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Amateur Reader (Tom)

A couple of recent good ones:

Stone Arabia, Dana Spiotta
The Year We Left Home, Jean Thompson

Quite different; you can see if they look appealing.

An older book, also entirely different - have you read Grace Paley? Her first collection, Little Disturbances of Man (1959) is uniquely crackly and funny.

I used to read a lot of Bobbie Ann Mason. Her early short stories are excellent, simple building towards complex.


On my list would definitely be:
Margaret Atwood: reread Surfacing a short while ago,
Joan Didion, possibly Blue Nights,
Marilynne Robinson, most likely Gilead
and another reread: Paule Marshall Praisesong for the Widow.

Claire (The Captive Reader)

If there is one thing I learned how to do in school, it's rattle off a list of female Canadian authors. We focused almost exclusively on them. Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood you've got but in terms of classic Can Lit there's also Carol Shields, Margaret Laurence, Gabrielle Roy, Ethel Wilson, and Mavis Gallant. For some slightly more recent authors, you could try Ann-Marie Macdonald, Elizabeth Hay, Jane Urquhart, and Helen Humphreys (all favourites of mine). And though she's not terribly well-known, Gwethalyn Graham's Earth and High Heaven from 1944 is a stunningly good book about anti-Semitism in Montreal.


I'd add Lynne Sharon Schwarz, both Leaving Brooklyn and Disturbances in the Field (which is one of my top 10 novels ever) for the U.S. I would also second the recommendation of Carol Shields, with a nod to Unless, and mention B. C. novelist Audrey Thomas's Intertidal Life, which I like a lot. If you don't mind something a bit meta-fictional, I also really love Daphne Marlatt's Ana Historic.


Lee Smith is wonderful


Audrey Niffenegger would have to be on my list, with Anita Shreve and Jean M. Auel.


Tom/Amateur Reader--My library got in the Spiotta book--now I must go look at it! Do you know I am familiar with the name Grace Paley, but I don't think I know a thing about her writing. I've looked at Bobbie Ann Mason's books--lots of good suggestions--thanks!

Catharina--Gilead is on my list of books to read this year (I really need to go back and look at that list and get going on it). I love Margaret Atwood and read Surfacing maybe 20 years ago. Definitely time to reread her books. I've not heard of that Didion book and have seen Paule Marshall's work but never read her. So many great suggestions!

Claire--Thanks--lots to explore. Ethel Wilson was suggested to me before. I just had one of her books in my hand and now will go and retrieve it. I just read Helen Humphreys and do enjoy her work very much. Although I've heard of some of those authors, there are too many I've not heard of and haven't read most of them. I do have a book by Elizabeth Hay somewhere however!

Rohan--I definitely want to read Lynne Sharon Schwartz and have pulled out Leaving Brooklyn. High praise indeed for Disturbances in the Field, which I own but haven't a clue where it is--will be digging around for it now. I never did get around to reading Carol Shields, though I have several of her books. I have neglected US/Canadian authors for far too long! Thanks for the reading suggestions.

Linda--I have never read her, though I am familiar with the name--will be searching out her books and seeing what she's written.

Scriptorsenex--I think I am the only person who has not yet read Audrey Niffengger--though I do have both her books! I've read a few books by Anita Shreve--though I think I own many more that I never have gotten around to. Do you have a favorite? And somehow even though I love historical fiction, I managed to miss Jean Auel.

Many thanks for all the great suggestions so far! I will of course be picking up these books to check out and will start reading (at least) one of them as soon as I can decide where to start. I knew it would be a good idea to ask for suggestions!


I love the list. I would like to do this more regularly as well. I've got already quite a few as you have mentioned the one or the other.
I went through an Elizabeth Berg phase. She is hardly known in Europe, maybe in the UK but not outside.
I need to get Charms for the Easy Life, it seems.
I'm glad Tom mentioned Bobbie Ann Mason, I was thiking of her for the readalong.

Liz F

Ooh what a lovely list! I know quite a few of the names and have read some of them, but there are definitely a lot I have never heard of and must investigate!
I should start with my own shelves though as I have backlogs of Anne Tyler and Anita Shreve, and odd copies of others including Charms for the Easy Life, the Grace Paley and The Stone Angel which I acquired after the last time you mentioned her but still haven't got around to reading!
As a Brit,I am equally keen on reading USA set books as you are on books set here. Small town America has an endless fascination for me as does the West (wild or otherwise)


I'm a huge Kaye Gibbons fan.
No one has mentioned AM Homes --possibly the most astounding writer out there.
Am blown away by her writing.
Reminds me a little of Jeanette Winterson.


I haven't read an awful lot of US women writers but I did enjoy The Lacuna and I like Annie Proulx and Ursula Le Guin.


To add to the list, I like Ann Patchett, Laura Lippman, Jane Smiley and Sena Jeter Naslund. Elinor Lipman is fun also. Lots of great authors on your list and in the comments!


Caroline--Do you ever pick up a book to read and realize you don't read books like it very often and wonder why not? That's what happened to me. I always get the best recommendations from readers here, so if I give a shout out I end up with a great list of books I wouldn't have thought of otherwise. Already at work I have four books from the list waiting for me--I had too much already to carry to bring them home today--so something to look forward to next week! I've not read Elizabeth Berg for years. I'm not even sure what new books she might have out, but I'd love to reread some of her novels. Ditto for Kaye Gibbons. Charms for the Easy Life is my favorite book by her. And I'd heard of Bobbie Ann Mason--must check out her books, though, as I somehow missed ever reading/buying anything by her.

Liz--Isn't it a great list--all the new titles there at the end. It's fun exploring new authors, or just new books by an author I've heard of but never read. I tend to collect books by authors when I've read one and think I now want to read all the rest--but it takes me a while sometimes to get back to them. I don't own anything by Grace Paley--she is someone I want to look for. Isn't it funny how life on the other side of the pond seems more interesting than the one we are living? But I feel like reading a few more American and Canadian authors than I usually do.

Elizabeth--I read several of her books, too, and greatly enjoyed them. I might have to pull them out for a reread. I have not read anything by AM Homes--thanks for the suggestion. She looks intriguing! I've not read much by Jeanette Winterston, but I'm curious about the comparison now!

Katrina--I bought the Lacuna in paper and often think of reading it. I have enjoyed Barbara Kingsolver's earlier books very much. Annie Proulx and Ursula Le Guin are two authors who fall into that 'always mean to read' category! I've added them to my list!

Kathy--I loved Sena Jeter Naslund's Ahab's Wife. Did you read it? I could easily reread that one. I have also read a little of Elinor Lipman (it's been ages)) and Ann Patchett. Somehow I have managed to never read any Jane Smiley, but now that you mention her you put me in the mood to dig out by books by her--I wonder where they are?! I listened to one of Laura Lippman's audio books and it was a great story and a great narrator! Thanks for the ideas!

Jennifer Dee

How about Gladys Taber 'My Own Cape Cod'; May Sarton I love also; E.Annie Proulx 'The Shipping News'; Jane Smiley 'A Thousand Acres'. I must admit my favourite authors are female of the first half of the 20th century which covers British, American and Canadian. I love lists of anykind.


I'm so glad Jennifer Dee brought up Gladys Taber. Read anything by her.

What wonderful suggestions and lists, all of which I concur. Jodi Piccoult always has a different angle and I like Anna Quindlen.


I don't usually comment twice, but here goes: I have read Ahab's Wife and loved it. I've liked all of Ann Patchett's work, and my favorite Jane Smiley is Horse Heaven. (I've tried to read A Thousand Acres several times and for some reason, just couldn't get into the story.) I loved Laura Lippman's What the Dead Know and absolutely want to read more of her work...should move her to the top of the list.


Jennifer--I think I have one or two of Gladys Taber's books--as yet unread! Jane Smiley and Annie Proulx are both on my list of books to read! And like you I very much enjoy books from the first half of the 20th century, too, though I think I tend more towards British women writers--will still keep reading that era but I hope to expand things a bit as well!

Penny--I really must dig out my Gladys Taber books. I think she wrote a number of them set in Cape Cod, didn't she? The setting sounds very appealing to me at the moment! I've not read anything by Jodie Picoult for years and I have only read one nonfiction book by Anna Quindlen--I always think of her as being a columnist, but she did write novels, too, didn't she!

Kathy--I loved Ahab's Wife, too. I even own it in hardcover. I read it at the same time as a coworker and she loved it as well--has traveled to that part of the US (so I am envious). I've only read one book by Ann Patchett but have looked at her newest book. And Jane Smiley somehow just slipped through the cracks for me. For a long time A Thousand Acres didn't appeal to me, but I think I'd like to try it. And that is the one Laura Lippman novel I listened to on audio--it was a great audio book and I have often since then looked at her books at the library-just haven't gotten around to reading any others yet. Lots of good choices! :)


I really enjoyed reading The Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb. Gibb was born in England, but grew up and lives in Canada. I've also heard good things about her latest novel The Beauty of the Humanity movement, but haven't read it myself yet.


I just love your list. The books on it I've read, I adored, so as ever I am far too encouraged to go seeking out the other ones! I do have an Elizabeth Berg novel that I bought in Heffers recently. I'd never heard of her before, but clearly she's a favourite of lots of people. I also love Alison Lurie, and think if you like Anne Tyler you are bound to like her too!


I eagerly await your thoughts on Anne Tyler. I love Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant but it is oh so sad.


Tiina--They do sound good and I am adding them to my list! I hadn't heard of her before, so thanks!

Litlove--I like Elizabeth Berg--it's been a long time since I read her and now want to pull out some of her books to read again. Either she's not written anything lately or I seem to have missed her later books. I have yet to read either Alison Lurie or Anne Tyler, but I think I will likely enjoy both!

Nicola--I keep adding Anne Tyler to my reading lists and then not getting to her books. I must read this one this year! I am sure I will like her--and have read bits of the book, but I am not surprised (from the way the story begins) that it will not be a happy read!

Liz F

Do read Anna Quindlen, Danielle as I'm sure you would like her.
I have read all apart from her very first novel, and have loved them without exception - they are real sit-down-and-get-absorbed books and very hard to put down.

I have had a good look at my shelves this weekend and spotted quite a few more writers and books from your list and those suggested by others so tonight I plan to collect them up and put them all in one place to work through them (well that's the theory anyway!)
I'll start with Anne Tyler as I have just collected her newest from the library, but I am already reading a book of short stories by Barbara Kingsolver so that should keep me occupied for a few days (although the Tyler is a very slim book)
Thanks again for a very thought provoking post and thanks to all your commenters for some brilliant suggestions.


You've already got so many good ones on your list I can't think of any others to add! If I do, I'll be sure to let you know :)


Liz--I read one very slim nonfiction book by AQ which I very much liked--it was about reading. I will have to look for her novels now. I am always looking for absorbing reads! Isn't it nice to find books from lists already on your shelves? That's why I hate weeding--eventually I'll pick up the book. And that is the beauty of having a personal library, too. Anne Tyler is going to have to be a must read for me--I collect her and never read her. Which book are you going to read by her? I really enjoyed Barbara Kingsolver, but it has been years since I've read anything. And yay for suggestions. I love them and am happy that others who stop by here find them useful as well.

Stefanie--Yes, please do! I am sure I only need to do a bit more looking through my own shelves to add to the list. But there are plenty of good books to start with here.

Rebecca H.

I would add Mary McCarthy and Helen DeWitt (even though she doesn't live in the U.S. now -- she was born here). Did nobody mention Edith Wharton? Or did I miss that?


Rebecca--Edith Wharton is always on my list of women/American authors. I was hoping to get more contemporary ideas, so I suspect that's why she hadn't yet come up, but Mary McCarthy is definitely someone I want to read more of (it's been a long time since I've read any of her work), and Helen DeWitt is new to me, so I'm going to check her out--thanks!

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