What next? (with poll!)

Well, I finally finished Island Beneath the Sea.

I liked the history in it. The early history of Haiti is fascinating. The portrayal of slavery is brutal and unflinching, as it should be. I was especially intrigued (and amused) by the events surrounding the Louisiana Purchase. I had never given any thought to what that might have been like for the people actually living there at the time. Apparently they had only just discovered they were French instead of Spanish when 17 days later they learned that nope, they were actually Americans.

But aside from that, I have to say this isn’t really my kind of book. The plot was a bit too soap-operatic for my taste, what with babies being exchanged at birth… lovers discovering they are actually siblings… mad wives… rogues… coquettes… jealous lovers… duels… And of course the godawful melodramatic first-person slave-girl all-in-italics narrative chapters interspersed throughout, each one ending with “This is how I remember it” or “That is how it is.” Yuk.

* * *

Sooooooooooo, moving right along. The big question is what to read next. I have posted a new page here, called 1001 books. I saw this list at Megan Eliza’s blog. Of course, any list of what people “ought” to read is problematic, and this one is no exception. There are some strange choices on here and some even stranger omissions, I won’t deny that. But overall I think it is a pretty decent list. Enough of the titles coincide with my own TBR list that I am comfortable posting it, especially if I don’t think of it as a challenge so much as something to turn to when I’m wondering what to read. As I am right now.

And here’s where you come in, my friends. I’ve picked out five from the list that I already own and would be willing to read. Would you care to weigh in? [Note: These blurbs are all off the backs of the books. You can use them to make your choice. I don’t care if you’ve read the books or not. Just pick whatever you think would be fun or interesting or whatever…]

Herzog, by Saul Bellow. “This is the story of Moses Herzog, a great sufferer, joker, mourner, and charmer. Although his life steadily disintegrates around him — he has failed as a writer and teacher, as a father, and has lost the affection of his wife to his best friend — Herzog sees himself as a survivor, both of his private disasters and those of the age. He writes unsent letters to his friends and enemies, colleagues and famous people, revealing his wry perception of the world and the innermost secrets of his heart.”

The Master & Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov. “Suppressed in Russia for twenty-six years, here is Mikhail Bulgakov’s great novel in which he combines fable, satanic fantasy, political satire, and slapstick comedy to create an ironic parable on power and its corruption, on good and evil, human frailty, and the strength of love.”

Smilla’s Sense of Snow, by Peter Høeg. “She thinks more highly of snow and ice than she does of love. She lives in a world of numbers, science, and memories — a dark, exotic stranger in a strange land. And now Smilla Jasperson is convinced she has uncovered a shattering crime. . . .”

The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie. “A novel of metamorphoses, hauntings, memories, hallucinations, revelations, advertising jingles and jokes . . . Rushdie has the power of description, and we succumb.”

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne. “Laurence Sterne’s great masterpiece of bawdy humour and rich satire defies any attempt to categorize it. Part novel, part digression, its gloriously disordered narrative interweaves the birth and life of the unfortunate ‘hero’ Tristram Shandy, the eccentric philosophy of his father Walter, the amours and military obsessions of Uncle Toby, and a host of other characters, including Dr. Slop, Corporal Trim and the parson Yorick. A joyful celebration of the endless possibilities of the art of fiction, Tristram Shandy is also a wry demonstration of its limitations.”

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  1. Sadly, I can’t comment on any of your five book choices as I haven’t read any of them, but I would recommend The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. That was an incredible book, in my opinion. A little slow to start, but wonderful. Just to give you an idea of my tastes in terms of something you’ve already read, I loved The Poisonwood Bible too. Have fun reading!

  2. Yes you can comment and vote! That’s why I provided the blurbs (and updated the post)! :-)

    In any case, I will definitely keep The God of Small Things in mind. I have heard good things about it. Thanks!

  3. The only one of these I’ve read (as you know from my list) is Smilla’s Sense of Snow which I enjoyed, but thought had an ending that was too removed from the plot somehow….. Master and Margarita has been on my t0-read list forever, and yet I’ve never come across a copy of it during a time I was lacking something to read. It’s been highly recommended to me by a friend who’s spent a lot of time in Russia and read a lot of Russian literature….. So that’s the one I’d be most eager to read from the list!

  4. Island Beneath the Sea actually sounds like my kind of book. Thanks for the review!

    Haven’t read any from your list, but like the sound of Smilla’s Sense of Snow.

  5. I haven’t read any of these, but I think Smilla’s Sense of Snow sounds interesting so my vote is for that one :) Island Beneath the Sea sounds interesting – I’ll have to check that one out when the kids get a little older and I can find time to sit down and read an entire book. I started 4 books last year and didn’t even get half way through any of them … too many interruptions !

  6. Have you read Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson? Beautifully written …

  7. Megan Eliza — M&M has been on my list forever also. My BFF (sorry but that does describe her perfectly) has been bugging me to read it for years. She also said the second half of Smilla wasn’t as good as the first. Hmmm.

    Terri — you’re welcome. Let me know if you read it!

    Playdough — your time will come. I know it will. There was a time when I was afraid I might never read another book again, perish the thought.

    Oldereyes — yes! I have read Snow Falling on Cedars, years ago, and I remember it very fondly because not only was it a good book but it was also my first introduction to a wonderful book discussion group which has since disbanded, alas. I’m in another group now but it isn’t nearly as satisfying.


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