Five (relatively) Modern Books to Restore Your Faith in the Imagination and/or the Human Spirit

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Seiobo There Below by László Krasznahorkai (New Directions)
Believe it or not, this book is at core about a Japanese goddess/angel who comes to earth in search of what remains of beauty.  Although the book is VERY demanding it is also supremely inspiring.  Not to be missed. Listen to my conversation with Krasznahorkai about this book.

Observations by Marianne Moore (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
This luminous book of poems has been out of print in this complete version since its publication in the 1920’s.  Now it is back and hurray!!! It’s Moore’s very best work before she began to chip at it in shocking edits over the years.  It contains “An Octopus,” one of the wildest poems of the twentieth century — don’t be fooled it’s not about an octopus, it’s about a glacier, “an octopus of ice.” So many of the creatures Marianne Moore wrote about are no longer with us.  Now that we are losing our ice-fields too, this poem’s a testament to the poetic imagination.

The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Another book available complete for the first time in a single volume.  A sublime work of science fiction or scientific fiction, these are accounts of the origins of scientific discovery as narrated by a very wise and funny molecule named Qfwfq.  This edition contains previously uncollected stories and a sequence about cellular division that I find unfathomably irresistible.

Palm-of-the-Hand Stories by Yasunari Kawabata (FSG Classics)
Exquisite, brief stories about love and time passing.  Essential.

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
I’m not going to say anything about this Russian novel except to say it’s my favorite modern novel. Get the translation by Michael Glenny; there are now many other translations but I find his the warmest and most enjoyable.