ASK! about Fiction
So many books, so little time: How to find a “good book”
Remember Mr X, a reader who was searching for a book that wouldn’t waste his time? He explained that he was impressed by Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Mists of Avalon, and he was looking for other books of similar calibre.
Well, we asked him whether he was keen to read more historical fiction and whether there were any particular books that he remembers not liking. Mr X replied that he’s open to any sort of book but he doesn’t enjoy “feel good” titles like The 5 People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
Now, this librarian can totally identify with Mr X because Tuesdays with Morrie gave her the heebie-jeebies, but hey, don’t let that stop YOU from proclaiming it to be the greatest thing ever written! As noted librarian Betty Rosenberg advocated, “Never apologize for your reading tastes.”
Based on Mr X’s preference of characterisation, themes and depth/complexity, here are the suggestions we’ve made:
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, which won the Booker Prize in 1993. Centering around the relationships and drama between 4 characters in an isolated Tuscan villa near the end of WW2, it was also made into a movie starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche which garnered 9 Academy awards.
Mr X may also like books by Nobel winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez whom Louis De Bernieres labels as one of his major influences. Marquez’s works tend to fall into the category of magical realism (sometimes non-linear, multiple narratives, the fantastical in a realistic setting).
Love in the Time of Cholera
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Also suggested is Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front. A reader had submitted a recommendation of this book on our book blog, High Browse.
For some suggestions more towards historical fantasy ala Mists of Avalon, try Morgan Llywelyn’s works which focus more on Irish/Celtic history or Juliet Marillier’s Seven Waters series. For a unique historical fantasy, try Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series, but please note that it deals with “mature themes” though. More authors which write in this sub-genre can be found in this article.
Bernard Cornwell is another author of historical fantasy (England) but his works are more action/adventure oriented. If Mr X is interested in epic Greek battles/warfare, he could also try Stephen Pressfield. But these two authors are not really big on language stylistics or character relationships.
These are just a few reading suggestions that have been matched to Mr X, perhaps when he’s exhausted them (he mentioned that he found the titles suggested “fascinating” and that he would try One Hundred Years of Solitude first), we’ll have another episode for…. “So many books, So little time”!
Please use our online catalogue at www.nlb.gov.sg to check for availability in library holdings.
Contributed by Jillian Lim, Librarian, Public Library Services
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