Modern Literature, from A to B – Part I
I’ve probably already mentioned that I spend a lot of time driving for my job. Chicago to Springfield and back (404 miles). Chicago to Rock Island and back (354 miles). Plus various Chicago suburbs and other cities in the Land of Lincoln.
I know what you’re thinking. Don’t I get jaded by all the glamour? That is a concern, but a bigger problem is finding something to listen to. There are long stretches where the only options are Christian radio, country music, and golden oldies. I have nothing against any of these, but I also don’t want to listen to any of them for any great length of time.
This is how I came to discover the audio books section at my local library. I really like listening to books, especially fiction, when I’m driving. When I started listening to audio books in the car, I began with the classics – meaning books I was supposed to read in high school or college but didn’t. Erasing the accumulated guilt of all those neglected homework assignments felt great.
I went on to a handful of authors that I knew I liked. When I finished those, I was stumped on how to proceed. Finally, instead of picking books at random, I decided to go with an alphabetical approach. I skipped authors that I knew I didn’t like, also some that seemed to fit into a genre that didn’t interest me.
The result is that I’ve discovered a lot of authors that I enjoy, that I had never heard of before. My only complaint is that as the library obtains new books, or as I see old books returned to the shelves, I haven’t been able to get past the letter B.
In any case, today I am going to share part of this list with you. These are all books that I liked. If you’re looking for something new to read in the area of fiction, this might be helpful.
- Things Fall Apart. The life of a tribal leader is gradually destroyed as Christianity and colonial governance is established in Nigeria.
- The White Tiger. A very dark comedy about one man’s path from poverty to wealth in modern India.
- Last Man in Tower. A retired teacher stands in the way of the construction of a luxury high-rise in Mumbai.
- In the Kitchen. The human face of globalization revealed through the kitchen of an upscale London restaurant.
- Brick Lane. Bengali immigrants struggle to adjust to life in England.
- Alentejo Blue. English expatriates generally not finding happiness in a scenic region of Portugal.
- In the Time of the Butterflies. Sisters are drawn into the movement to overthrow the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic.
- Saving the World. An idealistic international aid worker gets involved in a dubious project in the Dominican Republic.
- Behind the Scenes at the Museum. A very funny and very painful story of emotional deprivation being passed from one generation to the next in an “ordinary” English family.
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. Everything this guy writes is a mix of brilliant, hilarious, and horrifying. An adolescent Native American boy tries to create a future for himself off the reservation.
- The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. A collection of short stories portraying the lives of Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, on and off the reservation. See first sentence in description above.
So that’s the As. I’ll have to talk about the Bs in Part II at some point in the future. My three favorites were The White Tiger (Adiga), Behind the Scenes at the Museum (Atkinson), and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (Alexie). If you haven’t read some or any of these, you might want to give then a look.
What books have you been reading lately?