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Rainy Days And Good Books

The novel

Above: The novel "The Imperfectionists" by Tom Rachman.

I love spending rainy days with a good book. Frankly, that's how I like to spend sunny days as well.

I've been reading a bunch lately, so here are some suggestions if you're looking for a book to cuddle up with as the showers fall.

Please share your own suggestions in the comments. I need to start a new book this weekend.

"Freedom," by Jonathan Franzen

Okay, so Franzen hardly needs any publicity from me. Even though "Freedom" didn't make the short list for the National Book Award (to many's surprise), I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Franzen knows how to create compelling characters and mine their complicated relationships. Reading this book, I felt like I really understood the psychology of his characters - I might not like them, but I definitely understood them.

"The Imperfectionists," by Tom Rachman

This novel about the newspaper industry is more like a series of connected short stories, some more successful than others. Each story focuses on a different character who works for a small daily newspaper in Rome. Apparently, Brad Pitt has already snapped up the movie rights.

"Seven Days in the Art World" by Sarah Thornton

This book has been out for a while, but it's a great primer on the art world. Each chapter/"day" explores a different aspect, from art fairs, to Sotheby's, to the artist's studio (Takashi Murakami's), to the legendary marathon art crit class at CalArts led by Michael Asher (by far the most enjoyable chapter). National City's famous son, John Baldessari, makes significant appearances in the book as well. I also like the chapter on ArtForum magazine - I couldn't help but wonder how long that kind of criticism and approach will be around.

"Super Sad True Love Story," by Gary Shteyngart

Part science fiction, part darkly comic dystopian tale, Shteyngart's novel about a romance between a schlubby Russian immigrant and a 24-year-old Korean girl imagines a future where books are "smelly," credit ratings are publicly broadcast, and young girls wear transparent jeans called Onionskins. Shteyngart's world is both absurd and frighteningly possible. (Check out the book's trailer starring James Franco)

"By Nightfall," by Michael Cunningham

This novel by the author of "The Hours" is what I'm reading now and I'm only half way in. I don't love it, but I don't hate it either. I'm hoping it starts to grow on me, though I doubt the cringe-inducing sex scenes will. It's about a middle age gallery owner in New York (his wife edits an art magazine) and his identity crisis sparked by a visit from his wife's handsome younger brother. Steve Martin's new novel is also set in the New York art world and comes out in late November. I already have high hopes for that one.

What do I want to read next? "Great House" by Nicole Krauss. Even though I'm terribly annoyed by her combination of beauty and talent and seemingly perfect life married to a successful novelist living in Brooklyn, I'll still read this because I adored "History of Love."

What have you all been reading? What should I sit by the fire with this weekend?

A lot of these books are new with considerable buzz circling them - what are some older books or more obscure titles that we can all sink our teeth into?

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