Lately, possibly because it’s been a long summer of continuous hard work on a new novel and I don’t want to think about plot just now, or perhaps because my annual allotment of vacation days at my day job resets every September 1st, I’ve been out of vacation time since February, and reading quiet books is the closest I can get to a vacation at the moment, I’ve discovered a new appreciation for books that fall on the quieter end of the spectrum.
Though the essay doesn’t explicitly define them, “quiet” books “have a distilled quality about them, an unshowy thoughtfulness and a sense of grace, of having been boiled down to the bare essentials.” Mandel’s list of “quiet” books include the excellent Gilead by Marilynne Robinson and Open City by Teju Cole (the former rather than the latter is definitely more “quiet,” I’d wager). I’ve not read the other books on the list—but if they are “quiet” novels I bet I might like them. Off the top of my head, a few “quiet” books to add: anything by W.G. Sebald (I’d nominate The Emigrants as the quietest), The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, Tinkers by Paul Hardy, Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, Haven’s Wake by Ladette Randolph (my review), and most anything by Ishiguro.
I also can’t help but mentioning I love the quote from Rebecca Solnit: “Books are solitudes in which we meet.”