Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Random Book Recommendation: Our Man in Havana

If you haven't read Our Man in Havana, I recommend it so much. It's by Graham Greene (The End of the Affair, The Quiet American) and it's both a spy novel and hilarious. There's a vacuum cleaner; that alone should make you want to read it.

Graham Greene marked some of his books including this one as "Entertainments" which means they are less serious than the others. But the writing is still beautiful and nuanced, there's still a lot to chew on, including Havana in the 1950s. Plus we can't always be reading about beautiful women who die of consumption.

Other random books I love and somehow mentally group with this one:

Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
Any P.G. Wodehouse (early 1900s lunatic British humor, the butler Jeeves, people named Gussie Fink-N0ttle that yell "what ho!")
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain (So charming and somehow sad.)

These books are all big on plot

A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe
If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (This dude sells his wife and child to a sailor in a bar in the opening pages! What more do you want in a plot?)
Ivanhoe by Walter Scott (A little melodramatic and very anti-Semitic. Swashbuckling, though, and Robin Hood makes a guest appearance!)
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

And final random recommendation for the night:

Kazuo Ishiguro wrote The Remains of the Day which is fabulous, but his The Unconsoled is also super. It starts out very disorientingly but once you get the hang of it, you will be boggled at how he nails dream-logic, where you're in your kitchen and you open the door and you are at work, and your third grade teacher is sewing the hat that you will wear for the meeting with the president that you just remembered you had. But much more serious and moving than that.


  1. A Man in Full was great, but it's the only Tom Wolfe book I've read so I'm not sure if it's indicative of his general writing style. I didn't care for Remains of the Day - found it too slow moving and sober (which I guess was the point?), it might be that I'm too far removed from the world of post-war butler life and putting professionalism over unrequited love.

    Though I am probably going to go see Never Let Me Go just because it looks badass.

    In terms of readable, plot-driven fiction - the only stuff I've read recently that I liked was the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg larsson and I've picked up the first book from the Wheel of Time series but I don't know if I can muster through 10+ books.

    Looking at my bookshelf though, apparently I'm not long for fiction anyway - - I've got more pages dedicated to foreign policy than to murder mystery. Hmm.

  2. A, thank you for your comment, and for your comment on the beautiful writing post if that was also you. Your comments are beautifully put. I think you would enjoy Bonfire of the Vanities---it's not set in Atlanta, but it is about "masters of the universe," which I believe you may have an interest in. I hope you are well.

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