Suggestions for a more worldly reading list?

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Suggestions for a more worldly reading list?



I feel that my literary education until this point has had a bit of an unpleasant bias. After years of English Lit and Humanities classes I've started to notice that nearly every author I've studied has been male, white, and Western. Don't get me wrong, I love Tolstoy, Twain, Marx and Smith, but I feel that somewhere, it's lacking. Other than Plath and Atwood, which I read in high school, I've also read the work of very few women (outside the independent press).

Does anyone have any recommendations? I'm especially interested in South American literature, beyond what hits the North American bestsellers list.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

For goodness' sake!! You're 17 years old. Read for the pleasure of it. You haven't even formed your tastes yet. What's the hurry?



Originally posted by Jet:
Does anyone have any recommendations? I'm especially interested in South American literature, beyond what hits the North American bestsellers list.[/b]

Isabelle Allende (Salvador's niece) might interest you in that case. If you're willing to move a bit north, you might want to try native american writer Louise Erdrich. They both use tons of magic realism in their writing if you find that fun. It's fictional literature with a backdrop of the sociopolitical framework of the times they were writing in. If I were to give a recommendation for a more worldly reading list, I might take it from another approach. Instead of trying different backgrounds of writer, try different subjects. There's a lot more than english literature and the basic humanities.

Though overall I agree with Beltov. Read for fun. If your mind starts conceiving of reading as work, you'll never enjoy it again. What I pretty much do is I go on amazon every couple months and go on a binge on a subject. This time I ordered Lee Smolin's [url= Trouble with Physics[/url], Abraham Pais' Einstein Biography [url= is the Lord[/url], and Steven Pinker's new book, [url= Stuff of Thought[/url]. I went on a philosophy of science binge, mostly.


What about the selected works of George Eliot?

She is a widely acclaimed 19th century writer.

I just picked up the book myself for similar reasons and I am 40 years older!

[ 11 November 2007: Message edited by: DonnyBGood ]


[i]Everything[/i] I read is for pleasure -- I'm just craving something different.

And how can I ever form my tastes if I don't expose myself to new food, Beltov?


When I was 17, or thereabouts, I found the science fiction work of Ursula K. Le Guin thoughtful and insightful. "The Dispossessed" and "Left Hand of Darkness" sticking out in my mind at the moment.

South American literature is one of the vast gaps in my mostly self education, sorry.

I haven't done it lately, but I also remember a time when I read the classics-- some of which I enjoyed, some I didn't, mostly because I felt if more current authors were referencing them, I should read them also.

Unfortunately, that doesn't do much to break you out of the white European male rut.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Well, OK then. What I did to get a quick collection of writing by women, for example, was to go to a used bookstore at a university and buy myself a cheap copy of the Norton Anthology of Literature By Women. From a book like that you could go on to explore other women writers or a particular one in depth.

But you don't actually need to go anywhere else to find great women writers. Canada produces a truckload of them. Alice Munroe is one of the greatest short story writers in the world in English. We have many, many great women poets in this country. And so on.

You might also look at poetry in general. In countries like Russia and Pakistan, the best poets are viewed as national heroes and accorded a lot more respect and attention than in our own country. Vintage publishers used to make a collection of Contemporary World Poetry.

In translation from Spanish I like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Eduardo Galeano, as well as poet Pablo Neruda. But these are all (progressive) male writers.

There are also a number of books that provide a synopsis and critique of many books from many different countries that you could use as a basis for creating a personal reading list. One of these is called "Traces of Magma" but there are many more. Some of these books take a left-wing perspective. Ask a librarian.

When I was 17, my father was finishing a degree in English Literature in preparation for a teaching career. He had a collection of between 5,000 and 10,000 books which I surreptitiously helped myself to. It was a rich, nutritive soil from which grew many of my adult interests, concerns, and tastes.


All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hand in the snow and bring out whatever I can find.

Bring out whatever you can find.

[ 11 November 2007: Message edited by: N.Beltov ]


Speaking of white male writers, Norman Mailer has passed away.

Cueball Cueball's picture

I thought he was a clever writer often.


There was a time when Mailer and Vidal had some great falling out. When Mailer appeared on a talk show, probably "under the weather" and ready to have a verbal confrontation with Vidal, he vocally stumbled, to which Vidal responded, "Once again, words fail Norman."

But I understand that the two later patched things up.


Tough Guys Don't Dance. Mailer. Not very worldy, but fun.


I read the obit for Mailer, I'm not a huge fan of his though -- he kind of struck me as a half-assed Hemingway.

I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 100 Years of Solitude in original Spanish and loved it. It made me all heart-achy.

I think I'll take you up on that advice though and find a nice librarian and some collection/critique type books.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Thomas King is a First Nations writer and his [i]Green Grass, Running Water[/i] is wonderful. George Ryga's play [i]The Ecstasy of Rita Joe[/i] or Jeannette Armstrong's novel [i]Slash[/i] or her poetry are also beautiful works of art.

You can't go wrong with Jorge Luis Borges or Italo Calvino for experimental writing. Luis Pindarello is another excellent Italian writer, though a playwright. Borges's fellow Argentine Manuel Puig's [i]Kiss of the Spider Woman[/i] is one of my favourite books.

I'm in Scotland right now so I'm into some seriously wonderful Scotch literature, which is a nice tonic to the dominant English/American canon. Lewis Grassic Gibbon's [i]A Scot's Quair[/i] is possibly the most beautiful modernist novel written, and James Kelman writes some gritty, working-class Glaswegian fare, mostly in short stories. Check out [i]The Burn[/i] for a good collection.

If you say what kind of male writers you like, I could easily offer you some female writers that would write in a similar style, depending on your preferred time period. Djuna Barnes's [i]Nightwood[/i] is generally considered a woman's [i]Ulysses[/i], but I'm not sure that's a good thing. I much prefer Anita Loos's masterpiece [i]Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.[/i] There's certainly no shortage of women writers in English.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Victor Serge: The Case of Comrade Tulayev


One cold Moscow night, Comrade Tulayev, a high government official, is shot dead on the street, and the search for the killer begins. In this panoramic vision of the Soviet Great Terror, the investigation leads all over the world, netting a whole series of suspects whose only connection is their innocence—at least of the crime of which they stand accused. But The Case of Comrade Tulayev,[b] unquestionably the finest work of fiction ever written about the Stalinist purges,[/b] is not just a story of a totalitarian state. Marked by the deep humanity and generous spirit of its author, the legendary anarchist and exile Victor Serge, it is also a classic twentieth-century tale of risk, adventure, and unexpected nobility to set beside Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls and Andrй Malraux's Man's Fate.

[url=]New York review of Books[/url]

[ 11 November 2007: Message edited by: Cueball ]


I just wander the stacks (or the bookstore) and see what I find. I highly recommend this approach. I have very seldom gone in looking for a specific writer.

(On the other hand, I sometimes hide my reading material when people come over!)

anchovy breather

Typically I'm an avid reader of nearly everything and anything, and not all that choosy. However, a friend of mine turned me on to [url=]Haruki Murakami[/url] a few years ago, and I have since become a huge fan. He remains the about only current fiction writer who I can't wait to read more of these days.

His novels are all brilliant, but I am an even more partial to his short stories. They leave me with weird after-essences that I find myself thinking about for long after I finish reading them. Nothing profound, but not shallow either.


[ 11 November 2007: Message edited by: anchovy breather ]

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Oooh! Haruki Murakami is brilliant!



Originally posted by RosaL:
[b](On the other hand, I sometimes hide my reading material when people come over!)[/b]

You've inspired me to start a new thread in this forum, so I don't take this one off topic!