Not The Bridge Over San Luis Rey
March 24, 2010 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Just had a break-up. I need a book recommendation.

I'm currently reading Shantaram, which is entertaining in general and has been next to my bed for a long time, given how it's 830 pages or so.

But, to be honest, it's not the best book of all time, and I need a change of pace, style, and location - India is very much tied with my relationship, and while I remember it fondly and, in fact, feel better than I could be feeling about the breakup (relative statement; still terrible), I'd like to move somewhere else.

Background: I don't need thrilling bestsellers, I can read rather dense material (holy books) if I have interest in the subject. Probably non-romance would be best right now. Also, in high school I missed out on some of the obvious picks (like To Kill a Mockingbird, etc), thanks to the wonderful IB program. Besides that, I like music and code but spend far too much time thinking about each. So, it's really a crapshoot, but I'm not incredibly picky - basically, what books have you found important and might fit my scenario?
posted by tmcw to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Tell us about some books you've read that you wish you hadn't already, so you could read them for the first time right now (i.e. books or movies or songs that would be 'perfect' for your mood right now; we need more info to go on you want uplifting? depressing? engrossing? character development? light reading? inspiring? people worse off than you? better? triumph? despair? what?).
posted by iamkimiam at 8:49 AM on March 24, 2010

Thinking of longer books -- I loved Night Watch by Sarah Waters. It's absorbing and not-sentimental. Set in WWII London. Also Jonathan Strange and M. Norrell is looong and brilliant and not-romantic.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:51 AM on March 24, 2010

The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I just read it and I loved it. It sounds like it might give you a change of pace from India/music/code/romance because it's about none of those things. But it's quite engrossing and good.
posted by amethysts at 8:52 AM on March 24, 2010

You didn't specify fiction or nonfiction, and I like nonfiction, so...

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell

They're both about how to be happy in all sorts of situations, and they're both intellectually rigorous, not at all new-age-y.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:53 AM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you like realistic fantasy, I have to recommend Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Takes place in Napoleonic England and it's a magical tome. I find fantasy has always been useful when I need to "get out of my head" for a bit. There's a small, small romantic storyline, but it's far far from the main plot.
posted by Dukat at 9:06 AM on March 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

For a complete change of pace, I would recommend a different Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko. Translated from Russian, it's a dark not-too-much-fantasy set in modern Russia, about the struggle between light and dark and how that doesn't mean good vs. evil.
posted by lizbunny at 9:13 AM on March 24, 2010

One of my favorite books ever is Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng (who just died in November). It's a personal look into one person's life during the Cultural Revolution in China. It's an autobiography yet seems so surreal. Great for perspective, too.
posted by letahl at 9:19 AM on March 24, 2010

On Love, by Alain de Botton.
posted by amber_dale at 9:27 AM on March 24, 2010

Watership Down is my go-to book when I'm feeling blue. High school classic that maybe you haven't read. It's social commentary, mixed with folklore, mixed with studies of wild rabbit behaviour. It gives me a nice, comfy feeling when reading it.

If rabbits aren't your thing, I'd suggest Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, both really funny and very sad. The main character is brilliant and the story is really engaging. The best modern novel I've read in a long time.

Also, I should point out, both books are on the short side.
posted by brambory at 9:41 AM on March 24, 2010

I'd recommend The Happy Isles of Oceania or The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux. They are nonfiction books wherein the author undergoes changes in his environment and his personal life. You might also check out the very slim volume Running After Antelope by Scott Carrier.
posted by mattbucher at 11:17 AM on March 24, 2010

The Accidental Tourist was of great help to me once.
posted by caddis at 12:27 PM on March 24, 2010

Sounds like you need to get lost in something. Have you read Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon? Kind of epic family story-history-comic book extravaganza.

Or Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, which might be hard to get into, but which was for me an extremely satisfying read.
posted by prior at 2:04 PM on March 24, 2010

For escapism with richness and depth, go for the Song of Fire and Ice series, starting with A Game of Thrones. If you get into it, it's very engrossing and will get you thinking about its world rather than yours for a while.
posted by ignignokt at 2:06 PM on March 24, 2010

The Manual of Detection just caught my fancy. I rather enjoyed it.
posted by redbeard at 5:04 PM on March 24, 2010

"100 Years of Solitude", Gabriel Garcia Marquez
posted by radiosilents at 5:32 PM on March 24, 2010

as brambory said, Watership Down is excellent.
posted by ovvl at 6:07 PM on March 24, 2010

I agree with On Love, anything by Alain de Botton really.

Elegance of Hedgehog, or Jonathan Strange are great suggestions.

I like fantasy to get out of my head, and when I broke up recently, I just re-read some good old Harry Potter.

I found a recommendation mefi for The Man-Eaters of Kumaon and find that to be engrossing.
posted by Goodgrief at 8:24 AM on March 25, 2010

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