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Notes from 2001. To be updated.

Iím a sucker for novels that tell a good story. I particularly like paperbacks in the English language with aesthetically appealing covers. If they contain a happily ending love story I donít hold it against them. I find books that satisfy these criteria mainly by browsing in book stores. Most of them are by contemporary American writers. But there are some exceptions on the list below, which covers my best reads in the last 3-4 years. Blue colour indicates my particularly strong recommendations. The absolute winners (in my book) are in red.

I hope you find something of interest.



Andrews, Lynn. Medicine Woman. Los Angeles lady meets shamanism among Canadian indians, and the dividing line between fact and fiction becomes unclear. 1981. Harper Prism 1995. 282 pages.

Brink, Andrť. An instant in the wind. Black prisoner on the run saves white lady lost in the interior of South Africa in the 1700s. An exceptional story of love and black supremacy. 1976. Norwegian edition: Aschehoug 1985. 290 pages.

Boyle, T. Coraghessan. The tortilla curtain. Protected upper middle class life outside Los Angeles contrasted with the desperate struggle for survival of a young couple of illegal Mexican immigrants. Bloomsbury 1995. 355 pages.

Caldwell, Erskine. Godís little acre. Simple country people and plain passion in the deep south during the Great Depression. An incredible book, that takes you right back to what itís all about. 1933. Signet. 160 pages.

Caldwell, Erskine. Journeyman. A small community is manipulated and torn apart by a travelling preacher. 1935. Brown Thrasher Book 1996. 195 pages.

Caldwell, Erskine. Tobacco road. More Great Depression atmosphere, this time in a family of destitute white sharecroppers, preoccupied by hunger, sexual longing, and racist attitudes to the black families living near them. 1932. Brown Thrasher Book 1995. 184 pages.

Carr, Caleb. The alienist. New York City 1896: Psychiatrist (called Ďalienistí at the time) uses psychological profiling to hunt down serial killer of male prostitutes. Profound. Warner 1994. 612 pages.

Casey, John. Spartina. New England: A classic tale of an unhappy man, his woman, his boat and a storm. 1989. Vintage Contemporaries 1998. 375 pages.

Cooper, Clarence Jr. The Scene. A story of hustlers, drug addicts, undercover cops, pimps and whores, written by one of them. 1960. Payback Press 1996. 293 pages.

Courtenay, Bryce. Jessica. The Australian outback in the early 1900s: Based on the real life of a brave young woman who falls victim to the scheming of her mother in the latterís efforts to marry her older daughter to the rich land ownerís son. Penguin 1998. 590 pages.

Evans, Nicholas. The horse whisperer. Montana: A story of love between man and horse and man and woman (in that order). Dell 1995. 450 pages.

Evans, Nicholas. The loop. About a conflict over wolves between farmers and conservationists in Montana.

Frazier, Charles. Cold Mountain. The parallell stories of a soldier wounded in the Civil War making his long way home, and his wife surviving on their small mountain farm during his long absence. Sceptre Paperback 1997. 436 pages.

Gayle, Mike. Mr. Commitment. Witty, Nick-Hornby-style narrative of the cold a young man can get thrown into if he backs away from marrying his girl friend. Flame Paperback 1999. 320 pages.

Guterson, David. Snow falling on Cedars. Washington State: The death of a fisherman in the 1950s turns into a murder trial of a Japanese-American and a test of passions brewed since Pearl Harbour. Bloomsbury 1995. 404 pages.

Hamilton, Jane. The book of Ruth. Small town Wisconsin: A young woman tries to keep the peace between her mother and the sweet but slightly deranged man she marries and supports. Hamilton writes unique, poetic prose. 1989. Black Swan 1999. 335 pages.

Hamilton, Jane. A map of the world. Small town Wisconsin: A man is put to the test as a child drowns and, somewhat independently, a woman is wrongly sent to jail for abusing a schoolboy. Poetic prose with a moral lesson. Black Swan.

Hamilton, Jane. The short history of a prince. A story of a manís love for ballet and a fellow dancer. 1998. Black Swan 1999. 430 pages.

Hornby, Nick. High fidelity. Extremely witty British account of desperate young man selling second hand vinyl and looking for love.

Hornby, Nick. About a boy. Equally witty about the same type of desperate, single male, this time responsible for a boy even smaller than himself. Victor Gollancz 1998. 286 pages.

Hustvedt, Siri. The blindfold. Life as seen through the eyes of a graduate student at Columbia University. A personal, profound and definitely female perspective. Sceptre Paperback 1993. 220 pages.

Hustvedt, Siri. The enchantment of Lily Dahl. Young woman gets involved with older man, and strange things happen. Sceptre Paperback 1996.

La Farge, Oliver. Laughing Boy. A beautiful story of love and drama between two young Navajo indians, written by a young American anthropologist in 1929. Penguin (Signet Classics) 1971. 192 pages.

Lamb, Wally. I know this much is true. Young man struggles in adult life with the burden of having grown up with a schizofrenic, identical twin brother and a brutal step father. His Sicillian immigrant authoritarian grandfatherís diary becomes a novel in the novel. Exceptional, with a moral lesson. 900 pages.

McCarthy, Cormac. The Border Trilogy: All the pretty horses (1993, 300 pages); The Crossing (1994, 420 pages); Cities of the plain (1998, 291 pages). Texas and Mexico before the war: Young boys and horses, dreams of adventure and women - more terse than Hemingway and with no less sadness and desperation. Exceptional. Picador.

Michener, James. Hawai The history of Hawai in beautiful fiction, covering the original underwater volcanic eruption, preceding life on Polynesian Bora Bora, the flight of some Bora Borans to the legendary land further north, the arrival of missionaries from New England in the early 1800s and the later immigration of large numbers of workers from China and Japan. Exceptional storytelling. 1960. Corgi Books 1987. 1130 pages.

Morgan, Robert. Gap Creek. The hardships of a brave young girl from a small mountain farm in Appalachia (?), who marries an immature young boy and tries to make ends meet. Poetic prose.

Pirsig, Robert. Lila. An inquiry into morals, conducted by a philosopher who sails down the Hudson river and picks up a complicated female companion along the way. By the author of ĎZen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. Bantam Books 1991. 468 pages.

Thompson, Rubert. Air and fire. Santa Sofia, Mexico, around 1900: Great engineer neglects his young clairvoyante wife Suzanne, who turns her passion elsewhere. Magical moments. Penguin 1994. 310 pages.

Vanderhaeghe, Guy. The Englishmanís boy. The parallell and related stories of a young Indian hunter in 1873 and an old-time Western actor in 1920s Hollywood. Anchor 1998. 315 pages.