I’m almost positive I’ve asked you this before, but do you always read the back cover before you start reading a book? And, in that same vein, because I think the two questions are related, how do you get recommendations or ideas for what to read next?
Sometimes I’ll find myself going down a rabbit hole stemming from suggestions like, “because you read this, you will certainly like this,” or declarations from a favorite author along the lines of, “the best book I’ve read in years.” Often I’ll simply purchase these books knowing next to nothing about them and hope that I wasn’t misled by a random computer generator or my favorite author. In these instances, I rarely read a summary, hoping to be wowed by any plot twists that lay in wait. In short, I don’t always read the back cover and find I’m delighted to remain in suspense throughout the entire novel.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was one such recommendation and its major twist, which comes around a quarter of the way through the novel caught me well off-guard. As the cover suggests, the plot twist is “one of the best in years.”
While the twist itself certainly prompts praise for the novel’s well accomplished author, Karen Joy Fowler, the language–both its playfulness and precision–deserve great attention as well. I read this after reading a book that was not good, like, really not good, and I was simply overwhelmed by its accessibility and the general velocity of the prose. It is a fantastic read made all the more wonderful when you’re using it as a chaser for one foul-tasting novel.
I really don’t want to spoil the fun so I’ll let you decide what to do from here–that is, whether you want to read more about it or simply read it. I will say that there is a lot of hype surrounding this book, today especially. The Man Booker Prize will be given in London out this evening and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is one of the six books up for the prestigious honor of best fiction book of the year. The prize, first present 45 years ago, was once only open to authors from the UK and Commonwealth countries, the Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe. This year, however, they decided to select from a much broader base: all authors writing in English. Fowler is one of two Americans on the list (the other is Joshua Ferris) and it will be interesting to see which book the committee chooses.
As a final teaser, here is a small excerpt from Fowler about her latest novel:
“It is my attempt to work through what it means to be a human animal. I conceived of it as a book about language – who talks and who doesn’t, who is heard and who isn’t, what can be said and by whom, and what can’t be. As I wrote, it became a book about memory and also about family in both the small and the largest possible sense of that word.”
What do you think? Have you read it? Are you interested? Now that I’ve gone back and looked through past Man Booker Prize winners, I have yet another long list of books I want to read. This is actually how I find a lot of my favorite books. If you recall, I read The Luminaries this year, winner of last year’s prize. It was fantastic. My favorite book of the year.