1. Stampingchimps
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    Stampingchimps New Member

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    Newbie needs advice (reading)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Stampingchimps, Dec 23, 2013.

    Folks I would be grateful for you thoughts here, I am a bit disoriented. If you are in a hurry you can skip tothe last para.

    In my younger days I mostly read philosophy, biographies, science, and history.

    More recently, the past 3-5 years, I started exploring the world of fiction in earnest. I do enjoy the freedom and creativity inherent in writing novels, and I aspire to write short stories some day (I have been all along, on an amateurish level). But how can I aspire to such thing when I really seem to enjoy only a handful of books from the many I started reading? I wonder whether in fact I like fiction. When I read Vonnegut I am mesmerized, intrigued, when I read Nabokov, I feel I am forcing myself into it.

    It seems I am just choosing the wrong books/writers for me. I tell friends how much I liked Vonnegut style, including his short stories, and they keep suggesting "similar writers" that I fail to appreciate.

    I do not seem to appreciate the descriptive details that are common to most novels. That is the major issue. I get bored to tears even within the space of a short story. Elegant descriptive text seems to be the common thread of almost all fiction writing, But that is not what draws me into reading. Further it seems that some contemporaneous writers have taken the task to further bore readers like me by making elaborate and convoluted descriptives a standard.

    As I said, I do not apprciate, I take it as a failure from my part; this is not a criticism.

    Long story short, can I get some reading recommendation from you folks? I love short stories but also like novellas and novels. I need to read stories written by someone who is lucanic when it comes to the extra details. I think I would like social critics, or writers who tend to make you think hard. Maybe my requirements are too general? But maybe one of you get exactly what I am talking about?


    Manythanks in advance
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Can you give us the names of some other writers you appreciate and don't appreciate? It's hard to give recommendations based on just Vonnegut and Nabokov.

    Also, it's perfectly OK to enjoy some writers but not others. After all, everyone's tastes are unique.
     
  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hi

    If it's short stories you like, and are wondering what authors besides Vonnegut might appeal to you, I'd suggest getting hold of some anthologies that contain offerings from many different authors. Either buy them, or visit your library. There are plenty of anthologies out there, including some by genre, some by time period, etc. Read them and take note of the authors whose stories you like.

    I'm not particularly a short-story reader myself, and I LOVE long, involved descriptions as long as they are interesting. However, like @thirdwind said, everybody's different. Good luck!
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Writing preferences are a very individual choice. Some ideas to get you going:

    The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
    A Passage to India - E.M. Forster
    My Life and Hard Times - James Thurber
    Silas Marner - George Eliot
    The Caine Mutiny - Herman Wouk
    The Story of Beautiful Girl - Rachel Simon
    Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson
    The Little Prince - Antione de Saint-Exupery
    Tales of the South Pacific - James A. Michener
    Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
    A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter Miller
    The Novel - James A. Michener
    To Serve Them All My Days - R.F. Delderfield
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2013
  5. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    I'm not sure how much you're into comedy/romantic comedy, but if you like simple description and a fast pace you can try any of Sophie Kinsella or Madeline Wickham's books:

    Remember Me?
    The Undomestic Goddess
    I've Got Your Number
    Wedding Night

    Confessions Of A Shopaholic (This is a series including Shopoholic & Baby, & Sister, Takes Manhattan, Ties The Knot, and Mini Shopaholic.)
    Tea For Two
    Can You Keep A Secret?
    Twenties Girl
    The Wedding Girl
    Sleeping Arrangements
    Swimming Pool Sunday
    Cocktails For Three
    40 Love
    The Gatecrasher
    A Desirable Residence
     
  6. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    His style doesn't appeal to all, but Edgar Allan Poe's short stories are excellent, in my opinion, and you can read most of them for free online, I'm sure. Look at a few and then if you like them, purchase a collection from Amazon, because it's super cheap for what you get. :)
     
  7. Stampingchimps
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    Stampingchimps New Member

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    Thanks all for your responses. I have written my post very late at night (early in AM), and I have given very little details to help you help me. Thanks Alesia but I do not like romance or romantic comedy :) Thidwind, jannert, and Ed, thanks for your suggestions let me clarify what I am looking for:

    - modern novels/short story collections (1960+)

    -Topics: I like fictions that approach the following topics: Society, "pop" philosophy, war, history. (this is very broad but that to some extent rules out thrillers and romantic novels I hope ;) ).

    -Styles I like: satire, dark humor, terse writers who do not want to impress with beautiful descriptions that do not necessarily advance the story or enrich the theme/idea, (I really do not care about how delicately Mary sipped on her cup of water and the light reflections in the cup, and how this strangely brought memories of her shimmering bed sheets when she used to be a young princess)

    - Things I like in a writer/novel: satire, dark humor, social commentators/critics, "pop" philosophy, war, history.

    -Things I have read and enjoyed: I read a lot of old classics. I am french educated (now fully moved into English) so I read french classics (Rousseau, Voltaire, Hugo, Sartre, Camus,...), and Russian (Dostoevsky mainly), American (Hemingway, Bradbury, Poe, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald...), and others. I like Hemingway's simple (yet hard to emulate) style.

    But I find myself currently more interested in modern or contemporary writers. I picked few randomly over time and that is why I mentioned Vonnegut as someone whose style and content I enjoyed.
    For example I recently picked White Noise by Delillo and I sort of liked it. I also read a month ago tinkers (a sad and melancholic theme, which I also like) but I had troubles with the descriptive that at some point lost me. It seems that Salinger and Palahniuk should be on my list, I haven't read yet.

    I know there is a world of possibilities, I hope I gave you a better idea of what I enjoy, and I am grateful for your suggestions.

    Many thanks
     
  8. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    You can try James Patterson novels as well. Most of his fall in the genre of mystery/thriller/crime. The pace moves relatively fast and the descriptions are bare minimum, so they might be worth a look.
     
  9. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    @Thomas Kitchen Damnit you beat me to Edgar Allen Poe! oh well, Ariane et la Minotaure and La Petit Prince are a couple id reccomend if you want something in french (likewise to you @Stampingchimps im french educated as well) or if you want something a little longer La Cercle des Loups is another
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Okay, that narrows it down, some.

    Rachel Simon's book is a description of the revolution in the care for people with developmental disabilities from institutionalized care to community-based care. Other suggestions:

    Dialogues With the Devil - Taylor Caldwell. Begins with a letter from Satan to God.
    Exodus - Leon Uris. Historical novel about Israel. Very compact, given the subject matter.
    The Winds of War/War and Remembrance - Herman Wouk. Arguably the definitive World War II Novels. Wouk is not terse by any means, but the length is owing to both the massive size of the undertaking and Wouk's attention to historical detail.
    Recessional - James A. Michener - deals with end-of-life issues.
    Advise and Consent - Allan Drury. An excellent portrayal of the US Senate, and less polemic than all of Drury's novels that followed. You may want to skip the large segments of backstory. Worked in 1960, doesn't work today.
    Starting Out in the Evening - Brian Morton. The story of a writer writing about another writer. Also deals with issues of aging.
    Lisa Bright and Dark - John Neufeld. Mental illness seen through the eyes of a teenage girl. Interesting because the narrator is of a different gender than the author. As a side note, during my college years, my bedroom was a portion of our finished basement, and the entire basement became my own apartment. Every single girl I brought there picked this book off the shelf.
    Goodbye, Columbus - Philip Roth
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    did you mean 'laconic'?... as in 'terse/concise/succinct'?

    if the above suggestions don't fit, i suggest you spend a few days in your local library, sampling the various sections that appeal to you... and have a chat with the librarian, who may be able to steer you to authors you may find more to your taste...

    alternatively [or, in addition], you can browse amazon's 'look inside' listings, to check the authors' writing style...

    i have to congratulate you on appreciating the benefits that reading offers to those who want to learn how to write well... it bodes well for your reaching that goal...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  12. Cerebral
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    Cerebral Active Member

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    Man, do you realize what you just did to me? I couldn't breathe for like ten minutes.

    @ED: I'm lovin' your taste in literature...awesome suggestions!
     
  13. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    A couple of my modern favorites:

    The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien, read it here.

    The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas - Ursula Le Guin. Read it here.

    A favorite book is "Midnight's Children" by Salman Rushdie.
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2013
  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    @Cerebral - thanks.
     
  15. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Some good writers from Vonnegut and DeLillo's generation include Philip Roth, Thomas Pynchon (difficult but worth it), Saul Bellow, and John Updike (haven't read him but many people love him). Some young, contemporary writers I enjoy include Junot Diaz and Jhumpa Lahiri. Jonathan Safran Foer is good, too, but I've only enjoyed about half the things he's written.
     
  16. Stampingchimps
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    Stampingchimps New Member

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    Countless thanks to you all for your help and patience. Thirdwind you reminded me of John Updike, so I just purchased my father's tears and other stories. Ed thanks, I looked into Goodbye Columbus, it got me interested. Mamammia, thanks for catching my english mistake (probably amongst many) and for you encouragement.
    cerebral, thanks:)
     
  17. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    His most famous work is Rabbit, Run, which is a novel. It's actually the first novel in a tetralogy. So if you're looking for some Updike novels, I would start with that.
     
  18. The Byzantine Bandit
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    The Byzantine Bandit Member

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    If you liked reading philosophy, I would highly, highly, highly recommend the novels of G.K. Chesterton. My favorites are Manalive and The Man Who Was Thursday. The Ball and the Cross will also give you a good bit to think on.

    Chesterton was also an essayist, poet, and social critic. Lots of his works are on Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/80

    (What's Wrong with the World is also a brilliant analysis of the social conditions of our time, in spite of its having been written nearly 100 years ago, but you wanted fiction, so I gave you fiction.)
     
  19. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe consider some Tom Clancy novels? I preferred his earlier works like The Hunt for Red October or Red Storm Rising.

    Military History, WW II era, which isn't exactly fiction but well written and interesting: Citizen Soldier by Stephen E Ambrose and Iron Coffins: A Personal Account Of The German U-boat Battles Of World War II by Herbert Werner.

    The US Civil War era: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.

    A classic post apocalyptic novel: Alas Babylon by Pat Frank

    And a wildcard that you might enjoy: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
     
  20. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I had meant to include Red October on my list, because in it Clancy is somewhat less obsessed with military hardware than in his later works (although if you really want a good layman's explanation for how a nuclear weapon functions, The Sum of All Fears is a good choice).
     
  21. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    Too late. :)

    I'd recommend Hemingway for sentence structure and conciseness.

    Alan Dean Foster's "Midworld" for imagery.

    Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull for thought provoking simplicity.
     
  22. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    And nothing after about Executive Orders or maybe Rainbow Six.

    Without Remorse though... That was a gem.
     

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