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Good Fiction Guide Paperback – Aug 4 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Second Edition edition (Aug. 4 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192806475
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192806475
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 15.8 x 23 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 721 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #957,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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Format: Paperback
As both a very heavy reader of broad tastes and interests, and a librarian (i.e., a professional recommender of books), I'm always on the look-out for new lists of other people's reading recommendations. This one runs to nearly 500 pages, most of it in the form of brief, individually authored articles (from less than half a column in length to two-thirds of a page) on writers who mostly have been originally published in English, ranging from Defoe and Dickens to Patricia Cornwell and Neal Stephenson. There are also nearly three dozen topical essays -- Canada, Fantasy, Film Adaptations, The Sea, Teen, etc -- which I frankly found too idiosyncratic to be of much use. It took me several weeks to work my way slowly through this thing, notepad at hand to jot down authors and titles that were new to me, or which the reviewer convinced me I ought to reconsider. I filled more than a dozen pages, which means I can happily push this volume on other dedicated readers. Not that I don't have some caveats. No such book can be all-inclusive, of course, so I won't complain about the (in my opinion) excellent authors who were omitted. Though I'm annoyed that a relatively minor science fiction author from the '50s like John Wyndham is discussed, but not the innovative John Varley. On the other hand, can you even begin to talk about Robert Coover without mentioning his most widely-read novel, _The Universal Baseball Association, Inc.?_ Or Stephen King with no mention of _The Stand,_ which is as close as he has yet come to a magnum opus? There seems also to be a heavy emphasis on British writers, with many minor names being included out of proportion to less-known U.S. authors; this bias is not noted in the Introduction, but becomes obvious as you browse. Well, an editor's lot is never an easy one. But they really should have included a title index.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a useful book for those interested in literature, wishing to expand their reading, or just looking for a good book.
The book has two main sections.
The first is a series of essays by leading writers in various fields. So Michael Dibdin writes on Crime, Lee Clark Mitchell on Westerns with other essays on other genres and also major countries of fiction such as America, France etc. Each essayist picks 12 examples of the finest books in each field.
These short essays are very useful as introductions to a field or area of writing and point you in the right direction for further reading.
The second section is an A-Z listing of over 1,000 authors with short biographical details and suggested reading.
Taken together these elements make for a most informative guide which I have found very useful to increase my reading and I am sure other lovers of books will find likewise.
There are some glaring ommisions - no Haruki Murakami?! - and some of the entries can be a bit snobbish but overall there is a good balance.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Like I *need* another thirty years worth of good reading.... Dec 8 2003
By Michael K. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As both a very heavy reader of broad tastes and interests, and a librarian (i.e., a professional recommender of books), I'm always on the look-out for new lists of other people's reading recommendations. This one runs to nearly 500 pages, most of it in the form of brief, individually authored articles (from less than half a column in length to two-thirds of a page) on writers who mostly have been originally published in English, ranging from Defoe and Dickens to Patricia Cornwell and Neal Stephenson. There are also nearly three dozen topical essays -- Canada, Fantasy, Film Adaptations, The Sea, Teen, etc -- which I frankly found too idiosyncratic to be of much use. It took me several weeks to work my way slowly through this thing, notepad at hand to jot down authors and titles that were new to me, or which the reviewer convinced me I ought to reconsider. I filled more than a dozen pages, which means I can happily push this volume on other dedicated readers. Not that I don't have some caveats. No such book can be all-inclusive, of course, so I won't complain about the (in my opinion) excellent authors who were omitted. Though I'm annoyed that a relatively minor science fiction author from the '50s like John Wyndham is discussed, but not the innovative John Varley. On the other hand, can you even begin to talk about Robert Coover without mentioning his most widely-read novel, _The Universal Baseball Association, Inc.?_ Or Stephen King with no mention of _The Stand,_ which is as close as he has yet come to a magnum opus? There seems also to be a heavy emphasis on British writers, with many minor names being included out of proportion to less-known U.S. authors; this bias is not noted in the Introduction, but becomes obvious as you browse. Well, an editor's lot is never an easy one. But they really should have included a title index.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Nice Guide to Accessible Fiction Nov. 26 2006
By A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The first third of this chatty guide to modern and classic adult fiction is a series of essays recommending key authors and titles in 34 various genres/topics/national literatures. Each is written by a writer or editor (mostly British) with "a special interest" in the the subject, although very few are household names (the two most well known are probably crime writers Michael Didbin and Val McDermid). The essays are about four or five pages, and include a "Top 12" list of the essayist's favorites in that area. While these are somewhat fun to dip into, like all such essays they are awfully idiosyncratic, and thus need to be taken with many grains of salt.

Nonetheless, the editors should be commended for highlighting a good deal of world literature, with essays devoted to: Africa, Australia/New Zealand, Canada, The Caribbean, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Russia, and the U.S. However, other than this particular coverage, readers should be aware that the authors and titles selected for mention have a very strong British emphasis. Authors were only included if they are well-known (in Britain), in print, or seminal to a particular topic or genre. However, while most selections may be available in the UK, some may be much harder to track down elsewhere.

The remaining two-thirds of the book are small biographies of 1,000+ authors, with indications as to their key works, and three "similar" writers. For example, if you like Nick Hornby, try Roddy Doyle, Kingsly Amis, or J.D. Salinger. On the whole, an attractive, accessible book to dip into to get some ideas of new stuff to read, but hardly the last word on the topic.

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