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Fiction Book Suggestions for NEXT official discussion 
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Post Fiction Book Suggestions for NEXT official discussion
Fiction Book Suggestions for NEXT official discussion

READ THESE RULES please.

1. You must have 25+ total posts on our forums to suggest a book.
2. You can suggest up to 3 total books and no more.
3. You must include a link to a book description on Amazon.com or another site.
4. You must participate in this book suggestion thread by not only making your suggestions, but by giving feedback on the other suggestions. Which of the other suggestions do you like or not like?

We're starting this fiction book suggestions process again because the last suggestion thread contained absolutely no feedback on the suggestions. Suggestions are great, but FEEDBACK is even more important.

Please help BookTalk.org by looking at other peoples suggestions and leaving feedback here in this thread as to which books you like or don't like.

No books will ever be placed on a poll if the only person saying they'll read that book is the person who suggested it. We need at least 5 members indicating an interest in reading and discussing any one book to warrant creating a brand new forum for discussing that book.

When is the next fiction book discussion?

Only when enough members have indicated an interest in reading and discussing the same fiction book.



Last edited by Chris OConnor on Sun May 10, 2009 12:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sun May 03, 2009 11:06 pm
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Because of Chris' "suggestions" I am going to content myself with posting just one novel (yes, you read that correctly.)

I am going to suggest The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon. I spent a while thinking about which book I would like to suggest for a group reading. While I stand by my earlier (multiple) suggestions, I felt that this book might be more likely to appeal to the (nicely) diverse group that posts here. Read the blurbs below and see if you agree with me about that. Also, the subject matter of the novel rather nicely ties in (if tangentially) with the new non-fiction book up for June.

http://www.amazon.ca/Curious-Incident-Dog-Night-Time/dp/0385659806/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1241484867&sr=1-1

Amazon.ca
Mark Haddon's bitterly funny first novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, is a murder mystery of sorts--one told by an autistic version of Adrian Mole. Christopher John Francis Boone is a 15-year-old boy, mathematically gifted and socially hopeless, raised in a working-class home by parents who can barely cope with their child's quirks. He takes everything that he sees (or is told) at face value, and is unable to sort out the strange behaviour of his elders and peers.

Late one night, Christopher comes across his neighbour's poodle, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork. Wellington's owner finds him cradling her dead dog in his arms, and has him arrested. After spending a night in jail, Christopher resolves--against the objection of his father and neighbours--to discover just who has murdered Wellington. He is encouraged by Siobhan, a social worker at his school, to write a book about his investigations, and the result--quirkily illustrated, with each chapter given its own prime number--is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

Haddon's novel is a startling performance. This is the sort of book that could turn condescending, or exploitative, or overly sentimental, or grossly tasteless very easily, but Haddon navigates those dangers with a sureness of touch that is extremely rare among first-time novelists. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is original, clever, and genuinely moving: this one is a must-read. --Jack Illingworth --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly
Christopher Boone, the autistic 15-year-old narrator of this revelatory novel, relaxes by groaning and doing math problems in his head, eats red-but not yellow or brown-foods and screams when he is touched. Strange as he may seem, other people are far more of a conundrum to him, for he lacks the intuitive "theory of mind" by which most of us sense what's going on in other people's heads. When his neighbor's poodle is killed and Christopher is falsely accused of the crime, he decides that he will take a page from Sherlock Holmes (one of his favorite characters) and track down the killer. As the mystery leads him to the secrets of his parents' broken marriage and then into an odyssey to find his place in the world, he must fall back on deductive logic to navigate the emotional complexities of a social world that remains a closed book to him. In the hands of first-time novelist Haddon, Christopher is a fascinating case study and, above all, a sympathetic boy: not closed off, as the stereotype would have it, but too open-overwhelmed by sensations, bereft of the filters through which normal people screen their surroundings. Christopher can only make sense of the chaos of stimuli by imposing arbitrary patterns ("4 yellow cars in a row made it a Black Day, which is a day when I don't speak to anyone and sit on my own reading books and don't eat my lunch and Take No Risks"). His literal-minded observations make for a kind of poetic sensibility and a poignant evocation of character. Though Christopher insists, "This will not be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them," the novel brims with touching, ironic humor. The result is an eye-opening work in a unique and compelling literary voice.


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Mon May 04, 2009 8:03 pm
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We read that one! LOL Check out the BOOKS page.

But you have good taste in fiction, Mary. I absolutely loved that book.



Mon May 04, 2009 9:17 pm
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rats


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Post Oh no!
Hello Mary:

I loved your previous selections. Have you read this one? I have, and I have to say, Oh boy is it a stinker! The last 50 pages or so is torture! It should be used by the government.

Also, I don't see any discussion that can connect with it. I fear autisim will be the only discussion, not the book.

Suzanne



Mon May 04, 2009 9:59 pm
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http://www.booktalk.org/the-curious-inc ... n-f24.html



Mon May 04, 2009 10:29 pm
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Post Posting before reading everything
Sorry Chris:

Oh you mean that one! Ah, Um , yeah, it was great.

Suzanne :oops:



Mon May 04, 2009 10:31 pm
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Post Re: Oh no!
Suzanne wrote:
Hello Mary:

I loved your previous selections. Have you read this one? I have, and I have to say, Oh boy is it a stinker! The last 50 pages or so is torture! It should be used by the government.

Also, I don't see any discussion that can connect with it. I fear autisim will be the only discussion, not the book.


I haven't read it yet but I plan to. I have it on hold at my local bookstore. Since Chris pointed out that it has already been done here, it won't go into the poll this time.

About the connection though, autism in humans has entered the conversation about how morality works neurologically. That is what I had in mind viz Primates and Philosophers. Still, doesn't matter now.

Most of the books I suggested before I have read at some point. All of them were standouts as far as I am concerned. Still James Welch's book keeps coming to mind recently. I may have to get my old copy and reread it.

I will have to come up with another suggestion for this thread though.


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Post Fiction recomendation
"House Keeping"
Marilynne Robinson

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/produc ... 55&s=books

"So precise, so distilled, so beautiful that one doesn't want to miss any pleasure it might yield."--The New York Times Book Review

"Here's a first novel that sounds as if the author has been treasuring it up all her life...You can feel in the book a gathering voluptuous release of confidence, a delighted surprise at the unexpected capacities of language, a close, careful fondness for people that we thought only saints felt."--Anatole Broyard, The New York Times

"I found myself reading slowly, than more slowly--this is not a novel to be hurried through, for every sentence is a delight."--Doris Lessing

Winner of the Pen/Hemingway Award

A modern classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, the eccentric and remote sister of their dead mother. The family house is in the small town of Fingerbone on a glacial lake in the Far West, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a town "chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere." Ruth and Lucille's struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transcience.

Suzanne



Tue May 05, 2009 9:41 am
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Post Re: Fiction recomendation
Suzanne wrote:
"House Keeping"
Marilynne Robinson


I read this several years ago and have to say, despite my disagreement with some of her implications, it is one fantastic book. Her writing is amazing.

She also has a book of essays out called The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought which is also really good. I don't agree with some of what she says, but man can the woman write.

http://www.amazon.ca/Death-Adam-Essays-Modern-Thought/dp/0312425325/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1241538573&sr=1-4

She also has a newer novel called Gilead. I actually own this although I haven't yet read it.

http://www.amazon.ca/Gilead-Marilynne-Robinson/dp/0006393837/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1241538573&sr=1-1

What problems I do have with Robinson is that she is intensley Protestant and everything she writes is essentially a meditation on faith.


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Tue May 05, 2009 10:55 am
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MaryLupin wrote:
Quote:
She also has a newer novel called Gilead. I actually own this although I haven't yet read it.


I own this book too, with a nice little note from Marilynne Robinson tucked inside, it's one of my all time favs. It is narrated by a pastor, you may want to keep it on your shelf.

I read fiction for the quality of the writing, Marilynne Robinson chooses each word, her sentances are precise, and beautiful.

Another beaut of an author is Annie Proulx. Her expertise with dialogue is tremendous. Maybe I'll nominate "Postcards".

Suzanne



Tue May 05, 2009 11:38 am
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Post Fiction recomendation
"Postcards"
Annie Proulx

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/produc ... 55&s=books

Review
'Proulx has come close to writing "the great American novel".' New York Times 'The richness of America is portrayed with memorable effect in this remarkable first novel -- Faulkner springs to mind. "Postcards" is written from the heart and -- for its raspy dialogue, laconic humour and beautiful description of the natural world -- deserves to be widely read.' Independent on Sunday 'A sweeping and dramatic tale. Not since Steinbeck has the migrant worker's life been so evocatively rendered.' Daily Telegraph 'A remarkable novel; poetic and yet driven by a strong narrative, tragic and yet scored with deep veins of humour. Loyal Blood is one of those rare, haunted characters who continue to live in the mind after you finish the book.' Literary Review

Review
Frederick BuschChicago TribuneA rich, dark and brilliant feast of a book.

David BradleyThe New York Times Book ReviewStory makes this novel compelling; technique makes it beautiful.

Michael UpchurchSan Francisco ChronicleSuperb....Postcards makes Proulx as a gifted prose stylist who renders her characters on the page to mesmerizing effect.

Product Description
Annie Proulx's first novel, which received huge acclaim and marked the launch of an outstanding literary career. 'Postcards' is the story of Loyal Blood, a man who spends a lifetime on the run from a crime so terrible that it renders him forever incapable of touching a woman. The odyssey begins on a freezing Vermont hillside in 1944 and propels Blood across the American West for forty years. Denied love and unable to settle, he lives a hundred different lives: mining gold, growing beans, hunting fossils, trapping, prospecting for uranium and ranching. His only contact with his past is through a series of postcards he sends home -- not realising that in his absence disaster has befallen his family, and their deep-rooted connection with the land has been severed with devastating consequences!

Suzanne



Tue May 05, 2009 11:50 am
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Annie Proux - agreed. I read her Wyoming Stories - Close Range. At the time I was living in eastern Washington and commuting into Idaho to teach. I had lived in Montana before that and remember being amazed at how words could bring the earth there into human ken.

With her writing, I get the sense of a clean, spare mind. One that can see without too many cultural filters. I guess that is my problem with Robinson. I don't really care what writers believe but I do care what they see, what they experience. I know that cultural bias cannot help but be present in the writing, but we can work really hard to let it go, and cut it out.

The other writer that springs to mind is Annie Dillard. I want to read her An American Childhood. I read Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek which was delightful (even if it was a philosophical treatise and not a really nature-worship book).


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Tue May 05, 2009 1:21 pm
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What about Oryx and Crake? I haven't read it but Atwood has always been good.

http://www.amazon.ca/Oryx-Crake-Novel-Margaret-Atwood/dp/0770429351/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1241547991&sr=8-8

Amazon.ca
In a science fiction novel that is more Swift than Heinlein, more cautionary tale than "fictional science" (no flying cars here), Margaret Atwood depicts a near-future world that turns from the merely horrible to the horrific, from a fool's paradise to a bio-wasteland. Snowman (a man once known as Jimmy) sleeps in a tree and just might be the only human left on our devastated planet. He is not entirely alone, however, as he considers himself the shepherd of a group of experimental, human-like creatures called the Children of Crake. As he scavenges and tends to his insect bites, Snowman recalls in flashbacks how the world fell apart.

While the story begins with a rather ponderous set-up of what has become a clichéd landscape of the human endgame, littered with smashed computers and abandoned buildings, it takes on life when Snowman recalls his boyhood meeting with his best friend Crake: "Crake had a thing about him even then. . . . He generated awe . . . in his dark laconic clothing." A dangerous genius, Crake is the book's most intriguing character. Crake and Jimmy live with all the other smart, rich people in the Compounds, gated company towns owned by biotech corporations. (Ordinary folks are kept outside the gates in the chaotic "pleeblands.") Meanwhile, beautiful Oryx, raised as a child prostitute in Southeast Asia, finds her way to the West and meets Crake and Jimmy, setting up an inevitable love triangle. Eventually Crake's experiments in bioengineering cause humanity's shockingly quick demise (with uncanny echoes of SARS, ebola, and mad cow disease), leaving Snowman to try to pick up the pieces. There are a few speed bumps along the way, including some clunky dialogue and heavy-handed symbols such as Snowman's broken watch, but once the bleak narrative gets moving, as Snowman sets out in search of the laboratory that seeded the world's destruction, it clips along at a good pace, with a healthy dose of wry humour.

Books in Canada
Following hard on the heels of her Booker prize winner, The Blind Assassin (2000), Margaret Atwood’s latest and most disturbing novel, Oryx and Crake, has shaken readers and critics with its highly dystopic view of the future. According to the author’s essay found on the website oryxandcrake.com, the novel is not science fiction, but speculative fiction. It entered the author’s imagination sooner than she wanted it to, but having arrived, the urgency of its message warranted her time-and now ours. Despite its dark vision, Oryx and Crake is as entertaining as it is compelling and thought-provoking. Atwood’s wry humour and pointed irony has the capacity to awaken us from the torpor of smug complacency that so often accompanies the wealth and eye-shielding comfort of a society such as ours.

The novel begins at Zero Hour, a time when “nobody nowhere knows what time it is.” The narrator, formerly Jimmy, now (the Abominable) Snowman, a name aptly chosen for its mythic connotations-an unknown ‘reality’ that hovers between existence and non-existence, its mysterious footprints pointing backward-describes a post-plague society stripped of vegetation and all other human life except the genetically engineered Children of Crake. Nearing starvation and losing his memory of language, Snowman attempts to review the past to understand how his world ended up this way. No doubt this is the very question Atwood’s novel poses as both she and her readers are forced to consider the consequences of the direction in which we are headed.

Drawing on current trends in scientific research, Atwood draws us into a familiar yet strange world filled with genetically scrambled creatures such as pigoons, bobkittens, rakunks and wolvogs. Atwood’s cartoonish words deliberately reflect the carelessly executed powers of the mad scientist Crake, once Glenn, Jimmy’s brilliant high school friend and mastermind of the bizarre new ‘Paradice’ (a gamble on paradise?). And this world, Atwood makes clear, is created by a man who believes in neither God nor Nature. Everything seems real but clearly isn’t: CrustaeSoy shrimp, SoyohBoyBurgers, Happicuppa coffee, and Chickie Nobs Bucket O’Nubbins. Communities are clearly delineated between the elite minority protected behind gates and a vast middle class called “pleeblands”. Corporate power governs society; commercial slogans become philosophies made, for profit, of course, into fridge magnets so that philosophical complexities are reduced to phrases that will fit their size, and serve as mantras, phrases to live by: “I think therefore I spam”, “No Brain, No Pain”, “Wanna Meet a Meat Machine?”, and “I Wander from Space to Space.”

The creators of this world emerged from a background in which emotional numbness is conditioned. Glenn and Jimmy spend hours in the cyberworld, growing increasingly accustomed to ‘living’ in a virtual reality. For long afternoons and evenings, they watch porn sites while smoking marijuana, their perceptions dulled by both the drugs and the complete lack of direct physical contact or genuine human emotion. When Snowman looks back and considers how he missed the obvious signs of the impending disaster of Crake’s world, he realizes the significance of that emotional distancing, saying: “There had been something willed about it though, his ignorance. Or not willed, exactly: structured. He’d grown up in walled spaces, and then he had become one. He had shut things out.”

For Crake (Glenn) and Snowman (Jimmy), parental bonds are thin if not entirely absent. Jimmy recalls the mysterious departure of his mother and his subsequent way of life with his single father. Subjected to the sounds of his father’s erotic tumblings with other women, he is also brought face to face with their desperate attempts to look young and sexy. Atwood’s references to plastic surgery and beauty treatments abound and not without great comic appeal: “NooSkins BeauToxique Treatment”, “RejoovenEsense”, “Wrinkles Paralyzed Forever, Employees Half-Price”, and “Fountain of Yooth Total Plunge”. Jimmy’s disillusionment shows up in a heartbreaking cynicism: “Who cares, who cares? He didn’t want to have a father anyway, or be a father, or have a son or be one. He wanted to be himself, alone, unique, self-created and self-sufficient.”
When Snowman recalls Crake’s story of his father, top researcher of HelthWyzer West, committing suicide by jumping off a pleebland overpass at rush hour, he asks himself: “How could I have missed it? What he was telling me. How could I have been so stupid?”

Language, and loss of meaning, is at the heart of Atwood’s vision. When Crake confides in Jimmy, telling him that “Uncle Pete was over at our place all the time” and his “mother said he was really supportive,” Crake observes that he said supportive like a quote. Conversations turn into disconnected dialogue conveying no real meaning, compassion or understanding. Jimmy’s mother leaves him clothes that are silly and don’t fit, all indications that mother and son do not relate to one another. The avoidance of anything that makes us feel pain and even simple discomfort is remedied by a ‘fast fix’ like the rhetoric of pop psychology, pills (“When you need to chill, all you need is one pill”) and activities that provide mindless distractions from bothersome emotion.

At the center of Atwood’s novel is a pointed emphasis not only on the erosion of language, but also, by extension, of the arts, and of human passion itself. Jimmy enjoys the arts but feels bullied by Crake who takes pride in scientific knowledge and the power it bestows, as he shows off his “floor models”, his creatures of genetically engineered beauty, and his agricultural hybrids.

Atwood doesn’t miss the opportunity to speculate on the consequences of underfunding the arts. Jimmy attends Martha Graham Academy, an institution “named after some gory old dance goddess of the 20th Century who’d apparently mowed quite a swath in her day.” The Academy’s aims are proudly utilitarian as expressed in the motto: “Our Students Graduate With Employable Skills.” A traditional liberal arts program is ridiculed and disdained as being useless as an ancient language: “So a lot of what went on at Martha Graham was like studying Latin, or book-binding: pleasant to contemplate in its way, but no longer central to anything, though every once in a while the college president would subject them to some yawner about the vital arts and their irresistible reserved seat in the big red velvet amphitheatre of the beating human heart.”

Crake, of course, scoffs at the literary arts: “Who’d write if they could do otherwise? I mean, wouldn’t you rather be fucking?” Jimmy is made to feel embarrassed about showing emotion or he feels outdone by Crake’s thick-skinned intelligence. Indeed, a boy who once loved words, who found “soul” in words, is later-and probably too late-left wondering in a significantly philosophical way:

“When did the body first set out on its own adventures? Snowman thinks; after having ditched its old travelling companions, the mind and the soul, for whom it had once been considered a mere corrupt vessel or else a puppet acting out their dramas for them, or else bad company, leading the other two astray. It must have got tired of the soul’s constant nagging and whining and the anxiety-driven intellectual web-spinning of the mind, distracting it whenever it was getting its teeth into something juicy or its fingers into something good. It had dumped the other two back there somewhere, leaving them stranded in some damp sanctuary or stuffy lecture hall while it made a beeline for the topless bars, and it had dumped culture along with them: music and painting and poetry and plays. Sublimation, all of it; nothing but sublimation, according to the body. Why not cut to the chase.”

The results, according to Jimmy, of the desertion of mind and soul for the pleasures of the body foreshadows the conclusion as he realizes that “the body had its own cultural forms. It had its own art. Executions were its tragedies, pornography was its romance.”

Crake even improves upon sex, removing many of its emotional complications which he sees as misplaced sexual energy: “Sex is no longer a mysterious rite, viewed with ambivalence or downright loathing, conducted in the dark and inspiring suicides and murders. Now it’s more like an athletic demonstration, a free-spirited romp.” He defends himself by claiming that such an attitude is less painful: “After all, under the old dispensation, sexual competition had been relentless and cruel: for every pair of happy lovers there was a dejected onlooker, the one excluded. Love was its own transparent bubble-dome: you could see the two inside it, but you couldn’t get in there yourself.”

Atwood’s dark vision is mesmerizing precisely because the fundamental aspects of humanity-mind and soul-have been discarded in her world. The author asks us as she asks herself: Are we as a society conscious of what we are doing and where we are going? In Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood describes a world that we are appalled by but one we’re familiar with. We are left to wonder as Snowman does, how civilized humankind managed to lose all sense of reciprocity and connection with the animate natural world and meaningful interaction with others as well as ourselves?
And so the novel ends as it begins: at Zero Hour. What path will we follow now?


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Tue May 05, 2009 1:31 pm
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Post Fiction recomendation
MaryLupin wrote:

Quote:
What about Oryx and Crake? I haven't read it but Atwood has always been good.


Yes, Yes, Yes! I love Atwood, I have Oryx and Crake on my shelf, would love to dust it off and discuss! She is always one to push some buttons.

Still like "Postcards" though. Hope to hear some chimes ringing in soon with other suggestions and comments.

Suzanne



Tue May 05, 2009 3:26 pm
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