Feature

Best books … chosen by Monica Ali

Monica Ali&rsquo;s new novel, <em>In the Kitchen,</em> is set in a five-star London hotel. Below, the author of<em> Brick Lane</em> and<em> Alentejo Blue</em>&nbsp; names six favorite earlier works th

Chowringhee by Sankar (Penguin, $14). A classic of Bengali literature, recently published for the first time in English. Set in a venerable Calcutta establishment, this sprawling saga examines in luminous detail the iniquities of society represented in microcosm at the hotel. Containing the action in a hotel where employees and guests are in physical proximity but a world away from each other heightens Sankar’s every observation.

Hotel Savoy by Joseph Roth (Overlook, $15). Roth’s brilliant short novel has been somewhat overlooked. Fired by a sense of social injustice and homelessness, Roth makes the hotel stand for everything that is wrong in a decaying post–World War I Europe.

The Shining by Stephen King (Pocket, $15). A hotel is about as characterful as a building can get, and the Overlook Hotel is an exceptionally strong character. When the place comes, literally, to life, it seems terrifyingly natural that it should.

Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man by Thomas Mann (Vintage, $17). The total hotel novel, portraying every facet of hotel life from lowly lift boy to royal guest. Krull’s lack of identity makes him the perfect hotel dweller, as he assumes and casts off mask after mask. Devilishly funny.

Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser (Vintage, $14). A fairy tale–like invocation of New York on the brink of massive change at the end of the 19th century. Dressler is a  flâneur par excellence  who seems to dream the skyscrapers of the future into existence.

Amerika by Franz Kafka (New Directions, $13). Karl Rossman’s period of employment at the Hotel Occidental forms only one chapter of his life after he is deported from Germany to the United States, but it is at the hotel that he first confronts the harsh realities of the American dream.

Recommended

Russia claims to have captured Mariupol
Russian soldier in Mariupol.
big if true

Russia claims to have captured Mariupol

Group of 7 pledges almost $20B in aid for Ukraine
G7 officials discuss Ukraine aid package.
cash infusion

Group of 7 pledges almost $20B in aid for Ukraine

Biden's trip to Asia, explained
President Biden.
Briefing

Biden's trip to Asia, explained

Monkeypox comes to America
A monkeypox warning.
Briefing

Monkeypox comes to America

Most Popular

College student who delivered baby before graduation surprised at hospital
Jada Sayles receives her diploma.
major milestones

College student who delivered baby before graduation surprised at hospital

Russian state TV military analyst backpedals criticism of Ukraine invasion
Mikhail Khodarenok
'the colonel has been reined back in'

Russian state TV military analyst backpedals criticism of Ukraine invasion

Elon Musk reportedly offered to trade a horse for an erotic massage
Elon Musk
A horse?

Elon Musk reportedly offered to trade a horse for an erotic massage