Favorite Books Part 1

September 1, 2009
By Frances

I’ve compiled a list of my favorite books and have come to the sad conclusion that A) I don’t seem to enjoy much literary fiction past 1970  and B) I don’t like very serious things either. As an undergraduate in Writing I read a lot of what most writing students consider the major canon of writers — Raymond Carver, Lorrie Moore, Chekhov, John Barth and the new trendy writers. Some of the canonical reads are on this list. Almost none of the trendy ones are. Why? That’s for another post and another time.

Onward in no particular order of preference, my favorite short stories and books! Links included when the stories are available online.

“Pet Milk” by Stuart Dybek — a short story that to me is perfect, evocative and sensual and sad and nostalgic and — this is the kicker — incredibly short! I have to make conscious effort to shorten my stories, and he’s written a short piece that’s perfect.

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender — The only recently-published short story collection that has impressed me enough that I carried it around for a solid six months. It turns women’s fiction on its head, surreal and evocative without trying.

The Adventures of Arsene Lupin by Maurice LeBlanc — Oh hell. Gentlemen thieves are just fun, and Arsene Lupin is one of the best. Link

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman — the best trilogy ever written (that’s right, LoTR, I said it). I wept at several parts in this trilogy, and the best part? I only cottoned on to the religious criticism of it midway through book 2. That’s how much I got sucked into the characters.

“A&P” by John Updike — the first short story I read with the intent to study the writing structure. I was 15 and this story taught me how deceptively simple the best writing is. Link

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera — It’s said that the true test of good writing is to open a book to any page and pick a paragraph to read. Every paragraph should be rock solid. For this book, every paragraph is.

“Title” by John Barth — “… their, that is to say our, accursed self-consciousness will lead them, that is to say us, to here it comes, say it straight out, I’m going to, say it in plain English for once, that’s what I’m leading up to, me and my bloody anticlimactic noun, we’re pushing each other to fill in the blank.”

Agree? Disagree? Comment! And part two to come soon!

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