Copy of Cambridge Readers 2010 Book Poll #2
Exit this survey
1. Book Selections
. Vote for as many as you like; we will read more than one from this list if there's sufficient interest.
Vote for as many as you like; we will read more than one from this list if there's sufficient interest.
Dead Souls (1842) Nikolai Gogol; 432 pages: A socially adept newcomer fluidly inserts himself into an unnamed Russian town, conquering first the drinkers, then the dignitaries. All find him amiable, estimable, agreeable. But what exactly is Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov up to?--something that will soon throw the town "into utter perplexity." Pleasantries ensue before Chichikov reveals his bizarre plan: He'd like to buy the souls of peasants who have died since the last census . . .
The Blind Assassin (2000) Margaret Atwood; 521 pages: The Blind Assassin follows several interlocked threads, as Atwood plays games with identities, connections, parallels, and altered histories. In one thread, she explores the childhood of two sisters, Iris and Laura; in another, Iris is a cantankerous, elderly widow, and Laura is an apparent suicide whose posthumously published novel became an enduring classic. Atwood only gradually reveals what happened between these bookends, and she keeps readers guessing, as it becomes clear that what the world remembers about Laura has very little bearing on what actually happened.
No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories (2008) Miranda July; 224 pages: July's characters over these 16 stories get into similarly extreme situations in their quests to be loved and accepted, and often resort to their fantasy lives when the real world disappoints (which is often): the self-effacing narrator of "The Shared Patio" concocts a touching romance around her epileptic Korean neighbor; the aging single man of "The Sister" weaves an elaborate fantasy around his factory colleague Victor's teenage sister (who doesn't exist) to seduce someone else; “Making Love in 2003” follows a young woman's dubious trajectory from being the passive, discarded object of her writing professor's attentions to seducing a 14-year-old boy in the special-needs class she teaches.
Old Filth (2006) Jane Gardam; 289 pages: This mordantly funny novel examines the life of Sir Edward Feathers, a desiccated barrister known to colleagues and friends as Old Filth (the nickname stands for "Failed in London Try Hong Kong"). After a lucrative career in Asia, Filth settles into retirement in Dorset. With anatomical precision, Gardam reveals that, contrary to appearances, Sir Edward's life is seething with incident: a "raj orphan," whose mother died when he was born and whose father took no notice of him, he was shipped from Malaysia to Wales (cheaper than England) and entrusted to a foster mother who was cruel to him. What happened in the years before he settled into school, and was casually adopted by his best friend's kindly English country family, haunts, corrodes, and quickens Filth's heart.
Middlesex (2002) Jeffrey Eugenides; 544 pages: The group actually read this a couple of years ago, but multiple people specifically requested it, and turnover is such that I’m not going to worry about the “repeat”. The narrator and protagonist, Callie Stephanides raised as a girl until adolescence, discovers that he is in fact genetically male with a condition which causes him to appear female. The first half of the novel is about Cal's Greek family, depicting his grandparents' migration from a small village in Asia Minor to the United States in 1922, and their assimilation into American society. The latter half of the novel, set in the late 20th century, focuses on Cal's story in Detroit, Michigan.
Liars and Saints (2003) Maile Meloy; 272 pages: Written in a series of short story-like vignettes, a Catholic family's saga is told in turn by every member, from Yvette the matriarch down to T.J., her great-grandson. We start out with a relatively run of the mill family secret, when in the 1950s Yvette sends daughter Margot off to a French convent for the duration of her teenage pregnancy. As the decades pass, the transgressions become wilder and more melodramatic. What makes the novel work is that all the while, Meloy maintains a quiet, slightly wry tone: illicit lovemaking and bloody mary mixing are recounted with the same equanimity.
Myra Breckinridge/Myron (1968/1973) Gore Vidal; 440 pages: Two (fairly short, and generally available in a single volume) novels: Myra Breckinridge uses an “aggressively camp sensibility” to tell the tale of the titular young lady terrorizing the Hollywood patriarchy; it was derided by some as pornographic when published in the late 1960’s. The gender bending themes are continued with a sci-fi twist in the sequel Myron, which famously responded to a Supreme Court ruling on obscenity by replacing various swear words with the Justices’ names.
Man Walks Into a Room (2003) Nicole Krauss; 256 pages: What if, asks Krauss, a man woke up one day and he'd forgotten everything he knows? Samson Greene is found lost in the desert near Las Vegas, memory-less thanks to a tumor "applying its arbitrary, pernicious pressure to his brain." Once the tumor is removed, he can remember his childhood up until his 12th year, but then all is blank. He returns to New York, to his wife Anna, to his life as a Columbia University English professor, but none of these things makes sense to him anymore.
What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures (2009) Malcolm Gladwell; 432 pages: What the Dog Saw is a compilation of 19 articles by Malcolm Gladwell that were originally published in The New Yorker. The book is divided into three parts. The first set of articles describes what Gladwell describes are "minor geniuses", people who are incredibly good at what they do.. Part two, Theories, Predictions, and Diagnoses, describes problems such as intelligence failure, and the fall of Enron. The third set of articles discusses a wide variety of psychological and sociological topics. These articles discuss topics such as the difference between early and late bloomers and criminal profiling.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime (2003) Mark Haddon; 226 pages: The story is written in the first-person perspective of Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year-old boy with an autism spectrum disorder who investigates the murder of his neighbor’s poodle.
Check out our
and create your own now!