Monday, January 05, 2009

Odds are good that otherwise my brain will turn to goo and my TiVo hand will suffer permanent damage

This past weekend I found myself with very little energy, a strong dislike of the cold, and a P.D. James mystery, The Murder Room. It was a good combination, and while I don't often read mysteries, I love P.D. James.

But once I finished, I was casting about for a good book. My dad had lent me The White Tiger, and while I typically like Booker prize books, and tales about India, I am simply not currently in the mood for it.

It's winter. And it's cold. And so I spend a lot of my leisure time at home, not wanting to poke my cold little nose out the door. I cannot even tell you how much TV we've been watching.

I'm in serious danger of brain atrophy, sitting for hours on end - as I've been recently - slack-jawed in front of the television. Although Nick has a penchant for the History channel, I don't even watch anything edifying. I've been watching things like that housewife swap show.

I know I should be writing. I know I could learn to knit. Or cook. But honestly, I want a good book.

So please, I need your help. I don't just want any book - I want something really entertaining. It doesn't need to be amazing literature and I don't care if I learn anything. But I'd like it to be well-written, with a character I can invest in. If I don't care about at least one character, I've found I simply can't be bothered.

I'm also a fan of happy endings, no matter how improbable. But am willing to weep my way through books like The Lovely Bones or sob over The Time Traveler's Wife - tales that sucked me in from page one. I am not kidding when I say that I started crying on page one of Lovely Bones and by the time I finished I was near hysteria.

Sometimes it's like that, you know?

The last book I read that I couldn't bear to put down was Special Topics in Calamity Physics. If you've not read it, I highly recommend it.

Any suggestions?


  1. God, I don't read nearly enough. I go through really intense phases and then...nothing.

    What about a classic. Ever read "The Awakening"?

  2. I can recommend "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak, lovely writing from the point of view of death himself, although it's not a typically "Happy End" book, it made me cry throughout the whole reading experience, at one point I sat there on my bed sobbing, one of the best books I've read.

    P.S.: Your Marzipan was eaten by some little troll person called my son. I will have to get more and hide it better before getting it wrapped out to send to you...

  3. want some fun fluff? read the twilight series. it's enjoyable :-)

    i LOVED the lovely bones. i also cried all over that book.

    Just finished The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and The Secret Life of Bees. I preferred the Secret Life of Bees, although Edgar Sawtelle was interesting. I don't tend to love Oprah book club choices though.

    Another one of my favorites is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Really good book. I haven't read it in awhile, I should dig it out and read it again.

  4. The Art of Racing in the Rain was fantastic, but I think you really need to be a dog lover to fully appreciate it. I had myself an ugly cry - while on the bus, no less.

    Oh, and I also recommend Suite Francaise, The Red Tent, and A Thousand Splendid Suns.

    And this might also help:

  5. I'm reading Three Cups of Tea ( right now and have cried no less than six times.

  6. "The Birth of Venus" by Sarah Dunant continues to be one of my favorite books I've ever read. I've lent it to so many people and they all fall in love with it. Sucks you in on the first page. Makes you cry sobbing tears at the end. And you'll completely fall in love with the protagonist.

    "The History of Love" by Nicole Krauss is another great one.

    My mother and one of my sisters are both librarians. They're the ones who are great with must-read-book lists. But I know those two books would be on their must read list too!

  7. I'm a guy and I can't stand non-fiction narratives. It's because most of the books out there are rehashes of some classical construct/mythology (i.e. Antigone, Poetic Edda, Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, etc.). Sides, I read enough stuff 9-10 hours a day during work, so perhaps Sarbanes Oxley Section 404 would do.

  8. Jasper Fforde's "The Eyre Affair" and sequels are truly entertaining, if not edifying.

    I am not at all surprised that you loved STICP as much as I did. So good!

  9. Anything by Sarah Bird (maybe start w/"how Perfect Is That")

  10. I KNEW you all would have great ideas!

    Lemmonex - I did read it, but ages ago. Poor woman, so stifled!

    Nina - Although clearly not happy, a great recommendation - I like the sound of it. As for the marzipan, who can blame your son when such a treat is nearby? Nobody!

    MrsMac - Fluff is cool as long as it's good fluff. I loved the Secret Life of Bees, but haven't read the others. The Curious Incident title somehow annoyed me when it came out (cannot tell you why, can't even remember), and so I didn't read it, but perhaps I should give it a try.

    FreckledK - I'm a dog lover! I could love that book! As for Suite Francaise and Red Tent, I liked them both. I liked Kite Runner but didn't love his writing, so I never looked into his second book - but maybe should?

    Hillary - I love how specific you are on the number of cries. :)

    Peace Turkey - I will check out The Birth of Venus! Oh, how I loved the History of Love! I loved her husband's book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as well.

    Anonymous - Not entirely sure how to respond, except to say that whenever I have to edit pieces on topics like SOX, FASB, and GASB I want to stab myself in the eyes.

    Jessica - Jasper Fford is great! I've only read Lost in a Good Book - someone lent it to me, I meant to follow up, and then forgot all about him. Not surprising you like him, with all the fun literary references (which I also liked in Special Topics).

    Jordaan - I don't know Sarah Bird...will look!

  11. Sarcasm does not translate very well on the Internet. Of course nobody wants to read GAAP type stuff. We'd all rather be... chilling out with a nice drink watching the sun set over the Pacific or something. Since I can't yet afford to live in Malibu, and have to suffer DC winters, I'll just settle for a nice Eagles Vikings game and some funny people.

  12. Ok briefly:
    A box of matches (Baker)
    The periodic table (Levi)
    The kitchen boy (der, can't remember)
    Ella Minnow Pea (?)
    Water for elephants (?)
    Middlesex (?)

    and maybe I'll think of more later. I love posts/comments like these, all the suggestions are like candy to my poor forgetful brain.

  13. Anonymous - Oh, thank goodness! Sorry I - duh - didn't quite get it.

    A.S. - I love love love hearing about books that really resonated with people. And Middlesex I loved! but I know nothing about the rest...Exciting!

  14. I agree with Mrsmac... I'm reading the Twilight series now and it's pretty darn good stuff. I finished the first book yesterday after starting it the day before.

  15. OK, I'm with Nina on The Book Thief. What an amazing book. For some reason I think Amazon lists it as a young adult book, but don't pay any attention to that.

    Also, if you haven't already, please read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

    Regarding yesterday's blog: I am insanely jealous you can go to work with unwashed hair. Mine gets dry, too, but it's curly with a mind of its own. Meaning when I wake up, some of it's straight, some of it's curly and the frizz may or may not have taken over.

  16. If you like PD James, give Children of Men a whirl (if you haven't already). I also liked Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down. It's about suicide, and the characters aren't completely likable...but that's part of the book's charm.

  17. i just read Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie McDonald, and i couldn't put it down. LOVED it.

    also, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. that was probably the best book i read in 2008.

  18. Ooh, I've been looking for some recommendations myself. This is quite the list that's growing.

    I love the Harry Potter books, though I know not everyone does.

    I'd also add "The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth and "One Thousand White Women" by Jim Fergus. They're both very well written alternate history type books. It's like playing the "what if" game on a much larger scale.

  19. Oh! And I also just thought of a couple more - the Philippa Gregory books: The Other Boleyn Girl, The Constant Princess, The Boleyn Inheritance, etc. They're all pretty captivating and have characters you can get into. And the stories are interwoven without being direct sequels.

  20. Revolutionary Road (definitely before you see the film!). Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

  21. going to go ahead and second the harry potter books. there is a layer to the series that goes beyond simple childrens books. also, the philippa gregory books. i enjoyed her based in english history series.

  22. the most fun I ever had reading a book was Handling Sin, by Michael Malone. I try to reread it every couple of years just to keep it in my head. Hilarious, beautifully written, all in all a wonderful book.

  23. my husband wants to suggest anything by augusten burroughs. we enjoy his books as well.

  24. Katherine Neville just came out with a new book "The Fire" - but in order to fully enjoy it you must read "The Eight" first - quite simply one of the best books I have ever read.

  25. "Fall on Your Knees" was absolutely marvelous ... I cried at the end and frankly wasn't sure if it was the story or the fact that I had to put it down.

    Also loved "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls.

  26. I will add my vote to The birth of Venus, and Twilight, depending on is you want engrossing or fun fluff respectively.

  27. As you're from DC, you'd like the work of Brad Meltzer. He writes political dramas, mostly set in DC, or related locales. The Book of Fate is his latest, to my knowledge, and it's fantastic. Also, may I recommend Zero Game by Meltzer as well.

  28. I wish I could recommend something amazing but I'm really just a chick-lit girl. My favourite book of all time pretty much is "Rachel's Holiday" by Marian Keyes. But in my opinion, it has it all. Laughs, tears, basically just bloody entertaining.

  29. I'm currently reading "Bay of Spirits: A Love Story" by Farley Mowat. The book is a memoir of sailing around Newfoundland in the 1960 where he apparently met the love of his life, although I haven't gotten to that part yet. As it is, I am just over 50 pages in and think it is excellent, especially if you are at all drawn to the sea. Also, his descriptions of the people he meets are amazing.

    Additionally, I second the Jumpa Lahiri "Interpreter of Maladies" suggestion. An excellent book of short stories.

    If you like YA literature, I would suggest "Sabriel" by Gareth Nix.

    Otherwise, if you haven't read any Margaret Atwood, I think you really should. Especially "The Handmaid's Tale."

    And, Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite modern authors.

    I could go on, but it seems that is more than enough suggestions for the present. :-)

  30. My whole family got sucked into "A Suitable Boy" about two years ago. We also got into "A Fine Balance," but that one begins with two tailors who are so poor they have to live on some lady's balcony, and ends with you missing the days when the tailors were so happy living on that lady's balcony. You've been warned. "Suitable Boy" is cheerier.

    And to keep that India connection going, how about "Jewel in the Crown"? I read those books when I was sixteen, and I loved them. I hope they don't suck, since it has been nineteen years since I was sixteen.

    There you go. Three epics. That ought to be good for something.

  31. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult (or anything by her, really). I finished the whole book on a flight from FL to TX and yes, I did cry but such a good book!

  32. If you don't want to come up for air for a while, try The Crimson Petal and The White... it will at least answer any questions you have about pregnancy prevention in Victorian England.

    If you want to learn something, Constantine's Sword by James Carroll is good, too.

    Plus, I also find cold winter nights very conducive to Poe.

  33. set up a PO Box and have people mail you random books- I'm sure you'll get a huge library very quickly... I already know which book I would send you.. it's old and I just finished it and I think you would love it. It's called Family Pictures

  34. I finished "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress" by Dai Sijie over Christmas. I picked it up because it was thin and would fit in my carry on. And then when I started it, I couldn't put it down.

    Two friends are sent to the Chinese countryside for re-education and they stumble upon suitcase of books. They use the stories as a currency of sorts.

    I could go on and on.

  35. I am starring this post so I can come back and slowly make my way through all the recommendations! To them I add:
    The Game, A.S. Byatt
    The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
    The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
    Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer

  36. Haven't read the comments, so sorry if it's a repeat!

    I loved "Water for Elephants" and "The Confessions of Max Tivoli" and "The Art of Racing in the Rain"

    (none of them that lighthearted though, but really good...)

  37. Ah, yeah, and "A Long Way Gone" was another great book (autobiographical of sorts -- about this boy in Sierra Leone). I watched Blood Diamond recently and the movie reminded me a lot about the book (except on the child's soldier point of view).

  38. Holy cow - so many to catch up with!

    Stacy - My friend Marta highly recommends Twilight as well! Definitely sounds like easy fun.

    Kate - I loved Shadow of the Wind so much, even though at first the title put me off.
    As for hair, mine is flat no matter what I do, washed, unwashed, hat, no hat...Flat flat and more flat.

    Shannon - I've read neither of those - thanks. I am iffy on the Hornby one, though it sounds intriguing. I sometimes get too irritated when I don't like the characters. This happened to me with Perfume, and I simply couldn't read it.

    kate.d. - Fantastic recommendations - thanks!

    Liebchen - I absolutely loved all the Harry Potters. I wanted them to go on and on.

    I haven't read any alternate history...interesting. And I've read the Boleyn Girl but neither of the others. I was definitely riveted.

    Brett - I've read and liked the other two, but know nothing about Revolutionary Road.

    MrsMac - Definitely, way beyond children's. Very clever and fun. And thank you husband - I really liked Running With Scissors, but have read nothing further by Augusten Burroughs.

    Wendy - I know nothing about that book, but that's an amazing recommendation.

    Anonymous - The Eight and then The Fire! They sound intriguing! Thanks!

    Anonymous - OK, great recommendation. I too LOVED the Glass Castle. I love fucked up family memoires, and hers was astounding, and so well told!

    Kenya - I just want to be sucked in. Fluff does it for me as well as anything.

    Rough Edges - I don't believe I've ever read a DC book. That's interesting. Thanks!

    Paula - I can love chick-lit. The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing is one of my all time faves.

    Christine - Wow. Thanks for the list. I don't know that I'm particularly drawn to the sea (Nick is, though) but the book sounds really interesting.

    And Margaret Atwood is fantastic - I think the most recent one I read was The Blind Assassin, which I really liked.

    Alex - I am so sorry to admit the following, but...I tried A Suitable Boy and just couldn't get very far. It was highly acclaimed AND written by the nephew of a family friend (I think that's the connection) but I just didn't dig in. As for A Fine Balance, it was just so real I couldn't take it. I got to the castration part and then skipped to the end and then put it down for good. I didn't have the strength to deal with it all.

    HOWEVER, I've not read Jewel in the Crown for years - I am sure it's still wonderful.

    Anonymous - I haven't read anything by her but have heard she is just gut-wrenching.

    Aimeec - Interesting, interesting! Thank you!

    JoLee - Ah, I love that idea, but I think I'd feel like I was taking advantage of people's generosity. Family Pictures...I will look into it.

    lizzledinwizzle - Oh, I loved that book. Really a great story.

    Susan - I don't know The Game and have meant to read The Corrections for a long time but never have. The God of Small Things is one of my favorite favorites. Oh heart squeezing.

    Beach Bum - I've read none of those. Thanks!

  39. While I realize that you already have a milion-and-one suggestions, here is another one (if you haven't already read it) The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. It was wonderful! I went through book withdrawal as soon as I finished it and immediately wanted to start from the beginning...again. Also, I second or third "Water for Elephants", also a lovely story.

  40. Long time lurker, first time commenter.

    ANYTHING by Kate Atkinson, especially Human Croquet, Behind The Scenes at the Museum and Case Histories.

    Also The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, Norweigan Wood or Hard Boiled Wonderland And The End Of The World by Haruki Murakami.

    All fantastically written books you will NOT be able to put down.

  41. This is by no means recent but you could try 'My Sister's Keeper'. Not a happy ending book by any means but wonderful story. Gets you to think.

    Anyway. You may have already read that one.

  42. I have a penchant for the gut-wrenching, tearful novels so I'll try to stay away from those! I love anything by John Irving. I just finished "The Fourth Hand" by him, but I liked "A Prayer for Owen Meany" and "The World According to Garp" more.

    Now that you're a married lady, you might enjoy this book even more: "The Year of Yes" by Maria Dahvana Headley. True story about a 20 something girl (the author) who decides she'll say yes to anyone who asks her out on a date over the span of year.

  43. One of the best books I've read in the past year was "See No Evil" by Robert Baer. The movie Syriana was loosely based on his pretty amazing true life story.

    Also, if you're in the mood for some good crime thrillers I'd recommend any of the Prey novels by John Sandford. All of them are very good and the main character, Lucas Davenport, is a good hero.

  44. I love posts about books! I'll second the Twilight series - it's awful but awesome. Junk food for your brain. However, if you like your vampires to actually HAVE sex, then go to the Sookie Stackhouse series. Just read the first book of the series and it was enjoyable enough.

    One of my favorite authors is Neil Gaiman - he's classified as "sci fi/fantasy" but his stuff isn't like 2001 Space Odyssey or anything, it's just fantastic. Good Omens is hilarious, and my other two favorites of his are Anansi Boys and American Gods.

    I loved the Historian, I finally got around to reading it last year.

    Finally, join It's fantastic, I get most of my book recommendations off there from friends and just browsing - that's how I found the Eyre Affair and some other gems.

  45. Try
    The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards
    or Crazy In Alabama - Mark Childress

    Both books that were hard to put down

  46. Try "The End of the Affair."

  47. "The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread" by Don Robertson

    Probably the best book I read last year - and I read a lot.

  48. I haven't read the other comments, but highly recommend Wasted and The Glass Castle. Yes, I'm a memoir person. You'll love both, I promise.

  49. If you want fun, I can't speak highly enough of Chelsea Lately's "Are you there, Vodka? It's me, Chelsea".

    If you want something more serious yet entertaining, I'm working my way through Ken Follet's "Pillars of the Earth" right now and loving every second of it.

  50. "Bel Canto" was a great read. An opera soprano, terrorists, love, it's all there. I also enjoy some of the more brain mush-making books, like "P.S. I Love You" (yes it's a move, but the book is so much better) and "Eat Cake" or if you want some Non-Fiction try Freakonomics. It's really interesting and has some great factoids.

  51. You should definitely read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. You will absolutely fall in love with the main character, it's funny and dramatic, and it will just squeeze your heart. It may be one of the best books I've ever read.

  52. I'm sorry I'm late to the party. My favorite book ever: Winter's Tale, by Mark Helprin.

    It's hard to go wrong with Helprin, especially if you avoid his latest, Freddie and Fredericka, which I could have done without.

  53. Sorry for the late post but I was up until 4 AM this morning reading "My Enemies Cradle" by Sara Young... can't say that it was an example of the most well-written prose but the story was brilliant. I am normally out by 11 PM or certainly, by 12 AM and this one kept me up until I finished it.

  54. I get to your posts late, babe!

    Keeping it light, I second Case Histories, which I just read, and reallllllly liked. I read Gods Behaving Badly, which was pretty fun, and I have to say that The Scandal of the Season, by Sophie Gee, is more fun than a novelization of the writing of the Rape of the Lock would seem like.

  55. My favorite character investment fluff:
    Pillars of the Earth- Ken Follett (great doorstop)
    Outlander- Diana Gabaldon (bodice ripper)

  56. Yea! At the library, looked up your book suggestions entry just to grab a few of them!


Tell me about it.