Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spring Book Recommendations!

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(still from here, from this video)

It's been a while since my last book recommendation post, but I hope my tardiness has at least produced an airtight list of recommended reads. You can find my suggestions and a link to a longer reading list after the jump.

The City & The City (China MiƩville)--Easily my favorite book of the last few months, The City & The City is set in two fictional neighboring eastern European cities whose contentious political rivalry has forced the cities to remain completely separate, with a mysterious and frightening border control system to police the borderlines. It's a mystery novel and it hits the ground running with a very strange murder that occurs between the two cities, forcing the two governments to communicate in order to understand the murder. Typically, I don't care for the jerky pacing of mystery novels, but this one belies its genre: it is subtle, beautifully-written, and its political commentary is complex. I literally couldn't put it down.

Waiting for Sunrise (William Boyd)--This is out in the UK but comes to American bookstores in April. I was hooked from the start, where the protagonist is an early psychoanalysis patient with a colleague of Freud's in Vienna. The plot is fast-paced (sometimes a bit tricky to follow) but the inclusion of history, psychology, salacious love affairs, botched spy missions, and some strange narrative strategies made this a winner in my book. It reminded me of a more sensational version the The Untouchable, one of my all-time favorite novels.

Mrs. Woolf and the Servants (Alison Light)--I actually read this last year for my comp exams, but I've been re-reading it for one of my chapters and loving it. The academic in me can't recommend this without the cliched academic "some-of-this-is-pretty-problematic" caveat--Light is purportedly restoring the marginal narratives of Woolf's household employees, but she writes their stories primarily through the lens of Woolf or in relation to Woolf. Part of this disjunction stems from the difficulty of finding a lot of accurate historical sources on the servants outside of Woolf's letters and diaries. But since I am more interested in Woolf and her experience in the house than the servants, this wasn't an enormous drawback for my reading experience. To get to the point: this is a great read for history buffs, or people who enjoy a well-drawn biography. Light's portraits of the servants and their lives are peppered with great factoids, her writing is accessible and light on its feet, and the book has a great narrative, so it's a pleasure to read even while you're absorbing an enormous amount of history.

Last time, a few people asked if I had a Pinterest board for what I've been reading, so I made one! If you're interested, you can find it here. I update it every so often with books I'm starting or finishing, and the comments can be fabulous--it's like crowd-sourcing opinions on your next read. It includes other books I liked but didn't lurve (for example, MWF Seeks BFF, a really fun memoir/pop-sociological study on female friendship; or The Lonely Polygamist, which fascinated me because it was about polygamists but failed the Bechdel test despite the abundance of female characters).

Read anything great lately? Do you have a pinterest reading board, too? Please leave your suggestions/opinions/recommendations/counterpoints below!

36 comments:

pneu said...

"I get secretly anxious..." -- that made me smile. Book recommendations should be an at-your-own-risk thing, but I agree it's nerve-wracking to suggest something you liked and then get negative feedback. I'll definitely read The City & the City; thanks for the suggestion and I promise not to tell you if I hate it! :)

amanda said...

yay! thanks for sharing these! i've got a few more for my reading list now :)

Hannah said...

These all sound fabulous!! I really need to make a better effort to read more. Like so many grad students, I get sucked into the "if I'm reading it should be for school" dilemma. And when I do read I get overwhelmed with options and end up reading science books anyway! I will definitely keep these recommendations in mind,

What Would a Nerd Wear said...

pneu--ha, thank you! and you should tell me if you hate it! i don't mind at all if people disagree with the recommendations or want to tussle. it just takes me a long time to decide which ones i think will be the best recommendations for a general audience.

hillarywb said...

Thanks for your suggestions. I've been itching for a new book to read and 'Mrs. Woolf and the Servants' sounds perfect! Also, you get bonus points for referencing the Bechdel test. :)

Colleen Beaty said...

I'm on pinterest here: http://pinterest.com/xedri/

I'm not so much of a history buff, but I am fascinated by Virginia Woolf and her writings, so that last book may be right up my alley. Thanks for the rec!

modern Suburbanites said...

thanks so much for sharing!

www.modernsuburbanites.blogspot.com

Kristen said...

Thanks! I'm going on vacation in two weeks and was looking for recommendations. I did have MWF Seeks BFF on request from my library.

www.baublesandbeer.com

Urban Wife said...

Yay, I've been waiting on this post. :) Just pinned!
http://pinterest.com/urbanwife/books-movies/

Bette said...

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. It'll make you cry, but it's totally worth it (I usually hate anything that makes me cry).

Becca said...

Based on your recommendations, you should read The Little Book (by Selden Edwards). It's a time travel historical novel, but don't let the fact that it sounds like science fiction deter you, because it is one of those gems that doesn't really fit an easy genre label. Set in Vienna just before the turn of the century, it weaves together history, psychology, politics, music, and art and is entrancingly beautifully written. Definitely one of my favorite books from the past few years--I can't recommend it highly enough.

Sequins said...

I like that you recommend books--it's my favorite posts of yours. I think I over zealously commented on your pinboard, but I always think it's exciting when someone's book tastes rub up against mine in a good way.

I've been reading Tom Robbin's Jitterbug Perfume and I'm completely sucked in. It was a really nice brain break from the heavier stuff I've been reading, and I just love the tone. It's a well-written comedy (which, before now, I thought that phrase was a bit of a contradiction in terms), and ties in these bizarre, modern metaphors with very historical settings and somehow that just tickle me.

Cynthia said...

I loved The City and The City. Embassytown is also good, in a more sci-fi way.

I don't Pinterest books, but I am on Goodreads, which is designed for that. The best book I've read lately has been (is) John Sayles' (yes that John Sayles) A Moment in the Sun, which is teaching me many things about turn of the (19th) century racial politics in America that my history classes really didn't. It's also good for a perspective on some of the bad ideas being thrown around in the current election.

thesicklychild said...

I love your book recommendation posts (thanks for tipping me off to Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending). My latest good read was Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood.

babyreynolds said...

I am obssessed with the book site: www.goodreads.com
Have you checked it out? LOVE.

Anne said...

Ooh, I love it when recommendations cover books I've never even heard of - I have a huge list already, but there's so much good stuff out there! I really liked William Boyd's Any Human Heart so this suggestion intrigues me...

What Would a Nerd Wear said...

cynthia--thank you for those recommendations!

i have seen goodreads but i have never been able to get into it (maybe it's too much work? maybe i get turned off by the number of people who were raving about harry potter last time i went on it in 2005) but i do like the pinterest board, if only because it's a visual reminder of what i've read or have been meaning to read.

sequins--okay i'll check it out, that sounds terrific!

Anonymous said...

I liked The Tiger's Wife--I am teaching it in my class on liminality. It also summarizes pretty well for the bedtime-story set (I have an 8-year-old).
--Mary

Diana said...

I'm so glad you finally set up a pinterest board for your reading. I'll be looking in on it often.

I just finished Sylvia Plath's Ariel. I adore The Bell Jar, so it was exciting to just into some of her poetry. I also reread Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford. Both laugh-out-loud funny and heart-wrenching, this book was just as charming the second time around.

lauramaura said...

I just finished reading Faithful Ruslan, told from the point of view of one of the guard dogs from the Russian gulags. It was originally published only in samizdat, so it was a treat to read it, rightfully published so many years after the fact. It's a good combination of thought-provoking, yet easy to read. Highly recommended.

Rebecca said...

I LOVED The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow!

Alexis said...

Thank you so much for providing a few book suggestions! I'm always looking for new reads :). And I feel exactly the same way about suggesting books--I'm always a little anxious that no one will feel the same way I do about the story.

Rae Veda said...

I've been looking for some new things to read. Thanks! xo, rv

http://aneclecticheap.blogspot.com/

Becky said...

thanks for the recommendations! you always have such good picks!

Becky said...

thanks for the recommendations! you always have such good picks!

Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm said...

Just found you via Sorta Crunchy! Always happy to find another bookworm. :) I haven't read any of these, but you're about the 16th person to thumbs-up China Mieville, so I think he's going on the list.

I have two Pinboards devoted to books: http://pinterest.com/quirkybookworm/

And best book I've read this month? Toss up between the Percy Jackson series and City Of Scoundrels: The 12 Days Of Disaster That Gave Birth To Modern Chicago.

Anna Katie said...

Thank you for the recommendations, I am going on spring break tomorrow, and was looking for a good book to distract me from doing work on my thesis!

Alice Cyder said...

I've read China MiƩville's Un Lun Dun, and really enjoyed it. I hadn't even looked into any other books he's written, I'll certainly look into reading The City & The City next.

Sarah-Anne said...

man, my books look so juvenile compared to yours! they do look like great reads, though :)

Kelly said...

I just read MWF Seeks BFF...I liked the idea for the book, but it was a little dense and had too many statistics. I was more interested in the stuff about the author! :)

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Eleanor said...

I literally couldn't put it down.

I am shocked (SHOCKED!) to see a nerd like you use the word 'literally' incorrectly. :) Great recommendations though, I loved The City and the City. It really reminded me of Michael Chabon's 'The Yiddish Policeman's Union', which you should check out if you haven't read yet!

What Would a Nerd Wear said...

But Eleanor it's true, literally! My book jacket had glue all over it I still can't get the damn thing off my hands...

Chio said...

I had seen somewhere else Mrs. Woolf and the Servants and now I'm more than sure that I will like. I'm so buying it this month, bookdepository here I gooo

Rebecca said...

I just finished The Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey. Lovely read about a British couple who moved to Trinidad in the 50's and spent their lives in a love/hate relationship with the island. Beautiful book!

Neeli said...

I love these book blog posts, especially all the recs in the comments. It keeps building up my list. Here's another rec: Aravind Adiga's Last Man in Tower. I found the themes of human emotions and his ability to capture modern Indian wonderfully rich.

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