What to read after Empire Falls?
October 25, 2012 2:28 AM   Subscribe

Help me choose what to read next! Am currently reading Richard Russo's Empire Falls and need suggestion on where I should head next.

I'm nearly at the end of Empire Falls by Richard Russo and would love some suggestions from people who enjoyed this book. I love how the story is told from so many different perspectives and how the things that have influenced the characters personalities have slowly been revealed. This isn't the defining reason why I like the book though, I think it is just the way that you really come to understand everyone and their motivations for doing the things they do. I also like the feeling of peeking into other people's dysfunctional lives but I don't like it when stories get too melodramatic, I feel like this book avoids that.

I'm not very articulate when it comes to talking about books, but the feeling that I am getting from this book is similar the feeling I had when reading Jonathen Franzen's The Corrections, and maybe The World According to Garp by John Irving?

I'll consider any suggestions really, maybe from these you can identify what it is I enjoy in a book and throw some good suggestions my way.

posted by kwes to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Richard Russo is pretty prolific, so if you haven't read any of his other books I'd definitely start there. Stewart O'Nan gives me a similar feeling, although he's much less comedic and his books much more depressing than Richard Russo. Handling Sin by Michael Malone was also recently recommended to me as an if-you-like-Russo type of thing; Handling Sin certainly has dysfunction but not melodrama.
posted by mchorn at 5:26 AM on October 25, 2012

Other Richard Russo books are also like that. For something similar in a (modern) western vein, try Thomas McGuane, or Larry McMurtry's early stuff, before Lonesome Dove.
posted by ubiquity at 5:27 AM on October 25, 2012

You could try Zadie Smith (White Teeth especially), or Franzen's Freedom if you haven't read it already. Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex is also really great in some similar ways, though more from the perspective of a single individual.
posted by mlle valentine at 5:40 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

To add to ubiquity's suggestions, try Larry McMurtry's "Duane's Depressed," which centers on a man who's trying to step aside from his dysfunctional family and understand his own motivations. Duane is a Texas oilman. One day, he decides he's not getting in his truck anymore. And all hell breaks loose in his circle of crazy friends and family even as Duane calmly tries to simplify his life and to understand himself. It's a perceptive, well-written, and often funny book (you'll feel the heartbreak too, though).

Disclaimer: I haven't read its predecessors, though I'm not sure they're necessary to getting this novel. Also, the last two novels of the series were OK, but nowhere near as good as "Duane's Depressed."
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:43 AM on October 25, 2012

A Visit from the Goon Squad has a different perspective for each chapter.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:45 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you are enjoying Russo and want to keep reading him, Nobody's Fool is my favorite of his. Really something special. Straight Man is also very funny.
posted by farishta at 6:07 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nobody's Fool is my favorite of Russo's novels, too. I also liked Bridge of Sighs. I don't really like any of his books where the main character is in academia, though.

I think that some of Anne Tyler's novels have a similar feel... My favorites are Saint Maybe, The Accidental Tourist, and Ladder of Years.
posted by Kriesa at 6:54 AM on October 25, 2012

I loved Empire Falls. I just finished reading The Casual Vacancy (the new non-Harry Potter book by J.K. Rowling) and as I was reading it, it kept reminding me of Empire Falls. It takes place in a small town where everyone is connected to each other in someway or another, and you get everyone's perspective too. Some characters you start out disliking, but once you get their perspective you understand them better (and vice-versa). But there are a couple of characters I ended up hating more after I read the parts from their perspective. You might want to give it a shot.
posted by villafoyager at 7:07 AM on October 25, 2012

Ivan Doig is wonderful at the detail you're talking about.
posted by papercake at 7:16 AM on October 25, 2012

Moo and Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley. I think they both fit the bill. Highly recommended.
posted by littlecatfeet at 7:28 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Empire Falls is one of my very favorite books. I couldn't quite put my finger on why, but I feel like you've hit on some of the top points.

Obviously you've got John Irving on your list. A Prayer for Owen Meany is another one of my all-time favorite books, and I think it would fit your criteria nicely. It's narrated entirely from a first-person perspective, but because of the way Irving constructs the book, you know that something's coming and are really driven to -- as you've said -- figure out the motivations. Irving and Russo have those similar worlds, both within their own fictional universes (Russo in New York and Irving in New Hampshire) and with each other, but that's the least of the comparisons. Cider House Rules is probably my second-favorite.

I just read The Monsters of Templeton, and while it's not quite up there in that pantheon, it's still pretty enjoyable. And, yes, also an Upstate New York multigenerational kind of book. Yeesh.

And I really couldn't tell you why I immediately thought of David Mitchell, because Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet are nothing like Empire Falls at all, but they're both up there in my Tip Top Books spot. I like solid but not-super-ultra-weighty literary fiction, and both of them have that sense of interconnectedness (duh, in the case of Cloud Atlas) and understanding of a greater story than what's happening to the MC at that moment.

Same with The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. Cloud Atlas and The Sparrow really transcend the idea of speculative fiction and are just such a pleasure to read.
posted by Madamina at 8:00 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with all of the above recommendations and Empire Falls is one of my favorite books. You might also enjoy Richard Ford, especially the Bascombe trilogy which starts with The Sportswriter, proceeds to (the Pulitzer Prize-winning) Independence Day and concludes with The Lay of the Land.

To break the mold a little, you might enjoy books told from the first person plural; the best show, simultaneously, a group view of people, place and situation while the reader gradually draws independent conclusions about all of the above. I like John's Wife by Robert Coover, which is about a small town's fascination with a citizen-cipher, and, especially, Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, which addresses office life.
posted by carmicha at 8:56 AM on October 25, 2012

Seconding A Visit From the Goon Squad.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is in my top five, along with Empire Falls. There are six main characters, and five of them tell the story in chapters in their voices. You might also like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Foer.
posted by Dolley at 9:21 AM on October 25, 2012

I liked "Empire Falls" (although maybe not as much as you). I think you would enjoy "The Emperor's Children" by Claire Messud. It stars mostly young New York media people, and if you hate or just can't be interested in that group, it won't be for you, but your description of what you like about "Empire Falls" could in all particulars apply to it as well (if you spot it the approbatory tone for now, anyway). It's different thematically and stylistically, but its overall method is quite similar. As I recall, the first chapter isn't particularly compelling, but it picks up quickly, and four or five years after reading it I still think about some of the characters and situations and lines.
posted by John Raskolnikov Gilson at 9:43 AM on October 25, 2012

I would suggest Middle Age by Joyce Carol Oates -- it's got the multiple narratives and upstate Gothic of Empire Falls as well.
posted by alicat at 10:57 AM on October 25, 2012

Came in to say Moo and Horse Heaven, and I'll also add Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer.
posted by Daily Alice at 12:37 PM on October 25, 2012

You might like The Marriage Plot. It has a similar quality of the same event or time period seen through different character's eyes.
posted by apricot at 1:28 PM on October 25, 2012

I love Empire Falls and Middlesex, and have created a made-up book category in my mind of what I think of as multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-layered stories (often told by multiple people but I never made that connection until now). FWIW I did not like The Corrections. I do love and recommend:

I Know This Much is True - Wally Lamb
The History of Now - Daniel Klein - this is a small-time book but it fits these descriptions and is based on my own hometown!
Prodigal Summer - Barbara Kingsolver (I think a lot of her books fit into this description but this is my favorite)
Certainty - Madeleine Thien
posted by wannabecounselor at 4:01 PM on October 25, 2012

To add to ubiquity's suggestions, try Larry McMurtry's "Duane's Depressed," ...

Good call on McMurtry. This particular book is one of my least favorite of his, actually, but in general he's real good with this sort of panoramic, multi-perspective view.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:38 PM on October 25, 2012

Russell Banks. Perhaps The Sweet Hereafter to start.
posted by kbuxton at 12:09 AM on October 28, 2012

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