The perfect novel?
December 10, 2009 4:28 PM   Subscribe

Help me find that perfect novel for a Christmas present.

Sorry to post this anonymously, but someone close to the recipient is one my contacts!

Now, I spent a good part of yesterday perusing book stores, eventually walking away empty handed.

The person receiving this book is a mid-fifties male who is an avid reader of good popular fiction. E.g. really likes Frank McCourt; really dislikes Dan Brown.

I considered Netherland by O'Neill but decided against it because I haven't read it and thought it might be too political. (Is it?) So if you need a gage to go by then it'd be McCourt.

The suggestion needn't be a heavy story, for well-written, humorous, insightful prose works just as well. What I want is a story that will stick with this person for time to come.

Thank you in advance for your suggestions.
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I know how predictable this is on MeFi, but You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers might be just right (and should still be readily available in trade paperback at this point).
posted by mintcake! at 4:38 PM on December 10, 2009

not exactly contemporary, and its short stories - not a novel, but when gifting words, you absolutely cannot go wrong with the collected fictions of Borges. its true, they actually did a study.
posted by nihlton at 4:41 PM on December 10, 2009

posted by nihlton at 4:42 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

in the past six months a few heavyweight popular fiction writers have produced new books:

Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow
Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving
That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
Sag Harbor: A Novel by Colsom Whitehead

Tender Bar by J. Moehringer has a lot of overlap reader-wise with with Frank McCourt
Brooklyn: A Novel by Colm Toiben (ditto)
posted by mr. remy at 4:48 PM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Definitely seconding Brooklyn if a newer hardcover is in order. The "new" Nabokov book is an interesting experience, too (and just lovely to look at, which is always a bonus).
posted by mintcake! at 4:55 PM on December 10, 2009

I just finished reading "Infinite Jest" and I know this novel is going to stay with me for a long time. Wonderful, haunting book.
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 5:50 PM on December 10, 2009

I just finished reading Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Wallis (I think) and it reminded me very much of Frank McCourt -- a funny, likable narrator, a historical setting, some crazy adventures, and some touching moments, too. It's not as moving as Angela's Ashes, but it's a wonderful book.

It's sort of a novel-memoir... The author is writing about her grandmother's life in the first person.
posted by cider at 5:57 PM on December 10, 2009

Thirding Brooklyn as a significant novel of the moment.
posted by shothotbot at 7:07 PM on December 10, 2009

I love the novels of Julia Glass. She's one of the only contemporary writers I can think of who writes good old-fashioned character-driven novels, ones you can sink your teeth into and stay up all night finishing.
She's got three: Three Junes, The Whole World Over, I See You Everywhere (that's in chronological order, but they're not a series, so you can pick and choose where to start).
posted by bookgirl18 at 7:08 PM on December 10, 2009

Booker prize winning Wolf Hall is a well written, interesting account of the greasy rise and inevitable fall of Henry the VIII's chief minister Thomas Cromwell. Great read.
posted by shothotbot at 7:14 PM on December 10, 2009

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon. I cannot recommend it highly enough. (but he may have already read it)
posted by emd3737 at 7:27 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]">here is a long list of some really great books from the past year, compiled by the kind of readers and writers your friend will like.

(disclosure: i work for these i know they have great taste.)

also, "netherland" is not very political at all.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:38 PM on December 10, 2009

uh, what did i do to that link??? here:
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:39 PM on December 10, 2009

Jimmy Breslin's "The Good Rat" is the best written book I have ever read. It's not a novel but reads like one.
Seconding all Michael Chabon (except "Mysteries of Pittsburg" - I don't understand that one), and Richard Russo and also Pat Conroy.

Or buy some classics - Lonesome Dove, Dune. One of my favorites ever is "Myself as Witness" by James Goldman but you will probably have to get it second hand.
posted by andreap at 2:09 PM on December 11, 2009

Netherland isn't political, but it tends to be polarizing because of its in-folding, chain-of-memories structure. It opens with a giant pair of spoilers: Hans and Rachel GET BACK TOGETHER, Chuck Ramkissoon DIES. If that sort of thing ruins the steaks for you, you'll hate it.

I thought it was terrific.
posted by tangerine at 5:47 PM on December 11, 2009

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