A Reader's Guide to Unfamiliar Literature
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about Anthony Burgess 2006-03-03 12:11:59

It seems that many people read "A Clockwork Orange" as their first, and often their last Burgess. While "Clockwork Orange" is powerful and very worth reading, I would like to make a plea on behalf of Burgess's other work, particularly his fictional biographies "Nothing Like the Sun," "Napoleon Symphony," and "A Dead Man in Deptford." All three of these books are great, but I would suggest starting with "A Dead Man in Deptford," the story of Christopher Marlowe's life and the unusual circumstances surrounding his death. I found it to be the most accessible and gripping of the lot.

about Carson McCullers 2006-02-08 07:25:00

When reading McCullers, your best bet is to begin at the beginning. All of her work is worth reading, but none of it compares to The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. The book is remarkable both for the quality of McCullers's writing and the depth of empathy she shows for her characters.

about Adrienne Rich 2006-02-01 08:03:50

Rich's poetry is both eloquent and provocative, characterized by precision of language and a clear political conscience. I would suggest that a new reader start with her 21 Love Poems (found in The Dream of a Common Language). This reinvention of the sonnet sequence is among her most accessible and emotionally engaging work. Her essays are also excellent; I recommend What Is Found There as a starting point.

about Ursula K. Le Guin 2006-01-30 16:37:41

I'm a huge LeGuin fan; I've read lots of her work, and you almost can't go wrong when picking a place to start with her. All of her stuff is beautifully written and features very believable characters. My personal favorite of her books is A Wizard of Earthsea, which showcases her talents as a storyteller and world-builder, as well as her fantastic ear for rhythm. If you're not into YA, however, The Left Hand of Darkness or The Lathe of Heaven would be good places to start. Her short stories are also well worth reading; I suggest Unlocking the Air or The Birthday of the World.

about Larry McMurtry 2006-01-30 12:55:25

Larry McMurtry is an extremely prolific author, and I've only scratched the surface of his writings. Nevertheless, the best book of his that I've read is Lonesome Dove. It was slow-starting, but once I got into it, I couldn't help being moved by its epic scope and wonderful characters. The Last Picture Show is also excellent; although it's written on a smaller scale than Lonesome Dove, it has the same great characterization. I don't recommend Streets of Laredo, the sequel to Lonesome Dove. It was too unremittingly grim and hopeless for my taste, and didn't seem like an appropriate end to the story.

about Roddy Doyle 2006-01-30 12:15:31

Roddy Doyle won the Booker Prize for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, and it's certainly the best of his books that I've read. I'm not sure, however, that it's the best place to start with him. Although Paddy Clarke is lovely and heartbreaking, I found that it took quite a bit of getting into before I began to appreciate it. If you're new to Doyle, you might be better off starting with the fast-paced and rollicking A Star Called Henry. His Barrytown trilogy (The Commitments, The Snapper, and The Van) is also great--lighter than his other work, and very very funny.

about Michael Chabon 2006-01-30 08:49:14

I love Michael Chabon. I first read Kavalier and Clay and thought it was wonderful: fast-paced, gorgeously written, and emotionally engaging. The next book I read was The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, which was very good, although not quite as excellent as Kavalier and Clay. Summerland is also very good, although I think that part of the reason I liked it was because I'm a big baseball fan--someone who doesn't like baseball might find it boring. The short stories in Werewolves in Their Youth are competent, but fail to be as engaging as his novels.

about Pat Barker 2006-01-30 08:32:45

While the Regeneration trilogy is undoubtedly Pat Barker's best work and an excellent place to start reading her, she has also written several other books that are worth reading. I recommend Union Street, Blow Your House Down, The Man Who Wasn't There, and Border Crossing. Although none of these books have the scope or ambition of the Regeneration series, they do share Barker's powerful and often unsettling writing and her tremendous understanding of character. On the other hand, I found both Double Vision and Another World to be disappointing; I wouldn't suggest anybody start with those books as their first Barker.