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Friday, January 13, 2012

132

Really Good Books You Could Spend Your Allowance On: Part One

There's no point in telling you about the best books, because you've either read them, or you know you should.

Instead, in no particular order, here are a selection of books that are neither completely obscure nor reliably familiar. They are also excellent and generally modern-ish and North American-y. (If you want a list of eighteenth century travel literature or non-Shakespearean Renaissance drama, I can also hook a girl up.)

Young Men and Fire, Norman Maclean – I lied. This is actually the best book there is. There are no better works of narrative non-fiction. It is very different and very lovely and very sad, and it's a little like reading Into Thin Air or Into the Wild, if they had been written by Alice Munro instead of by a very serviceable journalist.

Shot in the Heart, Mikal Gilmore – Better and less contrived than The Executioner's Song, and closer to the source.

Starplex, Robert Sawyer – You know how all the aliens in Star Trek look basically humanoid? (The occasional glow-y blob-y thing notwithstanding?) One of the alien races in "Starplex" is described as looking like a watermelon sitting in a wheelchair. All of Sawyer's stuff is great.

Saint Maybe, Anne Tyler – Anne Tyler gets unfairly ghettoized as middlebrow ladyfiction. This is a fantastic novel.

Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York, Luc Sante – If you live downtown, you owe it to all the 19th-century immigrants you've built Teany on top of to read this.

Collected Poems, Philip Larkin – Larkin is the greatest poet of the twentieth century, depending on how you feel about Eliot and Auden. And Ashbery, Stevens, Bishop, Wright, Heaney. O'Hara! Poetry is wonderful, is what I'm saying.

Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon — and the Journey of a Generation, Sheila Weller – Seriously. Buy a floppy hat, put some flowers in a vase and cue up "Tapestry." And do not date Jackson Browne. Really. Even if he wrote "These Days."

Dangerous Visions, ed. Harlan Ellison – The ur-text. If my recommendations seem occasionally SF-weighted, that's because I feel very strongly that these authors are under-weighted in the culture, and under-recognized for their early acceptance of differing sexualities and anti-racism and ladies who ride dragons.

Birthday Letters, Ted Hughes – I'm sorry that Sylvia Plath killed herself, but if only one of them could survive and write about the other, I'm glad it was weird, druidic, moody Ted.

Fifth Business, Robertson Davies – Kind of a Canadian Great Gatsby. But better, because Gatsby isn't even the best Fitzgerald. (It's obviously This Side of Paradise.)

Borderliners, Peter Høeg – Høeg writes the most marvelously twisted things. And there would have been no Lisbeth without Smilla.

Too Bright to See / Alma, Linda Gregg – Poets write divorce porn too, and sometimes it's remarkably beautiful. If your marriage has to fail, do it in Greece. For his side of the story, wait until March and read Jack Gilbert's Collected Poems.

Headhunter, Timothy Findley – Paranoid schizophrenic with magical powers releases Kurtz from Heart of Darkness, he rules a dystopian Toronto. That old story.

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin – Generally, any book that wins both the Hugo and the Nebula should change your life. This is no exception. Also, her Earthsea series.

Jesus' Son, Denis Johnson – When Johnson won the National Book Award for Tree of Smoke, some people suggested it was like Scorsese finally winning for "The Departed." Those people were sort of right.

The Nimrod Flipout, Edgar Keret – Keret is an Israeli who writes some of the most interesting and bizarre short stories you're likely to encounter. He also gave a tremendously fascinating interview to The Believer, which you must immediately read.

Nova, Samuel Delany – My father tried to name me "Nova" after this. My mother shot him down. After I read it, I wished she hadn't.

Part Two to follow on Tuesday.



132 Comments / Post A Comment

itmakesmewonder

Jesus' Son seconded a hundred million times.

the zazu

I love that I haven't read any of these. Ready to add some of them to my Kindle, woo!

feartie

@the zazu yes, me too, except with the library because I'm poor. Also, I feel this is a good place to say: THE SUMMER BOOK by Tove Jansson. Do it, so amazing and tender and wise and dryly funny.

fleurdelivre

THANK YOU for validating my love of Saint Maybe. Also, adding Girls Like Us to my reading list!

travelmugs

@fleurdelivre Yes, I hate when snobby people scoff at me for loving Anne Tyler too much.

PistolPackinMama

@travelmugs My first encounter with Anne Tyler was when a friend of my mom wrote her diss on Tyler's books. So I never understood why she gets dinged as Not Good Enough To Be Literature. She is kind of Patchett-esque to me. Anyway, mater Pistol Packin' Mama got Said Friend a signed copy of one of her books as a gift, and Tyler sent along the nicest post card with it. So I like her on that count as well.

Emby

Ooh, I want to read a bunch of these. Thanks for the suggestions!!!

I just finished the newest Umberto Eco book and am looking for something a bit... lighter to read now.

redonion

@Emby OH! How did you like that book? I saw him speak about it last year and it had me thinking "maybe," but my to-read list is long and I love some of his books better than others, so I haven't made an effort to get a copy.

Emby

@redonion Umm, well, I enjoyed reading it, but there's not much in the way of plot, per se. It's sort of just like an alternative, crazy explanation for history. It's a very interesting way to learn about the unification of Italy, though! And about Third Republic French politics! But not as objectively good as Name of the Rose or Foucault's Pendulum, in my opinion.

CheeseLouise

@redonion Did you understand him? I mean not his accent, but what he was talking about? I saw him speak once and it remains the most in over my head I've ever felt.

redonion

@CheeseLouise Ah, sorry, late replying due to kind of fun/busy weekend. I definitely struggled to understand him, in large part because he was taking part in a sort of rambling conversation with an interviewer. Maybe if he was doing a reading where he followed a single certain decipherable train of thought or plot, I could have better sussed it out, but as he hopped from subject to subject, I kept thinking, "What the eff is he saying now?" But the parts I did catch were pretty amusing.

ranran

The only Harlan Ellison story I've read is the one that takes place in the brothel run by my great-grandma, but that's enough for me to get pretty excited every time I see his name.

eccles

@ranran Harlan Ellison for the WIN! He's so porny.

Also, does anyone else know/love Charles Beaumont?

DH@twitter

Hnnnnng The Left Hand of Darkness. Le Guin forever! And if you need more excellent sci-fi by women, there's a very good James Tiptree, Jr. anthology called Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. And of course, Among Others by Jo Walton.

LOL at the Dune tags. Dune is one of my annual re-reads!

PistolPackinMama

@DH@twitter Seconded. Read it for senior high school English and was blown away then, and love reading it every now and again now.

melis

@PistolPackinMama I have never read or seen Dune; as a young person I often confused it with Tremors for reasons that remain opaque to me.

PistolPackinMama

@PistolPackinMama I am seconding LeGuin. Have never read Dune, either.

DH@twitter

@melis

I would recommend Dune. It's one of the classic sci-fi books that has aged pretty well.

melis

@DH@twitter Right after I rewatch Tremors.

EpWs

@PistolPackinMama Read Dune, read Dune, read Dune! I only finally got to it last year and adored it. It is magical and a total escape and awesome.

Canard

@DH@twitter Among Others seconded many times!

Also, everybody go read China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh.

DH@twitter

@Canard

I read Among Others in one day, and the whole day was spent alternately reading with the book thisclose to my face and running into the bedroom to yell IT'S LIKE SHE'S WRITING ABOUT MEEEEE to my boyfriend. Everything she has written is amazing, but Among Others is so PERSONALLY amazing.

itmakesmewonder

@all Ack! I have to dissent about Dune, because to me the prose felt so dated I couldn't even read the damn book.

Lucienne

@Canard CMZ is soooooooo good. Oh my god, I love it. Everyone should read it! Even if you're not into SF, you should. It's not written in a heavily SFF way? (But the SFF aspects McHugh uses are really cool.) It's sort of like any novel about growing up and figuring yourself out.

I'm with @itmakesmewonder about Dune, though. I only got about 80 pages in.

DH@twitter

@Lucienne and itmakesmewonder

On first read I remember finding the writing dense, but not dated. But I think Dune is a very YMMV book. And certainly the first book is really the only worthwhile one.

Achyvi

@itmakesmewonder I feel like a bad nerd for kind of feeling the same! I plowed through the damn thing because I wanted to finish it (so I can say that I did, shh), but ugh, it was a chore and awful, and I got tired of all the politicking by the end. I felt the same way about the Foundations books* (which I also finished, but somewhat begrudgingly by the end) and Red Mars. Maybe I just don't like philosophical banter...

*which is not to say they were bad! They were good books, but every so often I would shriek "OH MY GOD I NEED MANGA" and have to go allow my brain to recharge (but not for too long, or else I'd forget what the hell was going on... sigh).

PistolPackinMama

@Achyvi It's the War and Peace of the sci fi world?

Bus Driver Stu Benedict

On balance, I feel marginally better having read Dune, but just like I wish i would have stopped ~100 pages into Gravity's Rainbow, the whole of Dune left me feeling kind of icky somewhere well before the end.

alebee

@DH@twitter I read that on a month-long backpacking trip with 6 other people; we ripped the book into 6 pieces and read it in chunks, and ended up acting like we were, like, addicts of some sort: GIVE ME SECTION THREE GODDAMMIT was the whispered threat, as we lay in our tents at night. GIVE ME SECTION THREE OR...I"LL THROW A BEEHIVE AT YOU. (disclaimer: no beehives were ever thrown).

City_Dater

Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy is an outstanding way to keep occupied now that it's freezing outside.

These are all such good ideas, so much reading (and/or re-reading) to do!

monicamcl

@City_Dater Yes, Deptford! And I love the Cornish Trilogy, too! Davies is the BEST. So nice to see him here.

I also highly recommend JG Farrell's Empire Trilogy: Troubles, The Siege of Krishnapur, and The Singapore Grip. The three books follow the collapse of British colonialism in Ireland, India and Singapore, and they're brilliant, with flashes of scathing comedy. There's a scene in Siege in which two young Victorian men unexpectedly learn of the existence of female pubic hair, and I die all over again every time I read it.

Jizzcliner

@City_Dater Such a good series. Three of the seven books that I keep on my desk that aren't reference volumes.

Trudy Kockenlocker

@monicamcl YES! Oh, my goodness, J.G. Farrell, yes. I am actually reading Siege right now and it's tremendous. I might even be enjoying it more than Troubles? Which is saying something because I loved Troubles like it was my best friend this fall.

My point is that everybody should check out this trilogy because it's tremendously witty and sad and a really good attempt to pry into the mindset that lead to British colonialism in the first place and the human frailties that made the whole enterprise so stupid, cruel, and impossibly doomed.

monicamcl

@Trudy Kockenlocker Hooray, a fellow Farrell lover! Siege is actually my favorite of the three. And pretty much my Favorite Book of All Time.

PistolPackinMama

@monicamcl Ahhhh! The Bildungs Roman story of the Cornish Trilogy= <<<<<333333333 So many hearts!

Emby

w/r/t the Dune tags.
1.) I have read Dune, yes.
2.) How weird is it that David Lynch directed the movie Dune? Really really weird, right?
2a.) I just watched Mulholland Drive the other night. That version of "Llorando" in Club Silencio fucking FLOORED me.

PoBoyNation

@Emby 2a.) Yesssss.

Hollye

Even if we know the best books, can you tell us what you think they are regardless? Just cause I want your take on it.

Also I love Gregg and Gilbert so much. They give me hope for the future of "failed" love (though not really failed.)

wallsdonotfall

More North America: read Charles C. Mann's "1491," then his new "1493" and tell me what you think of the second one (I haven't read it yet.) Non-fiction! Non-fiction! I think I've forgotten how to read novels.

By the way, Nicole, I'm so glad you're back here for a while and I want to follow you around and read you forever. Where do I go to do that?

Decca

May I recommend any or all of Patrick Leigh Fermor's travel books? He's the best.

Also, on topic of Girls Like Us. I once flipped through it for a good hour in a Borders and although it looks like a perfectly good book, I just completely lost it at the section at the back talking about bookclub suggestions:

"Does your bookclub hope to attend a performance by - or purchase a recent release by - Carole King, Joni Mitchell or Carly Simon? You may want to visit each artist’s official Web site, all of which include more details about upcoming tours and performances, recent CDs and DVDs, and fresh honors, favorite charities and causes, and breaking events in their professional and personal lives. Each Web site is the name of the woman preceded by www and ending, of course, with dot com."

And ending, of course, with dot com.

_questingbeast

@Decca Aaaah Fermor is the best! But also, Eric Newby. Have you read Newby? He is a great travel writer. (But especially Love and War in the Apennines, which isn't really one of his travel books, just amazing).

monicamcl

@Decca Ooooh, yes, I agree about PLF! I also love In Tearing Haste, the collected letters between Fermor and Debo Mitford.

Decca

@monicamcl I own but do not own In Tearing Haste! I have, I think, every in-print book by or about the Mitford family (realatives know my obsession and give them as presents) but that's one of the ones I haven't got around to reading yet. I only started reading PLF recently, though, so I've definitely got an eye on the letters next!

@questingbeast I have never even heard of Eric Newby. Is that the one you'd recommend for a newcomer to him?

Decca

@Decca Own but have not read, I mean. Gah.

monicamcl

@Decca You're in for a treat, then! They're both such likable people; it makes me happy to know they were such good friends.

_questingbeast

@Decca Yes! Love and War is fantastic. Newby was part of an operation in the war to land in Italy by submarine, that went wrong (obviously not everyone can be Fermor in terms of successful derring-do!), and he escaped from the military hospital. The book is about his being hidden by Italian farmers in the mountains, and it's really just wonderful.

melis

YOUNG MEN AND FIRE

YOUNG MEN AND FIRE

THAT IS ALL

melis

I HAVE THREE COPIES IF ANYONE WANTS TO BORROW ONE

PistolPackinMama

@melis I am worried it will be way to sad to bear. It looks good. But will my heart break?

melis

“I, an old man, have written this fire report. Among other things, it was important to me, as an exercise for old age, to enlarge my knowledge and spirit so I could accompany young men whose lives I might have lived on their way to death. I have climbed where they climbed, and in my time I have fought fire and inquired into its nature. In addition, I have lived to get a better understanding of myself and those close to me, many of them now dead. Perhaps it is not odd, at the end of this tragedy, where nothing much was left of the elite who came from the sky, but courage struggling for oxygen, that I have often found myself thinking of my wife on her brave and lonely way to death.”

YOU TELL ME

IS IT BREAKING NOW, MINE SURE IS

PistolPackinMama

@melis On a scale from Dr Seuss to WWI Poetry, this looks like it's going to rank at about 32 Wilfred Owens.

Will check it out of the library anyway.

And steel my nerves.

EpWs

@melis IT LOOKS SO GOOD. Going on my "to read as soon as humanly possible" list.

TheBelleWitch

Oh god THIS BOOK. So good I'm breaking ages of lurkerdom to say: Reeead it.

Also, a fun game is to listen to "Cold Missouri Waters," the song inspired by the tragedy (and I think the book) while having a casual conversation with someone who has never heard the song before. They'll completely ignore it until the line "... carried bodies to the river," at which point they'll look up suddenly and go, "WHAT??" Never fails. Try it!

yeah-elle

@melis I really want to read this now. It seems like it would appeal to the part of me that reads Into the Wild every three months like clockwork and always weeps over it.

melmuu

@melis ME me! If you are anywhere near San Francisco :)

melis

@melmuu I am IN San Francisco, email me your address, mallory dot elis at gmail

melmuu

@melis OR bring it to a meetup! Are we having another meetup? I missed the last one. I vote Tunnel Top.

melmuu

@melis oops my comment disappeared. Maybe. Anyway, I said.. OR just bring it to a meetup. We should have another SF meetup! I missed the last one. I vote Tunnel Top.

lilyofthevalley

@melis Young Men and Fire = AMAZING OMG. Possibly the best "forced to read it for a class" book I've ever come across (first-year journalism school, wooo). And now I have to dig it out of my bookshelves again, I think.

Roaring Girl

@melis THIS IS RELEVANT TO MY INTERESTS. I ran right out and bought the book yesterday, because I'm a forestry major and A River Runs Through It was only mentioned 8,243 times while I was forestry-ing in the Blackfoot River Valley, and I WILL NOT READ ABOUT FLY FISHING, DAMMIT. But giant forest fires? The Smokejumpers? Sign me up!

Anne Helen Petersen

@melis MONTANA FOREVER, NORMAL MCLEAN FOREVR. I'm constantly trying to get my New England students to read stuff set in Montana (and Wyoming and Idaho and so on and so forth) and they cannot even conceive of Big Sky. It might be time for a mother-f-ing field trip.

oh, disaster

Ohh yes, I just picked up Jesus' Son on Monday.

itmakesmewonder

@andrea disaster HOORAY

Ophelia

I still kind of want to date Jackson Browne.

<3 LeGuin!

Also, I don't read a ton of nonfiction, but would totally recommend The Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson.

sandwiches

@Ophelia Yesyesyes, the Ghost Map is amazing.

AniaGosia

@Ophelia Oh, sounds so good! I mostly read nonfiction too, so I appreciate the rec!

Graydon Gordian

LOW LIFE. So good. What a great suggestion, Nicole.

beatrixkiddo1

@Graydon Gordian YES. Yes yes yes. Low Life is so awesome and entertaining and full of amazing characters. It totally changed the way I look at the city I live in.

dokuchan

@Graydon Gordian I read Low Life in the early 90s when I was living in the LES, and would walk around picturing all of the crazy things I had just read about. I was walking on Layfayette going "This used to be Little Five Points OMG etc" and the passed the fire station, one of the fire trucks there had HELLS HUNDRED ACRES painted on the front!!!!

So rad.

PistolPackinMama

Wisdom Sits in Place, Keith Basso.

http://www.amazon.com/Wisdom-Sits-Places-Landscape-Language/dp/0826317243

Come back and tell me all about how you loved it.

DH@twitter

@PistolPackinMama

I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH. I read it in undergrad for a linguistic anthropology class. One of the few textbooks I kept. Amazing, beautiful book (and, boring true story entwining two of our topics, I once wrote a lengthy comment on a nerd website about how the concepts in Wisdom Sits In Places can be applied to Dune. :B).

PistolPackinMama

@DH@twitter Yay! So fun!

MrsLlama

LOWLIFE yes, omg, amazing.

ilikemints

THIS SIDE OF PARADISE. Oh, g-d, how I love This Side of Paradise.

thenotestaken

The only thing I've read out of all these is the Etgar Keret! I love him, thanks for sending along the interview! I'll make sure to add the rest to my already gigantic reading list.

bitzy

My new Kindle and I thank you for this feature!

yeah-elle

The Nimrod Flipout is a good read. Etgar Keret wrote Kneller's Happy Campers, which was adapted into that movie, Wristcutters.

I just finished Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and now I'm tempted to read the entire Karla trilogy. Smileyyyyyy.

bodinea

I can't tell you how happy it made me to see Left Hand of Darkness! Favorite novel, hands down. I'm going to get Young Men and Fire immediately.

Verity

I'm glad I've only read The Left Hand of Darkness out of all of these (if ashamed of myself), because it means I have lots of suggestions of books to read! (Also, yay, The Left Hand of Darkness.)

mishaps

SHOT IN THE HEART is such an amazing fucking book. Scary and sad and brilliant. I have a friend who teaches college-level writing who keeps it in her regular syllabus rotation, for good reason. If you love good writing, read this book.

purefog

@mishaps Absolutely seconded and then, for good measure, thirded.

_questingbeast

Thanks for this! I have read very little of an American nature and I don't really have anyone to recommend stuff to me.

Two books that I am always forcing on people: The Papers of AJ Wentworth, BA, and The Art of Coarse Acting. The first one is the fictional diary of a schoolmaster, and the second one is about an am dram society, and I know both almost off by heart, and they are both just fucking hilarious. 'Someone rang to say you are Lord Scroop tonight. Does that make sense?'

Tulletilsynet

So, where are the fistfights that were supposed to break out over that Greatest Poet remark?

Decca

@Tulletilsynet I'd be inclined to give it to Auden, but I'd slug it out for Eliot either.

Tulletilsynet

@Decca
I'm just grateful about certain names not appearing on that list.

Decca

@Tulletilsynet Go on...

Nicole Cliffe

I'm with Decca. SPILL.

Steph

@Decca True fact: I named my (female) cat Eliot after Mr. TS

Tulletilsynet

@Decca
Yeah, hmmmm .... No good can come of this. I'd rather read good poetry than great poetry anyhow.

Eliza Wharton

I loved Jesus' Son but when I think about it now I can only think of the jerk who squatted in my sophomore dorm and "borrowed" my library copy of it (I have a strong desire to go back in time and scream "take a shower!" at that guy. Alas, there is no such thing as truly free, limitless weed without a creeper to come with it.) ANYWAY.

Keret is fucking amazing too.

Jeska Duman@facebook

thanks for finally forcing me to penny up for "birthday letters", hairpin

Mingus_Thurber

Smilla's Sense of Snow is one of the best books ever. So is Ingathering, a collection of the People stories by Zenna Henderson. So is The Great Mortality by John Kelly, which is a history of the Black Plague.

All three of them tend to haunt my dreams in really, *really* weird ways.

purefog

@Mingus_Thurber There was once a parodic NY Times Best Sellers list (in Spy? who can remember) that, among other fictional books, included "Smoola Smelled of Smelt." I still get the giggles every time I think of it.

km1312

Oooh, I like this a lot, can it be a regular feature?

bitzyboozer

This Side of Paradise?! GASP

gtrachel

@bitzyboozer Yes, it is so the best Fitzgerald! And way more appropriate for angsty, self-questioning high school students than Gatsby.

annepersand

Etgar Keret is perfect. But I like the Girl on the Fridge better, although A Kiss on the Mouth in Mombasa is one of the most perfect stories and is in Nimrod Flipout, so there's that.

Philip Larkin is also one of many perfect poets! Kiiiind of side-eyeing you about the Ted Hughes thing, though.

cwmilton

@annepersand Joining you in the side-eying. As a lady who grew up on an (un)healthy diet of Sylvia, I can't read Hughes without thinking, "What would Plath do?"

Beth Anne Royer

Girls like us also made me loathe James Taylor (poor little rich boy) and love Joni Mitchell more than I thought possible. Having studied poetry with Linda Gregg, I can no longer appreciate her poems. But as a larger than life hair flipping and porkchop purloining poetess, I still admire her style.

phlox

Nicole, I love how you bring a little Cancon to the Hairpin. Robertson Davies, everyone! He is wonderful! And funnier than F. Scott, who I also adore. His Cornish trilogy was very influential in my university years and I still re-read it all the time.

(Was it someone on here who recommended the Nancy Milford biography of Zelda? Because it was great, and I read The Beautiful and the Damned right before it and at sometimes was confused as to why parts of the biography seemed so familiar... oh wait, that was in the book, too. Even better than reading Tender is the Night and Save Me the Waltz together!)

crosberg

Oh...oh dear. For the first time, 'Pinners, I must tell you that I think you are very, very wrong. YOUNG MEN AND FIRE IS THE WORST BOOK I HAVE EVER READ. ...that's not entirely true. It's a lovely book with a lovely message, but the man died before the editors got their hands on it so it's rambling and repetitive and just...it's like the story that your grandmother who's bordering on dementia tells you after three glasses of wine on Christmas. It doesn't make much sense and the names are all mixed up and it's out of order. If the editor had been able to turn it into a cohesive novel, it would have been a great book.

I have added every other book I haven't already read on this list to my "to read" notes, but seriously. My very forgiving English teacher admitted to me that this was her LEAST favorite book to teach because it was so poorly edited, almost like they were afraid to change it after he died.

Ok, I'll go flail in a corner now. That book is just the only one in my entire life that I had to force myself to finish.

PistolPackinMama

@crosberg It's the professional equivalent of the student paper that could have been an A, but isn't because they didn't bother to revise.

crosberg

@PistolPackinMama EXACTLY. It's a B- at best, just because of that.

lil.orphan.shannie

As part of my Year of Self Improvement, I've decided that I want to read more books about powerful/influential women in history. So I've started a little list of women I'd like to read about, but I'm wondering if there are any suggestions for books about (or written by?) awesome ladies of the past/present that can help inspire me during this journey to become my most awesome self?

PistolPackinMama

@lil.orphan.shannie Queen of the Desert, about Gertrude Bell, archaeologist, ethnographer, linguist, intelligence officer, possible lover to a king, writer, crazy Victorian Lady Traveler, peer/contemporary of T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia), and one of the architects of the modern State of Iraq.

!!!!!

Her papers and letters are archived in Newcastle and available online here:

http://www.gerty.ncl.ac.uk/

And a fun starter article here at the Atlantic:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2007/06/the-woman-who-made-iraq/5893/

Fascinating, influential, problematic, and a total pain in the neck. Love her.

_questingbeast

@lil.orphan.shannie Bluestockings by Jane Robinson is really good; it's about the women who set up female colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, and the first women students there. Significant Sisters by Margaret Forster is about early feminists, and her Good Wives? is also excellent, about the wives of famous men.

Cavendish

@lil.orphan.shannie BESS OF HARDWICK! BESS OF HARDWICK!! This one is great: http://www.amazon.com/Bess-Hardwick-Mary-S-Lovell/dp/B0017HSXNG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326493967&sr=1-1

AND! Margaret Cavendish! I like this one: http://www.amazon.com/Mad-Madge-Katie-Whitaker/dp/0465091644/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1

Interrobanged

@lil.orphan.shannie The Duchess, Amanda Doreman, if you're interested in scandal! adultery! gambling! the role of women in politics! in the 18th century. It helps if you are an anglophile. (Yes, it was made into a movie with Keira Knightley, but it is well-researched and has a lot of footnotes).

monicamcl

@lil.orphan.shannie The Glitter and the Gold, by Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan. Consuelo was one of those loaded American girls who were shipped off to England to marry the peers and save their estates. Her mother forced her to marry the Duke of Marlborough in 1895, and oooooh, she HATED it. She eventually divorced him, scandalous!
This book is her personal memoir, and it's a great nonfiction window into the Downton Abbey era. (Writing was definitely not her trade, though, so you'll have to suffer through some clumsiness - although it's kind of endearing.)

Decca

@PistolPackinMama The first line of that Atlantic review and I'm hooked:

"On the cover of this book is an arresting photograph taken in front of the Sphinx in March 1921, on the last day of the Cairo conference on the Middle East. It shows Gertrude Bell astride a camel, flanked by Winston Churchill and T. E. Lawrence. She wears a look of some assurance and satisfaction, perhaps because—apart from having spent far more time on camelback than either man—she has just assisted at the birth of a new country, which is to be called Iraq."

PistolPackinMama

@Decca Awwww yeah. Read it! And then tell me what you think of it!

PS: Am interested in many of these. Yay!

Also look at the archive! Photos!

vunder

Shot in the Heart! That was a really good one.

Cavendish

Thanks for mentioning Smilla's Sense of Snow! My husband read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and his recounting of it made me think of Smilla.

I was supposed to read Young Men and Fire in a comp lit class in undergrad, but I stopped reading after the first chapter or so since I knew it was going to be super sad. I should probably get back to it.

Maux

love this list - added many to my my goodreads and library To Read accounts

Decca

I am very excited about Part II! Everyone has such good taste in books over here, I want you all to be my friend on Goodreads.

monicamcl

Really letting the nerd flag fly here, but just so you know: If you buy The Selected Letters of Philip Larkin and The Letters of Kingsley Amis, you can follow their letters back and forth, and nearly wet your pants with the brilliance and hilarity of every exchange.

gtrachel

@monicamcl I'm changing my name to Kingsley right now.

D.@twitter

UGH Ted Hughes. What a madarchod. He may be dead, but I will NEVER pay for a book of his.

Ultraviolet

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. So good! Highly recommended if you are interested in Caribbean culture, immigration/assimilation, and the crushing weight of unrequited love and belonging.

Glee

Shot in the Heart - I was in the hospital with a blood clot when I got a call asking if I wanted to work on the film adaptation. Of course I said yes! Good times limping around the set.

Steph

More articles like this please! I am having a love affair with my kindle, and although I already have more books than I can probably read this year I NEED MORE.

The Vee

Yes, there would never have been a Lisbeth without Smilla. Nailed it. Beautiful article, thanks a lot!

Jennifer Lawinski@facebook

that first book is about this! and i have always loved this song and didn't know it was a true story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgQNeGPJdcQ&feature=related

tortietabbie

My TBR list just got way bigger!

Although Left Hand of Darkness didn't really do it for me. I picked it for my sci-fi book club expected to be ROCKED, but...wasn't at all.

SweetAlissum

Girls Like Us, yes!!! I stole my copy from my mum, actually. I found it when I had to move back home two years ago. I turned my post-college-and-in-debt blues into organising her things and found that book, fallen behind an open bookshelf. I also stole Team of Rivals from my dad and my little brother's copy of The Little Price since he didn't want it (he's 14 and loves XBox; he'll Get It later). I got a good haul when I moved out.

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jimmyrapper

How weird is it that David Lynch directed the movie Dune? Really really weird, right?
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jimmyrapper

Hnnnnng The Left Hand of Darkness. Le Guin forever! And if you need more excellent sci-fi by women, there's a very good James Tiptree, Jr. anthology called Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. And of course, Among Others by Jo Walton. what does bubblegum casting do

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