Friday, November 5, 2010

A Literary Blog Hop: Share a Favorite Literary Book

I'm happily joining in the Literary Blog Hop this weekend!

What is the Literary Blog Hop? From the hosting blog, The Blue Bookshelf: This blog hop is open to blogs that primarily feature reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, and general literary discussion.

If you are a literary blogger, I invite you to join in.

Here the question designed to provoke discussion:
Please highlight one of your favorite books and why you would consider it 'literary.'

As a teen and young adult, I confined myself to genre fiction. Then, as now, I read a lot of books, but back then I read almost exclusively mysteries and science fiction. (Not at the same time, mind you. I went through a long sci fi phase followed by a long mystery phase.)

Then I discovered a public library in a town just down the road from me. I did a lot of work at the time on the road, enough to enable me to get a library card there. I wish I knew who selected current fiction there, because she made daring choices for a small town library. I started reading Anne Tyler and Carol Shields and other writers who bridged the gap between popular fiction and literary fiction.

And then I discovered Bookgrouplist. It was an online book club with members from all over the world who read and discussed two books a month.

Suddenly I was reading thoughtful books that surprised me,
that led me places I'd no idea that I needed to go,
with amazing characters and clever plots
and beautifully written passages.

That is, literary fiction.

Along the way, I ran across My Name is Asher Lev.  It is a powerful read.  It is the story of Asher Lev, an Orthodox Jew who longs to draw and paint. His art deeply offends his fellow Jews, including his family, but he cannot stop. I cheered for Asher Lev. I cried for Asher Lev. Such mixed feelings. Was he doing the right thing in continuing to paint?  Or was his art an act of blasphemy? I still think about this book.

How did you find your way to literary fiction?


  1. I had a simply amazing English teacher in high school who sparked my passion for literary fiction...I consider myself very lucky in this regard because I was not an English major in college, and if not for him, I probably would not have found my way to these books so early...although I did have a very amusing Russian literature professor in college who made the class and associated works quite enjoyable!

    I read The Chosen and The Promise years ago, but have never read My Name is Asher Lev...I reviewed something in the same vein on my blog earlier this year that I loved, "A Seat at the Table" that explored a young Hassidic man's attempt to find his own voice within his community.

  2. Thanks for participating in the literary blog hop with us! We're glad to have you.

    I am currently reading My Name is Asher Lev, and I haven't decided yet what I think of it... I think I'll have to see how it ends first.

    Have a great weekend!

  3. What a fascinating post. I would have to say I found my way via the school book club - we paid in 10p every week and every so often a lady would turn up with box upon box of books. I can still remember the first book I bought - The Pebbles Go To Town, I can't remember the author and research hasn't found anything.

  4. PS I hope you don't mind me linking this to a post I'm planning for next week.

  5. Hi,
    Found you through the blog hop and I'm now following you :)

    I like that you included your story about finding literary fiction. I had a wonderful English teacher when I was 14-15 and also an older sister studying English Literature at univeristy so they recommended some wonderful books that sparked off my interest.

    I hadn't heard of 'My Name is Asher Lev' before, but it's going to my to-read list.

    Sam at Tiny Library

  6. Good question. and...I don't really know. I loved some of the required books high school, but it was probably solidified when I joined my book club a decade or so ago--I loved branching out into all those books that really make you think.

  7. I love your definition of literary fiction!! Very apropos!!

    I love good writing so as much as it drew me to literary fiction, bad writing also pushed me :)

    Although I'm guilty of some 'bubblegum' reads from time to time.

  8. Thanks for participating in the hop! I enjoyed reading about your journey to literary fiction.
    I think I have my mom to thank for my love of reading in general and particularly for my love of beautifully-written books. From a very early age she recommended the best of YA to me, and so I always had a steady diet of good literature.
    I haven't read My Name is Asher Lev (though I'd like to) but one of our reviewers, Connie, is reading it right now. I think she'll be reviewing it for us sometime soon.

  9. DebNance, I remember reading Chaim Potok back in high school and thinking I had just gone to heaven. I really loved both Asher Lev and The Chosen. Like you, I found literary fiction in the library: I just kept reading and reading and reading. The good stuff stuck with me, and I instinctively sought it out. I loved discovering great authors for myself right in the stacks, and remember feeling very possessive and secretive about my love for Kosinski or Dostoyevksy (obviously I searched for authors with challenging names)....

  10. First, great essay. I am glad I found your blog.

    Second, I just discovered Potok for myself very recently. I haven't read Asher Lev yet, but I plan to.

    Finally, I found my way to literary fiction early on, when I was a young child. My parents bribed me a dime to r4ead a book, but a quarter to read a "classic." Move over Nancy Drew. Hello Tom Sawyer.

    Rose City Reader.

  11. The Asher Lev book sounds really interesting. I'm going to see if I can find it at my local library.

  12. I have never read My Name is Asher Lev but now I'm thinking of giving it a try :) I definitely love what you said about books being thoughtful and well-written, and I enjoyed reading about how you got interested in Literary fiction.
    I can't really remember how I got into it. One day I was reading YA, then I got bored and started picking up "grown up" books, and I guess the rest was history!

  13. I'm a member of Bookgrouplist, too, but haven't participated at all since I started blogging. My college roommate loved My Name is Asher Lev... I need to read it one day.

  14. I have never read My Name is Asher Lev. It doesn't take much to peak my curiosity and make me check out a book. I love books that make me think, sometimes. Other times, I love books that pull me into a well-written plot. I love story, and I love stories of all kinds. For me, each has a tremendous value in the world of books, and they oftentimes intersect.

  15. This is a great story. I stumbled on literary fiction by reading everything I could put my hands on. I was in fifth grade when I pulled The Grapes of Wrath off my parents' bookshelf. I wish I could say I was hooked, but I fought my way through that book. I read a little of everything now (well, almost everything) but the books that stick with me are usually those that are well-written and really have something to say.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I answered the question you left for me back over there.
    Susan from ReadingWorld.

  16. I would have to say that I have bounced around the genres, but always end up coming back to the classics or literary fiction. I am really enjoying this book hop. My TBR list has become rather long today :)

  17. My comment looks weird. I meant yours was a great story. Not mine that I was about to tell. (I need an editor!)

  18. Your description of the essence of literary fiction was spot on, and I couldn't agree more. Many literary fiction titles leave me gazing at the world through a completely different lens. Sometimes I find the way in which authors form sentences so beautiful and moving that I wonder what it's like in their heads-- all that creativity and eloquence. I haven't read your selection, but it will certainly be noted. Glad to have found you on the Hop!

  19. I like your idea of literature - very well said! I, too, read a lot of genre books when I was younger. Actually I read pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Then I got really burned out, because all books started to look the same, you know? Finally, I discovered literature.

    Anyway, glad to have found your blog, & I'm now subscribed!

  20. Anne Tyler was one of my first introductions to literary fiction,too. Many of the books you list are among my favorites. I'm really looking forward to learning about more literary blogs through this hop. Thanks for visiting!

  21. Thanks for stopping by and following :)
    I'm returning the favor!
    Hafsah @ IceyBooks

  22. Hi! I like really like your blog, glad i stopped by) As for the question on how i started reading thoughtful books-i can't really say. I read them all my life. My mother's family is a classic example of the old Russian intelligencia. Since i was little i read Dumas, Poe, Rilke, Goethe, Pouchkin etc. In school i am part of the Bohemians club, where i discovered books about holocaust, decadence, belle epoque... These books are part of who i am. They define my life choices, my thoughts.

  23. Thanks for stopping by my blog to enter my book giveaway, and following,
    I'm returning the favor, nice blog BTW.
    Good read also.

  24. I'm visiting from the Literary Hop! I grew up reading everything, from genre fiction to literature. Honestly, I read everything my parents had on the shelves, and fortunately they didn't think kids needed to be limited to what was "age-appropriate".

    But I never read a book for school that I loved until a teacher assigned me Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native in a senior English class. That was the first time I realized that something literary could have all the drama and romance that the "fun" books have (my mom's Woodiweiss novels for example).

    Thanks for posing such an interesting question!

  25. Hi, and thanks for leaving a comment on my Literary Blog Hop post!

    I've only really come to literary fiction properly in the last few years, particularly since I started blogging seriously -- though what's really happened is that I've found similar qualities in some 'mainstream' fiction as were in the genre fiction that interested me most, which is what makes me think of 'literary' as a term that can be applied across the genres.

  26. What a great post, and the story you highlight sounds really good.

    I actually only JUST started reading deeper works, this year. A friend of mine from London mocked me because I hadn't read (Hemingway, etc), and then he proceeded to inspire me to be curious. I decided to read the classics because it's a travesty I haven't. And now that I've started, I can't believe I wasn't reading them all along. :-)

  27. I read a lot as a child and my older relatives gave me some classic titles as gifts, titles they had read as children themselves. As I've grown older I have developed a real appreciation for the aesthetics of writing and love learning new words, so literature strikes a chord with me.

  28. I have not read Asher Lev but I do think it is on my list??? will have to check...

    Funny thing is I only just recently found out what literary fiction is and what it was about some of the books that I loved so much that made them different. Its great to know and easier to find more.

    Goes to show you can still learn stuff over 40 lol...


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