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Suggestions > I need books about American life

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message 1: by Thế Chiến (new)

Thế Chiến Lê (homeplayer87) | 17 comments Hello, I'm Chien. I'm studying English and want to improve my English through books. I want to get knowledge too. I want to find how life in the US is and how a person grown up, live and learn. Could you please give me a list of books you have read from when you were a child until now please? I really want to learn the life of Americans, I want to speak like an American. Wait for you. Thank you.

message 2: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Yorke (AndrewYorke) | 5 comments To Kill a Mockingbird is a fantastic book that talks about a specific culture in the United States. Also, you can try the novel On the Road. That discusses a more urban atmosphere in the United States during the second half of the twentieth century.

Those are two I would start with. Hope this helps!

All the best,

message 3: by Thế Chiến (new)

Thế Chiến Lê (homeplayer87) | 17 comments Thanks.

message 4: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 13, 2014 05:33AM) (new)

The books mentioned are good, and are specific to particular cultures and time periods. The US is very large and there are differences in regions and subcultures, so it's best to read a range of books and look for common threads.

If you like mysteries, you could read some by Tony Hillerman (set in Navaho country), Laura Lippman (set in very gritty east coast urban areas), or Sue Grafton (urban California crime mysteries). If you're not a mystery fan per se, David James Duncan writes nice books about a range of topics (from Pacific Northwest and over to Idaho and Montana) and Barbara Kingsolver does so more to the southwest. Anne Tyler covers a nice range as well.

If you're looking for something easier, I'm almost finished with one written for middle school aged kids, but still interesting. It's Broken Promises. I'd also recommend books by Annette Drake. I've read her Celebration House and a friend has read that one and Bone Girl. Both are easy reads and might give some glimpses of American life.

message 5: by Thế Chiến (new)

Thế Chiến Lê (homeplayer87) | 17 comments OK, thank you Faerie. I'll try to find and read those books you recommend.

message 6: by Chris (new)

Chris (bibliophile85) | 26 comments Sherman Alexie is a Native American author who writes wonderful novels and short stories about Americana from a Native perspective. I would recommend his work "Smoke Signals"

message 7: by Feliks (last edited Mar 13, 2014 08:59PM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) Well...odd request. First, remember, 'genre books' are things like detective stories, romances, thrillers. I would caution you to be aware that the 'America' you will find in most modern, mass-market genre fiction is not the America that's really out there.

Tony Hillerman and Sue Grafton are exceptions; but there's not too many other names to trust from the world of genre. Certainly, don't put any stock in a David Baldacci or anyone like that. Nor should you give any attention to current trends like, 'rock star' books, 'paranormal' books, 'urban fantasy' as they are also highly misleading.

What I'm suggesting is that the real America is not usually found in these delusional, distorted types of writing. You want to browse titles in literary fiction, rather than genre; and the stories should be about everyday people all throughout the land. Not just in the 'big cities' where genre-stories are usually staged.

In short, don't be distracted by 'racy' stories or 'pulse-pounding excitement' type stories. Most of America is frankly, sleepy, dull, and boring. But most of our books don't reflect that because dull books don't sell.

What would I suggest? Look for writers like, Anne Tyler or Anne Beattie. Books like 'Winesburg, Ohio', 'The Thurber Carnival', and some works by Thornton Wilder describe the traditional rhythm of American life. America is basically a large empty country criss-crossed from one end to the other with highways and roads. People move around a lot. Its a restless culture.

Ivan Doig is a personal favorite: English Creek and Dancing at the Rascal Fair. He writes about rural America in the 1940s.

Joan Chase has a sweet little piece, here: During the Reign of the Queen of Persia America in the 50s.

Joan Didion: The White Album America in the 60s.

James Jones writes well about WWII. From Here to Eternity

Rhode Island. Providence

Boston. The Friends of Eddie Coyle

Larry McMurtry writes well about small towns in the American west, of any era. The Desert Rose

Selected Stories: John Updike

Saul Bellow Collected Stories

Without Feathers

Ordinarily I wouldn't recommend Joseph Wambaugh but a few of his books are non-fiction: The Onion Field and Lines and Shadows

A fine author who tackles obscure --but widespread--aspects of American culture is John McPhee.
Coming Into The Country. Basin and Range. Looking for a Ship

Peter Matthiessen is one of our best authors.
Killing Mister Watson. Men's Lives.

Oh, and John O'Hara (a mid-century writer) was said to be the novelist who had the best 'ear' for American speech. BUtterfield 8

message 8: by Thế Chiến (new)

Thế Chiến Lê (homeplayer87) | 17 comments Thank you for your replies, I'll try the books you recommended. Thank you so much, all the best.

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