I do not like Christmas books.
One year at a posh friend’s, we listened to Dickens’s A Christmas Carol on public radio. Luv ya, public radio, but the reader’s enunciation was excessive! Everybody looked glazed and drank a lot of wine. I don’t drink. And I have never cared for A Christmas Carol.
So what do I do to escape the holiday madness? I dive into trilogies, quartets, quintets, long series…and come up for air next spring.
Here are Six Series You Can Lose Yourself in over the Holidays.
1 Balzac’s La Comedie Humaine (The Human Comedy), a series of approximately 90 novels, short stories, and novellas in which Balzac portrays French society during the 19th century period of Restoration and July Monarchy. The plots are racy and the characters memorable. Several are available from Penguin and Modern Library, and most are available free in nineteenth-century translations at Project Gutenberg. Personally, I prefer the newer translations, but Lost Illusions and Cousin Pons are good in any form. And here is a link to an excellent Balzac blog.
2 Lawrence Durrell’s The Avignon Quintet. This year I devoured Durrell’s modernist masterpiece, The Alexandria Quartet, and Prospero’s Cell, a travel memoir. And now I’m reading his odd metafictional Avignot Quintet, consisting of Monsieur, Livia, Constance, Sebastion, and Quinx. This labyrinthine series questions the nature of reality and love, authors and their characters. Not until the end of the first novel, Monsieur, do we discover the characters are characters in a novel written by the bitter character Blanford. And then in the next books Blanford weaves together his stories with those of his fictional characters. He even has telephone conversations with Rob Sutcliffe, the novelist in his own novel. Intriguing but weird.
3 Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series: My Brilliant Friend,The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child. These pop literary pageturners are about two difficult women who are friends from childhood to old ag,. They are entertaining, beautifully-written, and I swear as popular as Gone with the Wind. I have read the first two, and they are very good indeed, though, honestly? The hype about them is too much.
4 Anthony Burgess’s The Complete Enderby: Inside Mr. Enderby, Enderby Outside, The Clockwork Testament, and Enderby’s End. The hero, Enderby, is a Kingsley Amis-ish character who writes poetry while sitting on the toilet, farts a lot, and is shocked to receive a literary award. Winning the award is his downfall, though he is up and down throughout the books. Inside Enderby is hilarious, but there are actually some startling serious bits that I didn’t remember. An excellent reread of the first book, and hope to get to the others.
5 Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I hope to lose myself in this popular series of time travel romances someday, because friends love them and assure me that they are entertaining and erotic. There is also an Outlander coloring book, DVDS of the Outlander TV series (which I’ve heard is good), and totebags. Do you think Outlander is Game of Thrones for women?
6 Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, Tales from Earthsea, The Other Wind. Now that I’ve read David Mitchell’s the introduction to the new Folio Society edition of A Wizard of Earthsea in The Guardian, I would like to go back and reread the series. Plus there were only four books when I read it: it has grown!
Off to read one of my series books!