what novels you need to read

OK. That’s probably a little grandiose — and imperatival. Rather than a list of novels that you need to read this is the Top 5 novels (each) Natalie and I have read in the past twelve months…

My Top 5 are:

  1. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I’ve heard it said that nothing much seems to happen in this novel. But I tell you, it happens so lyrically — and is rendered with such affection — that it’s worth it. Totally.
  2. Hey Nostrodamus! by Douglas Coupland. Coupland always delivers an absurd but oddly familiar take on contemporary life. Wrapped in caustic one-liners. But this anatomy of a tragedy and its effects — especially in terms of the faith of those involved — is stunning.
  3. What Is The What by Dave Eggers. If there’s one book you read this year, make it this novelised oral history of the Sudanese ‘lost boys’ generation. I’m not kidding.
  4. Breath by Tim Winton. You’re probably told too much way too much about sexual deviancy in this novel. But you also get the exhilarating experience of learning to surf (without leaving the comfort of your hammock!).
  5. The Pages by Murray Bail. Although I’m not sure Bail ends as strongly as he begins, or is particularly fair to his female protagonists, the prose is quite something — so … sparse and vigourous.

Natalie’s Top 5 are:

  1. Death of a River Guide by Richard Flanagan. I’ve blogged about this before.
  2. The Deportees and Other Stories by Roddy Doyle. Ireland has typically been a country of emigration — but joining the EU has made them a destination country. Doyle provocatively and hilariously takes a look at race relations in these short stories.
  3. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. Ok — so I read this more than 12 months ago … but this book still lingers with me in a way I’ve only ever before experienced with Jane Eyre.
  4. Generation A by Douglas Coupland. Ok — so I read this last week. But it was a birthday present in ’09, so it kind of counts. What Anne Lamott tells you about the autobiographical nature of storytelling Bird by Bird, Coupland shows you in Generation A.
  5. On Beauty by Zadie Smith. This book convinced me of something of the universality of human experience. I was amazed at how much of my reality this young English-Jamaican author could capture.

Your Top 5s go here:

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