This weekend I met a few deadlines and finished the novel portion of a 21st century reading list. We picked five novels, five short story anthologies, and five essay collections. Our previous readings have focused on particular authors and we agreed to go back to that format and intermingle our 21st century choices among those books. Reading a single author’s works and thinking about how they develop over time has just been more satisfying than the list of critically-acclaimed novels we chose. This summer we’re going to finish War and Peace and then dive into Faulkner. Most of that will be rereading for me, but I’m looking forward to it.
Here’s what we read in order of my favorites:
Asterios Polyp: David Mazzucchelli
Telegraph Avenue: Michael Chabon
Oryx and Crake: Margaret Atwood
The Book Thief: Markus Zusak
American Gods: Neil Gaiman
1. Asterios Polyp: David Mazzucchelli
A brilliant graphic novel. I was going to write something about it, but I found this and this and they say it better than I could. The second link is to some thoughts on the book by Scott McCloud and he recommends reading the book at least twice before reading his comments. Not a bad idea.
2. Telegraph Avenue: Michael Chabon
Chabon is a writer that makes me sick sometimes because of how good he is. I love wishing I had written some of these sentences or the 40,000 word sentence that makes up the central chapter of this book. Having worked in a used CD/vinyl store off and on for almost ten years made the record store scenes particularly fun for me.
3. Oryx and Crake: Margaret Atwood
I haven’t read a lot of Atwood, but I have lots of respect for her. She’s a great writer, but not always my taste, although I appreciate what she’s doing. I may have come to this with too much baggage: I love plague and dystopian novels. It was hard for me to get into and I felt my attention waning here and there. Ultimately, I enjoyed it. What I didn’t like was probably more my fault than the writer’s.
4. The Book Thief: Markus Zusak
I’ll have to add this to a long list of books that friends say is “wonderful” and even say is their “favorite,” but is one that had little effect on me. That said, I don’t think it’s a bad book–it’s just not for me. I liked I am the Messenger better.
5. American Gods: Neil Gaiman
This was a surprise. Several friends have told me to read this book. I’ve read a few of Gaiman’s short stories and liked them. I’ve read his blog and watched a few hours of interviews and talks that he’s given. I like Gaiman, but I found this book unreadable. I read about 30% and I just couldn’t do it anymore.