submit your work to us, we ask you to tell us what your favorite books are. Here's some of your recent favorites:
favorite novel right now is
Louisiana, by the Jamaican author Erna Brodber, because itís intricate
and witty and eerie." --RMK
"I read and reread Pietro Di Donato's Christ in Concrete. The first thirty pages introduces an Italian immigrant family whose father works on skyscrapers. We are introduced to his coworkers and friends. Section one ends with a chant, 'Jesu my Lord my God my all.' And on page 30, Paul's father dies, along with all the other characters introduced to this point. They die crushed beneath wet concrete and bricks and mortar which is admirably and painstakingly described in all its gruesomeness: 'Jesu my Lord my God my all' - a chant - is all we are given before starting the real story on page 33. The language has the sauciness of educated foreigners doing work too dangerous for the average guy. The best example is the ending dialog, which begins, 'Through shadowy religion of night she danced,' introducing the dying of Paul's mother. And the cycle is complete." --J.H.
"Currently, my favorite novel is Doomsday Book by Connie Willis." --M.Z.
"My favorite writer is Kurt Vonnegut, and his writing style and ideas amaze me every time I reread Breakfast of Champions. This book made me realize that writing can be fun, playful and mischievous while breaking all the English rules that were jammed down my throat in school. One of the greatest things that Mr. Vonnegut ever said was: 'Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.' I will miss him greatlyÖ" -RH
"For years now, my favorite novella has been Herman Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener. It's the saddest, the funniest, and every word is perfect. (I quoted from it in a libretto I finished recently.) This favorite was preceded by the also Tolstoy's heart-stopping Master and Man." -Ron Singer
"My favorite novel is
Marguerite Duras' The Lover, because I like things that are
simultaneously simple and complex, and I like things that are intensely
personal while appearing to be cold and clinical. I also like, very much,
work that survives being translated, since I have chosen to write in
English, which is not my first language." -YZC
"You ask for a favorite collection of personal essays -- or even favorite essay -- and I am hard-pressed for an answer, i.e. hard-pressed to pick a single favorite. What I can say, however, is that I absolutely fell in love with Neck Deep and Other Predicaments, by Ander Monson, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize in 2007. While I was not all that sure about the journey going into these essays (the severed doll heads on the cover, I confess, put me off, though I know better than to judge a book by its cover), I was quickly swept up in Monson's voice. And I simply could not resist his tempting, exotic yet homely (as Thoreau uses that word), explorations of most readers' least favorite parts of books, i.e. indexes, appendices, etc. I confess to being an avid reader of all things front matter and back matter, and Monson's ability to turn these work-horse parts of books into intimate personal essay just blew me away." -MGW
"My favorite book: No Country For Old Men,
by Cormac McCarthy. I love this novel because it's a lean, mean
son-of-a-bitch. McCarthy packs a wallop with terse, Hemingway-esque prose
and weaves together themes that are contemporary and timeless. It's
violent, fast-paced, but pauses to contemplate human nature, good and
evil and our relationship to God. Plus, the Coen brothers' have adapted it to the screen
near-flawlessly. I never before have loved both the novel and the
film. Usually, one fails in comparison to the other. But here is evidence
that it can be done!" -MA (1)
"My favorite novel is Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card." -MA (2)
"My favorite novel is Stewart O'Nan's The Good Wife. A pregnant newlywed is awakened one night by a phone call from her husband, who has been arrested for burglary and murder. O'Nan writes about the poor disenfranchised people who live in the shadows of American society with such compassionate sensitivity."
"Attached is a 4,800-word short story, for your consideration. Sorry it's so short! It was nearly twice as long, but I decided to compact it in the style of possibly my favorite writer: Franz Kafka. Favorite novel: The Trial. I love his intensity, the rhythm of his writing, his sometimes comic tone, and of course his unique and sometimes nightmarish story lines. The Trial is so special. He's even got stories within the story, such as "The Legend of the Doorkeeper." That story, like the novel itself, teaches us a lesson: live your life, do the things you intend to do, go where you want to go and don't let a burly doorkeeper or anyone else stop you, because the door he is guarding is your door. Thoreau pretty much said the same thing a half century earlier, in the conclusion of Walden: that if one advances in the direction of one's dreams, you will achieve a measure of success unexpected in common hours. So true." -DB
"My favorite novella is probably Katherine Anne Porter's Pale Horse, Pale Rider because everything about it that is so good is good in a contradictory way: each sentence is pure at the same time as it's rich and delicious; the scenes with music in them are intense and emotional, but never cheap, or sentimental; and the book offers some peace about the worries over death, at the same time as it makes you want to live as fully and deep as you can." -CJ
"Like most people, I would tend to say I have favorite authors more than favorite books, and I always look forward to a new Ann Tyler novel. I also like Scott Spencer, and recently enjoyed reading Middlesexfor its quirky point of view. Another author I find very intriguing is Paul Theroux, and I guess if pushed, I would say that The Mosquito Coast is probably my favorite book because the story and narrator are interesting, the father fascinating, and the setting a place I have never been nor would I chose to go. The movie wasn't bad, either, but the book is far better, and I'm often reminded of the book when I think about ice." -CAC
"My favorite book for a while has been Richard Russo's Straight Man. It's much less gloomy than his later work. Indeed, it's very funny." -BF
"The novella I would chose is John Fowlesí The Ebony Tower. Itís not the equal of Heart of Darkness or The Death of Ivan Ilych, but when I read it many years ago, it moved me greatly. I think it has something to say about the difference between a true artist and the average person." -ES
"Ali and Nino: A Love Story, by Kurban Said. Nothing can compare to this cinema-scopic treasure from the 1920's. It begins in Baku, this love affair between a Muslim and a Russian Orthodox girl. The couple must flee from one muslim country to another to survive. They don't. You will die with them. Their love will live on, in you, the reader. It's got that much grit, and yes, that much craft with kitsch. Kurban Said is the pen name for Lev Nussimbaum - as many people know but most don't. His biography, The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, by Tom Reiss, is another magnificent read and best done simultaneously to Ali and Nino. At which point you won't know where reality stops and fiction starts to hurt." -JC
"At this particular moment in time and for the purposes of answering the question (however unanswerable), Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland would be my pick as 'favourite' book. Not only is it a timeless work of vibrant, wondrous imagination, its inimitable whimsy comes with a remarkable intelligence that pokes fiercely at language and logic." -F.S.
"My favorite novel is Kafkaís The Castle. For me it endeavors with a modicum of success to grapple with the dilemma of being human and living oneís life in the midst of an implacable riddle." - J.C.F.
"Favorite Novel: Hands down, it has to be The Fools in Town Are on Our Side, by Ross Thomas. Quite possibly the most fun con-man/crime novel of all time, Thomas not only writes the cleanest and fastest reading prose imaginable, but manages to snap out believable sharp dialogue (for the most part, [though] thereís a few times he just canít help himself) and twist the plot just enough to get you turning pages. In a more recent edition, (I originally inherited a coffee-stained paperback with no spine left where the pages were held together only by their own tenacity), Tony Hiss wrote a fantastic introduction which produced this gem: 'At the core of the book is something else again, since, for those who want to think about it, it raises, and offers an answer to, an unexpected question: What can you hope to find when you have only yourself to fall back on?' He really nailed it for me, because most of the time, I find myself thinking thatís the best question you can have your own characters answer." - M.J.W.
"Favorite novella: John Cheeverís O, What a Paradise it Seems. Reason: Itís Cheever." -M.B.
"My current favorite novel is Anthony Burgess' third Enderby installment, The Clockwork Testament, or, Enderby's End. There's just something inexplicably appealing about an overweight, balding, aging, flatulent literary superhero. There's hope for us all, in a way." - E.B.M., Jr.
"My favorite novel? Robinson Crusoe. I don't think any book ever captured our human condition more brilliantly than that - a pity Defoe couldn't end it a few chapters earlier, though." - A.B.
"London Fields by Martin Amis [is my favorite], because it has the strongest and strangest mixture of the sacred and the profane on one page that I have read in contemporary prose. I've read it several times (and always get my copies back in bad condition). It's a riveting story of a woman plotting her own 'suicide' and it's a great study of the scummy side of modern-day "London."
"My favorite novel is Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights simply because it was the first book I ever read that justified being in love with a jerk." -S.P.M.
"Being an English major, I never learned that much about French literature, so I have been trying to make up for that by reading French writers since I moved to France ... I will pick my most surprising discovery -- Georges Simenon. Why is this man not more widely reprinted and known today? He is the E.B. White of mystery writing. I love his prose, his humanity, his streets of Paris, his France.
To pick one book, I'll choose Lock 14, because it exemplifies not only great plotting and a highly specific and colorful portrait of a particular subset of French culture, but also because it is one of the books that convinced me that Simenon's curiosity must have been continually sparked by some small incident or slice of life, which he would then turn into a wonderful book (many of them are actually novella length). I am also certain that, like Maigret, he must have spent hours riding an old bicycle up and down canals to write this book -- although maybe he did it all from his armchair." - A.B.
"My favorite novella is Enchanted Night, by Steven Millhauser. It occurs in one night in Connecticut, in which many vastly different characters are driven from their homes or usual haunts out into the night by an absurdly large full moon. They are all 'lunatics, moon-mad, and possessed by a longing they can't quite name, but which nonetheless makes them restless for something more. Millhauser has a way of capturing the commonplace desperation of suburban America, and even more so, the sublime possibilities in an ordinary night." -D.C.
"I usually say that my favorite novel/novella (all disclaimers assumed) is The White Hotel (D.M. Thomas) or Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker, but I recently finished Peter Behrens's The Law of Dreams, and it has shifted my paradigm a bit. Why these are my faves: they question proportionally to what they assert, which I think is a good definition of what is currently modern." -L.B.
William T. Vollman's Fathers and Crows: "Difficult and flawed as is all Vollman's work, but at the same time an absolutely riveting tale of the Jesuits' attempt to convert the Huron nation.
"A current favorite is Vollman's latest, Europe Central. Parts of this book are more gripping than othersóthe chapters on Generals Vlasov and Paulus for example, as well as on Kurt Gertstein, while the Shostakavich sections, with their esoteric allusions to classical music composition, can be hard going." -J.C.
" I don't have favorite book. That is like having a favorite day of one's life. Under the Frog, by Tibor Fischer, is as good as any I've read though, and I'll list it in the hope that someone else will read it." - W.D.G.
"My favourite writer has to be Brendan Behan, mostly for his raw use of language and his complete dismissiveness towards the crude rules of writing and his unique talent of drawing on his real experience." - T.F.
"My favorite novella is still Heart of Darkness. (Isn't it everyone's?). Conrad knew how to penetrate "the horror," while leaving it shrouded in mystery, playing with chiaroscuro, pulling just enough out into the light to electrify us. What would the novella be without him and 'The Nigger and the Narcissus,' 'Youth,' 'Typhoon' and 'Amy Foster?' Of course, I would also like to have written a sweet little volume by Vargas Llosa: 'El Hablador,' or Camus' 'The Fall,' or Hemingway's 'The Old Man and the Sea ..." --WRH
"My favorite book is Nabokov's Pale Fire. If I had to choose the one book to be discovered after the Apocalypse, the one book from which the generation of the year 3535 could try to reconstruct the English language, it would be Pale Fire. Plus, as a former academic, the book's cheap shots at academia are good for more than a laugh or two." - E.M.
"Ursula K. Le Guin's Dancing at the Edge of the World is my favorite collection of essays. If I must choose one among the many as my very favorite, it's 'Conflict,' in which Le Guin argues against the 'gladiatorial view' of fiction. I like what she says and how she says it: '... that something or other has to happen in a story, I agree ... But that what happens in a story can be defined as, limited to, conflict, I doubt.' Le Guin has been my favorite writer and wisewoman since the days of Earthsea." - D.J.L.
"Naming my favorite novel is easy. It's Lucky Jim,by Kingsley Amis. As far as I'm concerned, the funniest book in the English language." --P.S.
Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller. "I like Henry Miller very much, though I haven't read him in years ... He's simply the freshest, most confident, happiest, most full-of-life writer I've ever encountered." - K.W.
"Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago is poetry from the beginning to end, which makes translation impossible, whether it is to other languages or to other media. Pasternak makes things with words, sturdy and durable." - O.Z..
"Marc Bojanowski's The Dog Fighter." - K.M.K.
The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion. "For essays I really like Joan Didion, and was glad to get this piece finished so I could read her new dead husband book." - J.F.
"My favorite novel today is The Time Traveler's Wife partly because I met the author before I met the book, and it was really interesting to read in that order. I thought it was complicated and intelligent in a way that did not seem either of those." - E. K.
"My favorite fiction at the moment? A Canticle For Leibowitz. You can bet I'll change my mind in the shower." -J.B.
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