Fiction of Interest


These books are some selected fictional (and science fictional) choices.  A few of the books noted are probably not available anymore from Amazon. I was being very selective here and these books are all highly recommended for readers who can answer the question "would you want to spend your life without books" with a quick and confident "NO."  Few of these are strictly escapism. Some of them require sustained focus.

For other non-fiction and poetry selections see the buttons at the bottom of this page. And for some untested new poetry here.

Selected Fiction

Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy

 

A book that burns you like a sudden pool of blood found in your home. A book so shocking and visual it is hard for me to recommend to anyone without knowing them. A book that will be in the computer banks of star-traveling ships in 500 years. It is a permanent thing, that rarest of creations. We cannot go back from here.

 

Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany

 

One of the great books of the last fifty years. Of any kind, science fiction or otherwise. And the majority of this book does not feel like science fiction. It is not easily categorized. And mostly unknown outside the admirers of this kind of fiction. Highly visual and sexual, it is not for those looking for mystery or murder. It is prose of the highest poetic form. Many images lingered with me for over twenty years after reading it. And unlike many books, on the second read, it had not diminished at all. One of Delany's several master works.

 

Far Tortuga, Peter Matthiessen

 

A naturalist writing naturalistic fiction. He can hardly resist evoking the birds and fish around him in this sustained poem of a book. Sometimes difficult to find unless it is one of the years where they revisit it in paperback. Can be opened and perused at whim after first reading, like turning on a flashlight in a dark ship at sea.

 

The Good Son, Craig Nova

 

One of Craig's several superb novels. His characters feel like past acquaintances after you are finished. Possibly one of his most accessible books. Chase down several more after you try this one.

 

Incandescence, Craig Nova

 

Comic tragedy with writing of the highest order. One of those books that when asked 'what is it about?' I just shake my head. The book I would make into film if given some sudden cinematic power. Though it is probably not for the moviegoing masses. A book for the shelves of those who love books. Seriously masterful.

 

Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace

 

Do not be fooled by any prior hype. It was not hype. And do not be daunted by the young age of the author. This is a masterpiece from any direction. A treatise on addiction with characters that are tricks-in-the-head vivid. There are passages in this book that are as fine as any writer of fiction has ever produced. Jaw-dropping, deal-with-the-devil good. Mister Wallace could have gone just about anywhere from here and readers would have followed. Unfortunately he went to suicide since this was originally created. Which still breaks my heart. This single book will keep his name around for a long time to come.

 

Journey to the End of Night, Louis-Ferdinand Celine

 

One of those few books like Catcher in the Rye, or On the Road that make you stand up when you are reading the first few pages in absolute attention and disbelief. "Who is this guy?" Writing that puts you in another man's head and life. The ultimate accomplishment for a pencil or a pen or a word processor, I suppose. But this is it. This is why humans write, for books like this.

 

Light In August, William Faulkner

 

If you have been sheltered from Faulkner somehow, or doubtful, or turned away by bad teaching or required reading in the past, then things should be rectified. This book is a work of genius. And, like most Faulkner, falls into the category of books that should be read repeatedly over a reading lifetime.

 

The Names, Don Delillo

 

Consistently one of America's finest writers. A writer's writer. And though he has many books, this one and 'White Noise' and 'Running Dog' keep bringing me back. If you do not know Mister Delillo then you have waited too long.

 

Provinces of Night, William Gay

 

A man who waited most of his life to make his first novel. But he is here to stay. As long as his rough life will let him. I recommend you buy three of these at a time. Because you will not want to part with yours and you will want to hand these out to people you really like. Cormac McCarthy would be proud.

 

The Recognitions, William Gaddis

 

Difficult to even speak of this book. I'm not sure anyone under 35 should even attempt Gaddis. It is too early. Stay back, you want to warn them off. This is how I would write after my own deal with the devil. A book that should shame the National Book Awards forever. They know what I am talking about.

 

Stars In My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, Samuel R. Delany

 

Another Delany master work. A finger in the eye of anyone who thinks they understand human relations. And as visual as anything he has written. I can close my eyes for good and see the scene of the dragon hunt. The bloodless dragon hunt. Thinking of this book just brings up a sense of longing.

 

Sundog, Jim Harrison

 

Start here with Harrison and then stay a fan. A lovely book among his many. Jim is a naturalist at heart. And a dog lover. A gourmet cook, and, I get the impression, sometimes a drunk. We would get along just fine.

 

Suttree, Cormac McCarthy

 

Not the most publicized of McCarthy's books. But a character study to hold up next to any out there. A mix of darkness and hope that one must be prepared to miss after it is gone. A central character far deeper than his southwestern trilogies and longer lasting in the head. We do not want to be him. But we want to be as good as he can be when he tries. Suttree still feels like a family member that I haven't spoken to in quite awhile.

 

Where I'm Calling From, Raymond Carver

 

Possibly the finest short story collection in the past fifty years. A boy with a great severed fish, a peacock strutting through a living room: images that stay and stay. Mister Carver, God rest his soul, left this for us and we should pay attention. Birdman, the Oscar winning film was based loosely on one Carver story. I must encourage film makers of the world to do more.

 

Wittgenstein's Mistress, David Markson

 

Hypnosis in written form. Not in the normal format of books. First person madness. Or maybe not. "Someone is living on this beach." Markson creates a character that is not comparable to any other in the written canon. I read this book once a year, and each time it cheers me and astounds me again. He uses this format in several subsequent books. Never with the same powerful effect.

 

The World As I Found It, Bruce Duffy

 

A fictionalized life of Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein's last written sentence was supposedly: "Even if his dream were actually connected with the noise of the rain." Mister Duffy deserves a standing round of applause for creating this book. I thank him here if he ever reads this. Once, while reading this in an airport, a man came up to me and said that he had never seen anyone with this book before and he just wanted to shake my hand. I knew what he meant. I dearly love this book.

 

Black Swan Green, David Mitchell

 

A British import worth putting on your list. Childhood in Britain. Mitchell knows the secrets. He has become more famous now for Cloud Atlas and its oddly realized theatrical version than for his earlier books but read this one fist. Seems to know quite a bit of the pain of childhood. I read alot. This falls into the category of books you are very very sorry to see end. And another writer we will follow wherever he goes. Much more straightforward than the highly touted 'Cloud Atlas' which is also recommended but is a very different book. Atlas has been compared to David Foster Wallace but is not in that category. The storytelling in the six separate story lines however is excellent and makes the book what it is. Black Swan Green is linear and in places heartbreaking.

 

Europe Central, William T. Vollmann

 

Seemingly, this man knows all. Scary depth like Pynchon, without Pynchon's drunken reeling or penchant for breaking into song or lyric. I have only seen Vollmann's name on the back of one book giving recommendation or praise and that was Infinite Jest. This book, as many of Vollmann's are, is a wonder. I am more amazed that the National Book Award committee gave it an award. It is almost like they knew what they were doing. If you just went through and read all the sections on Shostakovich it would be worth the ride. And I will personally thank Vollmann here for getting me to fill out my classical disc collection with some Dmitri. Thank you.

 

Out Stealing Horses, Per Petterson

 

I am stunned that a translated book can come across this powerfully. Either the translator is a wizard or the writing is so pure, the transmission cannot be lost. I suspect it is some of both. I will seek out all this Norwegian man's efforts. This book makes you want to venture to the frozen landscape and share a fire and some tea with the man. Lucid prose so glassy clean I was left open mouthed many times. The trick we all want. The last scene and last pages left me living in the book for days afterward.

 

 

The Kindly Ones, Jonathan Littell

 

I remain astounded at this book even now, years later. It is not a book that one can likely read a second time for ten years or more. I have no idea how this young French speaking writer pulled this off. I don't think the French were prepared for him either. They gave him every award they had, I think, standing back away from him. Do not enter without caution and whiskey this book should say. This is first person Nazi in the time of the Nazi's. No one has ever entered their heads in this manner. It may leave small scarred burns on the head. He does not hold back. And when you live in a serial killlers head, who is still somehow sympathetic, you question yourself. You wonder what you would have done among so many serial killers.

 

 

The Instructions, Adam Levin

 

The sheer weight of this thing makes you jump back, though still not the length of Infinite Jest, it rivals the density. And the time course of this book is just four(!!) days. A trick not easily done even with magic. I deeply enjoyed reading this book. Looked forward to it at the end of every day. The central characters here are sharp and funny. A pleasure to spend four days with them.