Recommend a first Douglas Coupland novel
June 11, 2008 7:27 AM   Subscribe

Recommend a first Douglas Coupland novel, if you please.

I want to read one. No strong ideas about what it should be like. Any grounds for the recommendation are cool. No holds barred. Thanks!
posted by grobstein to Writing & Language (45 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'd start with Generation X, then skip to Microserfs and Girlfriend in a Coma. Those are the best "quintessential Coupland". Life After God is my favorite, and a quick afternoon read.
posted by meerkatty at 7:32 AM on June 11, 2008

I started with Shampoo Planet and it made me want to read more Coupland novels.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:36 AM on June 11, 2008

Of the Coupland books that I have read (All Families are Psychotic, Girlfriend in a Coma, Hey Nostradamus!), I think that Girlfriend in a Coma is the one I enjoyed the most, and All Families are Psychotic least. I'd even go as far as suggesting to avoid All Families...
posted by jcruden at 7:36 AM on June 11, 2008

I'd start with Microserfs for sure. It's a good introduction to his style, and has a lovely story.
posted by loiseau at 7:36 AM on June 11, 2008

I'd start with Girlfriend in a Coma. That's my personal favourite and I've recommended it to others as a good first Coupland book. It's got a lot of interesting ideas and philosophy in it, good storyline, characters.

Barring that, Generation X is great as well. I love how it has it's own vocabulary with definitions in the side bar. That whole theme is a little dated now but this is the book that really encompassed (and I believe coined the term Gen X).
posted by Flying Squirrel at 7:37 AM on June 11, 2008

A word of caution, some people hate the ending of Girlfriend in a Coma although I love it hugely. It really seems to polarise people. Nevertheless it's my favourite by him and probably in my top 5 books of all time. Maybe start with Life After God, as meerkatty says it's a quick afternoon read (it's a collection of short stories) and it's basically crystalised Coupland.
posted by merocet at 7:39 AM on June 11, 2008

I read Generation X when it came out in the early 90's and then never wanted to read another one, so maybe start with something else. Gen X tried to be some kind of dictionary of a generation or something, and so it may seem pretty dated and sad by now. Also, it was crappy.
I've heard good things about Girlfriend in a Coma.
posted by chococat at 7:40 AM on June 11, 2008

I started with J-Pod and enjoyed it.
posted by trace.log at 7:40 AM on June 11, 2008

Having read all his books up to Miss Wyoming I would recommend Generation X and then Microserfs.

The crazy thing is I have no clue or recall what any of them were about except Microserfs was about computer programmers. Enjoyed them at the time though!
posted by therubettes at 7:42 AM on June 11, 2008

I disliked most of the Coupland books I read (Eleanor Rigby, Girlfriend in a Coma), but loved Microserfs.
posted by rottytooth at 7:42 AM on June 11, 2008

I really enjoyed Shampoo Planet and Microserfs. I haven't read any of his more recent novels.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:44 AM on June 11, 2008

n-thing Microserfs. It was the first of his that I read, way back in the last century and it is a sweet, lovely book.
posted by OlderThanTOS at 7:51 AM on June 11, 2008

Hey Nostradamus is my favourite by far. Not sure why, and YMMV, but I've read it 3 times now.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 7:58 AM on June 11, 2008

Hey Nostradamus and Jpod
posted by birdlips at 8:04 AM on June 11, 2008

Generation X if you're an Xer, but Microserfs if you work in the corporate world.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:05 AM on June 11, 2008

++ Microserfs or Girlfriend in a coma
posted by twistedonion at 8:08 AM on June 11, 2008

I second Shampoo Planet as a first. I think Microserfs is the first one I read, and still my favourite, but Shampoo Planet is possibly my favourite of the more Couplandy ones, as it were.
Girlfriend in a Coma seems to get a slightly more mixed reception I find, much as I loved it. Though Miss Wyoming is another brilliant one, as is My Family Are Psychotic.
posted by opsin at 8:10 AM on June 11, 2008

I liked Microserfs so much that I incorporated it into my user name.
posted by hellojed at 8:10 AM on June 11, 2008 [6 favorites]

start with the earlier works (his best) and continue to the newer if you feel it is worth it.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 8:13 AM on June 11, 2008

Microserfs is one of my favorite books of all time. I didn't like his other books nearly as much.
posted by xsquared-1 at 8:30 AM on June 11, 2008

Shampoo Planet is especially worth reading if you're from the NW area, for all the Hanford reservation references. But really you wnat to start with Generation X, then maybe Microserfs, and probably TBH just stop there - though nothing he's written since is actually horrible or anything but, IMHO, noen of it is all that essential either.
posted by Artw at 8:35 AM on June 11, 2008

Microserfs broke my Coupland cherry. It remains one of my favourite books ever.
posted by brautigan at 8:47 AM on June 11, 2008

I started with JPod. Absolutely, absolutely absolutely loved it, but I think it's because I identified too much with it. (I'm a software geek working in Vancouver, and my bro and a bunch of other people I know work at that big game monstrosity in Burnaby, and well... it was way too familiar, in a good way.) Now I'm going back in time with Microserfs... my plan is to read them all, eventually.
posted by cgg at 8:49 AM on June 11, 2008

My fave is Life After God, and I think it's a nice, quick intro. Microserfs is a great intro as well. I really dug All Families Are Psychotic, and liked the rest well enough (Shampoo Planet, Girlfriend in a Coma, Elenor Rigby, JPod, Miss Wyoming, Hey Nostradamus, Gen X). Basically I don't think you can really go wrong -- if you like his style, they'll all be enjoyable.
posted by statolith at 8:55 AM on June 11, 2008

Life after God, Generation X, and JPod are the ones that are my favorites. I am in the middle of Hey Nostradamus and I haven't read Microserfs yet.

I did not care for All Families are Psychotic at all.
posted by Ostara at 8:56 AM on June 11, 2008

Microserfs, yes! One of the only books I've read that's made me literally LOL. I'm more of a laugh on the inside type.
posted by peep at 9:07 AM on June 11, 2008

I think Generation X, Shampoo Planet, Microserfs and JPod are the most Coupland-y books in his catalog, and so you should start with one of those to see if you will like his stuff. Generation X and Shampoo Planet are similar, as are Microserfs and JPod, so I might choose one of each of those two "types" and read those two in quick succession. None of them are hard reads. Girlfriend in a Coma was wonderful, but I think might get you off on the wrong foot if you want to read more of his work.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:22 AM on June 11, 2008

Yes, Microserfs... it got me excited for Coupland, and then his other stuff failed to please as much. I wish I could read it again for the very first time.
posted by mumkin at 9:34 AM on June 11, 2008

Microserfs is still my favorite book of ALL TIME. It was the first Coupland book I read, and I was hooked. Barring that, other good openers would be Life After God, Shampoo Planet, and Generation X. Girlfriend in a Coma was excellent as well, but slightly different from his normal tack. You might want to wait on that until you've been Coupland-ized.

Haven't read JPod yet, or Hey Nostradamus, but they're on the "as soon as I can get there" list.

Glad to hear your'e stepping into the waters!
posted by Spyder's Game at 9:40 AM on June 11, 2008

Life After God as a first, because it's quick, easy and satisfying. I read it in one sitting, and he had me hooked.
posted by sunshinesky at 9:46 AM on June 11, 2008

I've got to agree with chococat about Generation X. I read it when it was new, and never wanted to read another Coupland, but recently cracked open Girlfriend in a Coma and may have to revise my opinion.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:53 AM on June 11, 2008

I re-read Microserfs recently and it didn't age well. (If you know anybody that works at today's MSFT, or went to Waterloo, or did anything else in the book, you'd understand why). I'd go Hey Nostradamus myself.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:00 AM on June 11, 2008

Microserfs certainly isn't anything like my experience fo working at Microsoft, but I was contractor filth. I suspect it's more that it's of it's time than that it didn't age well.
posted by Artw at 10:02 AM on June 11, 2008

Casting another vote for Microserfs; I love Coupland but that is by far my favourite of his, and the one I read first. The only problem for me was that, while I have really enjoyed most of his other books, nothing really measured up to it in my mind. So it might be a set-up to future (slight) disappointment, but it's very much worth reading.

(Is it sad that I scrolled up to make sure hellojed had commented on this thread? Possibly.)
posted by ilana at 11:17 AM on June 11, 2008

I'd start with Generation X. Shampoo Planet, Microserfs, Hey Nostradamus and Girlfriend in a Coma are all great. I thought All Families are Psychotic and The Gum Thief were terrible, so stay away from those unless and until you're a fan of his work.
posted by cnc at 11:23 AM on June 11, 2008

I would find a more recent novel and start there, working your way back. So, jPod or Hey Nostradamus probably. His novels tend to be very deeply connected with the time in which they were written and I think the anachronisms run a strong risk of turning off a new reader.
posted by cCranium at 12:13 PM on June 11, 2008

My first introduction to him was when Microserfs was excerpted in Wired years and years ago; I read JPod last year and liked it.
posted by mrbill at 12:35 PM on June 11, 2008

Microserfs is absofuckinglutely amazing. Recommending it to the rafters.
posted by WCityMike at 12:44 PM on June 11, 2008

I read Microserfs first. Girlfriend in a Coma is better.
posted by Leon at 1:20 PM on June 11, 2008

Again Microserfs, except that the others will be a disappointment afterwards.
posted by cluck at 3:13 PM on June 11, 2008

Microserfs for sure - I ended up working in tech for three years after reading it, fantastic book and the ending still makes me choke up, even on my, gosh, must be about eighth or ninth time I've read it.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:20 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Read Microserfs first. It's wonderful. I love Girlfriend in a Coma much more, but I wouldn't start there.
posted by sugarfish at 4:57 PM on June 11, 2008

Microserfs Microserfs Microserfs. It's definitely of its time but damn is it entertaining.

After that, Hey Nostradamus and Girlfriend In A Coma. After that you've pretty much exhausted the reach of his storytelling style. (I've also enjoyed JPod, Eleanor Rigby, and Miss Wyoming, though.)
posted by greenland at 7:47 PM on June 11, 2008

Wow, what an outpouring! Thanks everyone. I'm going to start with Microserfs, and then reassess my position. (Maybe Generation X afterwards.)
posted by grobstein at 9:09 PM on June 11, 2008

I guess I'm the only person on the planet who thought Microserfs was disappointing and lightweight. I kinda thought it was too much broadbrush caricature, and far less insightful than the best of Coupland's work. I would have recommended skipping it entirely, and hell, like so many in the late 90's boom, I pretty much lived it.

Still, if you don't like it, don't give up on Coupland. Some of his other work is meatier, I reckon.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:23 AM on June 12, 2008

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