10 Favorite Novels

Last year I made a resolution to read more fiction. Since graduate school, my reading has always gravitated heavily towards memoirs, history, science and poetry, but last summer as I unpacked the boxes of books left at my grandmother’s house after we emigrated to the United States, I began to miss the pleasures of reading novels. When I was a teen, I read them to find different perspectives on life and to discover a variety of experiences that my own situation couldn’t afford. Some might say that it’s a naive approach to a novel, but it kept me enthralled. Later I read novels for the language, the style, the ability of the writer to express ideas in unexpected ways. Last year, I read them for pleasure.

My list below is compiled from a selection of about 70 novels I read last year. I also reverted to a childhood habit of keeping a reading diary, and when I decided to feature 10 favorite books to share with you, deciding on the titles was easy. I didn’t include authors that I’ve already reviewed or mentioned on these pages, such as Barbara Pym, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Yukio Mishima, Margaret Atwood, or Danilo Kiš. The remaining 10 novels–including one play and two short stories–gave me many hours of thrill and emotion, and I hope they will likewise become loyal companions to you.

Sadegh Hedayat, Dash Akol, 1932

Dash Akol is one of Sadegh Hedayat’s masterpieces. Published in Tehran in 1932 as part of Hedayat’s first collection of short stories, Three Drops of Blood, Dash Akol describes a world of vanishing ideals and ways slowly becoming obsolete. The story is based on real life events. The main character is Dash Akol, a man greatly respected in Shiraz for his honesty and generosity. Having lost his family wealth through helping others, he lives as a luti. In Persian, luti is a “thug,” but he’s also a Robin Hood type figure, who metes out justice and assists those who have been wronged. Dash Akol lives by a code of honor, but when he falls in love, he finds his world turned upside down. His rival Kaka Rostam takes advantage of his moment of weakness to seek revenge.

“But, in the middle of the night, at the time that the city of Shiraz with its twisting maze of streets and alleys, expansive gardens, and purple wine was sleeping; at the time that the stars calmly and mysteriously twinkled in the indigo night sky; at the time that Marjan with her scarlet cheeks slept calmly, breathing smoothly, dreaming of the day’s work; at this same time, the real Dash Akol, the Dash Akol who was at ease and natural with all of his feelngs and whims–a carefree Dash Akol–would emerge from the bondage of traditional inhibitions and the confinement of beliefs imposed on him since childhood. Freely he would grasp Marjan in an embrace: the slow pulse of her heart, the fiery lips and her warm body.”

You can find the English translation here.

Clarice Lispector, The Passion According to G.H. (A paixão segundo G.H.), 1964

“A note exists between two notes of music, between two facts exists a fact, between two grains of sand no matter how close together there exists an interval of space, a sense that exists between senses…”  Clarice Lispector is an enigma, and her style is spellbinding. I discovered her work thanks to a mention by one of my readers, and as an introduction to Lispector, The Passion According to G.H. was the best choice. It’s a monologue of a young woman who discovers a cockroach in her maid’s room, a chance event that propels her into an existential crisis. A horror story without a malicious adversary, and with an ending that is bound to shock.

Valerian Pidmohylny, The City, 1928

“Closer to Kyiv, traffic on the river increased. Ahead was a beach, a sandy island in the middle of the Dnipro, where three motorboats ceaselessly ferried bathers from the harbor. The city flowed down from the hills to this shore. From Revolution Street down the wide stairs to the Dnipro rolled a colorful wave of boys, girls, women, men—a white and pink stream of moving bodies anticipating the sweet comfort of sunshine and water. There were no sad faces in this crowd. Here, at the edge of the city, began a new land, the land of primordial happiness.”

Pidmohylny was only 36 when he was killed by Soviet authorities during Stalin’s Great Terror in 1937, waves of indiscriminate purges against intellectuals and anyone who might have protested against the system. Pidmohylny was part of the group of Ukrainian writers who believed in the October Revolution, but they saw it as liberating rather than dictatorial. In his novel, The City, published in Ukrainian in 1926, Pidmohylny describes the vibrant atmosphere of the city as encountered by a young man from a small village. The hero, Stepan, is seduced and enthralled, and through his love affairs with women he encounters and the city itself, he learns about himself and about the ability of words to influence others.

The novel is being translated into English by Maxim Tarnawsky, and you can read the first part at UkrainianLiterature.org. Unfortunately, the translation of the second half has been delayed due to the termination of financial assistance to the magazine, but I very much hope that the work will continue. Meanwhile, do take a look at the translated portion. Pidmohylny is a brilliant stylist, and he captures well the vibrant atmosphere of the early Soviet period that would soon vanish in the dark vortex of the Stalinist terror.

Henrik Ibsen, Love’s Comedy, 1862

I read Ibsen because Love’s Comedy was alluded to in many works by Valerian Pidmohylny, one of my favorite writers. When it was published in 1862, Love’s Comedy with its rejection of marriage and family life was scandalous. Reading it today, I still find it brave and controversial, and I dare say that many would still find it sacrilegious. It was the start of my fascination with Ibsen’s work.

Trajei Vesaas, The Ice Palace, 1963

I love when one book leads me onto the next. Having read Ibsen, I began to search for other Norwegian authors (who were not Karl Ove Knausgaard). Trajei Vesaas’s The Ice Palace was one of the most haunting and beautiful novels I read last year, and some passages of it were so startling that they remained with me for a long time. It’s a story of two friends, one of whom is about to reveal a secret before she suddenly disappears exploring a frozen waterfall.

“She neither saw nor heard the waterfall, it was lower down. Here there was merely a whisper of water as it travlled downwards, and up at the outlet it was quite still and noiseless.

She would probably lose her hold and fall down into a hollow where the shadows were, this time too, but it was a good moment and the other was chased away again by the sight that streamed towards her: the great river coming noiseless and clear from under the ice, flowing through her and lifting her up and saying something to her which was just what she needed.

They were so still, she and the water. . .”

Antal Szerb, Journey by Moonlight, 1937

2017 was a year of Hungarian authors for me, and Antal Szerb with his poetic but lucid style ended up at the top of my list. In Journey by Moonlight, a man suddenly abandons his wife on their honeymoon in pursuit of an adolescent dream and a vague longing for death. Satirical, dark, surprising and moving. Mihaly is an anti-hero, but it’s hard not to feel sympathy for him as he’s torn between his duties and desires.

This is another reader recommendation. Thank you, Nora!

Leo Tolstoy, The Sebastopol Sketches, 1855

The senselessness of war and its crushing violence, the vanity of men, the transience of life, the basest of all instincts that are intrinsic to us all and come out even stronger in times of crisis–these are the themes of Tolstoy’s The Sebastopol Sketches written during the Crimean War of 1853-56. The only thing that matters is truth, and in Tolstoy’s words, truth is the only real hero of his stories.

Stefan Zweig, The Post Office Girl, published posthumously in 1982

The novel tells the story of Christine Hoflehner, a post-office clerk in Vienna, Austria-Hungary, following World War I. Although her family was well-off before the war, their savings were wiped out and their source of livelihood gone. Suddenly she receives an invitation from her Aunt Claire to take a holiday with her in Switzerland.  The awakening to the beauty and pleasures of life is one of the most moving parts of the novel, but equally masterful is Zweig’s description of Christine’s mental state as she’s expelled from paradise. Christine’s bitterness and despair are mirrored by the post-war society with its ever widening chasms and simmering hatreds. The turmoil of the 20th century with its winners and losers depicted by Zweig is still timely and relevant.

Kazuo Ishiguro, An Artist of the Floating World, 1986

The early novel by the Nobel Prize-winning English novelist Kazuo Ishiguro is set in Japan three years after the end of the Second World War. The narrator is Masuji Ono, an artist admired before and during the war, but who finds himself lost after Japan declares defeat. He doesn’t understand the people closest to him, including his daughters, and slowly he finds himself adrift, torn between memories of the past and the need to atone for mistakes. The novels explores the vagaries of memory and the loneliness of aging against the backdrop of a society in search of its soul. While it’s not as strong of a novel as Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, it’s nevertheless poignant and moving.

Dino Buzzati, The Tartar Steppe, 1940

I picked up The Tartar Steppe, because Jorge Luis Borges mentioned it among 74 Books for Your Personal Library. It’s a dark, bleak novel about a man posted in a distant fortress at the edge of a frontier. Life follows a monotone pattern, and at first Giovanni Drogo, a young officer, longs to find ways to escape it. Soon, however, he finds himself obsessed with a possible invasion, and before he knows it, his whole life has passed with him guarding a fort the rest of the world has forgotten. It’s a Salvador Dali painting in the form of a novel, and Buzzati’s prose and the depth of his portraits make The Tartar Steppe brilliant.

What novels do you enjoy? What is on your reading list this winter?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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98 Comments

  • Monica: I love your book lists and thanks to them my own is long. Several of these authors are my favorites, like Ibsen and Tolstoy, so I’ll be reading others. On my list is the Way We Were. I also just finished Goldfinch. January 15, 2018 at 7:28am Reply

    • Nora Szekely: Hi Monica,
      I also read Goldfinch, what do you think about it?
      Have you read The doll house by Ibsen?
      I was named after its heroine 🙂 January 15, 2018 at 9:41am Reply

      • Monica: It blew me away. The story is so gripping and I recommend it to all of my friends. The Doll House is my favorite Ibsen play, and how cool that your parents named you after Nora. January 15, 2018 at 11:40am Reply

    • Victoria: Who is the author of The Way We Were? January 16, 2018 at 2:23am Reply

      • Monica: Sorry, I meant When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro. January 17, 2018 at 8:35am Reply

  • kat: This might sound like an odd choice but I’m currently (re-)reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales in the wonderful Taschen edition. Each tale comes with a short intro explaining its origins and treatment by the Grimm brothers. It also features vintage illustrations by all the great names in that particular branch of art plus an appendix giving further info on all the artists and by doing so presenting an intriguing history of the art of children’s book illustration. As for the tales – I thought I knew them all pretty well and yet there’s plenty of stuff I had forgotten (though never what really had happened to the frog prince!).
    I’ve hardly read any novels last year – most of my reading material was non-fiction and a look on the pile of unread books confirms that the trend continues. However I read the Expanse series (sci-fi) last year in one go – great for binge-reading. And I truly enjoyed Helen Haff’s ’83 Charing Cross Road’. A wonderful book about the love of books that also happens to be incredibly funny. January 15, 2018 at 7:46am Reply

    • Liz: Not odd at all! I read Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales last month, and I enjoyed them very much. January 15, 2018 at 9:09am Reply

      • Victoria: The Little Mermaid and the Ice Queen are classics! January 16, 2018 at 2:28am Reply

        • Nora Szekely: My favourite from Andersen is The White swans. So touching. January 16, 2018 at 10:50am Reply

          • Victoria: My childhood favorite has always been The Steadfast Tin Soldier. I think that this is what gave me a taste for sad, tragic love stories. 🙂 January 16, 2018 at 2:41pm Reply

            • Madaris: The Steadfast Tin Soldier is my favorite children’s tale, though my children found it terribly sad.

              Thanks for sharing your list! A former librarian, I read around 70 novels per year too! January 18, 2018 at 6:53pm Reply

              • Victoria: I read a lot of non-fiction for work and research, and last year it was really good to balance it out with novels. January 22, 2018 at 2:01pm Reply

          • bregje: i think that’s a similar story to Grimm’s six swans,one of my favourites:)
            I love The Ice Queen too, especially when i was little.
            Oh,and the ugly duckling and the red shoes! January 17, 2018 at 4:15pm Reply

    • Nora Szekely: Hi kat,
      I love fairytales and read retellings often. Gale Carson Levine and Robin Mckinley Have some great novels based on or inspired by old fairytales.
      Hungarian fairytales were collected by Elek Benedek, we Have some great ones with magic creatures (like flying horses and griffs). January 15, 2018 at 9:46am Reply

    • Victoria: It also makes sense to me, especially if you have a great edition. Some of those tales are so gory, although I don’t think that many editions include all of them.

      So what happened to the frog prince? 🙂 January 16, 2018 at 2:27am Reply

    • Austenfan: I read Helene Hanff’s book years ago, because of the delightful movie that was made of it. It’s an ode to the reader, and to bookshops. January 16, 2018 at 4:00pm Reply

      • Victoria: I even saw a Chinese film loosely inspired by it. January 17, 2018 at 1:55am Reply

  • Maria: Dear Victoria and all the readers,
    Like you I’m rediscovering the fact of reading novels for pleasure, after years preparing a litterature thesis :-). I’m in love with icelandic writer Jon Kalman Stefansson. I’ve loved the trilogy “The sorrow of angels” and now I’ve just started “Fish have no feet”. I’ve read the translations to french, that are really beautiful, but I imagine the english translations are equally well done. January 15, 2018 at 9:29am Reply

    • Victoria: I need to add him to my list, too. Thank you. January 16, 2018 at 2:29am Reply

  • Nora Szekely: Hi Victoria and perfume lovers,
    I alsó read around 70 books last year though many of them are rereads.
    The highlights were :
    1. The goldfinch by Donna Tartt – this novel has to be read for someone to grasp its charm. I fell under its spell and read it rather quickly. It is not the storyline but the characters that made this a remarkable read for me.
    2. Cold comfort farm by Stella Gibbons : a laugh out loud storyline about a young sophisticated lady who is forced to live in the countryside.
    3. All passion spent by Vita Sackville – an old lady of the high society shocks her enviroment by setting up an unusual household after the death of her overbearing husband. It really madeira me think about how to preserve our own integrity and fulfill our own wishes when in a relationship. January 15, 2018 at 9:35am Reply

  • Heather H: I love reading children’s classic literature as I have three children. Currently I am reading my children Stuart Little by EB White and then Charlotte’s Web. I am currently reading Anne of Green Gables and the Pink Fairy Book by Andrew Lang. I just discovered Folio Society a publishing company in London who makes the most beautiful books. Has anyone purchased any of their books. Which ones are your favorites? January 15, 2018 at 9:59am Reply

    • Carla: I love reading out loud to my children. I choked up all throughout Anne of Green Gables. It’s so wholesome and sweet! My eight year old thought me strange for crying so much! January 15, 2018 at 12:54pm Reply

      • Heather H: Have you seen “Anne with an e” on Netflix? So good but of course the book is better! January 17, 2018 at 12:33am Reply

      • Theresa: I remember crying on a public bus while reading Anne of Green Gables – and I was over 40 at the time! January 18, 2018 at 2:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m looking up Folio Society right now. They do have beautiful books. I was reading something about the book design being a very competitive area right now, as the publishers try to tempt those who might buy a book on Kindle. January 16, 2018 at 2:46am Reply

      • Heather H: Folio Society have sure enticed me! Check out their Fairy books Victoria. They are gorgeous!!! January 17, 2018 at 12:35am Reply

        • Victoria: I now know what I’m going to get for my friend’s children. January 17, 2018 at 2:40am Reply

  • Liz: Victoria, I love your idea of a reader’s diary. What do you write in it? I’m curious, how many books total did you read last year. 🙂 January 15, 2018 at 10:01am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s nothing overly complicated. I note a full reference of a book I read, which is useful if I want to look up the exact edition later or cite it in one of my articles. I also write down my thoughts and perhaps favorite quotes. Sometimes I add notes on books I want to read.
      My reading was rather evenly split between fiction and non-fiction last year. I don’t really focus so much on the overall number of books I read (which is why I’m not a fan of Goodreads and Bookstagram with its stacks of the months and competitive targets), since that kind of statistic is not that interesting, but the diary helps me track the kind of books I gravitate to and then suggest ways to expand my reading. The best way to do so is Bois de Jasmin, though, since everyone’s recommendations have been so great. January 16, 2018 at 2:53am Reply

  • Bonnie: I have many books on the go, and a series – I’m intent on finishing ALL the existing Game of Thrones books before the HBO series concludes in 2019. I also bought a book on the psychology of Game of Thrones, which I’ve yet to crack open.

    I’m also rereading many novels from Ruth Rendell, (R.I.P.) I refused to believe she’s gone. Best psychological murder writer ever, in my opinion. January 15, 2018 at 10:29am Reply

    • Victoria: Wow! That’s a fun project. 🙂 January 16, 2018 at 2:54am Reply

  • AndreaR: Thank you for another great reading list, Victoria. It’s always fun to know what you are reading and enjoying. My favorite book of 2017 was A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. January 15, 2018 at 10:31am Reply

    • Carla: I am reading that book now. I like the lighthearted style. January 15, 2018 at 12:55pm Reply

    • Victoria: Several friends liked it very much too. January 16, 2018 at 2:54am Reply

    • Neva: I have read Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. Have you maybe read it? How does it compare to A Gentleman in Moscow? January 18, 2018 at 6:04am Reply

      • AndreaR: Rules of Civility is on my reading list, but will have to wait for my crush on Count Rostov to subside. January 18, 2018 at 9:17am Reply

  • Brenda: Hello everyone. The Goldfinch was, by far, my most cherished read of late. I will not ever forget the main character. I feel it is a brilliant novel. I reread Mavis Gallant – Going Ashore…and my sons boyhood Roald Dahl collection. Wally Lamb is a favourite author of mine and, while I enjoyed I’ll Take You There, it didn’t move me the way I Know This Much Is True did. I enjoy all of Mirian Toews and await her newest offering. Being Canadian I am well aware of Margaret Atwood and while I’ve not read her entire library, I did enjoy Alias Grace many years ago. I am currently reading In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende …in the
    midst of a particularly brutal Canadian winter…fitting… January 15, 2018 at 11:08am Reply

    • Carla: I love Mavis Gallant! I feel such an affinity with Victoria’s readers! January 15, 2018 at 12:56pm Reply

      • Brenda: Yes, Carla…if it’s beautifully written short stories I am after it is usually Mavis Gallant or Alice Munro (perhaps the master). A blind airport buy many years ago called “Friend of my Youth” by Alice Munro was my introduction to her & I could hardly put it down. Love a good book… January 15, 2018 at 3:00pm Reply

        • Carla: Thank you Brenda, my husband gave me a book by Munro for Christmas and silly me, I thought I wasn’t interested in it. (It has to be my idea you know.) Now I am excited to take another look! I should trust his judgment! January 15, 2018 at 3:10pm Reply

          • Brenda: I do hope you like your new book. Munro has keen insight and wonderful pacing. Enjoy… January 15, 2018 at 3:35pm Reply

    • Nora Szekely: Hi Brenda,
      I loved House of spirits by Allende. The film is also great by the way.
      Roald Dahl is an original storyteller, a joy to read even as an adult. January 15, 2018 at 2:36pm Reply

      • Brenda: Hello Nora…my 36 year old son was home for the holidays and we had a big discussion about childrens literature and, specifically, Roald Dahl. We agreed that ‘The Twits’ was our favourite. Dahl’s biography – Storyteller – is a substantial & interesting read. Thank you for the reply… January 15, 2018 at 2:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: Alias Grace is still on my reading list, since I was sidetracked by The Handmaid’s Tale. Stay warm! I hear that this winter is particularly harsh in Canada. January 16, 2018 at 2:55am Reply

  • Tamara: Thank you for these, Victoria – after loving Yukio Mishima so much on your recommendation I am definitely noting these down! For more Buzzati prose in short bursts I warmly recommend The Mystery Shop 🙂 January 15, 2018 at 11:53am Reply

    • Victoria: Did you read “Spring Snow”?

      Buzzati is a master of short stories too, and I can’t recommend his Sessanta racconti highly enough. January 16, 2018 at 2:59am Reply

  • rickyrebarco: These books look amazing. I always discover new authors through your book posts. I have been reading American authors this year, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jessamyn Ward. I love Icelandic and other Nordic mysteries but have not explored the Icelandic titles you described. Time to broaden my horizons!! January 15, 2018 at 12:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: I tried to read more Nordic authors before my recent trip to Oslo, and another novel I liked was Per Peterson’s Out Stealing Horses. Peterson is a Norwegian author too, and his story has elements of mystery and physiological drama. January 16, 2018 at 3:01am Reply

      • bregje: I still have the ” Knausgard” books waiting for me in my bookcase but i haven’t found the time to read them.
        How do you do it?
        Work,travel,keep this blog and read 70 books!
        I’ve mainly read non-fiction last year and some nordic thrillers. Ibsen is definitely on my to read-list and thank you for the other suggestions.Some of them sound like my cup of tea;) January 17, 2018 at 4:26pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’m not a fan of Knausgaard, so I won’t be encouraging you to dig them out, but hey, he has plenty of fans. 🙂
          Now that I look at my reading diary I see that read slightly more non-fiction that fiction this year, but I still made a push to read more novels. It really made for an enjoyable year of reading. January 18, 2018 at 10:55am Reply

          • bregje: i kind of got that from the line in your article 🙂

            I’ve never read anything by Knausgard and i did not feel drawn to his work before.
            But the books(autumn and winter) were a gift from a friend who previously recommended Sandor Marai. And i loved Marai’s work so i’m going to give Knausgard a go!(the books do look beautiful,i must admit) January 18, 2018 at 6:03pm Reply

  • Brenda: I neglected to mention how much I was taken under Hanya Yanagihara’s spell with A Little Life. Myself, my daughter and her partner read this simultaneously & none of us could escape it’s grip. I will never foget this character and his complexity taught me – even after all these years (!) to never underestimate the human spirit. January 15, 2018 at 12:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: Have you read her other novel, The People in the Trees? January 16, 2018 at 3:03am Reply

      • Brenda: Hello Victoria; No, I haven’t yet. Regretfully, I read a handful of reviews that were not all that favourable & that rather slowed my enthusiasm. Perhaps I will give it a try this year. “A Little Life” has really clung to me… January 16, 2018 at 8:20am Reply

        • Victoria: I haven’t read it, but my friends who read both novels did recommend it. January 16, 2018 at 1:00pm Reply

          • Brenda: Thank you. I so enjoy the combo of reading a good book & wearing a lovely fragrance! This is a wonderful place to share. January 16, 2018 at 1:45pm Reply

  • Carla: You always have such eclectic, fascinating lists! Zweig yes, but not the one I read (24 Heures dans la Vie…). And Ishiguro yes, but not Remains of the Day, or the one I read, When We Were Orphans. Being 2018, I’ve taken it into my head to read something from 1918, probably My Antonia which I read in high school, and from 1818, probably Northanger Abbey, a very fun Jane Austen. I just preordered The Tower and the Square (not fiction) for my husband and I may dip into it. Finally, yes, every time I wonder if I should look for some kind of self help book to help me in my relationships and life in general, I remind myself how much more I learn from novels. January 15, 2018 at 1:03pm Reply

    • Nora Szekely: I love the parodistic style of Austen Northanger Abbey and her biting social commentary.
      Also what a great idea to read a book written exactly 100 or 200 years ago. In a similar vein I recently decided to get and sample scents released during the year was born. January 15, 2018 at 2:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: What a great idea! I became curious and I looked up other authors who published in 1918, and there is quite an interesting selection, from Autagawa’s Hell Screen (one of his spine-chilling stories) to James Joyce’s Exiles.

      Northanger Abbey is definitely a delight. January 16, 2018 at 3:07am Reply

      • Carla: Also Bliss by Katherine Mansfield and The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West caught my eye for 1918 books. Has anyone here read them? January 16, 2018 at 9:01am Reply

        • Nora Szekely: Not yet, I own The fountain overflows by Rebecca West but I’ve yet to read it.
          However I found Colas Breugnon by Romain Rolland , that I also own (I buy too many books ) that I will surely read this year.
          There’s a famous Hungarian book published in 1918 : Ferenc Móra – Kincskereső kisködmön (A Little Fortune-Hunting Frock Coat)
          It is to be read by every schoolchild however all adults debate whether its portrayal of poor, hunger stricken children offers any insight for a child apart from causing utter horror. Mora is a great author though, I cannot recommend his historical novel, The gold coffin, enough . January 16, 2018 at 11:13am Reply

          • Victoria: Thanks to you, I have a whole list of notable Hungarian authors to discover! 🙂 January 16, 2018 at 2:42pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’ve read Bliss. I haven’t read enough Katherine Mansfield, but I did enjoy Bliss. Apart from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, I haven’t read other West’s works. But your idea really inspired me and I’m going to read The Return of the Soldier. January 16, 2018 at 2:38pm Reply

          • Carla: I am simply inspired by the quality and quantity of books you read, Victoria January 16, 2018 at 2:57pm Reply

            • Victoria: I am likewise by all of you. Which is why recommendations from the BdJ readers are the best. 🙂 January 17, 2018 at 2:09am Reply

    • Karen A: That is a really fun idea! A few years ago I read most of Willa Cather’s books – each one made me want to read another. After recently starting and putting down 3 of the NY Times “best of 2017” books maybe I will go back a few more years (100 or 200!). January 16, 2018 at 6:10am Reply

      • Carla: Most modern novels disapppoint me too, Karen January 16, 2018 at 8:59am Reply

      • Victoria: Which were those books? I no longer put much trust into the best of 2017 lists from NYT and others. Many novels on these lists are technically perfect, but they miss something essential that makes me want to re-read them or to read them slowly lingering over the passages. January 17, 2018 at 1:48am Reply

        • Karen A: The three that just didn’t work for me (I know some will have them as their favorites!!) were, “Future Home of the Living God”, “The Dark Flood Rises”, and (I even hesitate to write this one!!), “Sing, Unburied, Sing”.

          Louise Erdrich was a favorite author of mine and it’s been a while since I read any of her books, but this one I just put down. I no longer feel bad not finishing a book. Maybe any type of dystopian future just isn’t for me right now, if I want to feel bad it’s easy enough to just look at the news.

          However, I did enjoy “Autumn” by Ali Smith and “The Essex Serpent” by Sarah Perry. The Essex Serpent has lots of fun information tucked in a good story. And in my reading list from last year after, “How to Be Both” by Ali Smith, I wrote, “Read more of her books.”

          (Nonfiction, a weaving friend recommended The Shepherds Life by James Rebanks which I enjoyed, and it just made me want to go to the Lake District even more! He wrote the introduction to the wonderful biography of Beatrix Potter.) January 17, 2018 at 8:36am Reply

  • Elaine: In the global cultural spirit of this beautiful blog, The Alexandria Quartet, for anyone who hasn’t discovered it – at the very least the first book, Justine. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, by Oscar Hijuelos, who signed my copy “Hips are beautiful!” when I commented that the book made me appreciate my hips. And A River Sutra, by Gita Mehta. January 15, 2018 at 4:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for these great suggestions!

      Hips are beautiful–what a great dedication. January 16, 2018 at 3:08am Reply

    • Karen A: Looked up The Alexandria Quartet and thought, why is the author’s name ringing a bell? Realized it’s because we’ve been watching and loving The Durrells in Corfu! Perfect show during the winter, will check out Justine. And I, too, love the dedication by Hijuelos! January 16, 2018 at 6:31am Reply

      • Victoria: My Family and Other Animals is a wonderful book. January 17, 2018 at 1:51am Reply

  • Annabel Farrell: Loved the Alexandria Quartet years ago. Scott Fitzgerald is a favourite author still. Alan Furst is, I think, a brilliant writer of wartime thrillers. Captures the atmosphere of, say 1940s Paris brilliantly. January 16, 2018 at 5:46am Reply

    • Victoria: I also like Furst’s thrillers. In general, some of my favorite books were written in the 1930s-1940s. January 16, 2018 at 12:58pm Reply

  • Elisa: So happy you read Journey by Moonlight! I tell everyone to read it.

    First novel I finished this year was The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen. Fans of Penelope Fitzgerald will love it I think! January 16, 2018 at 10:07am Reply

    • Victoria: I’ll definitely read The Heat of the Day then. I very much enjoyed Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald. January 16, 2018 at 2:39pm Reply

  • Marlene: It is interesting “reading,”finding out what books people are moved by. I myself try to read at least 25 books a year. I am an artist and my easel calls me. So I do not read as much as I would like. My favorites are Anne Perry,Donna Leon,Georges Simenon and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Detectives and mysteries are what I gravitate to. Books are very good friends,always waiting for us on the shelf. January 18, 2018 at 12:01am Reply

    • Victoria: I enjoy this aspect too. And Simenon is one of my favorites too. January 18, 2018 at 10:56am Reply

  • Neva: As always my frst thought is: So many books, so little time…but then I find pleasure in every single book and remind myself to keep living for the moment. Thank you for all your lovely recommendations. The book by Clarice Lispector, that you mention Victoria, sounds most interesting to me. Not only because of my cockroach-fobia.
    I like very much all Latin-American writers. Maybe it’s their passion, the uncompromising lives of the characters, their beliefs…I don’t know but I enjoy every single book by Isabel Allende, G.G. Marquez, M.V Llosa. Recently I’ve read Llosa’s El Paraiso en la otra esquina (something like Paradise behind the next corner), a story which intertwines the unpredictable and wild lives of Paul Gauguin and his grandmother Flora Tristan.
    I can also recommend the contemporary Italian author Niccolo Ammaniti. He is a great storyteller. January 18, 2018 at 6:29am Reply

    • Victoria: Ammaniti has been on my list for a while, and your recommendations just pushed him up further to the top.

      Lispector’s works are unique, but I think that given your reading preferences, you will enjoy it. Her prose is hypnotic. January 18, 2018 at 10:58am Reply

  • Aurora: What a treat a literature post! and thank you so much for your mini review of Tolstoy’s sketches I don’t know them; I have read recently The Devil and other stories and liked particularly Strider: The Story of a Horse and was struck again by his humanity and genius which allowed equally to write in the voice of men, women and even animals.
    I continue my Henry James project, currently reading The American, and honoring the 100th anniversary of the birth of Muriel Spark by revisiting The Girls of Slender Means, very funny and unsentimental, of course her most famous book is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

    But the greatest discovery of the last ten years for me has been Irene Nemirovsky, her Suite Francaise is so vivid and well written, she is like a modern day Maupassant and also reminds me of one of my favorites writer, Balzac.

    And I hear you about reading fiction, I honestly think that my mental health would suffer without any. January 20, 2018 at 5:04am Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve never read Nemirovsky, although I came across the biography written by her daughter Élisabeth Gille. Easily one of the best in the genre.

      So many other interesting books on your list. January 22, 2018 at 2:16pm Reply

  • Aurora: Sorry for typo: one of my favorite writers Balzac. Have you read La Duchesse de Langeais by the way? I always thought of it as his most perfect novella. January 22, 2018 at 12:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve read ages ago in high school, but I’d love to re-read it. January 22, 2018 at 2:27pm Reply

  • Jennifer Shaw: I am currently reading the Chronicles of Narnia and am on book six. The Silver Chair is really good. I remember reading, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe when it was a gift to me from my childhood. I was 9 year old, when my father was transferred and we(my family) ended up moving far, far away from Chicago. I would often reread it and treasure that wonderful book. January 22, 2018 at 10:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: Rereading favorite books is such a great pleasure. February 1, 2018 at 9:08am Reply

  • Nuitdenoel: Being Norwegian, the Ice Palace was on our reading list in school when I was little. I still remember the feelings it evoked in me, of something eerie and a bit disturbing. I should read it again, since I certainly didn’t understand the full depths of it at that time. Thank you for bringing it to my attention! January 24, 2018 at 6:11am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m sure that it’s even more beautiful in the original. February 1, 2018 at 9:14am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Off topic
    I was reading The Murder of a Medici Princess, by Caroline P. Murphy. It’s a biography of Isabella de’ Medici, daughter of Cosimo I.
    I enjoyed it very much, also as a complement on my reading of The Medici by Mary Hollingsworth (recommended as well!) January 28, 2018 at 11:12am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you. I will take a look at it. February 1, 2018 at 4:51am Reply

  • Emilie: I am currently re-reading (and very much enjoying!) Bulgakov’s The Heart of a Dog.

    The last time I read it was in late high school. I remember for an English project some of my friends and I put on a mini play of this book. Lots of fun! It was my idea and I’m sure it was all just an elaborate ploy so I could dress up like a maid playing Zina!

    We also borrowed a lot of my Polish Grandmother’s old furs (me a committed vegetarian!) for costuming and I remember spraying them a bit too liberally with her perfume to create “atmosphere”… now if only I could remember what that perfume was.

    The Ice Palace has just gone on my reading list for this year 🙂 January 28, 2018 at 9:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: I love that story! There is a great Soviet film based on the novel. It’s shot in black-and-white to suggest the period, but it was from 1988. Since it was the late Soviet period, the director could get away with capturing Bulgakov’s distaste of the new order, moral decline and senseless bureaucracy. February 1, 2018 at 4:53am Reply

      • Emilie: Oh wow, I will have to look for that film. What a wonderful idea too, shooting a film in black and white to evoke an earlier era. February 1, 2018 at 1:44pm Reply

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