Soul Mountain
Gao Xingjian, 1990

Started off promising, quickly devolved into "WTF am I reading" territory. Here's what the New York Times had to say:

  • "It takes more than a translator to translate the big, long-worked-at novel that secured this year's [2000's] Nobel Prize for the Chinese writer Gao Xingjian. The reader must translate as well [...]" (Uh-oh.)

  • "A novel in theory, Soul Mountain is more nearly a collection of [...] musings, memories, and poetic, sometimes mystical fantasies [...]" (Eep.)

  • "'Whether I understand or not is not God's concern,' the narrator remarks. Nor, as he lets us know, is it Mr. Gao's." Well okay then.

So what was I doing reading this thing in the first place? Well, a few years ago someone (I think it was Liza Daly) drew my attention to this Metafilter discussion that opened with the question, "Which books are most representative of each country?" It seemed like reading some of these might be interesting, so I added a few to my to-read list (in order of population, which is why I wound up starting with China). But now I'm thinking, why should I make up a reading list based on the advice of random Metafilter visitors when I can make one based on the advice of random visitors? So I'll ask you the question I've been asking people in real life for years: if you could recommend just one book to someone, what would it be?

In real life, the question I usually get in return is "Recommend to you, or recommend in general?" And I guess, sure, if you've got a title in mind that you're sure I'd hate, then, yeah, that might defeat the purpose. But by the same token, if you're thinking, "Here's a book that I didn't like at all, but you might," that's not exactly what I'm looking for either. I want to know what the people who visit my site went crazy for themselves.

A couple of other things: fiction vs. non-fiction? If your #1 book is non-fiction then by all means enter it, but my non-fiction reading list is already pretty stuffed so if you need a tie-breaker, go for the fiction. What have I already read? I don't mind re-reads of stuff I read long ago, but a list of stuff I've read recently enough to have reviewed on this site is here. (And as regular visitors will no doubt have guessed, my own answer to the question would be Watchmen.)

[Poll is closed; thanks to all who responded!]

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