Monday, March 16, 2009

You Ask; You Gots

You wanted Carolyn Jewel; you gets her. The author of the much-dished-about “Scandal” GuestBlogs for your digital pleasure this Wednesday, March 18 with a quest and a contest just for you.

Now, I’d forgotten Carolyn has a special connection to RBTB, which she reminds us of Wednesday as she's hostessing while I'm off having a little -- can you believe it? -- cataract surgery. It'll be so nice to see clearly again!

Whilst nosing 'round CarolynJewel.com, something struck me. In the area titled “The Love/Hate Section” which, frankly, made me ascared at first, Carolyn’s got a “Novels I Admire and Think Everyone Should Read” heading (followed by the genius “Novels I Despise and Think Everyone Should Read and Agree with Me” which I may steal as the title of some future romance commentary venture).


Anywayz, at the top of Jewel's “Novels I Admire,” is the title of one of my fave novels of all time, and one of the first books I learned to look at critically, “Things Fall Apart,” by Chinua Achebe. It’s a book I think about in snips/snatches or image washes from time to time when something in the everyday sets off a connection. And while romance fiction often does the same for me, literary fiction like this Achebe does so because I get the sense the story is moving me in the same tide with which he's moving/has moved a world view.

Yet a non-romance book doesn't have to be important to us because it moves and shakes. It could be something non-fiction that brings us to a locale we've not visited, or a biography that introduces us to an historical figure we grow to admire.

But enough about my husband's well-documented-at-RBTB obsession with John and Abigail Adams' supposed love story for the ages...What's your favorite non-romance book for the ages? Why do you love it? Is it a "literary" novel? If it's literary, does that make it more important than romance fiction and why?


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Miranda Nevill WINNER: Kati! Write mbuonfiglio@rbthebook.com w/your snail mail, pls. Congratulazione!
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28 comments:

Manda said...

Buongiorno, Bellas!

Oooh, non-romance books. You know I haven't really read one in a long time. Unless you count research books for writing.

My favorite non-romance book though has to be Waterland by Graham Swift. It's funny, it's heartbreaking, it's beautifully written.

Good luck with your cataract surgery, Michelle. They really can do amazing things these days with eye surgery, though. So I know you'll do fine:)

amy*skf said...

Not that I don't think of you ALL the time, but I'll especially be thinking of you on Wednesday--it'll be a huge success--and you'll say, "oh, that's what he looks like."

It's so hard to pick one. It's like picking a favorite child. I love each book for different reasons.

I'm going to list a few--I know more will come to me and I'll bore you all to death.

No order:
Catch 22, by Joseph Heller.
It's a book I'll re-read periodically, but the first time of course was the best--but it was the first book to give me an idea of the horrors and idiocy of war.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee.
Puh-lease as if Scout isn't one of the greatest heroines of all time.

A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving. I have so much to say about this book I don't know where to start. I love the kid.

Any book by J.D. Salinger.
He reaches in and squeazes my soul.

The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevski. I had to take a month off of reading after finishing this book, which itself took me more than a month to finish (in my defense, I had 2 small children at the time) But I was Russian by the end of it!

The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle.
Ooooh the metaphors--or not. Either way it's a gem. The language is lovely and it made me want to be a tragic heroine.

Alrighty then...I think I've gone on long enough. But I do know I'll come up with more. And I'm not sorry.

Kate Pearce said...

Good question. It's hard to pin it down to one. I'd probably go for "The Lovely Bones", "Atonement" and anything by Dorothy Dunnett.

Playground Monitor said...

Right now my favorite non-romance books are Rodale's Synonym Finder and the Flip Dictionary. Must get back to editing and polishing.

Cataracts? Hugs on that, but I've heard it's pretty painless and the recovery is quick. And the bonus is you can see so much better.

Marilyn

amy*skf said...

Manda and Kate--I've never read your picks, but they've been on my non-romance read list. It's just so hard for me to read heartbreaking things these days.

amy*skf said...

Oh, if we're talking writing books, then, Jack Bickham's Writing and Selling Your Novel and Debra Dixon's GMC.

Yes, get back to work Marilyn, cuz we want the thing pubbed so we can read it!

Lois said...

Think my comment disappeared. . . so, hopefully this isn't a repeat --

Well, most of my favorite non-romance books are my science and astronomy ones. And I won't go into titles since that will probably bore people, but to name a name or two, Albert Einstein and Steven Hawking. :)

But then there is Susan Kay's Phantom. Just love this one -- it's the story of Erik/the Phantom from when he's born to the time we know him, during the Phantom of the Opera. :)

Lois

Manda said...

Totally understand not wanting the heartbreak right now, Amy. I actually gave Waterland to a friend to read a few years back and she was all "thanks for giving me such a downer to read" :)

Though I still think it's a gorgeous book, it's not something I'd want to read right now while everything seems so gloomy with the economy. That's why I mostly read romance these days. Real life can be depressing enough!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buona sera, Bellas! You know, Manda and Amy, that's the exact reason I try to stay away from literature that's good for me. But last night I was putting together my bio for the upcoming Princeton romance conference and had to start thinkin all smarty pantsy. But, yeah, I really need positive. I mean, there are times I literally reach for a romance like some folks do a cocktail. Um, I wasn't thinking specifically of you or anything, Amy. really.

My son just read Mockingbird for the first time; it's, like, a right of passage in my husband's family.

Lois, sometimes scientists - especially those two -- have the most profound things to say about human nature and humanity. We tend to think science is godless and cold, when in reality the folks who think it up find the beauty and music in the calculations. Or sumthin like that. And I am a HUGE fan of books that riff on classics, so Phantom sounds great.

You go, Marilyn, girl. The only other book I wanna see in your hand is Strunk and White. Or "The French Businessman's Pregnant-by-Her-Former-Brazilian-CEO-Boss's Secretary's-Assistant Virgin Mail Boy Mistress." But that's just for reference. and inspiration.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hi, Kate! Someone was just talking to me about Lovely Bones the other day...hmmm. my memory. grr. who was it? I remember being a little scared of LB when it came when I heard the author speak about it and read pieces about it. It seemed so wonderfully done that I knew it'd kill me to read it.

Manda, I used to adore the big, sad, sweeping, heartache-y novels. And I don't mean the weepy Nick Sparks, etc., but the real books that drive the reality stake through the heart. But, like you, I can't do it when times are tough. And once 9/11 rolled around, for me, it never really became easy to read em again.

Thanks for the well wishes on the surgery, Manda! The steroids I take for my transplant made the cataracts grow pretty quickly.

Oh! But THIS is so cool! When you're 44 and you go to the cataract specialist, everybody you meet there says, "My you're so YOUNG to have this surgery!" Cause everyone else is like, 70 plus. So, I get to feel like a teenager or something. I'll take it however I can get it.

It's so odd, not being able to see well. I can't wait til it's over; it'll be so cool. And maybe amyskf won't laugh at me anymore, because I won't have to hold papers really close to my eyes to see after the surgery. I just hate to take away that source of humor for you, my friend. :) Really, guys, I literally use a magnifying glass w/my glasses.

Playground Monitor said...

Steven Hawking

I got on Facebook a while back and because my 40th high school reunion is this year (yeah, I know I don't look that old), a bunch of us from the class of 69 have friended each other and have been posting class group photos from junior high school.

One of our classmates founded a pharmaceutical company in Boston and he's like a bazillionaire now. But he's a good bazillionaire because he makes million-dollar contributions to good causes. And in his photo section there's a picture of him in Zero-G, the airplane you can ride to experience weightlessness. And who is beside him in the photo? Stephen Hawking. Holy moly. I took this dude (bazillionaire, not Hawking) to the Sadie Hawkins dance in 9th grade.

Don't got no billionaire French CEOs or virgin mistress with a Brazillian bikini wax in my book. It's just a simple story about a woman who wants to make a withdrawal from a sperm bank and a man who'd rather she accept a direct deposit. ;-)

Marilyn

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Play: I.Can't.Stop.Laughing.

Stacy said...

Michelle! Good luck with the surgery. I hope everything goes smoothly and you can clearly see all those hotties you have such "innocent" affection for. Will be sending tons of healing prayers your way.

To be honest, I haven't read anything non-romance for awhile, at least not anything on a grand scale that sticks in my mind. You know I can't even handle too much harsh reality in my romances (i.e. bastard heroes nailing every woman in sight along with the heroine) so I tend to shy from them in fiction. I do adore biographies though, especially on movie stars of the 40's & 50's. They just seem so glamourous, until you read the "real" story. Not sure how much is true and how much is speculation, but they are one of my guilty pleasures.

orannia said...

Hmmm. The first book that popped into my head when I thought of your question Michelle was James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small. It's, to all intent and purpose, an autobiography of a country vet in the Yorkshire Dales. The stories are humourour and heart-breaking and were my first 'adult' books when I was a child.

All the best on Wednesday with the cataract surgery Michelle!

Congrats Kati!

Janga said...

I could fill a book with my favorite non-romance reads, starting with the Epic of Gilgamesh and ending with the recently-read Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. But since I'm limited by space and time :), I'll just list a two of my favorite Southern lit novels:

Losing Battles by Eudora Welty is a wonderfully sprawling book that covers just over twenty-four hours of a family reunion that takes place in the hill country of northeast Mississippi in the 1830s. It is filled with unforgettable, vibrant characters, comic moments from the slapstick to the subtle, and symbols rich with messages of survival and hope. I love this book!

Fair and Tender Lady by Lee Smith is an epistolary novel about Ivy Rowe, a woman born at the turn of the century in the mountains of Virginia. The letters, written to family and friends, cover her life from the time she is twelve until the end of her life in her seventies. Ivy wants to become a writer who writes about love, but she instead she becomes a mother and a wife. But her passion, her creativity, and her search for all the selves that are part of her fill the book. Lee Smith is one of my favorite writers, and this one is her best IMO.

Hugs and good wishes on the eye surgery, Michelle.

Portia Da Costa said...

Yikes, good luck with the cataract surgery, Queen Bella. I'll be thinking of you and sending positive thoughts that day!

Hey, Marilyn, I've got the Rodale too!

My favourite 'read again and again' non romance books are Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, by Thomas Harris. Fabulous writing, even though they are gory and violent.

My favourite non romance erotic novels are the Domino Trilogy by Cyrian Amberlake. Quite hard BDSM in places, but also literary and amazingly well written.

I also remember reading and loving Possession by A S Byatt, the only *overtly* literary novel I've ever really sampled.

Right now, I'm reading a lot of Conan Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes stories, and really enjoying them. Got them as an ebook! So it's like period fiction in a 21st Century medium... cool!

Kati said...

Oh! I won! How exciting, thanks Michelle and Miranda...and right in time for my birthday too.

Umm, non romance book that I love? Huh. That's a toughie.

I did read and love Eat, Pray, Love last year and I adored it. But really, I try really hard not to overtax my brain with non-romance stuff.

I read the Black Jewel trilogy last year too, and I adored it. But I could make a really strong case for it being a romance, even though it's shelved as a dark fantasy.

I loved Devil in the White City, and I loved Angels & Demons. I'm reading In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming right now. That's a mystery, but overall, I really only read romance.

amy*skf said...

You make me sound like a drunk bitch...oh, that's right. Sorry forgot.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Portia, "Posession: A Romance" probably is my fave non-romance novel of all time! And on the erotica front, it can be so flippin literary it can make the brain ache.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Ah, the truth vs reality thing really is hard, Stacy. As you know, the rule is: It's not true unless you read it on the Internet.

ames: d'oh!

Ah, Janga, Southern women literary writers just have that special view of the world. their ability to bring theirs closer to us is a gift. Thanks for sharing your favorites.

Orannia, you are such a great lover of creatures, too. :) I've never read the books, but my best friend when I was a kid adored them; she wanted to be a vet because of them, as I suspect so many kids do and have. Hope your kitty's all better.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Kati, can I use this as a line in my bio for the Princeton conference: Buonfiglio states I try really hard not to overtax my brain with non-romance stuff.

Because it says it all for me, too. :)

Kati said...

Sadly, it's SO true, Michelle. Sooo much romance, SOOOO little time.

BTW, I should have said YAY! about Carolyn coming. Scandal absolutely blew me out of the water. Every moment absolutely superb.

You know how I love romances that seethe with emotion. I marveled at the intent that she wrote with.

I'm really looking forward to her visit. Thanks for bringing her!

Princess Bumblebee said...

Evening, Bellas! Great subject today. I am totally addicted to, ok, so no more than a great romance novel, to Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels. Ok, so they do have romantic tendancies and I could so see her character, a bad boy bounty hunter that's just too mysterious and delish for words, in his own romance novel, hehe. If you haven't read them, I suggest you go out and read one. They very funny, her humor very real, very every day and her characters very flawed and true, but you just love 'em.
Oh, QB I hope your eye surgery goes well. We'll miss you. Now you'll really be able to take a good look at those wet mens you love to display, hehe.

ev said...

Michelle- Jim had his 2nd surgery last year and the difference between the recovery from the first one 10 years ago was amazing. By the next day he was driving and now he can see at night to drive- which means we can go out and i can have a drink!

Love the James Herriot books. Along with my original copy of Lassie Come Home, which I still have and still read.

As for non-romance, Jennifer Weiner's Good in Bed comes to mind immediately, along with Elizabeth Moon's Paksennarion series and everything McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey. I am missing meeting her this weekend for this road trip, which sucks.

Lis said...

Michelle, good luck with your surgery!! I'm sure all will be fine and you'll totally enjoy those pictures you post for us so much more!!!
My two fave non-romance literary works are plays actually. The Crucible by Arthur Miller is one of the most powerful pieces of literature out there. It's about the Salem Witch Trials. Also like the play Inherit the Wind about the Scopes Monkey trial (which happened just up the road from where I live here in TN!).
Contemp non-romance writers - those Southern women y'all mentioned above - I love Dorothea Benton Frank. If you haven't read any of hers, you should check them out.

amy*skf said...

Oh Lis, I saw The Crucible performed at the Guthrie theatre, I was maybe 14, and even at that ridiculous age I knew I was watching something spectacular.

Ev, I love Jennifer Weiner.

Lis said...

Amy, that's so exciting. I've seen the movie version, and we actually performed it in English class when I was in high school. But to see it at the Guthrie - WOW!

Ev - Lassie Come Home!!! I cried & cried!!

Santa said...

I live by my tag - smbslt (so many books, so little time). Here are my all time favorite non-romance books - and in no particular order:

The Count of Monte Cristo by Allesandre Dumont.

Say A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.

And anything by Umberto Eco. Seriously. Though I have to empty my head of everything else before I dive in.

I hope all went well with your opereation!!