I am a reader. I always have been. If I don’t have something to read, I get twitchy. Growing up, my parents always refused my demands for candy or toys, but I always knew I could get something to read if I asked nicely. (This resutled in me getting a lot of Archie and Kathy Kane comics, Disney Adventures magazine and National Enquirer or World Weekly News. ) I also made a weekly trip to the library where I’d pick out 13 books because that was the biggest amount I could. You couldn’t get more than 13. I know, I asked.
I read while watching TV, in the car, eating, getting ready for school…and I still do, actually. (By the way, reading and watching TV IS possible and does not mean that you can come change the channel to Extreme Ice Road Logging Fishing Alligator Truckers…JETHRO.)
These are some of my favorites, but this changes. A LOT.
The Mercy of Thin Air: A Novel by Ronlyn Domingue.
This is a beautiful novel and one that I have a habit of shipping out to fellow readers, even if they don’t want it. (I’m a book pusher.) This is not a perfect book, but it had some moments that had be crying softly at its subtle beauty/tragedy. It’s the story of Razi, a feminist in the 1920’s with a passion for women’s birth control rights and her boyfriend Andrew. She dies unexpectedly and is kept in the in-between; unable to move on and interacting with others caught there. She’s drawn to a young couple named Amy and Scott and finds a strange connection between her life and theirs.
Razi’s story will grab you, but what also got me was Amy and Scott’s and the slow unraveling of their own lives and marriage. The story is startling, but incredibly subtle, if that makes sense. It’s about life, after-life, having babies, not having babies, being a wife and being a woman. It’s awesome and you should read it right now.
The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel by Diane Setterfield.
I almost didn’t read this one because when I first saw it, it was in a big pile at Half-Price Books. I used to refuse to read books that were in big stacks at used book stores because big stacks of the same book means book club books and probably not my cup of tea. But this book changed that.
Another sort of ghost story, it’s the tale of two women: first is Margaret Lea, a bookseller in her father’s shop and biography writer, hired to write the biography of the dying Vida Winter. The true story of Vida’s life has never been told as she is notorious for telling tales to everyone that tries; no one knows the truth. As Margaret learns the truth of Vida, we also get a glimpse into Vida’s life and her broken, flawed family and childhood. And, of course, Margaret discovers some truth of her own about herself. (Like, for real truths, not Lifetime story of the week type truths.)
There are many comparisons to Setterfield’s book and Jane Eyre. I’m not a huge Jane Eyre fan, but thus one GOT ME. It’s gothic and thrilling, but in a quiet way that makes you gasp and then want to go back and re-read as much as you want to hurry and get to the end.
Don’t get me wrong, The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel is not amazing or life-changing. But it is perfect for a snowy night in with a cup of hot cocoa. (Which is definitely not right now as most of the world is on FIRE. *sigh*)
Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou.
I can’t believe that it took me as long as it did for me to finally read this. This needs to be issued to every woman when she turns 18. It’s not so much a how-to book for life, but a book on how it was done (by Angelou). It’s a slim little novel, but it holds so much wisdom and it just BEGS to be read aloud. I adore Maya Angelou; how can you not love someone who gives advice like, “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud,”? If I hadn’t be planning on being a crazy old lady, I’d want to be just like Maya Angelou when I grow up.
Storm Front (The Dresden Files, Book 1) by Jim Butcher.
This is another one of my books that I send to unsuspecting readers, especially anyone who likes sci-fi. It gets described a lot as “grown-up Harry Potter” and they’re right. The lead is Harry Dresden, a wizard with a past that makes him famous. Except his past is more of the “I murdered someone and almost was executed by the guild of governing wizards because of it,” variety. His Ron is a horny spirit who lives in a human skull on his shelf and his Hermione is a police detective that doesn’t really care of all this magic sh*t, thank you very much.
There are wizards, werewolves, fairies and vampires, but it is also very grounded in reality – Chicago specifically. I am a fan of reality-based fantasy/sci-fi, if I have to learn a whole new world I’m not a fan (I’m looking at YOU, Star Wars…) so this fits me nicely. Harry casts spells, but also has a Coke addiction. (the drinky kind, not the snorty kind.) He battles werewolves and vampires, but is most irritated when they mess up the Blue Beetle, his dilapidated Volkswagen. He can save the world, but kinda sucks with the ladies.
The biggest comparison to Harry Potter is that the books (all 11 so far, 12 comes out this month) are so interconnected that while you can read them individually, things that were minor plot points in Book 3 are major players in Book 10. It not only keeps you involved as a reader, it makes you want to re-read them over and over.
Don’t watch the Sci-Fi Channel series, by the way. The lead is kind of cute, but they just messed it up. (Yes, I wrote Sci-fi Channel. Because, regardless of what they say, spelling it like “Sy-fy” is STUPID.)
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
You ever have a book that you wanted desperately to stop reading, but couldn’t? But in a good way, not a train-wreck way? This is that book for me. It’s the story of Jean-Baptist Grenouille, a 18th century French man who has a superhuman sense of smell and a warped sense of humanity. The descriptions of scents, the emotional effect they have on Genouille and the lengths he goes to experience and possess them are beautiful and stunning, just as they are terrible. This is a precursor to the book that inspired Dexter, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, as its also a book about a human (but not quite) murderer whose description of who he is and why he does what he does is so compelling, you almost forgive him. And that, will freak you the hell out and possible give you nightmares.
It’s so worth it.
This is also the only book, other than Mother Night, that I think has translated well from page to screen. The film is weird, terrible and so gripping I couldn’t stand it. Also? ALAN RICKMAN. (I don’t need to say more.)
Gimmee your faves! What books have you read that you want to grab someone immediately after finishing it and go, “HERE! PUT THIS IN YOUR BRAIN NOW!!” ?
***The links in this post are through Amazon Affiliate that I just signed up for and am not even sure that I’m using correctly. If you were to purchase anything through them (even if it wasn’t that particular book,) I’d get a percentage. You are in no way obligated to do so.