Some of the other books strongly considered include but don't preclude: Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke, I Could Love You by William Nicholson, Old Town by Lin Zhe, The Phantom Tollbooth by Juster and Feiffer, Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, and The Dream Life of Sukhanov by Olga Grushin.
I've found with fiction much research is required. Having decided to finish novels I start*, I'm much more serious about the selection process.
Snippets from the latest Arthur Philips novel:
Fact is, most people like the brand name, and the brand name helps them enjoy the product and opens them to trust other products. So being the big Dutch queen who prances around snatching off the brands—even if he’s right, which there’s no saying he is, although I do know the truth in one case, and he is right—that stops a lot of people from learning what they like. They don’t want to say they like it, because they’re afraid the Dutch guy’s going to call them a fool for liking the wrong thing.”* - unless seriously dreadful, as The Imperfectionists was.
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"I loved him without reservation until the age when reservations were required."
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“In those days, you walked outside your house, or twenty minutes outside of London, and you were in an endless forest, as magical and terrifying as you can imagine. Wonders were in the grass, mysteries. Something invisible was trying to communicate with you, frighten you, charm you, maybe steal from you, or help you, lead you to riches or just laugh at you. Now, boring, boring, we know there aren’t grotesque fairies out there. We cut down those forests to prove it. We know what causes twenty varieties of discolorations of the turf. We have so many facts, and with them we can cut down anything.”
He returned to his theme as I tore into a tenderloin of pork covered in apples and cream: the world’s vanishing faith in wonder, in relation to the vanishing natural world, and in inverse proportion to its growing store of dubiously valuable scientific knowledge.
“Fairies have to travel farther to reach us nowadays,”...“All our skill at disproving things is like a wall we build between us and wonder. To jump that wall, you need a long running start.”