your advice please!

Internet, I'm looking for advice.  

I've got a Waterstones token (thanks, Bristol!) and I'm looking for ways to spend it.  I'm always indecisive when it comes to buying new books; I'll buy them second-hand by the truckload, but at full-price I start dithering and doing sums and thinking about waiting until the book in question pops up in a charity shop.  I know - bad for the industry - but I'm cheap and broke and that's about that.  This time, though, I can buy new books with impunity and I want your recommendations.

My criteria: I get a quite a lot of brand-new stuff to review each month (yay!) so I'm more thinking books that have been around for longer than a year or so.  Short story collections or novels are what I'm after; I'm the type of poetry-buyer that looks admiringly at the new book and then never reads it.  So, prose please.  Also, I tend to the more literary end of things, rather then genre, but hey - try and convince me.  And whatever you suggest, I'll have to be able to get it in Waterstones, either online or in my local Deansgate branch, so that probably rules out some American indie stuff - boo.

So please tell me what you love and why!  Surprise me!  Delight me!  And stick your recommendations in the comments.  On your marks.... 

12 comments:

Melanie Garrett said...

First of all, huge congratulations on winning the Bristol Prize. It's not only a tremendous vindication of the work, but weren't there like a gazillion entries?!

As for how to spend the winnings...have you considered Any Human Heart by William Boyd? Or indeed Brazzaville Beach? Also, Sebastian Faulks' Engleby is outstanding. In short stories, if you've not already read Michael Marshall Smith's More Tomorrow and Other Stories, you're in for a real treat. To me, although his novels can be quite entertaining, it's his short stories where he really takes the gloves off. Ideas go off like fireworks, and the prose is just so shiny. They're weird, they're wonderful, and no one captures love quite like MMS.

Carola Huttmann said...

I have just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna which recently won the Orange Prize. I absolutely loved it for it's beautiful rich language, vibrant sense of location throughout and great characterisation. I can't believe I've never read any of this author's previous books and am going to put that right soon.

Both the hardcover and the paperback editions are good quality and well presented and will look fabulous on any bookshelf. I know I'll want to read my copy many times.

http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/search/barbara-kingsolver/the+lacuna/0/0%5E4292608006

Troglodyte said...

Hello Valerie!

Congrats on winning the SSP - I bought the anthology to read a friend's story and thought yours was brilliant. I also love the blog!

I'm re-reading 'What I Loved' by Siri Hustvedt at the mo. It's a fine old tale of people living artistic lives in New York, and a classic example of how an unpromising blurb can be a riveting story. If it slipped by you the first time, I encourage you not to let it do so again.

Valerie O'Riordan said...

Thanks you guys!

Melanie, I've read Engleby - loved it! - but I'll check out the other two. I've been on the verge of buying something by William Boyd several times and yet I've never gone there. Maybe now's the time! PS: there WERE a gazillion entries! Freaks me out.

Carola, that's the second time in two days somebody's mentioned The Lacuna - even if it did beat my beloved Wolf Hall at the Orange, I might just have to cave and see what the fuss is about.

Troglodyte! I'm so glad you liked my horrible little story! I've already read What I Loved, but good call! I did, in fact, love it. It's by far my favourite of her books - and so sad. God, I feel melancholy now just thinking about it...

Keep 'em coming, dudes!

Troglodyte said...

I love a challenge! (Obv. being bored at work helps...)

Have you read 'Strangers' by Taichi Yamada? I loves me the unsettling stuff, so it might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I thought it was a really great example of Japanese spooky fiction.

Valerie O'Riordan said...

Ooh, no, I've never heard of that. I do like spooky and unsettling. Bingo!

Joe Melia said...

Some great stuff on here. You probably know all these but think you may like them. 2 anthologies 'Children of Albion Rovers' and 'Burned Children of America'. And these writers (mainly short stories, of course!)- Ethan Canin, Amanda Davis, Julie Orringer, Judy Budnitz, Mona Simpson, Sarah Salway's 'Leading the Dance'. ZZ Packer's 'Drinking Coffee Elsewhere'.Toby Litt's collection 'Adventures in Capitalism' is great but may be out of print. Emily Perkins' 'Not Her Real Name'is briliant.

Happy choosing!

Valerie O'Riordan said...

Joe, you're spoiling me! ZZ Packer I've been meaning to check out but haven't. I'm getting the new Orringer to review soon anyway. The Toby Litt I think Waterstones might struggle with but perchance I'll e-bay it at a later date... All on the research list - thank you!

Benjamin Judge said...

Have you read Belle de Seigneur by Albert Cohen? (It is now published as Her Lover for some reason but it is the same translation)

Literary, been around for a few years, near impossible to find second hand. Anything else... oh yes, there are bits that are literally breathtaking. There is a chapter set at a ball where he flicks from character to character as they swap partners during a dance. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.

It is a big, multi-layered, wonderful sprawl of a novel. You might like it yeah?

MrEastcoasting said...

Disorderly Conduct, a collection of Voice Literary Supplement short stories published about 19 yrs ago by Serpents Tail. Still fresh in the memory. Sudden Fiction (can't remember the publisher sorry) but has a beautiful story about a girl in a red dress falling from a very tall building. Both will inspire you to write!

Teresa Stenson said...

For something a little different (and not really what you asked for but I'll put it out there anyway...) 'The 13 Clocks' by James Thurber is a kids' story written in 1950 when the author should have been writing something more serious. For that reason it's playful and especially inventive with language, and a bit odd really I suppose.

The line that really sticks in my mind is a description of something, a creature, being made of 'lip'.

It's pretty short and could be read in one sitting. You did ask for short stories...

Have fun with that giftcard :)

Valerie O'Riordan said...

I love this! Keep them rolling in! Ben, that sounds bloody fantastic, I'll see if they've got it. Teresa, I like a good kid's book - thank you!