What to Read

It's too cold to go out, but this month's best fiction lets you roam from England to Eastern Europe to Thailand, all without leaving the fireside.

Published January 24, 2005 8:00AM (EST)

As frost clings stubbornly to our windows and we continue to shake off the residual lethargy from the holidays, there seems no better plan than to curl up with some good fiction. But January is also a month of impatience -- we have new year's resolutions to put into effect, after all -- and very little of this month's offerings held our attention for long. Nonetheless, four books kept us stuck in their pages, leaving the bills unpaid and the gym clothes unused.

At first glance, these pickings look a little similar -- all are by men, three of them British, and their protagonists are outsiders in one respect or another. But on closer inspection, they offer a broad range of reading experiences, and take us all over the world in the process. We start with a hitchhiker in Eastern Europe and move along to coming-of-age youth in Thailand, take a tour of married life in suburban England with a dead man and then bounce willy-nilly around the world with the selfish and unfaithful. After all, we thought, if we're going to be stuck inside for the winter, we might as well give our fictional legs some good exercise.

Our first pick: A cynical, sullen young man hitches a ride with a book smuggler and finds himself in an Eastern European dystopia

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