45 responses

  1. Besides the MS I read for a friend (twice—it was that good), I’d have to say Fault in Our Stars, which I think was the last one you recommended here, right? Was that you?

    • Yes, and that one too I found unputdownable. Also The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which is written in the POV of a 15-year-old autistic boy. So good.

  2. “What was your last unputdownable?”

    Books don’t do that to me the way they did many years ago. Nowadays, inevitably, the thousand concerns of the day peck at my consciousness, calling my attention to other matters, distracting me from the deep immersion in reading I once enjoyed. That being said, I want further to say that there have been several books I’ve read this year that were as close to unputdownable as I can these days permit any books to come. I know you asked for only the most recent, but I love telling people of books I believe to be worth reading, so I will beg your indulgence.

    The most recent was Paul Bowles’s THE SHELTERING SKY. It was the first book I’ve read since arriving in Chicago and since I don’t have a job here yet, I was able to read it in a few days. Others I’ve read this year and that I enjoyed sticking with were Daphne Gottlieb’s FINAL GIRL and her KISSING DEAD GIRLS (she deserves to be heralded as one of America’s foremost living poets); Elena Ferrante’s MY BRILLIANT FRIEND; Martin Amis’s KOBA THE DREAD; Damien Echols’s LIFE AFTER DEATH; and Sam Michel’s STRANGE COWBOY. These are all somewhat dark works, the last the least, and I suppose that says something about what it takes these days to flip my switch.

    • I find the unputdownable impulse ebbs and flows. I’ve been lucky this summer and have found several books to love and many more to like, but I haven’t yet tried any of yours. I did read something about Elena Ferrante which piqued my interest, though. Did you post something from My Brilliant Friend on your blog?

      • Yes, I did, two short quotes from that book, and a longer one from her THE DAYS OF ABANDONMENT. Here they are again:

        “There are no gestures, words, or sighs that do not contain the sum of all the crimes that human beings have committed and commit.”

        “Every second something might happen that will cause you such suffering that you’ll never have enough tears.”

        “A long passage of life together, and you think he’s the only man you can be happy with, you credit him with countless critical virtues, and instead he’s just a reed that emits sounds of falsehood, you don’t know who he really is, he doesn’t know himself. We are occasions. We consummate life and lose it because in some long-ago time someone, in the desire to unload his cock inside us, was nice, chose us among women. We take for some sort of kindness addressed to us alone the banal desire for sex. We love his desire to fuck, we are so dazzled by it we think it’s the desire to fuck only us, us alone. Oh yes, he who is so special and who has recognized us as special. We give it a name, that desire of the cock, we personalize it, we call it my love. To hell with all that, that dazzlement, that unfounded titillation. Once he fucked me, now he fucks someone else, what claim do I have? Time passes, one goes, another arrives.”

    • Someone alert Indy Clause. She’s on the hunt for a good memoir to take along on her writing residency, and this sounds like one she’d love.

      • Thanks! I read it. I loved it too. It was shattering. I had to put it down in order to finish it. I did not like Tony Swofford’s second memoir, which I started but did not finish. Have you read it, Josey?

  3. I’ve read a bunch of crap lately so I will go back a ways to get one that I couldn’t put down. Fiction: Gone Girl. Non-fiction: believe it or not Monuments Men (and I didn’t know they were making a movie out of it).

  4. I read THE AGE OF MIRACLES. I really loved it. It was definitely one of those high concept ideas for a story. (I almost croaked when I read she received a seven figure advance for this debut – to use a phrase from another blog site – holy fuckamoli)

    I don’t know if I’ve read any books since COLD MOUNTAIN, THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE, or BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA that have drawn me in like they did. They were the sorts of books I would think about during the day, while working, and get excited over the thought of when I’d be able to get back to reading them – usually when I’d go to bed. I’m not sure I’ve read one that hits that high water mark since… although I’ve read quite a few I liked a lot.

    • Except…now I think I must have PACK OF TWO. My husband says our new little guy is a one person dog…which I kind of hate b/c he loves dogs, and this one in particular, as much as I do…

    • That’s the best feeling, right? When the story stays with you. While I was reading The Age of Miracles, I kept looking out the window, watching the sun travel across the sky and thinking of what the world would be like if the birds started falling out of the sky, and all the trees died, and the sun became toxic, etc. I loved how richly detailed the world was, and that she told it as a retrospective. Really beautifully done.

      • I know! And the thing for me was… imagining how now one before her ever wrote about the possibility of it happening like that. It was a definite OMG sort of story. That what if concept that could very well happen. I LOVED the ending – it made me wistful, sad, but it was perfect.

  5. I have little time for reading, a ridiculous comment from a writer/bookseller who volunteers in the library. Unputdownable, for me, means I kept picking it up, and the last one was A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. I’m trying to choose my next one very carefully– The Flamethrowers or Edna O’Brian’s latest?

    Averil– I’m wondering why you link to Barnes and Noble?

    • Not such a ridiculous comment from a working mother, no matter where she spends her time.

      I’m not sure how to answer your question about the link. I tend to buy books from all different sources: Amazon, B&N, indie bookstores. I suppose I provide links the same way, using whatever website happens to be up on my screen.

  6. Oh Averil, speaking of dogs, without a doubt and forever, one that your Jeff so wisely saw to represent, THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN. Paws down, the best ever. (Sorry for the pun, I couldn’t resist.)

    • Having seen several recommendations for this book, by people I respect and admire, I recently bought it and started reading. I gave up about a quarter way through. It just didn’t do it for me.
      Weirdest thing. I’m sure it’s really good. And dogs have been such a huge part of my life, I have bred a few litters of dogs and had some of those beautiful animals with me their entire lives, going through everything together, and experienced the love only a dog can give.
      Maybe it’s only that. If we live something enough, no book about it will match up to the reality.

      • Here I am replying three days later, is that weird or what.
        It wasn’t only the dog-thing that did it for me…I used to race cars when I was young and stupid. A female in the ’60s as a drag racer was pretty cool. Not the same kind of racing as in the book but it helped me connect.

        • Strangely, my background is similar, but for me it was bikes not cars.
          Although I didn’t race at the drags.
          My dad had the fastest drag bike in the Southern hemisphere. I grew up at the speedway, death and bad injuries being quite normal in my world.
          Actually, now I think about it, the first day I ever rode a motorbike, my dad turned me loose in a big paddock beside Castlereigh dragstrip, while he was building the toilet block.
          Then at the end of the day I was allowed to ride that tiny Italian road race bike down the quarter mile.
          My parents followed in the family car, and my mum didn’t let me keep the bike because she decided 50MPH was too fast for my first day of riding a bike.
          I had to wait two more years before I got a bike.
          That was late 60s or early 70s.
          Female or not, I bet you had a great time.

  7. “Before I Fall,” by Lauren Oliver. The narrator is unlikeable (to me, anyway), the setting is high school, one day replays (similar to “Groundhog Day” except remember the setting! High School! So painful…). I could not put it down.

    • I think I started something of hers a while back and didn’t get too far, so maybe I’ll try this one and see if it strikes closer to home.

  8. The book I continue to pick up, from which to snatch a few bites of perfectly worded wisdom, is Charles Bukowski’s last novel, Pulp. Written right before he died, it seems to me the perfect book. It is life, death, tragedy, comedy. It’s a short book, but it is huge in every other way.
    And also, there is a short story, almost not a story, about two pages long, which I must read from time to time, because it is the best I’ve read, and makes me feel alive, and know I’m not alone. If you go to
    you can read it online, download it for free, or make a donation.
    It includes a wonderful introduction by Etgar Keret, also very much worth reading, part of which tells us…
    In the 1940s, Frame was institutionalized in mental hospitals, diagnosed with schizophrenia. When her first collection of stories, which ends with this one, was published in New Zealand, its great success saved her from having to undergo a lobotomy.

      • Thank you for sharing that, Harry. I’d read it once a little while back then forgot it (as I forget most things I’ve read), so it was good to be reminded of it and get to read it again.

        There is such a stiflingly great amount of good writing to read. If I lived a dozen lifetimes I couldn’t read it all.

        • I’m so glad you saw it. After posting it here I thought, I should have posted it under Tetman’s comment so he’d find it.
          It has, for me, a similar quality to your own work, in that it seems to help to heal things inside me, without me understanding quite how.

          You’re so right. So much wonderful writing to be read, and us already in our fifties. What better motivation could there be to get healthier, live a long time.

  9. Gone Girl. I think it was right here, and your recommendation that swayed me. I got it out of the library and accidentally reserved the large print copy. Do you know how much that book attached itself to me that I read it in large print?? There were maybe five words to a line, and it was about five inches thick. Man, I loved that book. It made me want to be a better writer, to put realism to the side and think about construction and how form followed function in that beautiful book.
    Another one that had the same effect for me was Chris Cleaves’ Little Bee. So fast, so sharp and cutting. And I had to pause near the end because even though you knew what happened from the beginning, you were chilled to the core. Actually, his book Incendiary did the same. He is an amazing writer.

    • I literally just bought Little Bee this afternoon and have only put it down long enough to answer your comment! It’s wonderful, I’m crazy about the writing. (And the part about her little boy in the Batman costume, with the bat shit, had me in stitches.)

  10. I’ve been gone from your blog for much too long, but 1) I too adored The Age of Miracles and actually consider it near and dear based on some factors going on with my own WIP; 2) your book cover is amazing!! and 3) finally, to answer your question: Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Shappell, Glaciers by Alexis Smith, Goldengrove by Francine Prose, Tenth of December by George Saunders, and the Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan.