Tuesday, May 31, 2005


DISCOVER the virtues of reading by reading the personal accounts of the critic's all-consuming pleasure for literature.

The Power of Delight: A Lifetime in Literature: Essays 1962-2002 (2005) / John Bayley
The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age (1994) / Sven Birkerts
How to Read and Why (2000) / Harold Bloom
Why Read the Classics? (1999) / Italo Calvino
The Uses of Literature (1986) / Italo Calvino
A Mirror in the Roadway: Literature and the Real World (2005) / Morris Dickstein
Bound to Please: An Extraordinary One-Volume Literary Education: Essays on Great Writers and Their Books (2004) / Michael Dirda
Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments (2000) / Michael Dirda
The American Classics: A Personal Essay (2005) / Denis Donoghue
The Polysyllabic Spree: A Hilarious and True Account of One Man's Struggle With the Monthly Tide of Books He's Bought and the Books He's Been Meaning to Read (2004) / Nick Hornby
A Reading Diary: A Passionate Reader's Reflections on a Year of Books (2004) / Alberto Manguel
A History of Reading (1996) / Alberto Manguel
So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading / Sara Nelson
Hatchet Jobs: Writings on Contemporary Fiction (2004) / Dale Peck
The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel (2004) / James Wood
The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief (1999) / James Wood

Thursday, May 26, 2005


JUST ANOTHER DAY at the bookshop—a treasure trove of delights, a cornucopia of wonders, a magic-carpet ride through the realm of books, and, yes, an oasis for the mind. A stagggering array of interesting new titles. Bought a couple of books that I believe will stand the test of time.

Visiting Mrs Nabokov and Other Excursions (1993) / Martin Amis
The 2005 paperback edition of Martin Amis's collection of essays first published in 1993. As always, he is witty, sarcastic and cynical. But he is really brilliant. His razor-sharp takes on a wide variety of subjects leave you laughing and crying at the same time. A perfect companion piece to The War Against Cliché: Essays and Reviews, 1917-2000 (2001) and The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America (1986).

Love in the Time of Cholera (1988) / Gabriel García Márquez (trans. from the Spanish by Edith Grossman)

Saturday (2005) / Ian McEwan
A day in the so-far perfect life of a London neurosurgeon. In lesser hands this will not work. But in the hands of a prose stylist like Ian McEwan, what we have is a richly textured literary sleight-of-hand. With this book, McEwan amply demonstrates how the clever use of current events as the basis for fiction can be done. As a distillation of middle-class English life against the backdrop of the war in Iraq, Saturday works.

My Nine Lives: Chapters of a Possible Past (2004) / Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

Gilead (2004) / Marilynne Robinson
Robinson's long-awaited second novel is religious, profound and essayistic. Her quiet, spare prose and the lack of a plot may not appeal to everyone, but if you persist, reading it is akin to a compelling religious experience. A challenging, but ultimately satisfying read.

Collected Stories (2004) / Carol Shields
Though better known for her novels, especially the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Stone Diaries (1994) and Larry's Party (1997), her short stories are exquisite and haunting. This 2005 paperback edition anthologises her three short-story collections, Various Miracles (1985), The Orange Fish (1989) and Dressing Up for the Carnival (2000), in addition to several other stories, including “Segue,” her last work before her death in 2003. The Washington Post called this collection a “career-long literary record of her preoccupation not just with the ‘serious and interesting’ lives of women, but with the subtleties and everyday miracles of human life.”

The Dust Diaries (2004) / Owen Sheers
The 2005 paperback edition of Welsh poet Owen Sheers's 2004 Zimbabwean travel memoir.

PRAWER JHABVALA Ruth [1927-] Novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter. Born Ruth Prawer in Cologne, Germany. NOVELS Shards of Memory (1995); Poet and Dancer (1993); Three Continents (1987); In Search of Love and Beauty (1983); Heat and Dust (1975: winner of the 1975 Booker Prize for Fiction); A New Dominion (published in the U.S. as Travelers) (1973); A Backward Place (1965); Get Ready for Battle (1962); The Householder (1960); Esmond in India (1958); The Nature of Passion (1956); To Whom She Will (published in the U.S. as Amrita) (1955) STORIES My Nine Lives: Chapters of a Possible Past (2004); East into Upper East: Plain Tales from New York and New Delhi (1998); Out of India: Selected Stories (1986); How I Became a Holy Mother and Other Stories (1976); Experience of India (1971); A Stronger Climate: Nine Stories (1968); Like Birds, Like Fishes and Other Stories (1963)

ROBINSON Marilynne [1943-] Novelist, essayist. Born Marilynne Summers in Sandpoint, Idaho. NOVELS Gilead (2004: winner of the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; shortlisted for the 2005 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction); Housekeeping (1980: winner of the 1982 PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction; shortlisted for the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 1982 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction) NONFICTION The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought (1998: awarded the PEN/Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay); Mother Country: Britain, the Welfare State and Nuclear Pollution (1989: shortlisted for the 1989 National Book Award for Nonfiction)

SHIELDS Carol [1935-2003] Novelist, short-story writer, poet. Born Carol Ann Warner in Oak Park, Chicago, Illinois. NOVELS Unless (2002: shortlisted for the 2003 Orange Prize for Fiction and the 2002 Giller Prize for Fiction); Larry's Party (1997: winner of the 1998 Orange Prize for Fiction; shortlisted for the 1997 Giller Prize for Fiction); The Stone Diaries (1993: winner of the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 1993 Governor General's Award for Fiction and the 1994 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction; shortlisted for the 1993 Booker Prize for Fiction); The Republic of Love (1992); A Celibate Season (with Blanche Howard) (1991); Swann (1987: published in the U.K. in 1990 as Mary Swann); A Fairly Conventional Woman (1982); Happenstance (1980); The Box Garden (1977); Small Ceremonies (1976) STORIES Collected Stories (2004); Dressing Up for the Carnival (2000); Various Miracles (1985); The Orange Fish (1989) POETRY Coming to Canada: Poems (1992); Intersect: Poems (1974); Others: Poems (1972) PLAYS Women Waiting; Anniversary (with David Williamson) (1998); Fashion, Power, Guilt and the Charity of Families (with Catherine Shields); Thirteen Hands (1993); Departures and Arrivals (1988) BIOGRAPHY Jane Austen (2001: winner of the 2002 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction) CRITICISM Susanna Moodie: Voice and Vision (1977) EDITED Dropping Threads (with Marjorie Anderson) (2002)

SHEERS Owen [1974-] Poet. Born in Suva, Fiji. POETRY The Blue Book (2000: shortlisted for the 2001 Forward Poetry Prize Best First Collection and the 2001 Welsh Book of the Year Award) TRAVEL/MEMOIR The Dust Diaries (2004)

Saturday, May 21, 2005


AT NOON TODAY, I was at Kinokuniya, the best bookshop in the whole of Kuala Lumpur, and I bought a couple of books: four novels, a memoir and an anthology of fine writing.

Case Histories (2004) / Kate Atkinson
Private investigator Jackson Brodie, a former police officer, is adrift in Cambridgeshire amidst death, intrigue and other misfortunes. A comic novelist, Atkinson's books have been consistently entertaining.

Paradise (1994) / Abdulrazak Gurnah

India in Mind (2005) / Pankaj Mishra (ed.)
A wide-ranging hodge-podge of fine writing from J.R. Ackerley to Bruce Chatwin to Jan Morris to Gore Vidal, observing and documenting the enigma that is India in all its diversity and complexity.

Istanbul: Memories of a City (published in the U.S as Istanbul: Memories and the City) (2005) / Orhan Pamuk (trans. from the Turkish by Maureen Freely)
An amalgamation of family memoir and cultural history. I have always enjoyed the novels of Orhan Pamuk, especially My Name is Red (2001) and Snow (2004). His profound understanding of Istanbul (formerly known as Constantinople) is reflected in his fiction, and in Istanbul: Memories of a City, a passionate memoir set against the colourful backdrop of the ancient city (“ageing and impoverished city buried under the ashes of a ruined empire”), Pamuk revisits his family's history as he takes us by the hand and meanders through Istanbul's labyrinthine streets and its people. “I am attached to this city because it has made me who I am.” Maureen Freely’s superb translation results in prose that is sensuous, seductive and moving, engaging our deepest emotions.

In the Eye of the Sun (1992) / Ahdaf Soueif

The News from Paraguay (2004) / Lily Tuck

ATKINSON Kate [1951-] Novelist, short-story writer. Born in York, England. NOVELS Case Histories (2004: shortlisted for the 2004 Whitbread Award for the Novel); Emotionally Weird: A Comic Novel (2000); Human Croquet (1997); Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1995: winner of the 1995 Whitbread First Novel and Book of the Year Awards, the 1996 Yorkshire Post Literary Award for Best First Work, and the 1996 Lire Book of the Year Award) STORIES Not the End of the World (2002) PLAYS Abandonment (2000); Nice (1996)

GURNAH Abdulrazak [1948-] Novelist. Born in Zanzibar, Tanzania, Africa. NOVELS Desertion (2005); By the Sea (2001); Admiring Silence (1996); Paradise (1994: shortlisted for the 1994 Booker Prize for Fiction and the 1994 Whitbread Award for Fiction); Dottie (1990); Pilgrims Way (1988); Memory of Departure (1987) EDITED Essays on African Writing 2: Contemporary Literature (1995); Essays on African Writing: A Re-evaluation (1993)

MISHRA Pankaj [1969-] Novelist, essayist, literary critic. Born in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, India. NOVEL The Romantics (1999: winner of the 2000 Los Angeles Times/Art Seidenbaum Book Prize for First Fiction) NONFICTION An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World (2004) TRAVEL How to be Modern: Travels in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tibet (2006); Butter Chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in Small Town India (1995) EDITED India in Mind (2005); V.S. Naipaul's Literary Occasions: Essays (2003); V.S. Naipaul’s The Writer and the World: Essays (2002)

PAMUK Orhan [1952-] Novelist. Born in Istanbul, Turkey. NOVELS Snow (trans. from the Turkish, Kar—2002, by Maureen Freely) (2004); My Name is Red (trans. from the Turkish, Benim adim kirmizi—1998, by Erdag M. Göknar) (2001: winner of the 2003 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award); The White Castle (trans. from the Turkish, Beyaz Kale—1979, by Victoria Holbrook) (1990: winner of the Independent Award for Foreign Fiction); The Black Book (trans. from the Turkish, Kara Kitap—1990, by Guneli Gun) (1994); The New Life (1997: trans. from the Turkish, Yeni Hayat—1994, by Guneli Gun) (1997); Cevdet Bey and His Sons (originally published as Cevdet Bey ve Ogullari in 1982) (1982) TRAVEL/MEMOIR Istanbul: Memories of a City (trans. from the Turkish by Maureen Freely) (2005: shortlisted for the 2005 Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction and the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography)

SOUEIF Ahdaf [1950-] Novelist, short-story writer, journalist. Born in Cairo, Egypt. NOVELS The Map of Love (1999: shortlisted for the 1999 Booker Prize for Fiction); In the Eye of the Sun (1992) STORIES Sandpiper and Other Stories (1996); Aisha (1983: shortlisted for the 1983 Guardian Fiction Award) ESSAYS/JOURNALISM Mezzaterra: Fragments from the Common Ground (2004) TRANSLATED Mourid Barghouti’s I Saw Ramallah (with Edward W. Said) (2002)

TUCK Lily [1938-] Novelist. Born Liliane Solmsen in Paris, France. NOVELS The News from Paraguay (2004: winner of the 2004 National Book Award for Fiction); Siam, or The Woman Who Shot a Man (1999: shortlisted for the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction); The Woman Who Walked on Water (1996); Interviewing Matisse, or The Woman Who Died Standing Up (1991) STORIES Limbo, and Other Places I Have Lived (2002)

Saturday, May 14, 2005


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Enrique Lee! I'm glad to know that you are enjoying Louise Dean's This Human Season (2005). You've always wanted to understand the human element behind the Northern Irish Troubles, so here it is.

Another novel which I cannot recommend highly enough is Peter Pouncey's Rules for Old Men Waiting (2005), the story of a dying old man who is determined to complete the war story he is writing. Pouncey has written a taut, elegiac first novel that has all the ingredients that constitute a compelling read: humanity, poignancy, emotional weight and intellectual vigour.


Books that somehow made me want to put
everything else on hold and read

Hunger’s Bride / Paul Anderson
Maps for Lost Lovers / Nadeem Aslam
Case Histories / Kate Atkinson
Oracle Night / Paul Auster
Birds Without Wings / Louis de Bernières
You Remind Me of Me / Dan Chaon
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell / Susanna Clarke
Norman Bray, In the Performance of His Life / Trevor Cole
Becoming Strangers / Louise Dean
About Grace / Anthony Doerr
The Persistence of Memory / Tony Eprile
Four Souls / Louise Erdrich
Old Filth / Jane Gardam
The Ghost Writer / John Harwood
War Trash / Ha Jin
Eventide / Kent Haruf
The Line of Beauty / Alan Hollinghurst
The Cripple and His Talismans / Anosh Irani
The Making of Henry / Howard Jacobson
The Ninth Life of Louis Drax / Liz Jensen
Ordinary Wolves / Seth Kantner
Aloft / Chang-Rae Lee
Small Island / Andrea Levy
Ghost Story / Toby Litt
Some Great Thing / Colin McAdam
Prince Edward / Dennis McFarland
The White Earth / Andrew McGahan
Port Mungo Patrick McGrath
Liars and Saints / Maile Meloy
Runaway / Alice Munro
Heir to the Glimmering World (published as The Bear Boy in the U.K. in 2005)/ Cynthia Ozick
Gilead / Marilynne Robinson
The Plot Against America / Philip Roth
Ice Road / Gillian Slovo
A Complicated Kindness / Miriam Toews
The Master / Colm Tóibín
The News from Paraguay / Lily Tuck
Lighthousekeeping / Jeanette Winterson
I'll Go to Bed at Noon / Gerard Woodward
The Shadow of the Wind / Carlos Ruiz Zafon (trans. from the Spanish by Lucia Graves)

The Lemon Table / Julian Barnes
Natasha and Other Stories / David Bezmozgis
The Dew Breaker / Edwidge Dandicat
Sweet Land Stories / E.L. Doctorow
My Nine Lives: Chapters of a Possible Past / Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Corpus Christi / Bret Anthony Johnston
The Secret Goldfish / David Means
Bad Dirt / Annie Proulx
Collected Stories / Carol Shields
The Laws of Evening / Mary Yukari Waters
Honored Guest / Joy Williams
The Turning / Tim Winton

Newborn / Kate Clanchy
These Days / Leontia Flynn
The Never-Never / Kathryn Gray
Ground Water / Michael Hollis
The Tree House / Kathleen Jamie
Collected Poems / Donald Justice
Snow Water / Michael Longley
Walking the Animals / Carola Luther
Hare Soup / Dorothy Molloy
The Rest of Love / Carl Phillips
Corpus / Michael Symmons Roberts
Collected Poems 1943-2004 / Richard Wilbur

Bound to Please: An Extraordinary One-Volume Literary Education: Essays on Great Writers and Their Books / Michael Dirda
Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare / Stephen Greenblatt
The Polysyllabic Spree / Nick Hornby
Cutty, One Rock: Low Characters and Strange Places, Gently Explained / August Kleinzahler
Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews 1430-1950 / Mark Mazower
Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found / Suketu Mehta
The Places in Between / Rory Stewart


Books that somehow made me want to put
everything else on hold and read

Purple Hibiscus / Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Shipwreck / Louis Begley
Emma Brown / Clare Boylan
The Master Butchers Singing Club / Louise Erdrich
Mrs Kimble / Jennifer Haigh
The Great Fire / Shirley Hazzard
This Blinding Absence of Light / Tahar Ben Jelloun (trans. from the French by Linda Coverdale)
The Known World / Edward P. Jones
The Namesake / Jhumpa Lahiri
The Fortress of Solitude / Jonathan Lethem
Gilgamesh / Joan London
The Way the Crow Flies / Ann-Marie MacDonald
Living to Tell the Tale / Gabriel Garcia Márquez (trans. from the Spanish by Edith Grossman)
Astonishing Splashes of Colour / Clare Morrall
Personality / Andrew O’Hagan
A Distant Shore / Caryl Phillips
Shantaram / Gregory David Roberts
A Ship Made of Paper / Scott Spencer
The Colour / Rose Tremain
The In-Between World of Vikram Lall / M.G. Vassanji
The Book Against God / James Wood

The Stories of Richard Bausch / Richard Bausch
Little Black Book of Stories / A.S. Byatt
A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies / John Murray
Early Stories 1953-75 / John Updike

The Strange Hours Travelers Keep / August Kleinzahler
Collected Poems / Robert Lowell (eds. Frank Bidart & David Gewanter)
The Brink / Jacob Polley
Walking to Martha’s Vineyard / Franz Wright

A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict / John Baxter
Dry / Augusten Burroughs
The Speckled People / Hugo Hamilton
Giving Up the Ghost / Hilary Mantel
Words of Mercury / Patrick Leigh Fermor (ed. Artemis Cooper)
The Afterlife: Essays and Criticism / Penelope Fitzgerald (eds. Terence Dooley & Mandy Kirkby)
A Writer
s World: Travels 1950-2000 / Jan Morris
Literary Occasions: Essays / V.S. Naipaul (ed. Pankaj Mishra) (2003)
The Opposite of Fate / Amy Tan


Books that somehow made me want to put
everything else on hold and read

The Other Side of Silence / André Brink
The Shell Collector / Anthony Doerr
Middlesex / Jeffrey Eugenides
The Crimson Petal and the White / Michel Faber
Three Junes / Julia Glass
The Secret Life of Bees / Sue Monk Kidd
The Hamilton Case / Michelle de Kretser
The Impressionist / Hari Kunzru
Rush Home Road / Lori Lansens
If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things / John McGregor
Journey to the Stone Country / Alex Miller
Family Matters / Rohinton Mistry
Unless / Carol Shields
The Lovely Bones / Alice Sebold
The Last Crossing / Guy Vanderhaeghe
The Cutting Room / Louise Welsh

Not the End of the World / Kate Atkinson
The Shell Collectors / Anthony Doerr
You Are Not a Stranger Here / Adam Haslett

Moy Sand and Gravel / Paul Muldoon
Dart / Alice Oswald

Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing / Margaret Atwood
Running with Scissors / Augusten Burroughs
White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India / William Dalrymple
Stranger on a Train: Daydreaming and Smoking Around America with Interruptions / Jenny Diski
Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971-2001 / Seamus Heaney
Things My Mother Never Told Me / Blake Morrison
The Writer and the World: Essays / V.S. Naipaul (ed. Pankaj Mishra)
Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town / Paul Theroux
Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self / Claire Tomalin


Books that somehow made me want to put
everything else on hold and read

The Distant Land of My Father / Bo Caldwell
Bitter Fruit / Achmat Dangor
The Siege / Helen Dunmore
The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse / Louise Erdrich
Agapanthus Tango (published as The Great Inland Sea in the U.S. in 2005) / David Francis
The Corrections / Jonathan Franzen
Life of Pi / Yann Martel
Atonement / Ian McEwan
That They May Face the Rising Sun / John McGahern
Oxygen / Andrew Miller
My Name is Red / Orhan Pamuk
Bel Canto / Ann Patchett
Empire Falls / Richard Russo
Austerlitz / W.G. Sebald (trans. from the German by Anthea Bell)
The Death of Vishnu (W.W. Norton) / Manil Suri
John Henry Days / Colson Whitehead
Dirt Music / Tim Winton
August / Gerard Woodward

Collected Stories / Saul Bellow (ed. Janis Bellow)
Among the Missing / Dan Chaon
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage / Alice Munro
Hotel World / Ali Smith

Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems / Billy Collins

The War Against Cliché: Essays and Reviews, 1917-2000 / Martin Amis
Borrowed Finery
/ Paula Fox
Travels with a Tangerine: A Journey in the Footnotes of Ibn Battutah / Tim Mackintosh-Smith
Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere / Jan Morris


Books that somehow made me want to put
everything else on hold and read

The Hiding Place / Trezza Azzopardi
The Feast of Love / Charles Baxter
True History of the Kelly Gang / Peter Carey
A New World / Amit Chadhuri
The Keepers of Truth / Michael Collins
When I Lived in Modern Times / Linda Grant
The Human Stain / Philip Roth
An Obedient Father / Akhil Sharma
Gertrude and Claudius / John Updike

How It Was for Me / Andrew Sean Greer
The Bridegroom / Ha Jin
Island: The Complete Stories / Alistair MacLeod
Assorted Fire Events / David Means

The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz / Stanley Kunitz

London: The Biography / Peter Ackroyd
Experience / Martin Amis
Stet: An Editor’s Life / Diana Athill
Stranger Shores: Essays 1986-1999 / J.M. Coetzee
Paris to the Moon: A Family in Paris / Adam Gopnik
The Global Soul: Jet-Lag, Shopping Malls and the Search for Home / Pico Iyer
The Flatness and Other Landscapes / Michael Martone
Bad Blood / Lorna Sage


Books that somehow made me want to put everything else on hold and read

Disgrace / J.M. Coetzee
Being Dead / Jim Crace
Fasting, Feasting / Anita Desai
Headlong / Michael Frayn
Plainsong / Kent Haruf
Fruit of the Lemon / Andrea Levy
No Great Mischief / Alistair Macleod
Our Fathers / Andrew O'Hagan
The Romantics / Pankaj Mishra
An Equal Music / Vikram Seth
White Teeth / Zadie Smith
The Map of Love / Ahdaf Soueif
The Blackwater Lightship / Colm Tóibín
Music and Silence / Rose Tremain

For the Relief of Unbearable Urges / Nathan Englander
Interpreter of Maladies / Jhumpa Lahiri
Close Range / Annie Proulx

Beowulf / Seamus Heaney

Reading the Holocaust / Inga Clendinnen
Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette / Judith Thurman
The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and the Belief / James Wood


Books that somehow made me want to put
everything else on hold and read

Cloudsplitter / Russell Banks
The Hours / Michael Cunningham
Freedom Song / Amit Chaudhuri
Hullaballoo in the Guava Orchard / Kiran Desai
Charlotte Gray / Sebastian Faulks
Preston Falls / David Gates
The Poisonwood Bible / Barbara Kingsolver
Charming Billy / Alice McDermott
Paradise / Toni Morrison

Park City: New and Selected Stories / Ann Beattie
East into Upper East: Plain Tales from New York and New Delhi / Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Birds of America / Lorrie Moore
The Love of a Good Woman / Alice Munro

Birthday Letters / Ted Hughes

Victor Hugo / Graham Robb
The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought / Marilynne Robinson
The Unknown Matisse: A Life of Henri Matisse: The Early Years, 1869-1908 / Hilary Spurling


Books that somehow made me want to put
everything else on hold and read

Love and Longing in Bombay / Vikram Chandra
Quarantine / Jim Crace
Underworld / Don DeLillo
The Blue Flower / Penelope Fitzgerald
Enduring Love / Ian McEwan
Ingenious Pain / Andrew Miller
The Puttermesser Papers / Cynthia Ozick
Postcards / E. Annie Proulx
American Pastoral / Philip Roth
The God of Small Things / Arundhati Roy
Larry's Party / Carol Shields
Toward the End of Time / John Updike

Love and Longing in Bombay / Vikram Chandra

Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life / J.M. Coetzee
Virginia Woolf / Hermione Lee


Books that somehow made me want to put
everything else on hold and read

1. Alias Grace / Margaret Atwood
2. About Schmidt / Louis Begley
3. Reading in the Dark / Seamus Deane
4. A Spell of Winter / Helen Dunmore
5. The Blue Flower / Penelope Fitzgerald
6. Never Far From Nowhere / Andrea Levy
7. Fall On Your Knees / Ann-Marie MacDonald
8. Fugitive Pieces / Anne Michaels
9. The Moor’s Last Sigh / Salman Rushdie
10. The Story of the Night / Colm Tóibín

1. The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant / Mavis Gallant
2. Selected Stories / Alice Munro
3. After Rain / William Trevor

1. The Spirit Level / Seamus Heaney
2. The Thing in the Gap-stone Stile / Alice Oswald

1. Angela’s Ashes / Frank McCourt
2. Henry James: The Young Master (Random House, 1996) / Sheldon M. Novick
3. Bad Land: An American Romance / Jonathan Raban


Books that somehow made me want to put
everything else on hold and read

Behind the Scenes at the Museum / Kate Atkinson
Mrs. Ted Bliss / Stanley Elkin
American Tabloid / James Ellroy
The Blue Flower / Penelope Fitzgerald
Sabbath’s Theater / Philip Roth

Friday, May 06, 2005


Tash Aw
Fourth Estate (2005)

ANOTHER first novel worth exploring is Malaysian Tash Aw's The Harmony Silk Factory (2005), a sprawling, richly woven World War II saga set in the Kinta Valley of Japanese-occupied and Communist-infested Malaya. A colourful, emotionally engaging and riveting story told in lucid, uncluttered prose through a patchwork of narrative strands. Donald Morrison in Time magazine writes: “Malaysia is a land rich in farmers, civil servants and electronics assembly workers, but poor in novelists. That's an odd deficit, given the country's high levels of literacy, prosperity and anxiety, as well as an abundance of history, politics, ethnic tension and other delicate topics that can be used as material. All of which makes Tash Aw's début novel worthy of close inspection. ... Malaysians looking for insights into their country's modern condition may be disappointed. Other readers may find themselves enjoyably lost in a land of magic and mayhem.” What a pleasure it is to read such a remarkably accomplished and promising début! A tangled tale that displays intermittent flashes of luminosity.

AW Tash [1972-] Malaysian novelist. Born Aw Ta-Shii in Taipei, Taiwan. NOVEL The Harmony Silk Factory (2005: longlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize for Fiction)