Looking for some awesome fiction
December 12, 2012 11:36 AM   Subscribe

My book queue is empty, and my brain craves fiction! Could you please recommend some books? Favorites include : DeLillo, Murakami, Pynchon, Bolaño, Lethem, Barthleme, Franzen, Chabon, DFW, Bulgakov, Rushdie, David Mitchell, Gabriel García Márquez, Mark Z. Danielewski, Philip K. Dick, Stephen King, George Saunders, Joe Hill, and Raymond Chandler

I know, I'm all over the map! But if you can find a common thread in some of these, I'd love to hear your suggestions.
posted by Afroblanco to Media & Arts (70 answers total) 80 users marked this as a favorite
Have you read The Night Circus yet?
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:38 AM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Sacred Games, by Vikram Chandra.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:38 AM on December 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

Italo Calvino, maybe Cosmicomics.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:38 AM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

The Passage by Cronin wasn't bad. I haven't touched the sequel yet.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:41 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might also enjoy Umberto Eco or Margaret Atwood.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:42 AM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Sacred Games is deeply compelling.

Ægypt by John Crowley is a monster of a four-volume novel, mixing the mundane and the fantastic in a quite amazing way. If four books seem too log, you could try Crowley with the equally punchy Little, Big
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:44 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Jorge Luis Borges, definitely. To me, his work is similar to Pynchon and Danielewski. Maybe start with Ficciones. I haven't read a lot of Borges but I've liked what I read.

Maybe William Gibson too. He's a big fan of Pynchon & Borges, but not exactly similar.
posted by kidbritish at 11:44 AM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

The Sportswriter - Richard Ford
posted by Cosine at 11:45 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ficciones by Borges. Borges was the common thread I spotted in your books although I can't honestly say why.

Also: Your list suggests you might enjoy the book Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. I happened upon it while trying to find books that made me feel like House of Leaves did. I have never read any other Palahniuk and I've been told not to bother, but Haunted wound up being exactly the book I wanted to read.

You might enjoy Thomas Ligotti as well.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:46 AM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Helen Oyeyemi. Anything by her.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:48 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Based on that list I would say:

Jose Luis Borges, post-haste (this is a good collection)

And on the off-chance that you've already read his entire oeuvre and simply neglected to mention then I'll recommend Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun.

Those should give you something to sink your teeth into.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:49 AM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Octavia Butler's books. She's a wonderful writer. Also, for something kind of warm and fuzzy, Harpo Marx's autobiography ("Harpo Speaks") is an enjoyable read.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:51 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I, too, love DeLillo, Murakami, DFW, Bulgakov, and George Saunders. I would recommend "Little, Big" by John Crowley. It was my favorite book this year. If you'd be willing to read YA fantasy fiction, I enjoyed Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy as much as the other authors listed above. I'll be watching this thread for recommendations, too!
posted by lagreen at 11:51 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I very much enjoyed Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. The prose and story is a lot like Chabon.
posted by Leezie at 11:52 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

The City and the City, China Miéville. It's quite different from any other Miéville, just so you know.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:53 AM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Vladimir Nabokov, Ada.

Maybe also The Recognitions by William Gaddis.

Both of these may seem kind of old-fashioned and English-majory next to your list, though.
posted by BibiRose at 11:54 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding The Book of the New Sun.

Also, only because your list of favorite authors is very close to mine, and I'm currently rereading it: Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast books.
posted by dfan at 11:55 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Jose Luis Borges, post-haste (this is a good collection)

And on the off-chance that you've already read his entire oeuvre and simply neglected to mention then I'll recommend Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun.

I agree with both of these, but the thing I thought when I saw your list of favorites was -- you are at high risk for Gene Wolfe. You are in real danger of being blown away. Book of the New Sun is a fantastic place to start but you may find yourself seeking out his other books when you're done.
posted by grobstein at 11:56 AM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Philip Roth. Junot Diaz. Also, probably 1/3 of my AskMeFi comments say this, but Lydia Davis! Always Lydia Davis.
posted by munyeca at 11:58 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Have you read anything by Robert Coover? He fits in very nicely with the Pynchon-Lethem-Barthelme-Saunders crowd. I highly recommend The Public Burning.
posted by 2or3things at 12:02 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also! Denis Johnson.
posted by munyeca at 12:05 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Dog Stars
posted by nicwolff at 12:07 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I say Eco too. Baudolino then maybe Foucault's Pendulum and quite possibly The Island of the Day Before.
posted by carsonb at 12:08 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Anything by László Krasznahorkai.
posted by perhapses at 12:09 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you might like Atwood. I'm sure you'd Calvino. I have some of both if you'd like to borrow.
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:34 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love almost everyone on your list, and to me the next logical choice for you is Paul Auster. I would start with the New York Trilogy.
posted by barnoley at 12:34 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Booker-winning White Tiger.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:49 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann - probably one of the best books I've read this year. I've been giving it to all of my friends for their birthdays.
posted by bluefly at 12:50 PM on December 12, 2012

Looking over your list, I think you'd like Michael Ondaatje's most recent novel, The Cat's Table.

From the New York Review of Books:
In The Cat’s Table, we are both certain and uncertain of our narrator’s identity: that’s to say, Ondaatje toys with the degree to which the narrator resembles the author himself. His name is Michael; now in his late sixties, he is a writer; he speaks to us on occasion, as in the quotation above, as if he were at the podium at Toronto’s Harbourfront Festival. He relates the story of his three-week crossing by ship from Ceylon to England, in 1954, at the age of eleven—which is, indeed, the year in which Ondaatje traveled to Great Britain, and the age he was when he did so. How much the young Ondaatje resembled, in reality, the heedless and exuberant wrongdoer he describes—who with his two friends Ramadhin and Cassius “established one rule. Each day we had to do at least one thing that was forbidden”—is ultimately an irrelevance; just as it is irrelevant, really, whether the ship Oronsay of Ondaatje’s childhood actually carried a rabid millionaire cursed by a monk, a troupe of acrobats, a ladylike spy, or a prisoner in chains. The reality that Ondaatje creates on the page has the force of life itself, and that is all that matters.
It's beautifully written yet in many ways more accessible than some of Ondaatje's previous work (and I say this as an Ondaatje fan). It has a good balance between gorgeous prose, compelling characters, and well-paced story. Definitely a highlight of my 2012 reading list.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:59 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

China Mieville - I loved the City and the City and I loved Embassytown. I didn't finish Kraken or King Rat.
posted by mai at 1:17 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Looks like you have the same taste in books as me.

Reading 1Q84 inspired me to read a lot more Russian lit; have you considered checking some of Chekhov, Tolstoy, or Dostoevsky out? Another book Murakami mentions in 1Q84 that I want to read: Isak Dinesen's Out Of Africa.
posted by eak at 1:19 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Bad Girl, by Mario Vargas Llosa.

Also try Robertson Davies, Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, and Carlos Ruiz Zafron (I've only read The Wind in the Shadows so far but it was so. so. good.).
posted by snorkmaiden at 1:29 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Texaco by Patrick Chamoiseau
posted by Leontine at 1:37 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I second the Nabokov recommendation, but Ada is definitely the most Nabokoffputting book there is. I'd recommend Pale Fire to get yourself acclimated before taking a potentially lethal dose.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:02 PM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. You can listen to an excerpt here.
posted by R2WeTwo at 2:14 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Believe it or not: Moby-Dick; or, The Whale.

One of the best ways into Nabokov is to read his collected short stories; they are amazing and led me to read everything else.
posted by lathrop at 2:16 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar
The Obscene Bird of Night by Jose Donoso come to mind
posted by newmoistness at 2:20 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

You list a couple of my favourites above, and I've read enough of the others to know the "feel" you seem to like, so allow me to suggest: Kazuo Ishigiro, Richard Brautigan, Paul Bowles, Knut Hamsun, Milan Kundera, Bohumil Hrabal, Henry de Montherlant, I guess possibly Neal Stephenson, and, actually, I don't think you can ever go wrong with grabbing the first thing you see that has been reprinted by NYRB Classics.

(I've gone ahead and assumed you meant Donald Barthelme and not any of the inferior, impostor Barthelmes.)
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 2:25 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Italo Calvino! I love everything I've read by him but If on a Winter's Night a Traveler is still one of my favorites years after reading it for the first time.
posted by deliciae at 2:31 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, you don't offer any opinion of William Faulkner, but if you've never read him you'd probably find his novels immensely rewarding. Two caveats, though: First, everybody seems to recommend The Sound And The Fury as the best place to start with Faulkner, but I think that's actually a disastrous recommendation and would instead go with As I Lay Dying, Light in August, or The Hamlet. Second, his novels are usually tough to get started with, so be prepared to 'spot' him about 50 pages or so before the book just completely sucks you in.
posted by newmoistness at 2:34 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

As official Seconder of Opinions, I approve of turgid dahlia's NYRB Classics recommendation. I haven't yet read a bad book from that press. They may not always run to my taste - The Winners by Julio Cortázar uses stereotyped characters to make social commentary - but they're always worth my time.

Also, lathrop is right. Go read Moby-Dick right now. Don't skip the chapter about whale categorization.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:42 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I recommend Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's incomparable The Leopard (Il Gattopardo in the original Italian, but native speakers have assured me that the standard English translation is excellent).

I remember the beauty of the language and metaphor of this book as so overwhelming and compelling that it took me several moments to realize where and even who I was when I happened to look up from it at long, long intervals.
Tomasi was the last in a line of minor princes in Sicily, and he had long contemplated writing a historical novel based on his great-grandfather, Don Giulio Fabrizio Tomasi, another Prince of Lampedusa. After the Lampedusa palace was bombed and pillaged by Allied forces in World War II, Tomasi sank into a lengthy depression, and began to write Il Gattopardo as a way to combat it.
Which makes him a displaced aristocrat very like Nabokov (or De Sade, for that matter), but whereas resentment and vicious spite are never far below the surface in Nabokov, The Leopard is the purest distillation of elegiac and deeply loving melancholy I expect to ever have the opportunity to experience.
posted by jamjam at 2:48 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding Umberto Eco, specifically Foucault's Pendulum, and Pale Fire by Nabokov. Lolita and Pnin are also great reads.

Selected Satires of Lucian might also work for you. His sense of the absurd is wonderful.

1001 Arabian Nights is surprisingly readable, and has a very adult sense of narrative. I have not read anything other than Burton's translation so can't comment on which other translations might be better.

Kafka's sense of the absurd might also work for you. Some people don't find him funny at all but I found most of his stories hilarious. The Castle and The Trial are both great.
posted by benzenedream at 3:56 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your list is eerily close to my own. At risk of our literary tastes becoming identical, I would suggest to you Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins, even if you've read him before and it didn't strike your fancy. It's about everything, and beets.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 4:06 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

We seem to have a lot of crossover, and I recently enjoyed I'm Trying To Reach You by Barbara Browning. Bet you'd like some Mark Leyner as well - his recent one, The Sugar Frosted Nutsack was great. Maybe Donald Antrim? Perhaps start with Elect Mr. Robinson For A Better World. I really like Alexei Sayle's fiction, and I always want people to read The Roaches Have No King by Daniel Evan Weiss - it's available for almost nothing in the Amazon marketplace, and it's one of my favorites. Hell, most everything that came out of that whole mid-'90s High Risk/Serpent's Tail situation was worth a look. YAY BOOKS.
posted by mintcake! at 4:29 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you like Lethem, you might like Jonathan Coe. I'd go for The Rotter's Club or What A Carve Up! (it's called something else in the US and I don't recall what, or why).

I've also really enjoyed Empire Falls by Richard Russo recently - read it straight after Kavalier and Clay - I think I was in a Pulitzer phase as I read The Sportswriter around the same time - and enjoyed it much more.
posted by mippy at 4:33 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, Gary Shteyngart's Absurdistan is a mess, but a very funny, entertaining mess.

The presence of King and Chandler on your list makes me think you'd be up for some crime recommendations - I really like the Tess Monaghan novels at the moment, by Laura Lippmann. In A Strange City isn't the first one in the series, but it's my favourite so far and would be a good place to start. I dismissed crime fiction for years because of the lurid, bestseller-claim-clad covers, but Lippmann is smart and sharp and gives a really good sense of her Baltimore setting.

Seconding Alexei Sayle - Barcelona Chairs, the title story from his collection, still amuses me more than a decade after reading it.
posted by mippy at 4:38 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

What A Carve Up! was published in the US as The Winshaw Legacy. "What a carve up" isn't an idiom here, and the Sid James et al. film was released in the US under the title No Place Like Homicide, so the title would just have been meaningless to US readers on two levels.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:57 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

You may enjoy Stanislaw Lem
posted by lathrop at 7:00 PM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Thomas Ligotti
Jorge Luis Borges
Jim Thompson
Kathe Koja
Jonathan Carroll
John Le Carré
G. K. Chesterton
Clive Barker
Peter Straub
Theodore Sturgeon
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:21 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't believe I'm the first person to mention Neil Gaiman. If you can get into reading comics, you will love his Sandman series, which are collected in ten trade paperbacks. Otherwise his prose is easy to read, fun, and often thought-provoking. I'd start with some of his short stories, such as his Smoke & Mirrors collection.

I second the recommendations for Borges, Eco, and Mieville. You might also like Mark Helprin, particularly Winter's Tale or A Soldier of the Great War. And you might also want to check out some of the novels of Richard Powers.
posted by gauche at 7:45 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Last Samurai, by Helen DeWitt
posted by 168 at 7:54 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you might like A.L. Kennedy.
posted by outfielder at 8:41 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Lydia Davis.
posted by saltwater at 10:12 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some good recs. I'll nth Borges, Gaddis, Cortazar, Calvino and raise you some of the big Anthony Burgess books: Earthly Powers and The Long Day Wanes.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:06 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

The wonderful W G Sebald and Teju Cole's first novel Open City.
posted by bwonder2 at 12:53 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Calvino, Lem and Kundera above. Some others along the same lines as your list where I've picked one novel but the whole catalogue fits: Rupert Thomson (Dreams Of Leaving), Steve Erickson (Rubicon Beach), Christopher Priest (The Islanders). No women on either your or my list so I'll recommend the short fiction of Kelly Link and Margo Lanagan. You might also be interested in exploring the slipstream genre (if you can call it a genre).
posted by ninebelow at 5:28 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with the Arabian Nights. I've been hanging back from recommending Ovid's Metamorphoses because I can't think of a translation I really like. I've linked to Ted Hughes's Tales from Ovid which is a selection. The review also explains some of what Ovid does that I think you would like.

Roman literature is so cosmopolitan, such a literature of assimilation and subtext and sometimes exhaustion-- the kind of creative exhaustion that leads a writer to create a new literary world. Very very little of it comes off well (or indeed is even intelligible) in translation though. But Ovid does at times, at least in the Metamorphoses. And then maybe Petronius. Also, Robert Graves's I, Claudius, and Tacitus and Suetonius to go with it.. And Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian. Seriously, go on a Roman binge and link up some of these readings.
posted by BibiRose at 7:24 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Too Loud a Solitude. A sweet, sweet little book.
posted by BibiRose at 7:27 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

A Glastonbury Romance by John Cowper Powys
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:30 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

You should also give Rebecca Goldstein a try, at least for Properties of Light.

I also think is still Annie Proulx's most interesting work. It has a meta aspect that seems inevitable once she thought of it, and it reads like the work of the historian that Proulx is, with some really amazing linguistic stuff. It was her first long fiction and you can still feel the short-fiction writer in it, which I think is also a feature of some of the other writers on your list (whether they have written actual short ficiton or not).
posted by BibiRose at 9:00 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Georges Perec's Life A User's Manual.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 9:01 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

One more, and I'll stop for a while. A Novel Called Heritage. Amazingly energetic yet modern, also like a lot on your list.
posted by BibiRose at 9:02 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Life A User's Manual. I like many, many of the things in your initial list, and Life A User's Manual is my favorite book. The structure is a bit complex, and it takes a bit of time to get into, but totally worth it in the end. Feel free to memail me if you ever want to discuss it.

Also a very big Borges fan here. He writes absolutely incredible stories.
posted by taltalim at 10:12 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow, what a great thread! So many solid recommendations, this ought to keep me busy.

I've read Calvino, Eco, Palahniuk, Roth, Auster, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Neil Stephenson, Kafka, Straub, and Burgess, and loved them all. Saw the movie they made from Housekeeping, and enjoyed it quite a bit. I've also heard Gilead is really good. Tom Robbins and Milan Kundera I read a long time ago, not sure I'd like them as much now as I did years ago. I liked the first two-thirds of Winter's Tale, and found the rest to be kinda impenetrable. Moby Dick is one of the few books that's ever defeated me. I got about 300 pages into it, and then had to execute a rather life-changing cross-country move, and never picked it back up. May have to give that one another try.

Clearly I need to read some Borges.

And there are just ... so many incredible recommendations in this thread. I want to go and mark every response "best answer", but I know that annoys people.

Instead, I will just say, "thank you".

Question resolved.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:12 AM on December 13, 2012

Shoot, I meant to say Postcards is my favorite work of Proulx's.
posted by BibiRose at 11:20 AM on December 13, 2012

If you want to try an interesting Melville without going up against Moby Dick again, Pierre: or, The Ambiguities is pretty fascinating.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:36 PM on December 13, 2012

I didn't mention it before because this slim volume has defeated me thrice already and recommending something I haven't read is poor form. But you and I we've read a lot of the same authors and since it remains near the top of my to-read queue maybe you'll want to add it to yours: On The Edge of Reason by Miroslav Krleža
posted by carsonb at 1:00 PM on December 13, 2012

Might also check out your library. Librarian know their books, natch. And this might be considered cheating, but I have used this service from the Seattle Public Library, even though I don't live in the Emerald City. It's fabulous!!
posted by BeBoth at 1:06 PM on December 13, 2012

Looks like I am pretty late to this thread, but The Book of Disquiet by Passoa, and The Village on Horseback by Jesse Ball.
posted by moons in june at 5:38 PM on December 14, 2012

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