Recommend Reading: Fiction


Time’s Arrow – Martin Amis

“His best tells the story, backwards, of the life of a Nazi war criminal... Amis’s backward world is rigorously imagined.  It is a world of pathos and cruel hilarity...but the crux, the test of his what he does with Auschwitz... Amis’s profound book adds new and terrifying dimension to the Shakespearean tragic conception of time being “out of joint”. -  James Wood in the Guardian


The Passion of New Eve – Angela Carter

New York has become the City of Dreadful Night where dissolute Leilah performs a dance of chaos for Evelyn.  But this young Englishman’s fate lies in the arid desert where a many-breasted fertility goddess will wield her scalpel to transform him into the new Eve. The Passion of New Eve is an extraordinary journey into the apocalyptic vision of one of Britain’s most brilliant writers.


Making History – Steven Fry

Fry takes a different approach. His main character, Michael Young, meets Leo Zuckermann, whose father was at Auschwitz, and as a result Zuckermann wants to eliminate Hitler. Because the only time travel capability Zuckermann can invent is the ability to send small packages back in time, they come up with a fairly interesting (though very heavily telegraphed) method of accomplishing that. After Michael Young sends his parcel back through time, he suddenly finds himself somewhere else. He's not in Cambridge, he's in Princeton. And though he's the same person, somehow he's different--or at least the person he is in this world is different. And this world is not better. How Fry manages to do all this and make this a humorous novel as well is a feat in itself.


Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

In the "brave new world" of 632 A. F. (After Ford), universal human happiness has been achieved. (Well, almost.) Control of reproduction, genetic engineering, conditioning--especially via repetitive messages delivered during sleep--and a perfect pleasure drug called "Soma" are the cornerstones of the new society. Reproduction has been removed from the womb and placed on the conveyor belt, where reproductive workers tinker with the embryos to produce various grades of human beings, ranging from the super-intelligent Alpha Pluses down to the dwarfed semi-moron Epsilons.


Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka

First published in 1915, this is the story of Gregor Samsa, a young traveling salesman who lives with and financially supports his parents and younger sister. One morning he wakes up to discover that during the night he has been transformed into a "monstrous vermin" or insect. At first he is preoccupied with practical, everyday concerns: How to get out of bed and walk with his numerous legs? Can he still make it to the office on time?


Life of Pi – Yann Martel

After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, one solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific.  The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan.....and a 450 pound Royal Bengal tiger.  The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary works of fiction in recent years.


Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World – Haruki Murakami

Science fiction, detective story and post-modern manifesto all rolled into one rip-roaring novel.  Tracking one man’s descent into the underbelly of contemporary Tokyo, Murakami unites East and West, tragedy and farce, compassion and detachment, slang and philosophy.  The result is a wildly inventive fantasy and a meditation on the many uses of the mind.


Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami

This surreal novel from the acclaimed Japanese novelist (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) focuses on two characters whose lives (as we eventually learn) are linked: a 15-year-old runaway in search of his mother and sister, and an elderly WWII veteran who can speak with cats.


1984 – George Orwell

Newspeak, Doublethink, Big Brother, the Thought Police – George Orwell’s world-famous novel coined new and potent words of warning for us all.  Alive with Swiftian wit and passion, it is one of the most brilliant satires on totalitarianism and the power-hungry ever written.


Fight Club – Chuck Palahnuik

Every weekend, in basements and parking lots across the country, young men with good white-collar jobs and absent fathers take off their shoes and shirts and fight each other barehanded just as long as they have to.  Then they go back to those jobs with blackened eyes and loosened teeth and the sense that they can handle anything.  Fight Club is the invention of Tyler Durden, projectionist, waiter and dark, anarchic genius and it’s only the beginning of his plans for revenge on a world where cancer support groups have the corner on human warmth.


Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

Gulliver is a ship’s surgeon, growing weary of a travelling life.  When he is set adrift on an unknown shore he embarks on a magical journey through strange lands on his epic adventure home.  On return to England he tells of the corruption he has witnessed, mirrored in his own society and of the perfect race, the Houyhnhnm with whom he found an affinity before being cast out of their society for his greed. Whether it is seen as the product of an embittered mind or a profound comment on the Age of Reason and Nature, there is a fascination of distorting mirrors in Swift’s accounts of Lilliput and Brobdignang.