The Brothers Karamazov
by Feodor Dostoevsky

(Spelling of the author's name varies by publisher)

Dostoevsky originally intended this as a book about children and their unique way of seeing the world and interacting with adults and their rules. And although several chapters carry this theme, he expanded the novel on the insistence of his publisher to create a most unusual work of fiction.

The father has been described as the most obnoxious character in print. His sons are each as different from each other as believably possible. One is a pious monk. Another a stiff soldier turned lawyer. One is a developmentally disabled. And one a carousing daredevil who wins your heart.

The novel avoids abject tradgedy. In several passages it is uplifting. It wanders the Russian landscape seemingly without object, and then mounts suddenly to tie in the elements to a stunning cressendo and satisfyfing ending.

Rendezvous with Rama

by Arthur C. Clarke

One of my favorite science fiction novels. An object is discovered hurtling towards our solar system from deep space. As it gets closer astronomers discover that its shape is perfectly cylindrical - a kilometer in diameter and ten kilometers long. Thus begins the most unusual oddysey's of realistically told, and in believale in classic Clarke style.

This book offers an unusually compelling escape from reality. The story is so out of the realm of usual experience, and yet so vividly told, that reading it for only a half-hour is enough to trasport you completely - enough to make a lunch hour seem like a decade.

The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing

by Melissa Bank

Funny and smart. If you like reading books about the literary field especially, but even if you don't, don't like to read, per se, and would rather watch Sex in the City, then you should read this book because you will like it and laugh out loud frequently.

Franny and Zoey

by J. D. Salinger

I've just finished the first part, Franny. Her experience of finding The Way of a Pilgrim so closely resembles my own that I found this story totally compelling. You don't get to that point in the story without first having to endure some of the pointless hubris of her youthful (read collegiate) associates , something at which Salinger is more adroit at than anyone else - ever - but it is worth it, and makes her escape into the spiritual more compelling.

If you have ever suspected that there is an alternate way to live life and see purpose in it, you should read this brief story. It will give you hope.

The Glass Bead Game

by Herman Hesse

Hesse's Nobel Prize winning novel about a boy comming of age centuries in the future who becomes a gifted teacher and master, or Magister Ludi (the books alternate title) of the Glass Bead Game. It's more culture fiction than science fiction. In fact, it isn't science fiction at all: different genre. What I enjoyed most about the book is Hesse's tounge-in-cheek intellectual brilliance. It is an understated tour de force. Reading it feels like a pleasant afternoon's conversation with the mellow author-genius himself. Appended to the main novel are two novellas that are brilliant and worth reading on their own even if you don't fancy the bulk of the main course.

Hesse didn't like the predominating culture of the late 20th century, with it's predominance of, as he saw it, banality. So The Glass Bead Game is his vision of a better world and a unique hero, a hero of learning and culture, intellectual subtlety and gentle brilliance.

Once you escape into the world of Hesse's imagined better tomorrow, you will be hooked until the last page.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

by Mark Haddon

The protagonist has Asperger's syndrome, and reading about how the adults in his life behave made me curiously self-reflective, and a little embarassed. It made me more understanding and patient with my own step-son who suffers from ADHD, which is thankfully mild compared with autism or Asperger's.

Asperger's syndrome is like autism in that it's cause is the incomplete or improper development of the nervous system and brain. The primary difference is the degree to which it hampers normal interactions and communication. What's great about this novel is that it takes the notion of normal and stands it on its head. Much of what we take for normal sucks. Just because a person has a properly developped nervous system doesn't keep them from being a jerk. And by the same token, a neurological handicap doesn't keep someone from being magnificent.

The story is engaging, imaginitive, and engrossing; an adventure story par-excellance.

Life of Pi

by Yann Martel

Takes a concept and runs with it, though so subtly that you don't think concept until you've finished the book and reflect on it. I felt a greater than usual urge to re-read this book. You learn something at the end of the book that makes it unusually compelling to reread immediately.

The structure of the novel is unique. The author introduces himself and the project of writing the book in a prologue, and before you realize it you are engrossed in several stories: the author's and the people about whom he writes. It works marvelously on many levels. The stories each have their own textures and nuances, though the tone is not lofty or abstruse, but human and readable.

I especially like the way Martel writes about animals. He doesn't anthropomorphize at all, but rather brings us into a more inimate understanding of them. I felt wiser about animals after reading this book.