Return to Fiction

I have been stuck in this prolonged period of choosing to read non-fiction books only. That period officially ended today when I picked up from the bookstore the next six books that I plan on reading. Of the six books that I purchased, five of them are fiction. Two of the books are classics of fiction that I am a little bit embarrassed to admit that I am just now reading.

Here they are:

A Bend in the River: V.S. Naipaul: In my latest round of reading books on the Congo, I realized that up until now, I have neglected to read the most important fiction work ever situated in the Congo. I started it approximately an hour and a half ago and have worked my way through the first 55 pages. I was hooked at the first line, “The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.” The fact that I have become so engrossed in a book featuring a shopkeeper as the main character who passes the first 55 pages of the book not doing much speaks to the power of the writing and the character development. Simply wonderful. I am contemplating staying up all night to read the entire thing.

A Burnt-Out Case: Graham Greene: Again, this book I also realized that I needed to read in my latest round of Congo non-fiction reading. Haven’t started it yet, but a book that takes place at a Congolese leper colony I am sure will hold my attention.

Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, Maaza Mengiste: I am a sucker for the next big fiction writer to come from the African continent. In fact, new African fiction writers are about the only type of fiction that I have really delved into in the past few years. The author Uwem Akpan, who wrote the beautiful collection of short stories told from the point of view of African children Say You Are One of Them, has given this writer praise so I am expecting good things.

Bloodroot, Amy Greene: Yes, I am capable of reading fiction books that do not take place on the African continent and this book proves it. It takes place in rural Appalachia and has something to do with some tragedy that haunts a family through several generations, and I have heard good things, so I am taking a chance. The author is from East Tennessee and still resides there, which gives me much respect for her because I appreciate the tradition of writers who stay in the place that they write about instead of running off to large metropolitan areas (or living in those places all along and never really encountering rural America in an authentic way) and think they still possess a clear insight into the goings on of rural America.

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway: Nope, I haven’t ever read it. Yes, I realize that admission is probably embarrassing. It and Death in the Afternoon are the two Hemingway books that I never swallowed, so I figured that since I was going to Southern Spain in a few months I was long overdue to actually read at least one of them. The Spanish Civil War sounds a bit more interesting to me than bullfighting, so that is why I went with this one.

The Ornament of the World, Maria Rosa Menocal: Of course one non-fiction book had to make my list. This one discusses the tolerant religious society of Southern Spain in the Medieval Period. I want to understand all of those alhambras and alcazares that I am looking at when I go there, so I thought this might be a good place to start.

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