The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon. As Great American Novels go, this one is ideal: sprawls through the American decades and their American cultural touchstones (comic books), delves into WWII and familial cultural things … it’s a book I wish I could have jumped into and lived. Honest. But first more of the plot: Samuel Klayman meets refugee cousin Josef Kavalier, and the two do great, impossible, wonderful things (or at least Chabon does), like continuing the fight against Hitler in their 50s comic books. I can’t remember the ending of the book, but do books like these require endings? One wishes they would go and and on. – joon
The Crimson Petal and the White, Michel Faber. A story about a prostitute from Victorian London that’s 900 pages long but feels too short. It’s funny, disturbing and filled with all kinds of filthy sex that Time Magazine wrote it should only be allowed for adults above 40. But, you know, you’ll enjoy it for the amazing plot as well. – yasmine
Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee. Mr Coetzee (pronounced kut-SEE-uh) has a way of simply describing brutality and violence in a cold and detached voice that chills you to the bone. The story’s about a professor who’s been fired from his university and goes to live with his daughter on a farm in South Africa, and she later becomes the victim of a violent crime. You can’t read this book without walking around afterwards feeling like you’ve had a terrible nightmare that you can’t really remember but can’t shake off either. – yasmine
The Fortress of Solitude, Jonathan Lethem.
Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones. The sweetly lyrical first half of the book doesn’t prepare you for what’s coming. It’s about an idyllic rural island life, as seen through the eyes of an intelligent and charming young girl Mathilda, who’s intrigued by the sole white man living on the island, Mr Watts. Then war breaks out and their lives take a gut-wrenching turn. It’s a book about war and the healing and redemptive power of stories. – yasmine
The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean. Turned on to this book because of the release of Charlie Kaufman’s supermetameta script for Adaptation (the last time I could ever watch Nicholas Cage in anything), I pretty much inhaled it over the course of 2 days. As a writer for The New Yorker, Orlean travels to Florida to profile John Laroche, who she first reads about in a tiny newspaper bit for having run into trouble with the law for trying to harvest rare orchids. As she discovers his obsession for the impossibly hard to find ghost orchid, she too descends into her own obsession – for Laroche, for beauty, for wanting something to obsess dearly about. – joon
We Need To Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver. This is one of those books that makes you feel depressed because you know you would never be able to write this well. A 16-year-old boy kills seven of his fellow students at school. What we see is his mother’s letters to his seemingly estranged father, a laying bare of all the fears, doubts and hatred that a mother could feel towards her own child. It’s powerful and shocking and unbelievably well-written. – yasmine