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September 21, 2012 3:33 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite reads from, say, the last 30 years?

I'm trying to get back into regularly reading for leisure, and I need some recs! I'm looking for more modern stuff (I've got most of the classics down), ANY genre except romance novels. I'll often check the top 100 on amazon for new books and find books I want to try, but the bestseller list changes so frequently. By the time I get around to making a list I usually can't remember the titles.

Bonus points for books that are available for fairly cheap on the Kindle. Not a requirement, though. I don't get to go as frequently now but if I can I try to visit the library once in a while.
posted by sprezzy to Grab Bag (57 answers total) 82 users marked this as a favorite
Quantum Healing by Deepak Chopra.
posted by Michele in California at 3:42 PM on September 21, 2012

Can you provide some examples of things that you have liked (from the classics)?
posted by perhapses at 3:44 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Austerlitz, by W. G. Sebald
posted by gyusan at 3:49 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Elmore Leonard's been at it for more than thirty years. He doesn't seem to have a bad book, old or recent.
posted by philip-random at 3:51 PM on September 21, 2012

Ali Smith The Accidental.
posted by Brittanie at 3:53 PM on September 21, 2012

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
posted by backwards guitar at 3:53 PM on September 21, 2012

Solo by Rana Dasgupta
posted by twentyfoursummers at 3:53 PM on September 21, 2012

Non-fiction: The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee; Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer; The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson; Dr. Johnson's London by Liza Picard; Why Men Won't Ask for Directions by Richard C. Francis; In the Land of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent; The Medici Conspiracy by Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini; Baboon Metaphysics by Dorothy Cheney and Richard Seyfarth.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:54 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Satantango by László Krasznahorkai
posted by perhapses at 3:54 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: hmm well I was more specifying "modern" because it is easy for me to check up "top 100 classic lit" lists, and there are always tons of repeats on those lists. I'm looking more for fairly modern books that are critically acclaimed/satisfying/thought-provoking/enjoyable/etc that maybe haven't "earned" their place on lists because they are so new.

Just to give an example of stuff I enjoy: anything Bradbury, Song of Ice & Fire (read book 1, need to finish the rest), Middlesex, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Food related memoirs (Heat, Anthony Bourdain), Harry Potter (crackfic heeyyy), etc

So I really am all over the place.
posted by sprezzy at 4:02 PM on September 21, 2012

Can you tell us a little more about what you've read and liked? We can all tell you what we've liked, of course, but if we had some idea of where your tastes run, you might get better answers. If you loved Anna Karenina, you'll likely be drawn to different modern stuff than if you loved Don Quixote or Of Mice and Men or Brave New World.
posted by decathecting at 4:02 PM on September 21, 2012

OK, clearly, we posted at the same time.

If you liked Harry Potter, read the Hunger Games trilogy next. I'd also recommend The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks based on your tastes.
posted by decathecting at 4:05 PM on September 21, 2012

Little, Big by John Crowley -- Probably the best fantasy novel of... well, maybe, ever.

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra -- A sprawling, yet intimate story set in Mumbai wih a great sense of place, engaging and deeply flawed characters, and a modestly thrilling plot. One of the few 1000 page novels worth nearly every page.

Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austin by Fay Weldon -- An epistolary novel on why people read and write.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:06 PM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

Memoir: Lopsided by Meredith Norton; Fun Home by Alison Bechdel; Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill; One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina; Fraud by David Rakoff; The Red Devil by Katherine Russell Rich; All the Fishes Come Home to Roost byRachel Manjia Brown; Waiting for the Apocalypse by Veronica Chater; My Lobotomy by Howard Dully; Becoming a Visible Man by Jamison Green; A Girl Called Zippy by Haven Kimmel.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:07 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I won't post anymore after this because I don't want to threadsit, but I didn't give examples in the original question because I didn't want to limit the answers too much. Sure those are some of the books I've enjoyed, but I also want to try new things! Who know what I might end up enjoying...

And actually, I enjoyed both Anna Karenina and Of Mice and Men very much. :)

Thanks for all the responses so far!
posted by sprezzy at 4:08 PM on September 21, 2012

Shards of Honor, by Lois McMaster Bujold
posted by Bruce H. at 4:09 PM on September 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Probably my favorite read of all time.
posted by firei at 4:10 PM on September 21, 2012

I'm not a huge Literature person but I'll throw a few names out: Haruki Murakami. Iain M Banks. John le Carre. Terry Pratchett. Neal Stephenson. All authors who have some works I like more than others, but I'd not be ashamed of mentioning them even if you chose their "worst".
posted by Slyfen at 4:12 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Obligatory shout-out for Terry Pratchett, who can be silly, but also has some interesting things to say about government (any in the "Night Watch" sub-series) and economics (See: Going Postal, Making Money).

I'm gonna rave again about Gregory Clark's A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World. I'm re-reading Duncan Watts' Everything Is Obvious: *Once You Know the Answer to better critique it for my blog, partially to call out his treatment of scenario planning (as compared to Peter Schwartz's The Art of the Long View, but the fact that I'm attacking it again means I found some good things in there.

Back to humor, Christopher Moore. Most of his is light silly, but Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal was some very interesting exploration of religion, while being light and silly. And Rob Kroese's Mercury series is kinda fun.
posted by straw at 4:12 PM on September 21, 2012

As I started to think through books that I've liked a lot that were written since 1982, it suddenly occurred to me that a lot of this info can easily be discovered from Goodreads.

Also, while you might not share my personal tastes or interests, once you do find people on there who like what you like, it's great at throwing up ideas for new reading.

There is also a Metafilter group there, with 351 members. (Not necessarily all active.) And assorted lists voted on by Goodreads members, like this one on the best books of the 2000s.

FWIW, some of the authors and books that show up on my own list....

Terry Pratchett - various, but especially Thief of Time and Night Watch.
Scott Turow - Pleading Guilty, The Laws of Our Fathers
Nelson Mandela - Long Walk to Freedom

If your dislike of romance novels doesn't extend to more literary love stories and examinations of relationships, there's also...

Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis de Bernieres
The Reader - Bernhard Schlink.
posted by philipy at 4:13 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Metafictiony fiction: PopCo by Scarlett Thomas; Lanark by Alasdair Gray; Slab Rat by Ted Heller; Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl; The Saskiad by Brian Hall; Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo; 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami; Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison; Erasure by Percival Everett; Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:14 PM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Eifelheim by Michael Flynn.
posted by michaelh at 4:15 PM on September 21, 2012

Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce novels are great reads for grownups who love Harry Potter.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:16 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Off the top of my head:

Cloudstreet, Tim Winton
Skippy Dies, Paul Murray
On Beauty, Zadie Smith
The brief and wondrous life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rebecca Joyce (?) based on your liking of Mark Haddon
Mark Haddon (curious dog) has a new one out called 'the red house' which I enjoyed, as I did 'a spot of bother'.
I agree with the Kavalier and Clay recommendation. 'Carter beats the Devil' (i think Gold?) might be a good bet too.
Anything by Terry Pratchett, or at the least the last twenty or so he's done.
Box of Matches, Nicholson Baker (anything by Nicholson Baker, he is wonderful)
Ali Smith is great, second that rec, also the Mistry recommendation
Did I say Cloudstreet? READ CLOUDSTREET!
posted by pymsical at 4:17 PM on September 21, 2012

I'll often check the top 100 on amazon for new books and find books I want to try, but the bestseller list changes so frequently. By the time I get around to making a list I usually can't remember the titles.

My solution to this is to add Amazon titles to my Amazon Wish List.

Gail Godwin's The Good Husband remains one of my favourite books.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:23 PM on September 21, 2012

Contact by Carl Sagan
posted by hypersloth at 4:26 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Food related: Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone (and if you like it, its sequel, Comfort Me With Apples)
posted by Wordwoman at 4:42 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, not a recommendation for a book but a recommendation for a place to trawl for new books.

I enjoy reviewing the Tournament of Books every year and grabbing some books from there. The biblioracle here is also uncanny in his recommendations. It's an infrequently done thing, but terrific. I've read through those posts to pick up new recommendations as well.

Goodreads mentioned upthread by phillipy is also super useful (though I am a slackarse on using it).

read cloudstreet!
posted by pymsical at 4:46 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I wanted to get back into reading, I went to the National Book Award website and started working my way through winners and nominees...
posted by notyou at 4:54 PM on September 21, 2012

American Gods - Neil Gaiman (I also like his books of short stories)

Fool - Christopher Moore (one of the few fiction books I've read more than once, my husband has read most of them more than once.)

Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses by Isabel Allende

Home Land - Sam Lypsite (this is one of the funniest books I've ever read. But avoid if you're not comfortable with off-color language and sexual humor.)

Just about anything by Bill Bryson, especially:

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe
Notes From A Small Island
The Mother Tongue - English And How It Got That Way
A Short History of Nearly Everything

And if you happen to have a spiritual bent:

A few by Father Jim Martin, the "official" chaplain of the Colbert Report:

Becoming Who You Are: Insights on the True Self from Thomas Merton and Other Saints
The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life
My Life with the Saints

Kathleen Norris:

The Cloister Walk
Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith

An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith - Barbara Brown Taylor
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:58 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Housekeeping and Gilead

And after those, Home.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:02 PM on September 21, 2012

"Lamb" by Christopher Moore, also his "island of the Sequined Love Nun"
Various Carl Hiassen novels
"Six of One" by Rita Mae Brown
"The Battle for God" by karen Armstrong
"Bright Sided" by Barbara Ehrenreich

If you like murder mysteries, the Sharon McCone series by Marcia Muller
posted by mermayd at 5:04 PM on September 21, 2012

I could name 50 books. But stick with what is actually cheap on Kindle right now...

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace [$4.99 on Kindle]
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving [$2.99 on Kindle]
posted by dgeiser13 at 5:22 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

The website The Millions put together their Best Books of the Millennium so far) in 2009.
posted by Asparagus at 5:31 PM on September 21, 2012

Since you've mentioned both YA fic and speculative fic in your examples, which is all I seem to read these days, can I recommend the Mortal Engines series by Philip Reeve, very well-written, thoughtful and fantastic sort of steampunky-futuristic (retro-futuristic?) YA books;

and Diana Wynne-Jones, also quite challenging and ruthless in the ideas presented, in spite of being mostly, ostensibly, for children. Specifically for adults: Deep Secret, The Time of the Ghost. Also recommended, The Dalemark Quartet, Hexwood, Fire and Hemlock. If you're into magic and myth and metaphor with a rather hardcore sense of the mundane you might like her stuff.

Btw I mean fantastic in the sense of unexpected and extravagant and needing a very fresh imagination to conceive.
posted by glasseyes at 5:45 PM on September 21, 2012

The Night Circus. Magical, well-written, did not want it to end.
posted by Specklet at 5:51 PM on September 21, 2012

For food: I enjoy most anything by John Thorne. He's a food obsessive who gets hooked on a dish, tinkers with it, learns its history, and writes essays tying the two together. Wonderfully personal and informative.

(I started with Pot on the Fire.)
posted by Turkey Glue at 6:11 PM on September 21, 2012

I'm not reading all the replies because I swore I would stop reading these "recommend me a book" because my "to-be-read" list at goodreads has about five thousand books on it now. So forgive me if someone already said Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. I love books set in India and it is my favorite.
posted by upatree at 6:18 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Pretty much anything by Terry Pratchett is a good read from his Discworld books to his YA series.
posted by wwax at 6:25 PM on September 21, 2012

Posession by A.S. Byatt.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 7:19 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson is only $2.99 right now.
posted by ringu0 at 7:37 PM on September 21, 2012

Three books I recently read and loved:
Last Man in Tower, Aravind Adiga (Also "White Tiger" - another terrific book)
The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
Canada, Richard Ford
posted by lois1950 at 7:38 PM on September 21, 2012

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
The Sparrow and it's sequel Children of God by Mary Doria Russell
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood and it's sequel, Year of the Flood
China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Just some books that popped into my head when I thought about books that I have really enjoyed over the last couple of years. Obviously I like a bit of soft sci fi/speculative fiction...you might like some of these if you are also that way inclined. All of these for me struck the right balance between having compelling characters and a plot that kept me interested, without being so heavy that after a day of work or study it would put me straight to sleep.
posted by kwes at 7:41 PM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

In 55 years of reading widely, I never had one particular "favorite book," because so many of them were so enjoyable in so many different ways. Now, I have a #1 favorite: My Century, by Gunter Grass. So good, on so many levels, I'd be pretty happy to spend the next few years just reading it over and over again. Unfortunately, I see that it's not available on Kindle, but it's worth getting your hands on the old-fashioned way.
posted by Corvid at 7:46 PM on September 21, 2012

Two really excellent YA (but really for all ages) titles I've read recently:

Feed by M.T. Anderson (dystopian novel about a future in which we access the Internet through our brains)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (this book DESTROYED me. One of the best YA novels I've ever read. Read it if you want to bawl your eyes out)

Can you tell I was a middle school Language Arts teacher?
posted by luciernaga at 7:59 PM on September 21, 2012

For Terry Pratchett specifically, I'd recommend The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. Technically YA, but actually one of his more serious novels, and very, very good. Neil Gaiman called it an "astonishing" novel, and I think he's right.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:13 PM on September 21, 2012

Earth Household by Gary Snyder.
posted by Danf at 10:51 PM on September 21, 2012

I just read The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, and it reminded me quite a bit of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Other recs:

The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

And Laurie Colwin's food memoirs, Home Cooking and More Home Cooking, are my favourite food writing ever.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:45 AM on September 22, 2012

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, David Wroblewski
The Passage, Justin Cronin
posted by Cocodrillo at 6:01 AM on September 22, 2012

Nthing Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon. The prose is just gorgeous, and the story and characters are magnificent. There are so many spots in that book where Chabon's word choice or turn of a phrase just stopped me in my (metaphorical) tracks, because I was just blown away by how good it was.
posted by shiu mai baby at 9:09 AM on September 22, 2012

Also jumping on the Kavalier & Clay wagon plus backing Atwood's Oryx & Crake, Byatt's Possession and Gray's Lanark.

I'd also add:
+ Alasdair Gray's Poor Things which is a postmodern take on Frankenstein and very enjoyable.
+ Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials
+ Iain Banks' The Wasp Factory
+ China Mieville's The City & The City and Embassytown
+ Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

All of which have a mild sci-fi and/or fantasy bend.. and all of which are blooming marvellous.
posted by kariebookish at 1:40 PM on September 22, 2012

A Naked Singularity by Sergio de la Pava
The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Out Stealing Horses by Per Patterson
Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
Blood Meridian and/or the Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy
posted by lhputtgrass at 12:56 AM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go on Goodreads and you can set it up where you put in the type of books you like, rate books you have read in the past, and then it will give you recommendations. You can also read reviews. It is awesome.
posted by eq21 at 7:32 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson
The Cuckoo's Egg by Cliff Stoll
An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina
The Lost: The Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
Can I Keep My Jersey? by Paul Shirley
Microserfs by Douglas Coupland
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Knucklehead: Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories About Growing Up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (and its sequels)
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
Maus I & Maus II by Art Spiegelman
In the Woods by Tana French
The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert
The Immortal Life of Henrieta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Annie's Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg
Thunderstruck by Erik Larson
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Breaking the Code: A Father's Secret, a Daughter's Journey, and the Question That Changed Everything by Karen Fisher-Alaniz
The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Burrows
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
posted by stampsgal at 8:02 PM on September 23, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks again for all the answers! I won't mark best answer because I'd have to mark all of them, but I'm already working my way through this list :)
posted by sprezzy at 12:24 PM on September 24, 2012

Deptford Trilogy by Davies
posted by dougiedd at 1:24 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Beloved - Toni Morrison
posted by maggieb at 3:08 PM on October 1, 2012

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