Books for Grown-ups: Fiction & Recreational Reading
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Books for Grown-ups: Fiction & Recreational Reading
I have been a book worm since very early age. I went
through the classics in my teens, and spent my 20s with
wonderful books of Kafka, Umberto Eco, Albert Camus,
historical biographies, etc. However, once I got into my
working years, I started turning to more mindless
reading. My thought was since my brain was ''on'' all day,
all I wanted to do was read something fun to escape from
all. Well fast forward 10 years and I'm so sick of murder
mysteries, chick lit, and spy novels. I want to go back to
my intellectual reading days but can't seem to be able to
find the concentration for it with a full time job and
toddler running around. Everytime I get my hands on a
substansive book, I find my eyes glazing over, reading the
same page over and over until I give up and go back to
something like ''shopaholic and baby''. I've joined couple
book clubs but they did not work out for reasons too long
to explain (who knew there was so much internal politics
in book clubs). So I am just looking for some amazing book
recommendations here for something that is interesting,
thought provoking but still somewhat light enough to be
captivating and get me back in the game. Some comments on
my preferences: I like all kinds of books but not a big
fan of ''coming of age, finding myself'' type of theme. Some
books I've enjoyed for example in the last couple years:
The Historian, Shadow of the Wind, Thirteenth Tale. I like
international settings and intriguing characters. I know
this board is about parenting but would love to read well
and be a good role model for my child. I'm hoping the
great diversity of this board would give me some good
recommendations. thank you.
no more chick lit please
I am a very avid reader and have struggled with this exact issue. With two small
kids, I don't have the faculties to give the classics the attention they deserve.
chick lit and formulaic crime dramas don't hold my attention. Here's a list of
books off the top of my head that navigate the line of my over-tired, but not
Little Bee - an emotionally heavy read
anything by Tana French -- great crime novels, with truly engaging characters
LIfe of Pi
The Art of Racing in the Rain - for dog lovers
if you enjoy these, let me know and maybe we can find a book club for mothers
that want to read something in between Dostoevsky and Shopoholic.
What a great question! I love you already. Literature is
my career as well as my passion, and I wish I could get a
consulting job working with people like you. Alas, there
seems to be insufficient demand. Anyway, there are a couple
of ways to go, and you can combine them if you like. I have
always loved British literature, particularly fat books of
the Victorian period (''fat book'' being a technical term...)
George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, William Makepeace
Thackeray, Jane Austen, the Brontes, etc. Just this list
could keep a person going for a long time. You could do it
with Russian novels, or French (Hugo and Balzac and Flaubert
and Sand and...) or German (if you are of a philosophical
turn of mind) or Icelandic medieval sagas, or Latin American
novels... The point is to immerse yourself in a culture and
a historical milieu until you begin to feel very conversant
with the concerns and emotions and issues and aesthetic
approaches circulating in the worlds the novels represent.
If novels are too time-consuming, try short stories as a
genre: Chekhov and Gogol in Russia, Thomas Mann and Robert
Musil and Heinrich v. Kleist in German, Alice Munro (she's
amazing) from Canada, etc. You could try a part of the
world not often explored through fiction; the Scandinavians
write much more than crime fiction. One of my favorite
novels is Dr. Glas, by Swedish author Hjalmar Soderberg.
It's a fantastic story from the turn of the last century
about a doctor who contemplates murdering a patient.
Another very different Swedish novelist is contemporary
Kerstin Ekman; her long novel The Forest of Hours deals with
a troll who lives for 400 years and observes all of European
history, while her short novel The Dog follows the life of a
dog from puppyhood to adulthood through the dog's
perspective. Which brings up another angle: following your
personal passions through literature. If you love dogs,
there are a ton of works that explore dog-ness (Virginia
Woolf's Flash, for instance). Politics? Music? Gardening?
You can make up a thematic list. Or read the novels and
prose written by women from around the world to get a
kaleidoscope view of the world of women. And don't forget
poetry. Poetry is short and deep. I know a good number of
people who are absolutely wedded to Austrian poet Rainer
Maria Rilke. Another Swede: Tomas Transtromer. Marge
Piercy. Buy an anthology and find the voices that speak to
you. Have fun. And keep in touch.
in love with literature
Check out Oprah's book club - you will be pleasantly surprised. Plus John Irving
is a great read as well as Jodi Piccoult and Philippa Gregory.
I'm not sure if this will help, but http://www.goodreads.com/
has a good algorithm for recommending books. It's free to
join, so create an account and rate as many books that you
have read as possible and then they will give you
recommendations based on your ratings. You can read about
their recommendations algorithm here:
Philip Roth: The Human Stain, American Pastoral, Plot
Against America.. etc.
David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas, number9dream
If you don't get much response here, try going to a librarian or two. They love
sharing their vast knowledge,a dn we are paying their salary to do so. You can
tell them what you've enjoyed reading in the past and seeing what they suggest.
Librarians are a wonderful resource. You can even go to a library not in your
own town and ask them. Hey, you could probably even call them! So I'd say, get
to a know a librarian or two, you will probably find one with great suggestions,
even if they don't share your taste.
Love My Librarians!
I too love the Historian, Shadow of the Wind, and The
Thirteenth Tale.... All these books I found on Amazon.
I just finished Mudbound, Molokai, and am starting on A
Town Like Alice.
You just type in your favorite book on www.amazon.com and
scroll down. They'll have books similar to what you liked
best. I choose the ones that have the highest stars or
the greatest number of reviews. I've read some of the
best books this way. I find a bunch, go on to the local
library website and put hold requests on them. I save a
lot of money this way, and I don't have to figure out what
to do with the books afterwards. Enjoy.
Choose what you like but listen to it as an audio book instead. I find myself
much more engaged, more likely to finish the book and less likely to skip parts.
I check audio books out of the library. I listen to books at the park while I
my kids, while I'm cooking or cleaning house (get a lot more done around the
house when I've got an interesting book to listen to), when taking a walk, while
gardening or sometimes to distract myself to sleep. Most of the members of my
book club listen to the selections instead of reading them, too. So we analyze
the book and then critique the narrator!
More than one way to be a bookworm
Hi No More Chick Lit.
I have a very similar story, except that for several
parenting-intensive years I almost stopped reading
altogether. Maybe the odd magazine. But 5 or 6 years back I
realized how much I missed reading, and how much pleasure
and richness books had always brought me. I dove back into
reading and it made such a difference! I'm now even
developing a business around books.
I do have some titles to recommend, but also suggest that
you check out the website Goodreads. It's a fun source of
inspiration and a place to find books to read, keep lists of
what you want to read or have read, and connect with others.
You can find me there at http://www.goodreads.com/annemcgibbs.
When I don't have the energy for a real book, I can still
manage to pick up the New Yorker and find something that is
both enjoyable and intellectually-stimulating.
Also, if there is something I really want to read but have
trouble making myself do it, I do what I did to get through
reading assignments in college - divide up that 500 page
novel into 50-page chunks. (Or 25, if you're really struggling.)
You can read 25 pages a night of anything. And once you get into
it, you'll find yourself reading beyond your "assignment."
Anne again. Here are some titles I've enjoyed recently that
you might like. You'll see my bias toward historical
fiction, but don't worry, these are not dry, nor are they
corny bodice-rippers. I also have good luck with books that
are interlinked short stories - each story is short enough
to read in one sitting, but you stay in the world of the
book for a novel-like length.
Wolf Hall. Set in the court of Henry the 8th but fresh and
riveting. Very long, but I really missed that world when I
finally finished it. Don't be tempted to look anyone up on
Wikipedia while reading, or plot developments will be spoiled.
Sea of Poppies. Set partially in India and partially at sea
during the 1700s. Smart and very entertaining. Book 2 of the
planned trilogy has come out and I can't wait to read it.
Parrot and Olivier in America. Very loosely based on the
story of Alexis de Toqueville. Smart and very funny.
Loving Frank. Great characters, despite the lame title.
Definitely no wikipedia while reading this, based on part of
Frank Lloyd Wright's life.
Olive Kitteredge. Interlinked short stories set in Maine.
The 5:45 to Cannes. Interlinked short stories I'm reading
right now, set in France and Italy.
For most of my life I have read world literary classics up
to the end of the 19th Century. Only in the recent past have
I started on more modern and contemporary works. I have
never been able to stomach ''chic lit'' either. I am a big fan
of Dystopias, Science Fiction, Ancient History, Thrillers,
International Mysteries and Popular Science (by qualified
writers)--but I did not include any of those categories
here...without knowing more about your taste. Here are a few
traditional novel recommendations written in the last decade:
THE HERO'S WALK Anita Rau Badami (Indian writer)
THE NAMESAKE Juhumpa Lahiri (Indian writer Pulizter Prize)
WAITING Ha Jin (Chinese writer teaching here)
THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG Muriel Barbery (French writer,
Hope one or all of these brings you joy!
A great question! Off hand I can think of a few
recommendations of books that I have read recently, and I
will look forward to seeing what others you get. I would
recommend you look into the following: Cloud Atlas, by David
Mitchell (also Black Swan Green or The Thousand Autumns of
Jacob de Zoet, all thought-provoking, beautifully written
stories that really hold your attention); Half of a Yellow
Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; Old Filth by Jane Gardam;
The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson; The Imperfectionists
by Tom Rachman; Case Histories and its sequels by Kate
Atkinson. You might try checking out prize lists, like the
Man Booker prize for literary stories that are still
readable and entertaining. Good luck!
International settings and intriguing characters? I
recommend reading biographies and autobiographies. I usually
find the material substantial and readable. Otherwise, pick
some topic you are interested in, like child rearing or
bicycles or home decorating and get books about that.
For book recommendations, I LOVE Goodreads.com. It is a
(free) networking site where you sign in and view what your
friends are reading, and read their book reviews. (You
don't have to have a ton of friends sign up - I've found
that seeing what even just 2-3 friends are reading has given
me a ton of ideas. Also, you can ''follow'' a stranger's
reviews, if you find someone who tends to like the same
books you do.) Goodreads also has a book recommendation
feature (''If you like ___, you might also like ___''). And
as a bonus, it's a great way to keep track of books you want
to read. In the past, when someone suggested a book to me,
I'd write it on a scrap of paper or try to keep it in my
brain until my next library trip. Now I put it on my
''to-read'' list in Goodreads and check the list before I go
to the library. So I don't forget book ideas the way I used to.
I, too, am always trying to find the balance between
''Actually gives me something interesting to think about'' and
''Too much for my exhausted-parent brain.'' I don't know if
our tastes overlap, but a few books that came to mind based
on what you said you are looking for:
''April Witch'' by Majgull Axelsson (from Sweden)
''My Year of Meats'' by Ruth Ozeki
''Slow River'' by Nicola Griffith
''Farthing'' (& sequels) by Jo Walton
''The Warmth of Other Suns'' by Isabel Wilkerson (this is
quite long and looks daunting but I found it a page-turner
and could not put it down!)
I hear you loud and clear!! I tend to read to relax instead of watching TV to
as others do...and have lots of mindless stuff (which definitely as its place at
times!)...but also like to read ''real'' books too. I laughed when I read that you
liked 13th Tale; I just started it and am totally hooked (had to force myself to
shut it at midnight).
I have been a bit focused on WWII at the moment and have read and enjoyed:
The Invisible Bridge, Unbroken and Sarah's Key. The last being much lighter
than the first 2.
In the past couple of years, I really enjoyed Feminine Mystique (was surprised
how much it still applies today), Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, and Anna Karenina.
Looking forward to other peoples' lists.
This book list was published by the BBC a few years ago and
is a compilation of people's favorite books. So no critics
vetted the list, and they're more readable than those on
many ''best books'' lists.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/bigread/top100.shtml (If you have
a Kindle, you can download most of the classics for free to $1.)
Book lovin' fool
I'm looking for a book recommendation. I've been feeling
really aware of the transient nature/insignificance of life
(relative to hundreds/thousands of years). I think my
feelings are a combination of world events and those close
to home. I would like to do some reading - preferably
fiction - to help me think about it - why I matter, maybe
something about life & death? a person's search for meaning,
etc. Could be sci-fi, anything really, something about
families maybe? Years ago I read a book about a woman who
spent a winter on Nantuckett to think/ponder and remember
enjoying it (Title? - A woman alone?). I would appreciate
any recommendations. anon
I think the book you may be recalling is A Year by the Sea
by Joan Anderson, one of my personal favorites. She also
has retreats that tie into the self-discovery theme of that
book. Another personal favorite is Gift from the Sea by
Anne Morrow Lindbergh (sife of Charles Lindbergh). I first
read it in college and have returned to it time and time
again, always finding something new that speaks to me. I
have probably given more copies of that book as a gift than
any other book. It should be required for every woman going
through a transitional period in her life. Soul-searching
Anathem by Neil Stephenson
Clock of the Long Now by Stewart Brand
(There is another book along this line but can't find the
title or author - about how do we communicate into the far
future, thousands of years from now?)
Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Confessions of St Augustin
Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton
And many, many others. Many medieval and Renaissance authors
contemplated mememto mori, about the shortness of life and
of inevitability of physical decline and death. The history
of philosophy and religion, and poetry, and great
literature, deal specifically with the questions you ask.
The Razor's Edge by Somerset Maughm
came to mind.
I'm looking for great novels that feature strong female protagonists who
overcome adversity, who transform their lives for the better. No romance or
I have to recommend my very favorite novel, although it's a
looooong one (it's very rich) and the way the female
protagonist is transformed is nuanced. But she is
definitely the heroine at the end. The book is George
Eliot's Middlemarch, written in 1871-2. The author's real
name was Mary Ann Evans. Virginia Woolf called Middlemarch
''one of the few English novels written for grown-up people.''
Eliot writes like a dream: ''If we had a keen vision and
feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing
the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should
die of the roar which lies on the other side of silence. As
it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with
aspiring to be Dorothea
I have read and reread the Diana Gabaldon series, starting
with Outlander. The lead female, Claire, has a time
travel experience into 1700s Scotland and uses all her
smarts and skills to get by. I found it fastinating
Blanche Cooks biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. Talk about overcoming adversity
-- a mother who couldn't stand to be around her, an alcoholic father who
adored her but couldn't stay home, and drinks himself to death early on ... but
look who she became and what she did. It is an awesome story of growth ....
Any of Sally Watson's historical fiction, including Linnet,
Lark, Jade, etc. Really wonderful books about feisty girls
overcoming obstacles in societies that discriminated heavily
Sally Watson fan
Hi... I'm looking for good book recommendations for this summer. I like
all kinds, fiction, non-fiction, short stories, whatever. Just finished my
whole pile and want some suggestions of what to reserve at the library
or pick up at the store. Thanks!
I have really enjoyed the last three books i got from the
library. Great summer reading.
Bee Season ...
House of Sand and Fog ...
I'll be excited to see people's recommendations too!
Here are some of the ones I've read recently and really liked:
*House of Leaves - by Mark Danielewski. Science fiction -
really creepy, about a house that is bigger inside than it is
outside, and constantly changes.
*Little, Big - by John Crowley. Fantasy - I'm reading it right
now and it's very engaging. About a family and their subtle
connections with a supernatural world.
*American Dynasty - by Kevin Phillips. Analysis of the Bush
family and it's generations of connections to big oil, the
intelligence community, military contracting corporations,
etc. Also very creepy.
Bel Canto, Bee Season, Secret Life of Bees, Life of Pi, Lamb.
I just read Drop City--TC Boyle, fictional account of a 70s
commune that starts in northern Cal. and moves to Alaska.
Great read! I couldn't stop. Wonderful characters, story, and
sharp insight into the time.
Also Reading Lolita in Tehran is amazing. Memoir. Lots of
history of Iran, women's lives i n Iran and literary criticism. I
was suprised at how much I loved it.
A favorite of a few years ago, all time favorite of mine
actually-- A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry. History of India
in the 70s, fiction, characters you'll never forget, fast paced
writing, I loved this book and haven't been able to forget it...
Another all time favorite--- Everything is Illuminated.
Jonathan Safran Foer. Look up the description, reviews. I
wanted to name my son after this author. He was 21 when
he wrote it, story of Jewish shtettle in Ukraine, Holocaust,
deeply touching and devestating, and humorous at the
another book lover
Try Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.
Last year I really enjoyed The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.
I would also recommend The Corrections. For light reading that's
easy to conquer between baby screams, I'd say try LIVE FROM NEW
YORK (the Saturday Night Live oral history) or PLEASE KILL ME
(oral history of the origins of punk). I'm still reading Please
Kill Me. It's fascinating. Lou Reed doesn't come off very well,
but go Patti Smith. I'm just starting the part about the New
I'm really looking forward to this thread. I'm a mystery buff
(either historical mysteries or the more literate contemporary
authors) and my favorites these days are anything by Michael
Dibdin (very cynical, set in late 20th century Italy), Arturo
Perez-Reverte (The Fencing Master, The Seville Communion), or
Barbara Hambly (her protaganist is a free man of color in 1830's
New Orleans during the transition from French to American rule).
I also enjoy historical non-fiction and most recently read Salt:
A World History (before refrigeration, salt was essential to
miitary campaigns, exploration, and affordable protein).
''The DaVinci Code'' by Dan Brown. It's Fascinating...and very
controversial. Not recommended if you are devoutly religious (ie.
Catholic). But I couldn't put it down....
Flora's Suitcase by Dalia Rabinovich
read it if you like the style of Gabriel MaGarcia Marquez. This
book is about a Jewish family in Columbia.
She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders (non fiction)
Jennifer Finney Boylan
Fascinating story and well written. She is an English professor
and writer and was before when she was James Boylan as well;
James Boylan published several books.
Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women
Geraldine Brooks (non fiction)
Very interesting and informative and well as very readible.
Pay it Forward
Not a great literary work, but a compelling easy read and a
great concept to think about
Also Bel Canto by Ann Patchett and A Fine Balance by Rohinton
Mistry, already mentioned.
Both were great book group discussions, the latter better
written, is long but fast moving.
susan with so many books and not enough time
Here are some books that my book club has read this past year.
The da Vinci Code
The Emperor of Ocean Park
The Secret Life of Bees
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
Year of Wonders
I recommend them all. They are engaging, and keep you involved.
Some may be considered controversial, others long, others
heartwrenching, but they all were worth reading. Everyone
enjoyed in the club enjoyed all the books despite the fact that
we are all of different ages and beliefs.
I love to read.
I really have been enjoying the Charles Todd mysteries that take
place post WWI in britain. Dark. Available at the library. The
recent book, Maisie Dobbs, that has received a lot of press is
similar but not as well written as that series. Also I just
finished What I loved, a dense and intriqueing book that would
be a great bookclub choice as it engenders much to talk and
think about. I am amazed at the intellect some people have.
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