A few suggestions: Jeffrey Eugenides--Middlesex, Jeanette Winterson---The Passion & Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (seconding @ottilie, anything by Winterson is amazing), Marisa de los Santos--Love Walked In, Belong to Me (light quick reads, but beautiful)
Classics....Kate Chopin--The Awakening, Virginia Woolf--To The Lighthouse, F. Scott Fitzgerald--The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby, William Faulkner--The Sound and the Fury, Willa Cather--My Antonia, Truman Capote--Breakfast at Tiffanys
I love short stories and essays in the summer, easy to pick up and put down on the beach. :) Love anything by David Sedaris or Sloane Crosley
And if you like historical fiction and fantasy...you might like Time's Arrow by Martin Amis...ridiculously powerful read.
Ottilie, I do love the Fagles, but if you are a sucker for a more direct translation Latimer is the way to go! (my undergrad degree is in classics so I always prefer a more word-for-word translation, but the Fagles is so pretty). I also love Dante's Inferno (read a side-by-side italian-english translation and prepare to drool at the beauty of the language)
Virgil's Georgics are also nice, and Hesiod's Theogeny is entertaining and has tons of amazing name references!
On the subject of epic poetry, I would also recommend the Ramayana, Mabinogion, the Poetic Edda, the Kalevala, the Tain, and the Saga of the Volsungs
lineska - I LOVED middlesex. omg, so good.
I've got a master degree in classics! I've read the Latimer one, but I prefer Fitz and Fagles by a mile. Much more poetic. The Latimer one (although more accurate) lacks the beauty of Fagles' translation. Poetry should be sheer beauty. (So while we're at it, if anyone's planning on reading Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus, choose the gorgeous translation by Martyn Crucefix.) I speak Italian, so I've been able to read The Divine Comedy in Italian... it's gorgeous.
Originally Posted by moonkai
You guys are fantastic, thanks! Now to start looking these books up...
Firstly, @ottilie, I can't believe a real person exists named Martyn Crucefix, and that he's not a darkling underlord in some teen gothic thriller.
Seconding anything written by Neil Gaiman-- Good Omens is one of my favorite books ever, in that's it's a cracking good story that manages to delve into the occasional Big Idea.
- Umberto Eco, In the Name of the Rose
- PG Wodehouse (anything in the Jeeves & Wooster or Blandings Castle series)
- Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
- Eric Newby, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (a hilariously self-deprecating nonfiction adventure story)
- Andrew Soloman, Far From the Tree (nonfiction, fascinating account of how parents with special children-- from the profoundly developmentally delayed to geniuses-- deal with their genetic divergence)
- anything by Annie Proulx, from The Shipping News to her Wyoming short stories
- Peter Mathiessen, the Snow Leopard. An absolute classic for nature writing-- read this if you've ever wanted to pin down your sense of the sublime
- not yet read but high on the list: Rachel Kushner "the Flamethrowers." Just came out and regaled as the best novel of the decade
If you love historical fiction, try any of Anne Easter Smith's books, all set in the 1400s and 1500s in England.
I know, right? Coolest name ever!
Originally Posted by blade
I actually bought The Flamethrowers on Sunday. It's not arrived yet, but it looks like a good book.
Ottilie - So cool you have a grad degree in classics....I hope you are putting it to much better use than I am my undergrad (now getting my master's in business, eegads!) I never learned italian sadly, but Dante's italian is pretty close to latin so luckily I got a lot from it.
I did my undergrad thesis on Sophocles' Antigone, which I also recommend reading, southern.maple! All the greek dramas are wonderful.
I love fantasy and historical fiction, here is a few of my favorites:
Belle by Lesley Pearse
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne
Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier
Bridge of Birds: A Novel of Ancient China That Never Was by Barry Hughart
The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by Maureen Lindley
Poison Study by Maria V Snyder
Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E Feist and Janny Wurts
The Emperor's Bones by Adam Williams
The Queen's Fool by Phillipa Gregory
The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak
The Immortal Prince by Jennifer Fallon
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier