Top Ten Tuesday: Books for People Who Like Virginia Woolf
I had a hard time picking which an author. I finally settled on Virginia Woolf because I’ve really enjoyed both books that I’ve read by her (To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway). Plus, when I think of literary fiction, I think of these books. Books that are more about characters than plot. That’s not to say that these novels don’t have plots – obviously, all books do – but the plots are rather subdued, at least compared to most other genres.
1. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
I know, I know – I’ve mentioned this book repeatedly. People are probably getting sick of hearing me talk about how much I loved this book, particularly when most others who’ve read it don’t really like it that much. To me, though, this epitomizes what literary fiction is all about. It focuses on a specific character and her thoughts. Things happen, but you’re not waiting on the edge of your seat to see if something gets resolved. You’re sort of experiencing high school along with her.
2. The Magician by Sol Stein
I had actually forgotten about this book until I was walking past the bookshelf in the hallway the other day and glanced down. I remember my mother trying to get me and my sister to read this when we were younger and not liking it, and then I tried again in high school and really enjoyed it. It’s about the magic that lawyers can use in the courtroom to twist the truth. I honestly don’t remember much of the actual plot, but I loved the end of the book, so I figured now was as good a time as any to mention it.
3. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
We read this book in high school, and I absolutely loved it. Really, any Amy Tan book that I’ve read could have fit here. I chose this one because it was the first of hers that I read. I love how we see things from the daughters’ points of view and then see it from the mothers’ and get a completely different understanding of the events. I wish I could write mother/daughter relationships as well as Amy Tan does.
4. Anita and Me by Meera Syal
I can’t remember if we read this one in college or if I found it on my own because we had been reading so many books about Indian children growing up in England, but either way I read this one and really enjoyed it. It’s about a girl growing up in England and shows all that she has to deal with living in a small town, surrounded by the English equivalent of Southern rednecks.
5. Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa
This book I read in one of my English classes. It’s about a young girl growing up in Lahore as they’re splitting up India and Pakistan. I don’t remember too terribly much about this book, but I remember really enjoying it.
6. Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
This one I read because a fan fiction author I liked used Steppenwolf as a penname, so I looked it up to see where it came from. I intend to read this book again now that I’m a bit older and could probably understand it more, but I remember reading about this hermit and feeling like I could finally relate to someone. At least half the novel is spent mostly inside that character’s head (at least from what I can remember), so it definitely falls under the lit fic heading.
7. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
I believe this book was referenced in an English class, so I bought a copy. Both this novel and On Beauty (listed next) follow two different families and the problems they go through trying to cling to their own traditions. I really enjoyed them both.
8. On Beauty by Zadie Smith
9. A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham
I read this book in high school. I probably would enjoy it more now. A straight woman and a gay man decide to start a family together, but things get more complicated when the guy’s straight best friend moves in with them. I know this was made into a movie but, as is usually the case, the book was better.
10. No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre
I wasn’t really sure which to pick as my last entry, so I decided to go with this. There are only three characters from what I can remember (or at least three main characters), and they’re trapped in a room together for eternity. “Hell is other people” – I mean, really, what more do you need than that?