Friday, July 1, 2011

Read Alike: Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett published her first novel, The Patron Saint of Liars, in 1992 after leaving her tumultuous job at Seventeen magazine. Since then she has written another five novels, one of which, Bel Canto, was awarded both the Orange Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award. She has also written two memoirs. Most recently, Ms. Patchett announced her plans to open an independent bookstore in Nashville, TN. You can read more about Ms. Patchett on her website:

Her novels are lyrical and compassionate as they explore the psychological realities of her characters. Though she explores the well-traveled realm of human relationships, Ms. Patchett's work remains fresh due to her unexpected character choices and their familiar emotional reactions to uncommon situations.

Her most recent novel, State of Wonder, is the fast-paced story of a Midwestern pharmaceutical researcher who is sent to the depths of the Amazon rainforest after her predecessors disappear. A skillfully balanced mix of genres and themes that has received high praise from critics and long waiting lists at the library.

If you enjoy Ann Patchett's writing, you may also enjoy these books and authors:

Reviews of State of Wonder never fail to mention these two classic, thought-provoking titles: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. Dr. Moreau is a classic mad scientist with his remote island lair, and his plan to create a race of beast-men, as seen through the eyes of a shipwrecked naturalist. In The Heart of Darkness, steamship captain and adventurer Marlow travels the Congo river to find the mysterious Mr. Kurtz, a white man who has isolated himself deep in the forests of Africa.

The notable Colombian novelist, Gabriel García Márquez was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1982. Over the years he has written numerous novels and short fiction about love, politics, family, and life covering the span of Latin America. His writing is most often lush, lyrical, melancholy, romantic, and always has a strong sense of place. Fans of Ms. Patchett's Bel Canto might appreciate One Hundred Years of Solitude, the saga of the Buendia family that has been described as magic realism.

Blindness by the Portuguese author
José Saramago was the basis of a 2009 film adaptation. When residents of an unnamed city are suddenly struck blind by a mysterious plague, society crumbles as the characters find themselves forced into the unexpected. While the pace is somewhat slower than Ms. Patchett's work, readers may appreciate Mr. Saramago's thought-provoking exploration of human nature.

Journalist Tucker Malarkey's first novel draws inspiration from her experience as teacher on an island off the coast of Kenya. An Obvious Enchantment is the thought-provoking and intricately plotted story of a passionate archaeologist and her quest to find her mentor who disappeared while searching for evidence of a legendary African king.

Jill Ciment is a professor of English in addition to an Oprah Book Club selected novelist.
The Tattoo Artist is a thought-provoking historical novel about art and identity. Sara, a painter, and her husband are marooned on a South Pacific Island shortly before WWII. The novel switches between Sara's past as a New York artist, her life on the island, and her return to New York after a Life magazine reporter discovers her in the '70s.

In The Sound of Butterflies by Rachael King amateur lepidopterist Thomas Edgar sets off on an early 20th century expedition into the Amazon, leaving his wife behind in England. Thomas returns home haunted and broken by what he has experienced in a land overtaken by the rubber industry.

You may also enjoy these two Non-Fiction titles about the dangers and attractions of the Amazon:

The Lost City of Z (918.11 GRA) is the true story of the British explorer Col. Percy Fawcett, who led a 1922 Amazon expedition in search of a lost civilization he believed responsible for the enduring myths of El Dorado, and disappeared. The author, David Grann, is a reporter for the New Yorker who found himself so intrigued by Fawcett's quest and disappearance that he follows him into the Amazon.

In 1927 Henry Ford established an All-American company town in the Amazon rain forests of Brazil to grow rubber for his factories. In Fordlandia (307.768 GRA), Greg Grandin, a professor of Latin American history, explores the motivations and impacts of Mr. Ford's failed experiment.

Please stop by the Recommendations Desk on the first floor, check out NoveList Plus on the library's website, or visit W. 11th & Bluff next week for more reading suggestions. Or submit a Personal Recommendations request, and we'll create a reading list just for you!


  1. Thanks do much for this list of read alikes; I am adding some of your suggestions to a book club in a bag kit I am working on now. -- Mary Moran, Ramsey County Library, Roseville MN

  2. We're glad you found our post helpful Mary! Best of luck with your book club in a bag!