Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Something I usually avoid: Blanket book recommendations

People know I read a lot, so I often get asked to recommend books. That's easier to do if the asker gives me a genre to work within but when they just want a good book or any book I've liked, that's trickier. Liking or loving a book could be due to many things, and they're rarely the same across the board: sometimes it's the writing, or the characters, or the story line, or a surprise, or the setting, or the subject. Sometimes it's a few of those things. Sometimes it's none of those things but one. Sometimes it's where I am in my life when I read it, or it's a reminder of a place I've been in my life - physical or emotional or a state of mind.

So it's very hard, when you ask someone for a book they like that you expect to like too. A book I think is good is not one you will like if you don't like the types of books I read. A book that hit me in the soul is not one that will hit you if you don't identify with the piece of it I identified with. In general I'd rather do what I do in Show Us Your Books posts: tell you I liked it or didn't and give a quasi-why and let you decide for yourself.

Not to mention that once I start naming books I've liked, it's hard for me to stop. I've read 88 books so far this year, 139 last year, 158 in 2017, 129 in 2016...I have a lot of material to pull from. For this list I just glanced over my last three years of reads and pulled a small few from the depths. Even as I finish this, I keep thinking of more and more and I just need to stop.

But here I am, throwing caution to the wind and making blanket book recommendations divvied up into a few non-professional opinion categories. I'm not even going to tell you why I liked them in all instances. It's safe to say I'd throw these recommendations out to various people depending on who was asking.

 Let us begin...all links go to Goodreads where you can read a synopsis of the book or where to find it because someone else already does a very good job of summarizing books for pay so I never do that for free. For series books, may I suggest google? Most series books I like are character driven. If you read one and you don't like the character, you will likely not like the rest.

Women's fiction
Other People's Houses by Abbi Waxman

Verity by Colleen Hoover

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid - Like you're living in a rock and roll book.

Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren - It's like a romance book for people who don't like romance books.

 The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin  - I love books about reading, and while this is about other things, it's largely about the powerful impact reading can have on our lives.

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Literary fiction
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson 

The Lost Man by Jane Harper - This is a long, slow burn.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones - Complicated, emotional, nuanced, superbly written

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah - In which geography and time are characters

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain - This was a beautiful and romantic novel tinged with loss, triumph, and hardship.

Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde  - This book pinged a lot of my points - a road trip to Yellowstone, sobriety, dog love, choosing your family. Sometimes it feels like you come across a book at a perfect time, and this was one of those books for me.

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler - I really loved this book and can't explain why. Beautifully written, so that's surely a part of it. A stellar title, that's part of it too. But I think most of it is just falling into its rhythm and rocking in its cadence.

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - Familiar with the Frankenstein story, I was unprepared for the nuanced writing of Shelley.

Books that are difficult to read due to content but important/worth it-most have triggers of some type
A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum - This broke me a thousand times. It was a hard read, but if it was hard for me to read, how hard is it for some women to live? Beautiful writing and a perspective I have not read previously.  

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See - What a tremendous story and exceptional strength in these women. They felt so real to me and that is the mark of a very good book.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi - I have feelings for this book. The story itself and the telling are absolutely masterful as well. I've never read anything like it. I will feel the impact of this one for years.

Back Roads by Tawni O'Dell - This book might have started my love of hard life in Appalachia tales back in the early 2000s.

The Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly - I could not even think of reading another WWII book for two years after this one.

Mystery/murder-y/full of psychos
Run Away by Harlan Coben - I've read all of Harlan Coben's books and usually prefer the Myron Bolitar series over his stand alones but I freaking loved this. Layers upon layers and a great pace.

Sadie by Courtney Summers - Compulsively readable. I couldn't put this down.

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell - Tightly woven, well written mystery

Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone - This was a quick read and a good one.

You by Caroline Kepnes  - If a book contains a psycho, chances are I'll like it. If it contains a psycho that the author manages to make likable, I will love it.

Young Adult Books that Adults Will Like Also
One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - Read it. As soon as you can. And make sure your mind is open to something that is likely not your reality. This is a YA book that people of all ages should be reading.

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay - Beautiful writing, well shaped characters, and the intensity of the emotions of youth combine for a riveting read.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles - Phineas remains larger than life in my mind and in literary history.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo - Written by a white person for white people who think they are beyond all racism, I wish this was required reading.

Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist by Eli Saslow -  This is straight from the reformed white supremacist's mouth.

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land - You know why I loved this? It read like fiction. This is a wild fucking story.

The Heroin Diaries by Nikki Sixx - I continue to be amazed that Sixx is alive.

Lake Wobegon Summer, 1956 by Garrison Keillor - This book made me laugh my ass off. Not sure if it's totally nonfiction as much as storytelling but it was hilarious.

Kate Burkholder novels by Linda Castillo
Fina Ludlow novels by Ingrid Thoft
Alphabet novels of Kinsey Milhone by Sue Grafton - the last ones are not good but I loved the series in total
Wayward Pines trilogy by Blake Crouch
Virgil Flowers books by John Sandford
Archy McNally books by Lawrence Sanders
Red Rising series by Pierce Brown

Happy Juneteenth, the official end of slavery in the US 154 years ago today. As of today, Juneteenth will be an observed holiday here in PA. Unofficially of course slavery never truly died, with the oppression of black people continuing with Jim Crow laws and still today in the for profit prison system and the current era of mass incarceration so we have work to do. We meaning white people these are our systems to smash.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY MOM TODAY! And my cousin Ashley as well!

Books you would blanket recommend?

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