Book Recommendations and Reading



  • Right now I'm reading a book called The Panic Virus by Seth Mnookin. It's an interesting (and timely) book about the origins of the anti-vaccine movement (going back to opposition to the smallpox vaccine). Before that I read the first book in the Outlanders series and was really disappointed.
  • Happy this thread is here!

    I'm kind of an obsessive non-fiction reader (heavy on the true crime).  Right now I'm reading Popular Crime by Bill James which is an anthology-style look at famous crimes and the cultural obsession with them in the U.S. since the 1880s.  Very interesting and entertaining.

    I don't read a ton of fiction, but I do like a good thriller/mystery and am planning on reading The Girl on the Train next.
  • @RussellH88--I'm with you. I loved Kavalier and Clay. I've lost track of how many people I've recommended it to.
  •  I loved Kavalier and Clay! Right now, I have just started The Secret Life of Wonder Woman :-) 
  • You'll have to let us know how the Wonder Woman book is. It's on my list, but it will probably be a few weeks until I get to it. Right now I'm reading a book about freediving called Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves. So far it's really interesting. Next up is The Dogs Ate Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan by Canadian Graeme Smith. Not a cheerful read I'm sure, but I'm looking forward to reading about the war in Afghanistan from a non-US perspective. 
  • @CarolynMo ;I've read (and reread) both Dunnett series. To me, Francis Lymond is a Renaissance James Bond on steroids. Have looked at at least one of the companion books. Also, just discovered there is a Dorothy Dunnett FB page, which led me to some good DD blogs. Got my 23-year-old son into this series as well!

    We both also love the Sharp series by Bernard Cornwell and the JackAubrey/Stephan Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian. The latter is especially well written with characters that stay with you long after the books are read.
  • @ChrisP thanks for the Dunnett FB page! O'Brian and Cornwell are terrific!! Your description of Francis is spot on!
  • I've been sick as a dog for a week, so I read Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi and Some Luck by Jane Smiley. I thought the event that sets the plot in motion in Ghana Must Go was a little much, a little bit of an overreaction, but overall the writing was good and the characters were interesting, if you're looking for something that crosses continents. 

    As an Iowan (in my heart, if no longer in my ZIP code), I absolutely loved Some Luck -- the writing, the concept, the characters, the familiarity -- and can't wait for the sequel to come out. 
  • I just picked up The Shadow of the Wind again and got sucked in.  Why is that book sooo soo good!  
    For those of you who like Maeve Binchy, you'll probably love Rosamunde Pilcher.  I just found a few more of her books in ebook format.  Winter Solstice is next on the list of books to read.  
  • Glad to see two Dorothy Dunnett lovers. I've read the Lymond Chronicles twice and look forward to doing it again next year. I've also read the Niccolo series but Lymond is my favorite. Song of Fire and Ice will get a reread when the next volume is announced. This last year I've enjoyed quite a bit of historical fiction but really when it comes to books I'm an omnivore.
  • Someone needs to start a thread on Books To Avoid.  I just finished Captain Corelli's Mandolin and hated the ending so much it ruined the whole book for me.

    I listen to audiobooks (about 50 a year I guess?), and I read in print about ten books a year.  I have kept a list of books I've read or listened to, and I also have kept a much smaller list of books that were too awful to continue.

    And there is a very small list of books that I finished but hated. :-)
  • Okay, I started the Book Unrecommendation list.  Don't hate me!
  • Ooh! Looking through my Goodreads list for the "unrecommendations" thread also reminded me that I recently finished The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine and LOVELOVELOVED it.

    This is one of those books whose synopsis, on paper, sounds totally unlovable. I never, ever expected to laugh so hard at a novel that opens with a woman trying to abort her daughter's child in the very first chapter, but the writing is effing brilliant. I'm going to have to read some more Alina Bronsky.
  • Some of my favorite recent reads include:

    The Martian by Andy Weir - there's an excellent audiobook version, with a narrator who enhances the story's humor as well as the suspense, but the text version's great too. It's been a while since I've been so caught up in a book as I was with that one!

    Jam by Yahtzee Croshaw (I swear I'm not making that up). This one's a dark comedy about a plague of man-eating jam, and if you enjoy absurdist apocalyptic humor with some very, very snarky protagonists (and a tarantula), this is for you. (It reminded me quite a bit of the marvelous film "Shaun of the Dead", which had a similar tone.)

    In the "mystery" category, there's The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny, from her "Inspector Gamache" series; I love the whole series but that particular book was utterly harrowing, involving, dramatic, tense... It's probably best to read the series in order, but if that one doesn't win you over you can probably skip the rest!

    Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown is rather unusual - a chef is kidnapped by a pirate queen and forced to prepare gourmet meals, a nice reversal of the typical pirate story. And while some romantic elements surface, it's not a romance novel at all, more of an adventure story/new-stage-of-life thing, quite entertaining.

    I'm fond of manga (in addition to most other categories of books), and found some good ones recently, including:

    Summer Wars, a manga adaptation of a truly delightful animated film; I recommend seeing the film if you can, but the manga's quite faithful to the story and includes a bit more character development.

    For a younger audience, there's Two Weeks with the Queen by Morris Gleitzman, an unusual tale of a boy who's determined to get in touch with Queen Elizabeth to help save his ill younger brother; hilarity ensues, along with some heartbreak and quite a few surprises. I love a well-written children's or young-adult book, and I really enjoyed this one.

    [My primary book-site is, which is for tracking books as they pass from hand to hand; not everyone there likes to write actual book reviews, but I do, and I've read and reviewed nearly all of the books I've registered there; the curious can browse my bookshelf here.]
  • @TravelingDesign, since you liked Cruising Altitude, you might like Heads in Beds, about one guy's years working in hotels.  It was fun and eye-opening.
  • I'm reading Émile Zola's Thérèse Raquin.  This actually fits under both Books and Music, as I'm reading it in anticipation of seeing Tobias Picker's opera based on it, at Chicago Opera Theatre.
  • Currently reading "The Cuckoo's Calling" which was written by JK Rowling under a psuedonym. Liking it so far. Also liked her other non-Potter, "The Casual Vacancy."
  • Chucko78 said:
    Currently reading "The Cuckoo's Calling" which was written by JK Rowling under a psuedonym. Liking it so far. Also liked her other non-Potter, "The Casual Vacancy."
    I also enjoyed these two book.  If you like The Cuckoo's Calling, you'll like The Silkworm as well

    Currently starting the new JD Robb, Obsession in Death and also have the new Jaci Burton Quarterback Draw in my queue as well.  Why yes, I do like romance, the smexier the better.
  • Inside Scientology, by Janet Reitman. I'm fascinated by scientology (in a "how do people believe in this kind of way?") but I also understand people may feel the same about my own beliefs. Still - L. Ron Hubbard seemed like a wackadoo to me. My favorite books that I read last year were Life (the autobiography of Keith Richards), and Just Kids, by Patti Smith. Both were amazing. Also loved The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

    Et vous? What are you reading?
    I haven't read Inside Scientology, but that reminds me of Going Clear by Lawrence Wright. HBO is developing a documentary based on that book
  • edited February 2015
    I'm a Sci-Fi/Fantasy fan and there's a really great thread of recommendations going on over there, too.

    Daenyx Thanks for the Night Circus recommendation! Just added it to the list. 

    And @fatwhitecat have you ever read any Sharon Shinn? Her Twelve Houses series (starts with Mystic & Rider) is great and there's minimal maiming but a lot of action. Ditto for her Samaria series. I re-read these often.

    I also just finished The Queen of the Tearling and it's a really good one. The main character does get a little beat up towards the beginning but she's far from powerless and comes back roaring. It's pretty awesome... :)
  • "Gypsy Boy: My Life in the Secret World of the Romany Gypsies" by Mikey Walsh. I couldn't sleep until I finished the whole book.

  • Thank you to whomever recommended Susan Elia MacNeal.  Loving her books
  • Ok so what are you reading? Who wrote it? Is it any good?  What should we be reading?  Do we need a fiction and non fiction thread? 

    So many questions...

    Since Stieg Larsson has passed, I've been on the hunt for another author with the same sensibility. I've found another Nordic author named Jo Nesbo. His character is Harry Hole. I don't know if this is some sort of joke or not. It appears the last name is pronounced "Holy". Anyway..... I'm enjoying the first book, titled "The Bat" and there appears to be at least 7 more books with this character who is a flawed detective, the best kind. Shades of Harry Bosch!
  • Thanks to everyone who's recommended memoirs or biographies. I am about to embark on a major memoir/biography binge which will probably last at least a year.  

    In that vein, the biography that most influenced my teen self was Living Well is the Best Revenge, Calvin Tompkins' 1971 bio of Gerald and Sara Murphy, American ex-pats who were central to the artistic community in France in the 1920s. I haven't re-read it in nearly 20 years so I don't know how it holds up, but it helped form a lot of my ideas about the relationships between art, practical realities of life, fame and the relationship between those with and without money.

    (To those who like Maeve Binchy, if you don't mind a male protagonist and an explicit - though not, IMO, heavy-handed - Christian orientation try Jan Karon's Mitford novels. They are not as sweeping or as Horatio Alger-ish (hard work and good heart wins all) as Binchy, but they are similarly gentle stories of good people struggling to be good people and most often reaping rewards for doing so. The main characters are all in late middle age or older & they're set in a small city/town in the North Carolina mountains.)
  • edited February 2015
    I will add to the chorus of people recommending The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.  It's been a while since I read it, but, among its other virtues, I remember thinking that it has one of the best depictions of the creative process I've ever read.

    I usually read several books at a time, but grad school has slowed that down quite a bit.  Right now I'm only reading Geek Love by Katherine Dunn.  I think it was actually recommended in a comment thread over on TLo's site.  I'm enjoying it so far, but I think it's one of those books I'll have to finish before I can know completely how I feel.

    I love giving books for presents, so for this Valentine's Day, I gave my sweetie a copy of The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares (along with some homemade brownies, of course).  When I read it, I spent most of the time thinking it was really good, but maybe not great.  But then the ending absolutely gutted me.  I would definitely recommend it.
  • I just read "We Bought a Zoo" (the autobiography from which the movie was loosely based on) and it was such an emotional read with a lot of interesting technical information on how to begin a zoo (which I admit is useless for now, but still interesting). I had no intention of reading it until I saw it in a Barnes & Noble but couldn't get it out of my head, so after a few weeks of owning it I picked it up and finished it this weekend while I was on vacation.  I think it would be a GREAT read for anyone who is interested in animals, or just loves reading non-fiction that has such a wonderful, story-like appeal. It also has a mini-tv-documentary based on the zoo's opening on British television that I am scouring the world for called, "Ben's Zoo". 
  • Has anyone read the books of Frances Brody/Kate Shakleton Series?  Goodreads wants me to read them, but I figured I'd ask people I know have good taste first :)
  • I just finished The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon. A worthy sequel to The Bone Season. It takes a bit longer to get going than the first book but once it did it held me enthralled.
    She's done some really wonderful and inventive world building with these books. Apparently it's going to be a seven book series.
  • Another fan of Kavalier and Clay here, as well as Geek Love.

    Currently, I'm reading Children of the Canyon by David Kukoff. It's a novel about a kid growing up in Laurel Canyon in the late 60s/early 70s. Interesting and enjoyable, but not earthshaking. I might be more taken with it had I not picked it up after finishing The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. THAT was a great read. Both books are first novels, but the latter I would actually categorize as literature, with staying power. As an aspiring novelist, I'm so incredibly jealous. A bitter, bitter kitten! But as a reader--thanks Helene!

  • @Jackie4g   Have you read the Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French?  I enjoyed all of them a great deal; she gets the Irish flavor just right.  The Verlaque and Bonnet mysteries by M.L. Longworth are also good.  

    I've recently enjoyed The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, REmember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston, Patrimony by Philip Roth, and everything that Ron Rash has written, but especially his short stories.  
Sign In or Register to comment.