I reading two books now. Book no. 1 is Human Capital by Stephen Amidon and book B is The Courage Consort by Michel Faber.
In his best of the year column in the Washington Post, Jonathan Yardley listed Human Capital as one of the better works of fiction he read in 2004. In his regular book reviews in the paper, he's somewhat cold and very demanding. But in his end of the year piece, he's warm and friendly and you get the feeling that he's a really nice guy after all and that he now wants to share a few things with you. Like you've won him over after reading him all year and so he let his guard down and be nice. The effect of this change in tone is that it makes one (or me at least) really want to read the fiction he recommends at the end of the year. This year he said kind things about Human Capital. I'd seen the name Stephen Amidon before (for some reason I thought he wrote non-fiction about architecture or urban planning) but never knew much about him. I found a cheap copy of the book on ebay and my copy was waiting for me in Washington when I returned from vacation (making it my first book purchase of the year). When I started reading it I had almost no idea what it was about and really enjoyed the first chapter. I'm now 100 pages into it and can report that I am enjoying it immensely. After reading 900 pages of crime and religious history in England, it is unbelievably refreshing to read something set in America.
I'm also reading The Courage Consort by Michel Faber. I think he's from the Netherlands but moved to Scotland 20 years ago and now writes in English. I bought his first novel (Under the Skin) because I thought it was Scottish. The first book of his I read was the massive (and massively fantastic) The Crimson Petal and the White (best title for a book review ever, "Whores, Porn, and Lunatics" in the Guardian, reviewing Crimson Petal), sort of a smutty Dickens, a story about a teenage prostitute who dreams of being a writer. [I was talking with ne of my customers about Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - which she read and which I got for xmas - and recommended to her the Crimson Petal book - but got funny looks from bystanders when I got to the pornographic Dickens part of the description. Oh well.] I bought The Courage Consort, which is three novellas, largely for the middle novella, which is about an archeological dig gone bad. But so far, the first novella, The Courage Consort, is really very good. It concerns an avant garde vocal ensemble whose rehersal session in a Belgian chateau goes horribley wrong. I'm glad I picked it up.