A Month of Reading Dangerously

images-1.jpgI notice that I am almost always automatically drawn to novels from other lands and other cultures .. or at least novels written by authors with foreign sounding names promising me new experiences from unfamiliar people and unfamiliar places. Sometimes this tendency lets me down but more often it helps keep my reading fresh and interesting.

Then there are the novels that re-submerge me into a geographical area or lifestyle that despite a been-there-done-that undertone allows me a very satisfying sub-text  where I might even have been the model for the hero of the book. Some novels are like maps to the stars where you are the star and your early life is the stage. Generally I identify with anything referencing Southern California in the 1960s and all of Philip Roth’s novels.

That’s a strange combination: Southern California and Newark, New Jersey. In the past whenever anyone questioned my leaving the beaches of San Diego only to end up in an Italian neighborhood in Newark, I would look forlorn and remind my interrogator that I spent a year or two in St. Louis in between and that prepared me for living just about anyplace.

images.jpgSo my question to you is whether you corral your reading in a safe, familiar place or whether you’re adventuresome and drive out on the peninsula with no luggage other than a book or two translated from a far-away land of mystery and intrigue (or even just dull, everyday stuff that you hadn’t yet experienced?

Check your reading list. Familiar authors? Mostly in-country novelists? Everything written in your primary language? Familiar authors and even familiar books read and re-read? You probably need a transfusion of novels from China or Egypt or Chile. Go for it!

There may be a couple of interesting titles in my July reading pool. Take a peek.

  1. How German Is It — Walter Abish
  2. Hurma — Ali al-Muqri
  3. Gold Dust — Ibrahim al-Koni
  4. The Bridge on the Drina — Ivo Andric
  5. Oracle Night — Paul Auster
  6. Afsaneh: : Short Stories by Iranian Women — Kaveh Basmenji
  7. Magrit — Lee Battersby
  8. Antwerp — Roberto Bolaño
  9. Octavio’s Journey — Miguel Bonnefoy
  10. The Western Lands — William S. Burroughs
  11. Moonglow — Michael Chabon
  12. Odysseus Abroad: A Novel — Amit Chaudhuri
  13. The Green Room — Nag Mani
  14. Untitled — Kgebetli Moele
  15. We Were the Mulvaneys — Joyce Carol Oates
  16. The Last Days — Raymond Queneau
  17. Barrel Fever — David Sedaris
  18. The Tokyo Zodiac Murders — Soji Shimada
  19. I, the Jury — Mickey Spillane
  20. The Drowning of a Goldfish — Lidmila Sováková

One response

  1. In an effort to expose myself to new authors, I have started a new exercise. At the local library, I have challenged myself to read a book from each shelf in the fiction section. I decided to work backwards, as probably 3/4 of the authors I have read have a last name in A-K. My goal is to pick at least one book from each shelf, and to do 2 shelves each trip (that way I can still get books on my regular reading list). This trip’s picks (being the first trip of the challenge) are Touch by Alexi Zentner from the first shelf, and Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra, and Loteria by Mario Alberto Zambrano from the second choice. These are all new authors, although that won’t always be the case. There are some obvious flaws in my plan (the library devotes 6 complete shelves to James Patterson…) but I’m going to see how long it lasts. I’ve already completed Multiple Choice, very interesting, the novel is told in the form of a multiple choice English standardized exam.

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