Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high…

Take a look, it’s in a book, a reading rainbow…
Let’s talk books!

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.

Photo credit

80 comments on “Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high…

  1. lizvd
    July 25, 2011 at 6:57 am #

    I definitely have to start the Dresden Files after that recommendation! My favorite books are probably mostly well known, but here ya go anyway:

    To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
    Pastwatch:The Redemption of Christopher Colombus – Orson Scott Card
    Oh, the Places You’ll Go – Dr. Seuss
    Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
    Emma – Jane Austen
    The Wallflower series – Lisa Kleypas
    Eat, Pray, Love / Committed – Elizabeth Gilbert

  2. Jaime
    July 25, 2011 at 7:32 am #

    I just got finished reading “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot. You need to read this. Everyone needs to read it, it’s a true story and if you’re alive right now, chances are it’s because you received medication or vaccines or treatments that were developed using the HeLa cells. In the 1950s, Henrietta Lacks had cervical cancer and she went to Johns Hopkins for treatment. At the same time, there were researchers who were trying to grow an immortal cell line for research. They had tried and failed numerous times, but the sample they took from Henrietta (later named HeLa, which I learned about in biology class), without her knowledge or her families knowledge grew and continues to grow to this day. It could just be a boring science book, but the writer got close to the family and really learned about Henrietta. It reads more like an adventure than a book about cells. You learn how Henrietta’s family has suffered, but through the author meeting with them and including them on her book research they start to understand and make piece with what happened to their mother. I literally couldn’t put it down, C came home one day and I was stirring marinara sauce while reading. Seriously, read this book now!

    Some of my other favorites:
    Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
    Anne of Green Gables (the whole series really) by Lucy Maud Montgomery
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

    • Jaime
      July 25, 2011 at 7:34 am #

      Make peace, not piece. I really can spell, I promise.

    • kindofamess
      July 25, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

      I have ruined many a book with reading/cooking. Did it last night actually…olive oil and comic books don’t mix.

      I’m going to second your Skloot suggestion; my university does a Common Reading Experience where all the incoming freshmen read the same book and The Immortal Life is the pick for class of 2015. I haven’t read it yet, just excerpts, but it is EXCELLENT.

  3. Jo
    July 25, 2011 at 7:49 am #

    I’m a reader. I’m super excited for the recommendations!

    I just read The Help and L-O-V-E-D loved it.

    • kindofamess
      July 25, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

      How was it reading the dialects in there? I’ve avoided it because have issues with them; I mostly find it annoying…

      • Jo
        July 26, 2011 at 8:11 am #

        Usually I’m irked by that as well, especially if it’s Scottish or something that you’re reading and really have to twist your brain around to figure out what word they’re trying to say. In this case it was just very appropriate, and flowed well.

  4. esposetta
    July 25, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    Hmm, I haven’t read any of these books…as a former English major, I feel like I’ve become really judgmental of books. And I’m okay with it, I’m not repenting for my sins, I’m just explaining my ignorance of so many contemporary books.

    I’m currently reading An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin), and really like it, though sometimes it’s a bit hokey, which I feel is usual with fiction. I also just finished Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, a collection of short stories by Danielle Evans. These were FANTASTIC, all caps. I loved every single story.

    My Life in France by Julia Child is a favorite, as is A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. The first is autobiographical, the second slightly is–fiction based on fact–but both are magnificent.

    • Maggie
      July 25, 2011 at 10:33 am #

      @esposetta: My husband was an English major and self-confessed book snob. He’s pretty unrepentant about it, too, 😉 but I love that about him. You should hear him go off on *The Kite Runner* or *Water for Elephants*… I recently finished *An Object of Beauty* and found it hokey, too. Which really disappointed me, as I really enjoyed his other books (*Shopgirl*; *The Pleasure of My Company*). The art world commentary was interesting, but the main character grated on my nerves… one of those cases when a male writer creates a woman who doesn’t come off as a fully-dimensional character, but rather, a woman-as-men-see-her, if that makes any sense… and the dialogue fell flat most of the time, IMHO. Still, I like the way he writes and will probably give his next work (if there is one) a go.

      • ElfPuddle
        July 25, 2011 at 11:30 am #

        Hee. I was an English major too. I have since repented, and read more “book crack” than might be good for me. Of course, it helps that I teach (well, sub at the moment), and after spending a day explaining why “aye” is not pronounced A, I just don’t want to read anything that reminds me of my students.

        • esposetta
          July 25, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

          Also! @elfpuddle: Students are reading?! Because, from what I can tell, they’re mostly spending their time on the internet. (I’m not some old lady saying this either, I’m 23, but I don’t know too many middle- or high-schoolers who read anymore. Maybe I was just a big ol’ nerd.) I can definitely understand that though; I don’t read classics or anything held in high regard by a few choice professors because they remind me of classes I didn’t like and didn’t want to take.

          • kindofamess
            July 25, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

            Ooo, y’all are SO gonna judge me when I put up my post about my embarassing book list. It’s okay, I deserve to be judged.

            • ElfPuddle
              July 25, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

              They read….when forced to read aloud in class. *evil teacher laugh*

              No judging! You saw my list, right? No judging at all. It may be book crack, but it’s wonderful stuff, and I don’t care what you read so long as you read.

      • esposetta
        July 25, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

        Oh yeah, I tend to not read anything that’s popular for exactly that reason…I also once used the term “light reading” to describe what I don’t read and my aunt hasn’t let me forget it since. I loved Steve Martin’s autobiography–mostly because I love him–but you’re exactly right: Lacey is what men see, not what a woman is. I’ve yet to come across a deep thought from her and I’m about halfway through the book. But I feel like this is a major dilemma with both male and female writers, because most authors tend to idealize characters, especially of the opposite sex, so it’s hard to get true narratives or personalities fleshed out. It’s an okay book, it’s keeping me entertained on the Metro, but I don’t think it’s a favorite.

  5. Michelle
    July 25, 2011 at 8:22 am #

    I’ve been plowing through the Girl Who Played with a Fire Hornet’s Nest books and they’re quick, compelling reads but I am NOT allowed to read them at night because they get into my dreamzz and it is bad news, which means it’s slow going. I know you said you don’t like to learn whole new worlds but I just finished DUNE and really loved it – and I’m not really super into sci-fi/fantasy (though I’m totally with you about the spelling of the cable channel). What kept me going with DUNE was that there were lots of feelings, which I am always a fan of, and the invented language that the author intersperses into the text is really neat. (I enjoyed the book much more after I read the glossary, so fair warning.) For a while I was shoving The Time Traveler’s Wife down everyone’s throat but then the movie came out and I heard it was awful, so I kind of backed off to avoid being associated with that.

    Also, shout out to Mother Night & Mr. Vonnegut! He is my #1 forever literary boyfriend, no question.

    • Ceej
      July 25, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

      I’ve had a serious hankering to read DUNE since you blogged about it last week!! Also: TTTW movie was in fact awful. Really, beyond awful. But also I got sick of them 2/3 of the way through the book. And also her 18th birthday skeeved me out.

      • Michelle
        July 26, 2011 at 10:13 am #

        I should probably read TTW again to make sure that I wasn’t just in a weird spot in my life or something, but it totally made me cry multiple times a few years ago, which is not really a thing I do with books. Dune is really cool; if you do read it we should follow that up by watching at LEAST one of the zillion film/TV adaptations, preferably the one featuring Sting, because, STING.

    • kindofamess
      July 25, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

      Mother Night is one of my all-time favorites, so much so that it didn’t even occur to me to put it in here. (I figured it’s everyone’s favorite…) Did you see the film? What’d you think of it?

      • Michelle
        July 26, 2011 at 10:20 am #

        I haven’t seen the movie! I am not very good at visual imagination so I often avoid movies of books I love fearing that they will take over my precious word-memories. However at your recommendation I will go for it!

        Also another recommendation that I just thought of: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. It’s Hamlet, except set on a dog farm in Wisconsin and at least one character from the play is actually a dog. It sounds absurd but I luuurved it. It’s long though, and apparently about to become a movie (produced by Tom Hanks and Oprah???) that may or may not ruin the book for me/in general.

  6. Chantal
    July 25, 2011 at 9:03 am #

    I have been waiting for your “must read” list; I only have two things to say: What took so long, and thank you.

    • kindofamess
      July 25, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

      I heart you.

      And I will need your help coming up; I’m gonna do a post on my favorite kid/young adults’ books while growing up and I might forget some of them…

  7. Beylit
    July 25, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    I did not start off as a reader, in fact I was in almost 3rd grade before I could really read. I had to have special tutors and everything. It was a very sore point for me, so even after I learned to read, I didn’t want to read. I got hooked on R.L.Stein Fear Street series, and my mother let me read as many as I wanted if I read one book of my brothers choosing every 5 books. I agreed and since I read so slowly 5 books was like 5 months in my world. My brother started reading when he was 3 (I am so not even joking there) and so his picks for me were always stuff I would eventually have to read for school (like 5 years later). Island of the Blue Dolphins was the first book he made me read, and then My Side of the Mountain. Where the Red Fern Grows, Lord of the Flies, and Little Women were also on the list, and those all impacted me greatly. After that I loved to read, even if I read stupidly slow still to this day.

    Favorite books that I will re read any time:

    The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern: This is so much better than the movie, and I adore the movie. It is the first book I think I read more than once (and am on my 5th copy of, partially from giving them to people to read and partially from reading it until the spine gives way)

    Wicked by Gregory Maguire: I have read all of Maguire’s books, and while they are all interesting there is just something about the Wicked series, Wicked in particular, that just speaks to me. It is sort of political, which I normally hate, but I adore this.

    Till we Have Faces by C.S. Lewis: This one is a take on the Psyche Eros myth, from the point of view of Psyche’s sister. It is a very interesting read, and was the first book I ever chose on my own from the book store that wasn’t in the teen section. It also marked my habit of reading books for the cover art.

    American Gods by Neil Gaiman: I actually love anything he writes, but American Gods was one of those books I couldn’t put down. The first night I read it I started intending just to read a chapter or two, and then the next thing I knew it was 6am. Neverwhere and Stardust were the same way, but this book just made me think.

    Those are my top 4. Though I have to say Lamb by Christopher Moore, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, Hitchhikers Guide series by Douglas Adams,and Enders Game by Orson Scott Card are all close runners up.

    • kindofamess
      July 25, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

      LAMB! I can’t believe I forgot that one….SO good. It’s a shame if you read that one first, though, all of his others don’t compare to it….

      And a big yes to American Gods. Dated, but still amazing. I’m glad you mentioned that, I need to send it to my father-in-law…

      • beylit
        July 25, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

        American Gods was just picked up by HBO or Showtime one as a TV series, but they are doing so many episodes there is not enough source material. So Neil Gaiman has said he will just have to write another book. I am SUPER excited!

        I haven’t gotten to read any other Christopher Moore’s books, but I do hear they are not as amazing. Though I hear Fool is pretty good.

    • Sarah
      July 25, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

      I just have to put out there … you just wrote my entire list, minus one. Princess Bride, Wicked, American Gods, Enders Game … and add Memoirs of a Geisha.

      Seriously. YOU’RE IN MY HEAD.

      Now, to go find Till We Have Faces….

  8. ElfPuddle
    July 25, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    I read while walking to elementary school. Crossing streets and reading is possible and did NOT get me run over, though my mom always swore it would.

    I’m also addicted to the Dresden Files. Once you start with Storm Front, you just can’t stop!

    In the historical fictiongenre, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series is the my favorite. I could eat them with a spoon. They aren’t deep, but they’re fun and lovely and sexy.

    In my non-realistic fantasy/sci-fi must-reads…
    I just got the latest of the Game of Thrones, A Dance with Dragons, but it’s been so long coming that now I’m re-reading the series. (No, I didn’t watch the HBO series. I have a non-tv thing. Not anti-tv, just not pro-tv either.)
    I fell in love with Anne McCaffery’s Pern series(es) when I was in junior high. I still read every Pern book that comes out; her son is continuing them and they are just as good.

    In the non-fantasy/sci-fi genre, (What? There’s f/sf, then there’s everything else.) I’m a fan of The Red Tent, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, all of Shakespeare’s plays (read them again and again…they’re better than Cats!), and Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books.

    Trust me.

    • ElfPuddle
      July 25, 2011 at 11:27 am #

      Ignore the typos. Apparently I can read, but not type. *blushes*

    • esposetta
      July 25, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

      I still read while walking home. When I tell my mom that, she also wonders how I didn’t trip and fall. I have no answers.

    • lizvd
      July 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

      I love the Dragonriders of Pern series, though my favorite books are the Harper’s Hall Trilogy. The combination of fantasy and music was perfect when I was a teen!

      • Nikki
        July 25, 2011 at 6:59 pm #

        Ooh. I loved Dragonriders too! I’m going to dig those out soon now that you’ve reminded me 🙂

        • Genevieve
          July 26, 2011 at 10:06 am #

          I talked to my fiance about this post and he decided to crack open Dragonriders again too! It must be contagious. (I read the Crystal Singer series but haven’t gotten around to Pern yet.)

    • Brenda
      July 25, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

      Reading through the comments I just had to reply to this one – The Guersney Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is amazing! After I read it this was the book I wheedled my mother into reading it, she loved it so much she ordered a copy online partway through reading. Normally I read her books more than she reads mine but this was the exception. The entire book is a series of letters written by various people and it is completely captivating, exploring how books affect us in the middle of a hilarious, gorgeous and compelling story.

      So all of you… GO READ THIS! 😀

    • kindofamess
      July 25, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

      I don’t know how many times I got told, “Alyssa, put the book DOWN and _____.” I guess there are worse habits for your kids to have….

      How excited are you for Dresden Files Book 12?? I have it on pre-order so I should get it tomorrow. I about DIED at the end of 11, I wasn’t expecting that. And I’d been spoiled because I didn’t start reading them until about book 9 or 10, so I was able to gobble them up quickly and plow right through to the next one…

    • Emily Elizabeth
      July 28, 2011 at 6:36 am #

      i love the pern books too! dragondrums was the first one i read back in high school, and since then they’ve always been a bit of a mental break for me. my husband makes fun of me for it, but seriously, dragons! and TINY dragons!

  9. Maggie
    July 25, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    Yay book talk!!! Some of my favs:

    Childhood Favs:
    The Ordinary Princess By M.M. Kaye
    Anne of Green Gables series & any short story collection by LMM
    Cheaper By the Dozen By Frank Gilbreth Jr. & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (NOTHING like the recent movie, blech)
    Henry Reed’s Journey By Keith Robertson (really, any in this series)

    Newish Fiction:
    On Beauty By Zadie Smith
    Middlesex By Jeffrey Eugenides
    The Namesake By Jhumpa Lahiri
    The Poisonwood Bible By Barbara Kingsolver
    The Wonder Spot By Curtis Sittenfeld
    The True Story of Hansel and Gretel By Louise Parker

    Memoirs/Graphic Novel Memoirs
    I Was Told There’s Be Cake By Sloane Crosley
    How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents & Yo! By Julia Alvarez
    Catch Me If You Can By Frank Abagnale Jr. (even if you’ve seen the movie, it’s worth a read)
    Not That Kind of Girl By Carlene Bauer
    The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance By Elna Baker
    Good Eggs: A Memoir By Phoebe Potts
    Blankets By Craig Thompson
    Fun Home By Alison Bechdel

    Old Classics:
    Anna Karenina
    The Woman In White
    Return of the Native
    Madame Bovary
    House of Mirth
    Anything by Jane Austen
    Anything by Charlotte or Anne Bronte (sorry, Emily ;P)

    • esposetta
      July 25, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

      I love Middlesex! And really all of Jeffrey Eugenides’ works. He has a New Yorker piece floating around the internet somewhere that’s worth Googling. (Or maybe NYT? I’m not sure.)

    • Ginna
      July 25, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

      @Maggie, oh yes Jhumpa Lahiri is my favorite author. I’ve loved everything I’ve read of hers!

  10. Maggie
    July 25, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    Oops, that should be Prep By Curtis Sittenfeld and The Wonder Spot By Melissa Banks… oh, and totally forgot another great one: Special Topics in Calamity Physics By Marisha Pessl.

    • kindofamess
      July 25, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

      By titles alone, these sound amazing…..

  11. Army Amy
    July 25, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    My book-loving head is spinning right now! So many great suggestions! And I just finished a big ol’ stack of books. Time to go book shopping!*

    • kindofamess
      July 25, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

      I know, right?!? I posted this hoping I’d turn some people on to my favorites, and now I have a huge list of books I need to get….

  12. Ginna
    July 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    I just put the Dresden Files on my library list, and can’t wait to tell the fiance about it. I liked Harry Potter much not much other sci-fi, he loves most sci-fi so maybe this is a middle ground for us. 🙂

    I just finished Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and liked both a lot more than I thought I would. Major Pettigrew has a hint of Jane Austen in how it showcases social conventions and how they often hold us back from relating to each other on a deeper level. The Guernsey LAPPPS was written entirely in letter format which I thought would be tedious to read but ending up being an interesting way to allow many of the characters to speak in their own voices, however briefly. Also I love the time period and all things Brittish!

    I also just read The Irresistable Henry House by Lisa Grunwald, the fictional account of a baby adopted from an orphanage in the late 40’s by a university so that Home Economics students could learn how to make a home and raise children. The wild part is that it is based on real events – this actually used to take place, with young women taking turns living in a “practice house” and being “practice mothers” to these infants. It went on until the late 60’s, when someone finally pointed out that it might be detrimental to the child not to have a secure attachment to a single person (or people) instead of a revolving door of students coming in and out of their lives.

    • kindofamess
      July 25, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

      Ooo, I’m adding these too; the The Irresistable Henry House sounds amazing….

  13. Nikki
    July 25, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Ha! You had me nodding my head and thinking ‘yes, exactly!’ for this whole post, from I read while doing everything (and especially the changing the channel part) to spelling it sy-fy is stupid. 🙂 Thanks for the recommendations, they’re going on my Goodreads list.

    My favorite books ever, of all time? Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I read the first one when I was 11 (first published in 1982). The last one came out when I was 24 (published in 2004). It’s epic, you guys, in a way nothing else has come close to. Harry Potter, maybe, but even those only marked a decade (1997-2007). The gunslinger saga took 22 years to tell. It’s a part of my life, as cheezy/dumb as that may sound. I have dreams about it sometimes, no joke.

    For quick but good reads John Sandford’s Prey series and Virgil Flowers series are awesome. Tight pacing and suspense, plot twists that aren’t predictable, and sly humor.

    Autobiographies: Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton was really good, but it could just be because I’ve been in food/restaurant management for a long time. Rat Girl: A Memoir by Kristin Hersh was amazing, and Just Kids by Patti Smith was good too. Julie Powell’s books are good too (in case you haven’t read Julie and Julia, which I didn’t for a long time because everyone likes it. It was much better than I expected).

    A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan is the best book I’ve read all year.

    The Elenium by David Eddings are great fantasy books, along with the Dragon Lance books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

    I’ve read a million dog training books these past 2 years also, so if you ever need recommendations for those, I’ve got you covered 🙂

    • kindofamess
      July 25, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

      I think I need to get back on GoodReads. I have an account, I just never used it.

      Also, most of my reads would be embarassing….

      • Maggie
        July 25, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

        I bet they wouldn’t be more embarrassing than mine… 😉 I read lots of trashy stuff, too (most of it’s terrible, so I didn’t list it here, but I read it nevertheless!). My other weakness: books written by former strippers/prostitutes.

  14. Ceej
    July 25, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    Maggie mentioned a couple of mine, but here goes:
    -The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Especially good if you have sisters.
    -A Clockwork Orange. An ex insinuated that I wasn’t smart enough to read this, so I got it to spite him, then loved it and broke up with him. BAM.
    -Animal Dreams also by Kingsolver.
    -One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Recently blew my mind. Blew. The sense of dread is palpable, which is much better than it sounds.
    -For Whom the Bell Tolls. I majorly heart stream of conscious writing. Hemingway makes me feel like he lives inside my mind. Even when he’s writing about the Spanish civil war. Seriously. Important to note: you can’t casually read this book; you gotta focus. It’s a significant time/attention/emotion investment.
    -The Hunger Games trilogy (which I’m now re-reading I loved it that much).
    -His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. 13 year-old me would write super mean notes to her BFF about you if you said anything mean about this series.
    -White Teeth by Zadie Smith. So. Good.
    -Lolita. Which made me want to lock my then-12-year-old sister in her room for the next 10 years of her life.
    -Wicked by Gregory Maguire (holla Beylit!). I can’t get into the follow-up books, but Wicked has a special place in my heart. And also a SWEET map of Oz. Win.

    • Ceej
      July 25, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

      OH also: if you’re interested in graphic novels (I wasn’t; this was kind of forced on me at the time), I HIGHLY recommend Preacher. Highly. And knowing it gives you MAD street cred with comic-lovers. Not that that’s important, but it’s a nice ace-in-the-pocket, I think.

      • Maggie
        July 25, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

        Oh, man – my husband really likes *Preacher* (though his description of it is, “It’s great, but really f*cked up”). Haven’t tried it yet myself. *Watchmen* was kind of forced on me, but I ended up gobbling it up – and *Y: The Last Man* is an AWESOME series (10 volumes) that I’ve shared w/my sister and a friend and both loved it, too. Very funny/literary adventure story about what happens when all the men on earth die except for one

        Yeah… I married a comic book/graphic novel nerd and somehow became one in the process. 😉 There’s some wonderful overlooked stuff in that genre, though.

        • Ceej
          July 25, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

          I’ve been thinking about reading Watchmen…I’ve heard it’s amazeballs. I never have comic book exposure anymore because it was an ex that foisted them upon me, and my fiance is an entirely different breed of dweeb. I have to concur with the “fcked up” assessment of Preacher. It is NOT a fairy tale. But maaaaan it’s so gooooood!!

          I’m theceejus on Goodreads if you want to find me.

          • kindofamess
            July 25, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

            Preacher is awesome. As is Watchmen. I’m a complete comic book nerd, and there will most definitely be a geeky graphic novel post in the future.

    • kindofamess
      July 25, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

      HA! I love that you were all “Suck it!” to your ex. My kind of lady….

      And Lolita is one of my faves. I didn’t think it would be, but it just sucked me in and kept me there; kind of like Perfume, but in a more “Oh dear God, this is so beautiful, only if it weren’t about a CHILD…..”

  15. Meghan
    July 25, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    I also get very twitchy if I don’t have a book to read. When I was in law school, I just didn’t have the energy to find books to read (and also didn’t have the energy to read anything complex) so I read Harry Potter over and over and over, and absolutely never got tired of them. Some of my other faves:

    In the Woods – Tana French. Just read this, and could NOT PUT IT DOWN. Great mystery.
    The Dark is Rising series – Susan Cooper. Young adult books with a bit of religious bent (although it’s not too obvious, more a good vs. evil type thing). Such a good adventure series.
    The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss. Another “grown up Harry Potter.”
    Prodigal Summer – Barbara Kingsolver
    The Stolen Child – Keith Donahue. About changlings.
    East of the Mountains – David Guterson. This book is super sad, but feels cleansing somehow. About a man facing his old age.
    The Outlander Series – someone mentioned above. These are fun, engrossing reads.
    Geek Love – Katherine Dunn. About a circus family.

    Also, if you’re a book nerd, you should really be on Goodreads! Like facebook but for, um, books…and a great way to keep track of what you’ve read, what you want to read, and what your friends are reading that you should read.

    • kindofamess
      July 25, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

      I might have to start using GoodReads again., if only to keep track of what I’ve read (or want to read). I don’t know how many time I’ve been in a bookstore and just stood there staring at the shelves going, “What WAS that damn book called again?!”

  16. Laura
    July 25, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    I second the support for American Gods and A Clockwork Orange! I’ve been alternately reading the books from The Hunger Games and the Stieg Larsson trilogies, which are great, but you don’t need me to recommend them. 🙂 One of my other big favorites, though, is Corelli’s Mandolin. (I haven’t seen the movie, so I’m not sure how it compares to the book, but I have to believe the book is probably superior.) I picked it up on a whim last summer at a used bookstore, and after two chapters I was breathlessly recommending it to anyone who would listen. I love the way the story is told from the perspectives of its many different characters, and it gave me a glimpse into a part of WWII I hadn’t known much about before. Also, it totally made me cry.

  17. Jenn
    July 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    I was extremely saddened to meet someone the other day who had never heard of reading rainbow. and then I was even more saddened that I remember nothing about it except the theme song, and the concept that kids should read more.

    • lizvd
      July 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

      I was listening to NPR when I found out that it was being cancelled. I think I cried. The joy of reading doesn’t seem to be considered important anymore…

    • esposetta
      July 25, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

      Really, you don’t remember having a favorite episode? I had three: Levar went to a wax museum to see how the people (?) were made; there was one on slavery that I found profoundly interesting at the age of six; and there was a woman who made mobiles and yard decorations out of metal scraps and wires. The first and last don’t have much to do with books but I’m sure they were in there somewhere. I was already a reader, so I didn’t really need that encouragement as it was.

      • kindofamess
        July 25, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

        I mostly remember the one where there was a dolphin. Because I was 7 and wanted to be an oceanographer or an ichthyologist and work with dolphins. (No one corrected me on this until I was about 13…)

  18. Vee
    July 25, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    I’m a huge reader, too – are you on Goodreads? I love tracking my books… it makes me feel so accomplished to watch my read-list grow. LOL OK before I sound like one of their marketers… I actually just checked out The Thirteenth Tale from the library the other day, so I’m glad to hear you liked it.

    I don’t really have “favorite books” per se – is that weird? I loved Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn. I loved The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet. This year, I read Thrity Umrigar’s The Space Between Us and loved it. I was a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice, and I also really liked Washington Square by Henry James. And I’ll admit to (despite being an English major in college) quite liking “light reading” as long as the story keeps the pages turning. I’ll read just about anything.

    Oh, oh, oh. and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. Just loved it.

    • Maggie
      July 25, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

      I was just wondering if anyone else was on Goodreads… not sure how to find people on there, though.

    • kindofamess
      July 25, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

      The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake makes me want to read it by title alone.

    • Nikki
      July 25, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

      I’m the same way about Goodreads. I have a shelf to make sure I read 100 books in 2011 and I get a nerdy little thrill every time I add a book to it. 🙂

  19. Sharon
    July 25, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    Oooh, your description of the Dresden Files makes me want to pick them up again. (I read the first one last year and wasn’t blown away by it, but from what I hear… the series gets better and better?) If you like urban fantasy, you must must MUST read Emma Bull’s “War for the Oaks.” (Though be prepared from some descriptions of ’80s fashion that’ll make you laugh! :))

    As an English grad student who is expected to snub “light reading” or “popular fiction,” I get a HUGE kick out of telling classmates that I’m planning to reread the Harry Potters this summer when they say they’ll be reading Hegel. *eyeroll*

    • kindofamess
      July 25, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

      Yes, they definitely get better! And another urban fantasy that I enjoy is Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series. The first book is a PAIN to get through, but the subsequent ones will keep you sucked in…

  20. Erin
    July 25, 2011 at 3:46 pm #

    Glad to see the Barbara Kingsolver props. I loved Animal Dreams. I am also a recovered lit snob. I have to admit, I can’t read books with too much tragedy in them anymore. I have had to put “The Thorn Birds” down three separate times because I get so heartbroken over the sadness of the characters’ lives. Not sure when this started… And I’m not preggers, either? Weird.
    Also: I am going to be a little controversial here. The Girl w/the Dragon Tattoo? Read it. Finished it. But only because I’d actually paid for it, and I’ll be damned if I don’t finish a book I paid cash money for. I couldn’t stand all the graphic violence, and that’s what the whole series seems to hang on. But bless me, my grandmother-in-law read the whole trilogy and loved it. She’s 83, and I guess she’s way more bad-ass than I am. *sigh*

    • kindofamess
      July 25, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

      I’m with you; I have the book because it was a gift, but I can’t bring myself to read it. It just doesn’t seem to be my thing….

    • Maggie
      July 25, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

      I watched the movie Girl With a Dragon Tattoo (Swedish version) and felt sort of sick afterwards. Maybe I have a weak stomach, but I felt like it pushed the boundaries of plot-driven violence and crossed over into gratuitous ickyness (I feel this way sometimes about the TV show Criminal Minds, so maybe it’s just me). All my relatives love the books, though.

    • Ceej
      July 25, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

      I read the whole trilogy, and I don’t think it was worth the brainspace. The first one was definitely the best, but all three of them take SO LONG to get going, and the Swedish names are all so effing similar, by the end I couldn’t keep the characters straight anymore. I wrote a post with a mini rant about my annoyance with Mikael Blomkvist (http://peachyringsaredead.blogspot.com/2011/06/i-would-totally-marrya-couple-of-actors.html) so I won’t get into it again here. Forget Lisbeth, just skip to Katniss. The Hunger Games are so so so worth your time.

  21. Caitlin
    July 25, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

    Now that song is in my head…. And I’m itching to go to the library and pick up some of these great book recommendations!

  22. Megan Beardsley
    July 25, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

    1. Saw Perfume. Loved it and super wanted it to be over at the same time.
    2. Just finished “A Good and Happy Child.” Crazy good.
    3. The Fountainhead…took ages….worth it.

  23. Kristy
    July 26, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    I think this is why we’re friends. I completely inhaled books as soon as I learned how to read. (I used to think I could read – around age 3, probably – but I’d actually just memorized Go, Dog! Go!) I got in trouble all the time for eating at the dinner table, and my mom still says I fill myself with books instead of food.

    I’ve been re-reading all my LM Montgomery books lately. I think I read the Anne books every 12-18 months. And Louisa May Alcott is another favourite. I must be feeling really nostalgic in my reading choices lately because I found a complete set of the Little House books at Half Price and finished them in under a week.

    You may have convinced me to read the Dresden Files based solely on the fact that he drives a VW Beetle. I think his Beetle & my Bus would be friends.

    Oh – I read The Hunger Games recently. Have you read it? I actually don’t know how I feel about it right now, maybe because I had no idea what it was about when I started it. But it seems everyone I know from my 15-year-old cousin to 30-something bloggers loves the series, so I’ll probably go buy the next 2 books tonight. It’s just so intense!

  24. lizvd
    July 28, 2011 at 7:02 am #

    Wow, I saw your name and it took me back! Emily Elizabeth is Clifford’s owner. Do you have a big red dog hanging out at your place? Sorry, couldn’t resist.

    When I was in junior high my mom read Dragonsong to me while I was sick. At first I felt awkward about being read to again after so many years of reading to myself, but then I got caught up in the story and once I was better, proceeded to read the whole series!

    • lizvd
      July 28, 2011 at 7:04 am #

      Bleh I hit reply in the email and it apparently didn’t link to the correct comment 😦

  25. Emily Elizabeth
    July 28, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    SO many great book recommendations! I will try to not repeat what anyone said already, but I do have to second @Laura’s Captain Corelli’s Mandolin recommendation. This is the book that I read recently that I have been pushing on everyone. It really is an amazing book, and made me want to run away to Greece.

    Other all time favorites:
    – Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie – won the Booker prize, and then the best of the Booker prize. So good.
    – Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell this book sat on my bookshelf for years before I read it. Once I did, I couldn’t believe I had waited so long. I don’t want to say too much about it, just give it a try.
    – Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtrey – read this and try not to fall in love with Gus or Cal, seriously.
    – Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood – I love most of her books, but this was my first
    – Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins

    For anyone who reads while walking (or wishes they did) go for the books on tape! I walk half an hour to and from school, and am always listening to a book on tape (also good for washing the dishes, cleaning the house, walking the dog, doing big grocery store trips, and of course, long drives). I was on Audible for a while (and then I realized it was kind of expensive) so I’ve been listening to library books.
    Audio book recommendations:
    – The Help is acutally really great as an audio book, the readers were amazing. I was thinking in a Southern drawl by the end of it (a funny side effect of books on tape is they make me think/speak in accents).
    – Skippy Dies by Paul Murray – really cool book narrated by many different people. Skippy dies in the first chapter, which somehow isn’t the climax of the book. You go back to when he was alive, and meet so many characters, and come back to Skippy’s death and go beyond it. Sometimes hysterical, sometimes I caught myself crying. Listening to this while doing research on a boat full of Irishmen had me speaking with an Irish accent, which was pretty funny. (Crying while listening to a book on tape on a boat full of Irishmen was not as funny).
    – A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – probably don’t have to listen to this one on tape, but it was a really fun book. I have never had a book so closely parallel my interests before though, it was kind of crazy! (A book about a witch who is an academic, loves to read, drinks tons of tea, does yoga, studies the history of magic, falls in love with a vampire, seriously what’s not to love). Good summer fun reading.

  26. Red
    July 28, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    I just discovered that GoodReads has a free app, with a barcode scan option and I JUST so happen to be moving this weekend and will need to pack and unpack all my books… the perfect time to scan and add to my new GoodReads account as I go! 🙂 The Thirteenth Tale is a book I always recommend to people who I know are book worms, I also generally recommend The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (I’m a Victorian novel nerd), but know that most people who ask me for book recommendations don’t really mean it… especially once they don’t hear me recommend books they kind buy at the grocery store (*cough* Dan Brown *cough*).

    Oh, and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe is a must read in my mind.

    P.S. – I’ve been humming the Reading Rainbow theme ever since you published this post, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

  27. Ali
    July 30, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    Ok, I absolutely second The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. The layers of detail he has in his worldbuilding is ridiculous and gorgeous and totally believable. Brandon Sanderson is also really amazing- he’s the one finishing the Wheel of Time series (which I refuse to read until it’s finished, cause I’ve started it too many times, then a new book comes out, and I’ve forgotten what happened in the last books, so I have to start all over and…gah). Rant aside, his Mistborn trilogy is awesome, but my favorite book of his is Elantris. And then there is Lois McMaster Bujold, particularly the Vorkosigan Saga. A physically handicapped hyperactive git of a hero who’s dad is the Regent of a feudal society–plus spaceships and my favorite female character in all of fiction. I can’t even describe the awesomeness. Start with Warrior’s Apprentice, then skip back to Shards of Honor, which is how his parents met.


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