Help Me Choose My Next Big Read

It is time for me to read another big book.  One that I can count towards the Chunkster Challenge.  I’ve managed to read two big books this year – Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa T’hiongo (review pending).  I loved both of them.  There was more than enough stuff going on in both books to enthrall me and keep me hooked.  I acquired both Wolf Hall and Wizard in 2010.  So, I want my next big read to come from my huge TBR stack.  I’ve selected the following eight books:

  • Listening Now by Anjana Appachana:  Set in India, a child “recounts the tragic tale of her mother Padma as she believes it to be. We then hear the same history related by Padma’s sister, mother, and friends, and ultimately by Padma herself. Each retelling casts a fresh view until the full story of Padma’s love is revealed” .  Looks interesting.  514 pages.
  • The Flounder by Gunter Grass:  Now I tried reading but could not get through even the first 20 pages of The Tin Drum.  But I’m willing to give Grass a try again.  The Flounder begins in the Stone Ages when a fisherman catches a talking fish.  The pair then move together through the ages to modern times.  Grass and his strange protagonists!  Not sure if I’m up to a talking fish. 547 pages.
  • Paradiso by José Lezama Lima and translated by Gregory Rabassa:  Jose Cemi, the hero of the book, begins life at the turn of the century in Cuba. As an adolescent, Cemi discovers his soulmates, the intellectuals Fronesis and Focion, and it is the triangle of their relationship which provides the impetus for much of the novel.  466 pages.
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova:  From the book’s Wikipedia Page – “The Historian interweaves the history and folklore of Vlad Ţepeş, a 15th-century prince of Wallachia known as “Vlad the Impaler”, and his fictional equivalent Count Dracula together with the story of Paul, a professor; his 16-year-old daughter; and their quest for Vlad’s tomb. The novel ties together three separate narratives using letters and oral accounts: that of Paul’s mentor in the 1930s, that of Paul in the 1950s, and that of the narrator herself in the 1970s. The tale is told primarily from the perspective of Paul’s daughter, who is never named”.  There are mixed opinions on this one.  Makes a bit apprehensive. 642 pages.
  • Native Son by Richard Wright:  It completely blows; why have I not read this classic? It”s the story of Bigger Thomas, a very poor African-American man.  It’s set in 1930s Chicago. 454 pages.

Then I have a trio of books by Czech authors:

  • The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hasek:  Another classic of literature.  Set in Austria-Hungary during World War I and follows the antics of a common footsoldier.  It’s described as a war story with a twist that exposes the absurdity of war. I have the Everyman’s Library edition. 800 pages.
  • The Engineer of Human Souls by Josef Skvorecky: It is described as a “labyrinthine comic novel that investigates the journey and plight of novelist Danny Smiricky, a Czech immigrant to Canada. 571 pages.
  • City Sister Silver by Jachym Topol:  The only experimental novel on the list.  From book: ” this epic novel powerfully captures the sense of dislocation that followed the Czechs’ newfound freedom in 1989. More than just the story of its young protagonist—who is part businessman, part gang member, part drifter—it is a novel that includes terrifying dream scenes, comic scenes about the literary world, and an oddly tender story of the love between the protagonist and his spiritual sister”.  The only book written in the 1990s that was included on the 100 Greast Czech Prose Works of the (20th) Century. 498 pages.

Quite an eclectic bunch of books.  But the thought of picking one has me scratching my head.

Over to you then:  which one sounds most interesting?  Which one should I read?  Or any thoughts on the books?

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16 comments

  1. The only one of these I’ve read is The Historian, which I thoroughly enjoyed, perhaps because I love Dracula. As I recall, I found it a fast read. Of the others, I’m intrigued by the description of Listening Now, which I hadn’t heard of before. I also would like to read Native Son someday, although I hadn’t realized it was so long!

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  2. The only one that I’ve heard of these is Native Son. I have to say the talking fish sounds very intriguing. I’ve never read Gunter Grass — sounds intimidating. But an experience, for sure.

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  3. I like the sound of the one from India. I’ve never been disappointed by any of the Indian writers I’ve read – maybe it’s the rich tapestry they draw on?

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  4. Of the two I have read, I advice against The Historian – which is very uneven. It starts well, sags badly in the middle and has a muddled ending. I do recommend The Good Soldier Svejk, which is funny, satirical and overall a good read. As a matter of fact, I think I will re-read it soon.

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  5. The only one of these I’ve read is The Historian! I very much enjoyed it, but I read it pre-blogging so I’ve been contemplating a reread to see if I still love it. 🙂

    Paradiso by José Lezama Lima is the one that I’m most curious about from the blurbs, so I’ll selfishly urge you to pick up that one!

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  6. I have to recommend The Historian — I hosted a readalong at my other site at On the Ledge Readalongs. The places they travel to are gorgeous when you Google them! Told in a mostly epistolary format and going through three different time periods (late 15th century, late 1930s, and early 1970s), it was a fabulous journey! When I hosted the readalong, it was my second time reading it in 5 years — and I’ll probably read it again in another 5 years! It’s sometimes referred to as written in a very Victorian-esque manner, and I found it hard to put down!

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  7. I generally shy away from chunksters, but I can say that I’ve read The Historian. I do understand why the reviews on it are mixed, since I thought the first 250 pages or so were really gripping, but then felt it got rather dry and was fairly anticlimactic in the end. That said, I did make it all the way through and it didn’t feel that long, so I don’t think you need to be scared of it.

    Still, I think I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on The Engineer of Human Souls… It’s a book I’ve heard about and would be curious about reading myself, but I’ve never been able to get my hands on a copy!

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  8. Oh tough decision Kinna. I’ve read and enjoyed The Historian, but didn’t love it. The others all sound great as well though and I don’t know enough about any of them to pick one!

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