I'd love some book recommendations.
July 7, 2014 4:53 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the mood to read a great book. Help me find some that are right up my alley.

I'm in a transitional phase in my life where I'm slowly learning how to be on my own and figuring out what to do with the rest of my life. I'd love to read a fictional book that deals with similar themes. Loneliness, alienation, love, unrequited love, feeling lost - a book that I can connect with. That'll make me feel less alone, afraid etc. I don't want to read a depressing book but I don't want to read a sappy one either. I think I'd benefit reading about a character who overcomes great challenges and grows from the experience.

I haven't read a lot of books in my life (though I enjoyed Vonnegut's Sirens of Titan immensely and I've read Catcher in The Rye) so I'm completely in the dark about current authors. I apologize if what I'm saying is vague. I've also just got into graphic novels/independent comics - so I'm not opposed to those either.

Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

posted by morning_television to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I think that Capote's 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' might suit some of your needs with isolated parties and so forth, and it comes in brief around ninety pages... most of all, it's one of my all-time favorites, and I'll recommend it whenever I can get away with it.
posted by mr. digits at 5:18 PM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I was feeling the way you are feeling, I benefited greatly from Richard Powers' book The Goldbug Variations. It's challenging and oh so worth it.
posted by janey47 at 5:27 PM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

- Saga
- Hawkeye

Comics-related fiction:
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
posted by mon-ma-tron at 5:34 PM on July 7, 2014

Ok so this is fluffy historical fantasy but it was so incredible, I have to suggest it - The Golem and the Jinni. It's about a jinni (genie) who is released from his lamp and a golem who is brought to life just as her master dies, and they're both set adrift in turn of the century New York City. So here they are, alone and freaked out and having no clue how the world works or how to fit in with the people around them. The fact that they're supernatural creatures almost doesn't matter - they could easily be any immigrant who comes to a new world and tries desperately to fit in. The writing is gorgeous, the characters are compelling, there's a tiny bit of romance and a whole lot of mystery and intrigue and oh my god, just read it. It's the best book I've read so far this year! And I think it has just about everything you requested.
posted by silverstatue at 6:01 PM on July 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

You might be able to relate to some of the characters in Nick Hornby's novels. About a Boy, A Long Way Down, High Fidelity deal with the issues of unrequited love, transition, alienation, lonliness. But his books aren't depressing - they're usually funny & ironic in a heartbreaking kind of way.
posted by kbar1 at 6:03 PM on July 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Katherine Dunn's Geek Love is a favorite around here, with good reason. I was just a little older than you when I read it for the first time. I think it hits a lot of your criteria.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 6:24 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was at a similar place in my life as you when I read (devoured, really) The Magus by John Fowles. At its heart is a quest for love and connection, but this is wrapped in a layered, mind-blowing, What The H? experience. If you are like me, once you finish the book you'll feel your life is awesome just by comparison with what you just read.

A couple of years after I read the book I met my (now) wife. I recommended the book to her and SHE ABSOLUTELY HATED IT! So it's definitely one to read when you are in a special place. If it doesn't do it for you, definitely move on to something that will.
posted by El_Marto at 6:54 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Three older authors who have passed on, leaving wonderful books behind:

Laurie Colwin wrote lovely books about the search for love, finding the right balance. Mostly happy endings, but well earned. Along similar lines, Carol Shields explores loners finding happiness by accident and also with great effort, as well as complex mother-daughter compromise.

Joanne Greenburg explores the intersection of strongly held political/religious beliefs, found families, and tragic circumstances. Sound grim but often quite illumination. Season of Delight and Founder's Praise are my two favorites: she explored integrating work into life and family as a plus.

Graphically I recommend Blankets by Craig Thompson: mature teenagers try to balance Christian values and strong sex drives. Jessica Abel's La Perdita follows an idealistic white woman's adventures in Mexico, where she learns a lot more than she expected.
posted by Jesse the K at 7:37 PM on July 7, 2014

Once when I was feeling kind of transitional, lonely, and alienated, I read this and it really resonated with me. Midnight Blue: Sonja Blue Collection by Nancy Collins
posted by the big lizard at 7:43 PM on July 7, 2014

Life After God
posted by The Hamms Bear at 10:52 PM on July 7, 2014

Peter Hoeg is great for a loner. All of his main characters are solitary people who do remarkable things. My favorite is 'The Quiet Girl.'

And you can't go wrong with John Steinbeck for transitional times. Anything of his will do just fine.
posted by myselfasme at 11:04 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

On the comics front, Yoshihiro Tatsumi's collections Good-Bye, The Push-Man, Abandon the Old in Tokyo, and A Drifting Life are hauntingly evocative in their portrayals of alienation and loneliness, especially in how they intersect with urban life. While you asked for fiction, it's the last of those titles, A Drifting Life, that I truly want to recommend. A Drifting Life is the author's memoir of his struggles establishing his identity and career amid various familial and occupational struggles, and while I'm not one for stories of overcoming adversity, his account, in its humility and lack of romanticism, is the rare exception.

Other comics that fit the bill that I really loved are Howard Cruse's Stuck Rubber Baby and Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo's Enigma, but both of their protagonists feel alienated because of their sexuality, and I can't speak to how much those titles would resonate with an audience for whom that isn't an issue.
posted by lunch at 11:39 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

You might enjoy Dash Shaw's graphic novel Bottomless Belly Button and Karen Russell's novella Sleep Donation.
posted by neushoorn at 1:24 AM on July 8, 2014

Franny & Zooey
posted by thursdaystoo at 5:50 AM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm so glad that I picked up Infinite Jest during a similar period - it was utterly perfect.

Also, A Visit From the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan (a very good one that is affirming without sappiness) and maybe some George Saunders stories.
posted by susanvance at 6:22 AM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

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