Thursday, April 21, 2016

It's International Dublin Literary Award Time!

Behold! The Richmond Public Library Nominees for the International Dublin Literary Award!

It's time once again to nominate a few good books for the International Dublin Literary Award. Since we've already sung the praises of our three nominees for The Award on this blog, I thought I would recommend some "readalikes" for our picks to you. The thing about books like these, the books that stand out as completely outstanding, award-worthy, one-of-a-kind and all that, is that they can be tough to compare to anything else. For A Little Life, I would look for other literary novels featuring complex characters, friendship and love, haunting secrets, abuse and trauma. A search for "five-star, gut-punchingly sad, haunt-you-forever, fiction" not surprisingly does not compute, and looking under subject headings like Families--Fiction, Bildungsromans, and Domestic Fiction just doesn't quite cover it. As I mentioned in an earlier review, Yanagihara's second, and thus far most massive melancholy masterpiece, is a bit of a tough sell when people ask me for a personal recommendation, even though it is easily one of the best books I've ever read. Maybe if I just hand a box of tissues over with the book people will get the idea.
So much tissue.
Anyway, NoveList to the rescue! This neat service ties in with our OPAC to deliver you the kind of nuanced "appeal terms" normal people (read: not librarians?) might use to describe the "feel" of books, from now on referred to as BookFeel™*. Search iBistro for a favorite book, click on the entry and scroll down to see what terms NoveList uses to characterize books, and what they might suggest for you to read next. Example:
All of these things appeal to me.

While you decide whether or not you can handle the agonizing beauty that is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, check out the much slimmer I Refuse by Per Petterson (2014), Did You Ever Have a Family (2015) by Bill Clegg, and Aquarium (2015) by David Vann. These each share much of the same BookFeel and are thematically kin, with a heavy emphasis on "heart wrenching".

While you wait for The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma, try The Lowland (2013) Jhumpa Lahiri and Dust (2014) by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor. NoveList uses the following BookFeel to characterize The Fishermen:

  • Character-driven
  • Haunting, Atmospheric
  • Lyrical
I would not have immediately come up with The Lowland to pair with The Fishermen but after examining the relative BookFeel I would score this comparison a 3.9 out of 5 on my completely arbitrary personal scale. 

The Sympathizer is seriously not to miss, but also be sure to pick up Dragonfish (2015) by Vu Tran, and All our Names (2014) by Dinaw Mengestu.

BookFeel for The Sympathizer:

  • Character-driven
  • Leisurely paced
  • Sardonic, Moving, Bleak
  • Stylistically Complex, Compelling 
You had me at sardonic. 

A side note, these are my personal picks for a Sympathizer readalike because NoveList recommended Purity by Jonathan Franzen and Panic in a Suitcase by Yelena Akhtiorskaya, neither of which I wanted to second. (I just didn't really like them, OK?) While Dragonfish and All Our Names are quite different in style and narrator, both are highly original fiction dealing with identity and immigration, secrets, and cultural historical touchstones experienced from multiple perspectives.
Also: Whatever, Franzen.

*Bookfeel is a word (I think I might have) made up to describe the appeal of a book. See also: Mouthfeel, a word I hate because it is gross. Ew.
It's like you've known me forever, iBistro. 
Before you run off, check out the Dublin shortlist of nominees for the 2016 award. You'll see a few blog favorites on the list, and a few more you might enjoy.

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