Aug 30, 2011

by English Muse

I know it’s hard to pick an all-time favorite, so I’ll rephrase:
What’s your favorite contemporary book of the moment?

For me, it’s Joan Didion’s “Year of Magical Thinking.” It’s both beautiful and heartbreaking.

(Photo by Hvidt.)


This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 30th, 2011 at 1:32 pm. It is filed under Books. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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54 Responses to “What’s your favorite contemporary book?”

  1. mia says:

    I hardly read contemporary books because I feel I’ll never catch up on reading the classics as it is. That said, a friend gave me ‘The Waterproof Bible’ and it’s off to a good start. And I think I might try ‘The Family Fang’ after reading the summaries and reviews.

  2. sami says:

    i LOVE that book. i also love zadie smith’s on beauty & jonathan safran foer’s extremely loud and incredibly close.


  3. Oscar Monster says:

    Don’t have much time to read… But there were a couple of hours during my Italian holiday and I enjoyed reading The Selected Works of TS Spivet.

  4. Mandy says:

    I’m a big fan of anything David Mitchell writes, especially “Black Swan Green”.

    “A Year of Magical Thinking” broke my heart over and over again, but so good!

  5. Micaela says:

    My absolute favorite book is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. A close second is The History of Love. Also The Glass Castle.

  6. Tina says:

    yes!! i really want to read the extremely loud and incredibly close before the movie arrives!

  7. Tamuna says:

    I really liked Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being…

  8. sasha says:

    When I was a kid I would read two books over and over again. Untill one day my mother told me I needed to start trying new books. Ever since then I haven’t read a book more than once”The Shadow of the Wind”. I have recommended it to a number of people and they all loved it also. Its a little bit noir, murder mystery, comming of age, love, and friendship. I heard the author speak a couple years ago when his second books was translated to English, he is an incredibly curiouse, funny and brilliant man. Everything he writes is pure gold. You should check it out!

  9. sasha says:

    **** I havent read a book more than once until “Shadow of the Wind”. I cannot finish a proper sentance to save my life today 🙂

  10. Uncle Beefy says:

    “Spoon Fed” by Kim Severson was a real delight for me! But, “Year of Magical Thinking” was another that came immediately to mind! Yes!

  11. Naomi Bulger says:

    I have to agree with a few people here, ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ is definitely up there for me. How contemporary do you want to be? Does mid 20th century count? I just re-read ‘I Capture the Castle’ and I can’t get it out of my head, I love it so much.

  12. alicia says:

    I love, love, love “Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” though it vastly differs with a lot of the selections here. I’m not sure if the audience that enjoys Foer would necessarily enjoy Diaz, but I think anyone who reads Kundera would find Diaz palatable.

    I envy Diaz’s artistic voice. I wish I were as confident in mine as he is in his.

  13. Kelly says:

    I can’t choose just one…
    Elegance of the Hedgehog
    The Time Traveler’s Wife (I’ve read it many times).
    History of Love
    I go out of my way to search for titles in the used bookstores that are published by Europa Editions. I love their books.
    The Year of Magical Thinking leaves a knot in my throat every time I think of it. Didion is so honest and wonderful.

  14. Molly says:

    Oh my gosh I love that book. I just reread Year of Magical Thinking this summer and re-fell in love with it.

  15. I have heard so many people recommend Shadow of the Wind; I think I may actually have to try to read it! It’s been on my Should-Read list for two years.

    It is hard for me to pick a favorite. I dip in and out of classics and contemporary books.

    However, one I have gone back to a couple of times is Don’t Let’s Go To the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. An unsparing memoir of growing up in Africa. She has just published a second installment (of sorts,) which I can’t wait to try. It’s called Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness. Rave reviews so far. I’m on the waiting list at the good ole Los Angeles Public Library, but I may have to break down and buy it before my number is up! This is when I wish I still lived near The Strand in NYC. Haven’t bought a Kindle yet.

    For something completely different, the proverbial light romp, I love Diane Johnson’s Le Divorce. Light and fluffy but so well done. And set in Paris, to boot.

  16. I just finished reading “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett and loved it. Now I want to see the movie.

  17. Karen in CT says:

    Joan has been on my list as well … I just finished The Garden of Beasts, which was really a well rounded book on several levels. I really want to read Suite Francais next.

  18. Katie says:

    I still stand by Eat Pray Love. I’ve read it so many times I’ve lost count.

    I also absolutely loved Conor Grenan’s Little Princes, as well as The Lost Girls by Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, and Amanda Pressner.

    I would also like to pass this award onto you: The Versatile Blogger Award. To find out more about it, please visit

  19. Beatrice says:

    Any book by Maryanne Williamson. “A woman’s worth” and “Enchanted Love, The Mystical Power of Intimate Relationships” are my favorite. Also, Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The four agreements”.

  20. Kolbie says:

    You stole mine haha. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is one of my all-time favorites.

  21. Tina says:

    I Capture the Castle is the perfect summer book!

  22. Luli says:

    A few years ago I read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (I am Greek) and Pelagia’s (the main character) sadness still haunts me to this day…the movie was so-so, but the book was beautifully written.

  23. Lindsey says:

    History of Love is one of those books that I have read a couple times and plan on reading a few more times.
    Also some books by Francesca Lia Block, who I believe is technically classified as a young adult author, but her prose is lyrical even when dealing with harsh subjects.

  24. I just finished this book. It was actually a re-reading. She is an amazing writer. As far as a favorite contemporary book, I haven’t one that I am reading right now that fits that category. I need to find one.

  25. Lindsey says:

    History of Love is one of those books that I have already read a couple of times and plan on reading at least a million more.
    I also love some books by Francesca Lia Block, who I believe is technically classified as a young adult author.. She deals with harsh subjects, but her prose is lyrical.

  26. Pamela says:

    Oh it’s hard to pick just one, but Behind The Scenes At The Museum by Kate Atkinson really knocked my socks off.

    Elegance of the Hedgehog
    The Tiger’s Wife
    Cutting For Stone

  27. Katie says:

    It seems like The History of Love is a popular choice! I just read it a few weeks ago and plan to revisit it (and if I can manage it, incorporate it into an academic project sometime). I’m really in love with it.
    I really enjoyed the parts of The Year of Magical Thinking that I read–school interrupted me before I finished. I really ought to get back to it.
    In spite of how much I loved The History of Love and The Elegance of the Hedgehog, both of which I read this summer, I think my current favorite contemporary novel (how’s that for a bundle of adjectives?) is Let the Great World Spin. It’s a novel of slightly epic scope and a really moving read, at least for me Some would disagree, but I don’t really care that they do.

  28. Sam says:

    I’m furiously jotting down everyone’s suggestions – especially since a few of my favorites (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, History of Love, Unbearable Lightness of Being) are already on the list.

    I just finished Norwegian Wood by Murakami. It definitely made it’s way into my favorite books of all time. Each line is true, and simple, and heavy all at once. I can’t recommend it enough, especially if you like the other poetic novels mentioned.

  29. Vicki Archer says:

    ‘One Day’ and ‘If God were a Rabbit’ are the two that come to mind…..xv

  30. Rouenna says:

    Oh, at this point, I’m imagining myself somewhere else while reading Eat Pray Love. I’m always fond of reading stories about traveling and finding one’s self, as well as the inspirations taken along the way.

  31. kouros says:

    Well, mine is “The marriage of Cadmus and Harmony” by Roberto Calasso. Love in the times of gods.

  32. Diana says:

    Virgin suicides, great novel!!

  33. Tonia says:

    It would have to be the Time Traveller’s Wife and Any Human Heart, both of which managed to break mine.
    Loved the Year of Magical Thinking too: the moment when she can’t bring herself to throw his shoes out because when he comes back he’ll need them is still haunting me.

  34. Tina says:

    I know! The shoe scene was so poignant…There are certain details in books that stay with you all your life.

  35. Tina says:

    Escape reading is the best kind!

  36. Tina says:

    Absolutely brilliant. It’s been awhile since I’ve read it, but I still think about it.

  37. Tina says:

    The Europa Editions are really special. When I was in Borders last week for their closing sale, they were all on sale for 60% off. Now I wish I would have bought them all! Alas…

  38. Tina says:

    Oh Wow! Thank you so much! That’s so thoughtful of you! I’m so glad you like my blog!

  39. Ellen says:

    Thank you for starting the discussion… many wonderful suggestions…so little time…..smiles.

  40. Tina says:

    All these sound great.. adding them to my list…

  41. Kristin Jones says:

    Peace Like a River by Leif Enger is my current favorite. Although, Shadow of the Wind and Lacuna are my perfect reads to escape into another world.

  42. Tina says:

    You guys are all so well read! Thank you for your amazing comments.

  43. Gabi says:

    I really like David Mitchell too. My favourite is Cloud Atlas. For me definitely number 1.

  44. Ceri says:

    I can’t choose anything but The Time Traveler’s Wife. I absolutely adore that book and make sure to read it at least once a year. 🙂

  45. Thank you for the book recommendation. My all-time favorites so far are September by Rosamunde Pilcher and Brooklyn by Colm Toibin.

  46. Krissy says:

    Hmm, that *is* a tough one! I’m torn between Paulo Coelho’s “Veronika Decides to Die” and Jeffrey Eugenides’ “The Virgin Suicides”. Both are excellent!

  47. Anna says:

    Zadie Smith’s On Beauty for me.

  48. Jen says:

    Tough question… I’d go with: ‘If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller’, or ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’, or ‘The Jane Austen Book Club’, or…..

  49. Linda says:

    I guess I have some catching up to do, so many good suggestions…though it’ll have to wait a little longer because I also try to get a classic in every now and then and I’m currently reading Jane Austen’s Emma. Extremely loud and incredibly close is amazing, so I agree with everyone on that, but for me it’s Atonement by Ian McEwan, hauntingly beautiful.

  50. Diana says:

    As a Master’s student studying Victorian Literature in England, I don’t often find the time to read contemporary novels.

    Not too long ago, however, I stumbled upon ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife.’ Blew. Me. Away. I fell hard for Henry and Clare.

    On my to-read list is ‘The Help.’ I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it.

  51. Marie says:

    I can’t believe that no one has mentioned Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods”.

  52. kim says:

    year of magical thinking is amazing – and one of those books you want to buy everyone you know.
    fine balance (Rohinton mistry)- also falls into this category for me 🙂

  53. Bec says:

    I read this solely on your recommendation and just wanted to say thank you. I nearly didn’t start it when I picked it up from the library and saw what it was actually about because grief is still a little to raw for me but it was a very therapeutic read. She is an amazing writer.

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