APW Summer Reading List

Watcha reading?

Weirdly, one of the questions I’ve gotten most consistently from APWers over the years is: What are you reading? And these days: What is the staff reading? Reading lists are fascinating because they’re not just a place to cull recommendations, but they’re also a little window into someone’s personality. If I know what you’re reading and why, I immediately feel like I know you a little better. So when APW writing intern Rachel suggested that we do an APW Summer Reading List post, it seemed like one of those good ideas so obvious that… why hadn’t we thought of it earlier?? (Thanks, Rachel!)  Of course, this is not just a chance to paw around in our brains, it’s also an open thread about what you books you recommend. I’m looking for my next good read, so I’ll be paying attention.


Meg (Founder/ Executive Editor)

Before we get to it, confession time. While I present a pretty good front for new motherhood, there is hidden darkness. My reading habits have really slipped. I read every night, but I’m burning through periodicals while the books languish a bit. I’m up-to-date on my standards: New York Magazine, New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker (in bits), and Esquire (just to have one thing without New York in the title). But novels… well… my brainpower isn’t totally back, thanks to lack of sleep. So please forgive me if my recommended reading list is much longer than my current reading list. But brass tacks. Here is your glimpse into my psyche.

Currently reading:
Great With Child: Letters To A Young Mother by Beth Ann Fennelly. I rarely say things like this, but I wouldn’t recommend this unless you have a babe in arms. I would have been an eye-rolling machine if I’d read it earlier. Now, every other page is turned down.

Might read next:
Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad by Brett Martin. I spend a lot of time thinking about what’s happening in the media universe and what’s next. That, and we’re very serious about TV dramas over here. So I may well dive into this discussion of the third golden age of television, and the power of the showrunner. Anyone read it?

Read recently and recommend:
11/22/63 by Steven King. If you haven’t read this yet, you have to. I have a habit of reading much of the ten best books list that the New York Times puts out every year, and this book made all the lists in 2011, so I read my first Steven King book. It’s time travel about the JFK assassination, but it’s powerful and moving and… really fun. I ripped through the 880 pages in a few days, and then I was just angry it was over. Perfect to read on that vacation where you want to ignore your family. Achem.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. I had to pace myself on this because it was too beautiful to read in all one go. Besides, the tears.

Moranthology by Caitlin Moran. It’s not How to Be a Woman, that’s for sure. But this collection of her columns is fun and light, and perfect for when you need to read in short bursts. This was my go-to in the second month of the kid’s life.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. Dear lord, this book is hard to get into. I forced myself through the first twenty pages because David was going to murder me if I put it off any longer. Good thing too, it didn’t get that Pulitzer for nothing. One of the best, most fun, and most touching books I’ve ever read (except those first twenty pages).

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Apparently my idea of good summer reads varies between essays and tomes. This is another one to lose yourself in, and then ponder the themes for weeks.

Reread every summer:
Um. The end of the Harry Potter series? Is this a trick question?

Maddie (Managing Editor)

Right now the only book I’m reading is The Yard by Alex Grecian, which I got on recommendation because I loved In the Woods by Tana French (IRISH CRIME DRAMA FEMALE AUTHOR YES PLEASE). Next on my queue is to reread Like Water for Chocolate. I also got really into audio books when I started shooting weddings because I do so much driving. The audio recording of Middlesex might be the most amazing thing ever.

Just about every year I reread 100 Years of Solitude (though I kind of want to challenge myself to read it in Spanish) and this terrible Dean Koontz book called Lightning which is a romance about time-traveling Nazis. Please don’t ask. My dad made me read it when I was little and now it’s just habit.

I’m much better at the “things you should definitely never read” list.

Emily (Associate Editor)

Like Meg, I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like to. The general theme of this list is “books I found while I was moving that I have been meaning to read/been in the middle of reading for ages.”

Currently reading:
You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers, which I bought in an Italian train station in 2008 and lost once I got back home. Also, because I love autobiographies about old movie stars, Ava: My Story by Ava Gardner.

Excited to read:
I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) by Chuck Klosterman, Cemetery Girl by David Bell—another book that I got halfway through and lost—and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

Recently read and recommend:
The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, set in 1930’s Manhattan; I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits, which follows a Hasidic family through four generations; and You’re Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations by Michael Ian Black, self-proclaimed “very famous comedian.”

Best for rereading:
I find myself picking up The New American Poetry, 1945-1960 ed. by Donald Allen frequently. I don’t reread fiction often, but I like to read She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb and Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham after major life-changing events. I read both of them for the first time when I was a teenager, and it’s nice to see how different they are now.

Liz (Ask Team Practical)

I just finished the new David Sedaris book Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. (He’s always good for summer reading—easy to pick up, put down.) I have the new Neil Gaiman book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, on reserve at the library. I picked up Zadie Smith’s White Teeth at a garage sale a few weekends back. And I’m hoping to reread Emily of New Moon because it’s my comfortable book.

And then (should I admit this on APW?) Josh and I sometimes try to read the same book at the same time and chat about it… like a little married book club (omgggg so cheesy). This summer we’re picking up The Great Gatsby because we saw the movie and I went English teacher throughout the whole thing, and he couldn’t remember any of it from high school.

Kate (Copy Editor)

Currently reading:
The newest X-Men comic book series, starting with X-Men #1. Part of the reason I love it is that it’s the first time Marvel has put out a book with an all female team of X-Men. It’s a very welcome contrast to my really dense class reading this summer. Waiting impatiently for #3, out at the end of July.

Excited to read:
The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld by Herbert Asbury. A history of San Francisco’s seedy underbelly from the Gold Rush through Prohibition, written by the author of Gangs of New York? Awesome. San Francisco has some fascinating roots, and the history is everywhere (playing unofficial tour guide is my favorite). After the book, I’m doing the Barbary Coast Trail.

Recently read and recommend:
I’ve been reading school and business books far too much lately, but I’ll recommend The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. I read it a few years ago, and it’s really stuck with me. It’s a British murder mystery (the dog in the title is the murder victim) from the perspective of a teenage boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. One part whodunit, two parts interpersonal relationship exploration, it’s simultaneously a light but thought-provoking read.

Reread every summer:
A few years ago I was really annoyed I couldn’t remember the details of a particular short story about a certain consulting detective, and after rereading, I was inspired to devour all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books and stories. (I actually can’t bring myself to finish reading the final novel, The Valley of Fear, because I don’t want it to end! I’ve read the rest of the canon.) After that, I thought it would be interesting to keep working my way through a series or body of work by a deceased author, and I’m still going.

I love a good intrigue! I recommend Ian Fleming’s 007 series (start with Casino Royale), Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe series (start with The Big Sleep), and Graham Greene’s novels (start with Travels with My AuntThat’s not his first or part of a series, but it’s a fun read. Definitely one of his thematically lighter books, it’s still suspenseful with sinister undertones). Oh, and obviously Agatha Christie’s… everything. Agatha Christie and Nancy Drew get the credit for my obsession with mysteries.

Lucy (Graphic Design Intern)

Currently Reading:
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach and The Omen Machine by Terry Goodkind. Bryan and I read this particular series in tandem and discuss, though we tend to pass back and forth rather than reading aloud or listening to audiobooks (I zone out). We also read the last three books of Harry Potter this way.

Excited to Read:
In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell. (From the synopsis: “A powerful exploration of the limits of parenthood and marriage—and of what happens when a marriage’s success is measured solely by the children it produces, or else the sorrow that marks their absence.”)

Would Recommend:
Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson (a new favorite I just added to my Southern Lit collection) and Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, one of the most unique and raw urban fantasy novels that I’ve read in quite a while.

And I almost never reread, but when I do it’s these:
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Joanna (Business Intern)

Currently Reading:
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, MetaMaus by Art Spiegelman, and Animal, Vegetable Miracle (on audiobook) by Barbara Kingsolver.

Would Recommend:
The Story of Sushi by Trevor Corson (he also wrote The Secret Lives of Lobsters which is an all-time favorite), Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future by Jonah Sachs (on how we should make a move to empowerment marketing vs. marketing that makes you feel terrible about yourself), and The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillipp Sendker (a quick one).

Excited to read/listen to on audiobook:
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and Bossypants by Tina Fey.

Rachel (Writing Intern)

Currently reading:
Catfight: Rivalries Among Women—from Diets to Dating, from the Boardroom to the Delivery Room by Leora Tanenbaum and I’m listening to the audiobook of Bossypants with Eric.

Excited to read:
Gulp by Mary Roach (I love all her books!), The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel, and The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan, and The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction by Rachel P. Maines.

Read and recommend:
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. I tend to prefer non-fiction but I absolutely loved this book. By the time I hit the second half, I truly couldn’t put it down. For non-fiction, I really enjoyed Emily Matchar’s Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling.

Reread every summer:
My go-to summer reads are The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann, and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.

Elisabeth (Writing Intern)

Beware, I have no standards or taste, and will read anything I can get my paws on. Here’s what I’m devouring from the funny little island library!

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian (I love everything he’s written and this one is particularly good and spooky.)

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

My Name is Memory by Anne Brashares (Um, she wrote The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants so I had to read it. It was actually pretty good.)

Fever by Mary Beth Keane really good fictionalized account of Typhoid Mary, a typhoid “vector” in NYC.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (I unabashedly love this time traveling Scottish romance series. It’s good! Really!)

Also, I just reread The Clan of the Cave Bear and that shit is crazy.

Staff Picks

[Read comment policy before commenting]

  • Emily

    Heads up: The Kindle version of Moranthology is currently $1.99 on Amazon! I bought it last night. :)

    • Sarah

      I bought it seconds after reading your comment. Thanks!

      • Stella

        Me too!

  • Laura C

    Love this idea! Especially since I recently discovered the library will send me books on the Kindle and am binge-reading, so having lots of new suggestions is very exciting.

    I reread everything Elinor Lipman writes incessantly. Like Jennifer Weiner a lot. Loved Min Jin Lee’s Free Food for Millionaires. Cristina Alger’s The Darlings was good. Cathleen Schine’s The Three Weissmans of Westport (a take-off on a Sense and Sensibility plot). I read a lot of romance novels — favorite authors include Mary Jo Putney, Joan Wolf, Jennifer Crusie, Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz — and I’d love suggestions of other authors to try out.

    Speaking of Michael Chabon, it’s funny, because I just read The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and found it hard to get into but rewarding after a bit; did not specifically remember that about Kavalier and Clay but can totally believe it.

    • Laura C

      Oh, and a suggestion of a novel revolving around a wedding but where the couple getting married are not the central focus: Kathleen Gilles Seidel’s Keep Your Mouth Shut and Wear Beige.

      • Miss G

        Also “Seating Arrangements” by Maggie Shipstead. About the only book I have managed to finish in the year since my little boy was born!!

    • Katie

      Yes!!!! Another Elinor Lipman fan!! I feel like she should be more popular – her books are so hilarious and human and honestly a joy to read.

      All her books are great, but I started with The Inn at Lake Devine and I think it’s a great summer read. Here’s a blurb from Amazon: “It’s 1962 and all across America barriers are collapsing. But when Natalie Marx’s mother inquires about summer accommodations in Vermont, she gets the following reply: The Inn at Lake Devine is a family-owned resort, which has been in continuous operation since 1922. Our guests who feel most comfortable here, and return year after year, are Gentiles. For twelve-year-old Natalie, who has a stubborn sense of justice, the words are not a rebuff but an infuriating, irresistible challenge.”

    • Rebecca

      Katie McAllister writes things that might be a bit on the fantasy side for you, but her romances are hilarious (like, laugh so hard you cry funny). Don’t believe the black covers with the vampires- total comedic romance inside. Also Mary Janice Davidson, for similar reasons.

    • thanks for the Michael Chabon discussion, I’ve been stuck about 1/3 of the way through Yiddish Policeman’s union for a while now and needed the motivation to go back and finish it!

  • YES! Books are the best! As someone who works in publishing, the majority of the things I’m reading won’t be released for several years yet. I’m always both ahead of and behind the current books trends at all times.

    I just this weekend read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and OH MY GOD, FEMALE FRIENDSHIP. Devastating and gorgeous, this is definitely on my recommended list.

    Both my husband and I are massive book collectors (we met when he interned at the literary agency I was working for!) and we just packed up most of our books to put in storage for awhile since we’re moving to a new, temporary apartment. We each agreed to only keep a small handful of books to take with us to the new place, which was agony. David never rereads anything, so all his choices are new books. I reread constantly, because reading astonishingly fast is my super power, and because going back to the same books often is comforting to me. At least I have my kindle and my library card, still!

    • Laura C

      “I reread constantly, because reading astonishingly fast is my super power, and because going back to the same books often is comforting to me.”

      A thousand times exactly, although it can be an expensive super power if you don’t have access to a really good library!

      • Exactly! A library is key in managing this habit.

      • KC

        If you can tolerate books written before 1927 (or whatever the approximate out-of-copyright date is), Project Gutenberg is also a free way to satiate this superpower. archive.org and Google Books are also good, but Project Gutenberg has the books in plain text, so you can make the text larger or smaller on your screen as desired, which improves the on-screen-reading experience for me. There are a lot of famous books (basically everything by Austen, Dickens, etc., through the first couple of Agatha Christies), many undeservedly not-famous books, and… a lot of “wow, that book was terrible” books.

        Still, libraries (and library book sales!) are the best for recent books and for paper books, although I also indulge in Better World Books; when they go on sale, you can buy a whole stack of used books for $3 or less per book sometimes, with free shipping (granted, the free shipping takes a while, but it’s so exciting to get a big packet of books on your doorstep unexpectedly that it generally seems worth it?).

        • Kristen

          Second recommendation for project Gutenberg. I’ve been using it for close to 10 years and despite the advance of the kindle, I still go back to it again and again.

        • Laura C

          Good to know. I searched the Kindle store for public domain and have been reading a lot of stuff I found for free that way — Trollope, Wodehouse, a bunch of children’s books like Heidi, Eight Cousins, A Girl of the Limberlost. Will have to see what else is out there to be found.

          • KC

            Project Gutenberg is not ideal for “discovering” new-and-unknown books/authors (not curated into lists, generally, although some books are tagged with subjects), but it’s great if you know what you’re looking for (either author or title – seriously, think of a book written before 1927 and odds are very, very good they have it; Anne of Green Gables, the John Buchan books, things your great-grandma read, etc.), and they have added a “other people who downloaded this book also downloaded…” feature, which can sometimes be helpful to get from favorite book/author to new-and-unknown book/author. Using Goodreads or similar to get recommendations and then checking if they’re on PG is usually what I do, though, when I run out, since there’s clearer recommendation data there. :-)

            Project Gutenberg also has a lot of books in Kindle format in addition to the more plain-text format, which is handy, but getting them onto the Kindle Fire at least is a bit annoying (compared to the Amazon store method). Hope you enjoy!

          • K down under


          • Peabody_Bites

            8 Cousins! I have never found anyone else who read this. Have you also found Rose in Bloom, the sequel (also free on Kindle and iBooks)? That is one of the books I return to again and again.

      • This, this!

    • Lena

      I never re-read anything either; why would I read something I’ve done before when there’s so many new books and how am I going to read them all and omg. I do keep a reader’s journal that helps me remember what I’ve read and the plot and whether I liked it – I have a terrible terrible memory.

      (okay I HAVE re-read Harry Potter, how could you not)

      • This is my husband’s argument, and reading this way works for him so I just look politely puzzled when this comes up in conversation.

        I love reading new things, and read several new books a week (outside of work, even. Pure pleasure reading!) But rereading is such a huge, magical part of my literary life.

        I’m in the midst of my annual Harry Potter reread right now!

        • Lena

          I will say, I do get great pleasure out of conversations/posts like this, where I am forced to recollect what I’ve read and reminisce about it in order to make a coherent argument whether or not to recommend it to someone. I wish I had more time to re-read things but the draw of learning something new overwhelms my desire to re-read something!

    • Go team astonishingly fast readers! I’m that crazy person that always enters and leaves the library with a tote bag full of books.

      • I mean, why check out just one or two when you’re going to plow through them in an afternoon? I regularly exercise my library’s check out limit.

        • When I went to our base library for the first time, the woman told me how many DVDs and CDs I could check out at once and then said the two most magical words: UNLIMITED BOOKS. So I always have to work so hard to limit myself because I cannot read all the books in three weeks and there are only so many I can carry to my car. Still, after the free medical care, this has been the highlight of being a military spouse for me.

          • Unlimited books?! That’s so exciting!

            Granted, my reading habits have slipped a lot and my brain convinces itself that sore finger joints have an easier time scrolling and clicking than turning pages but that is totally not true. Must remember to make a visit to the library this week.

            I do remember that when I was younger the book limit was 99 and I maxed that out on a regular basis. Our house was a constant turmoil of “What books need to go back to the library this week?”

      • I was that kid reading past midnight under the blanket fort with a flashlight. My mom was a teacher, but she still made a rule against reading in bed because I wouldn’t sleep!

        • I did that, my partner did that. And now he still does that (ex. last night when he said he’d be in bed by midnight. I said goodnight at 11:45 and told him the time. He stayed up to finish the book he just bought earlier in the day). It’s adorable because it’s such an authentic little-kid-him moment.

      • Shelly

        Until he met my, my husband claims that he didn’t believe that anyone could finish any of the books from the library’s 7-day express checkout section.

      • Rachel

        Same! My mom wouldn’t even buy me certain chapter books as a kid because I’d always read half of the thing while we were walking around the store.

    • Haha, when we moved into our apartment, we both left boxes of books with our parents because we didn’t have space. Our books are already spilling over the bookshelves again. Mostly my partner is to blame- he is an avid re-reader, and therefore purchasing a book makes sense, aside from just pleasure of having them.

      I do better avoiding the purchase trap because I’m always afraid I’ll buy something and not like it. Hence, the library’s got my number. I’d rather buy paperback anyway, so when there’s something I love, I just have to wait for it.

    • I’m a re-reader. I also read new things, but re-reading helps me see thigns I’d missed. I also tend to forget the details in how a story went down. I basically only buy/own books if I am likely to re-read them.

      • Right? I definitely catch more the second time around. If a book is good enough for me to re-read it, I’ve generally zipped through it reallly fast the first time (easier to miss things) and the second time I want the experience to last longer :-)

    • I know the author of Code Name Verity. I am so glad to see her book getting noticed!

      • also, I am behind the times. :) I don’t think I’ve read anything new — although I started Lean In and The Happiness Diet and a bunch of others and am just not finishing anything.

  • Melise

    I’m all about reading for escape, and somehow that usually translates to young adult fantasy/dystopia for me. If you’re into that, the Divergent trilogy is great! And the third one comes out this fall.

    Also, THE NIGHT CIRCUS! I’m kind of obsessed with this book. Go read it. Now.

    And I’m gonna second Kavelier and Clay. Definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read. I’m so excited about this thread. I need some new books to read!

    • Kippster9

      Oh my gosh, I think we’re book twins. LOVE the Divergent books and Night Circus. I recommend The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones if you’re a Night Circus fan.

      Also: Arcadia, by Lauren Groff. It’s incredible. I think many APWers would really get into it. It’s about a boy who grew up on a commune in New York, and follows him at different stage of his life in the commune and thermal world. But really, it’s so much more than that. Not at all fantasy like the other books mentioned in this thread, just beautiful writing and a great story.

      Shout-out to Maddie for listing the Middlesex audiobook!

    • Yes, yes, yes to the Night Circus!

      Also, in terms of young adult dystopias, The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld takes it for me. Can’t get over that series, so good. I read the first two from the library, then had to go buy books 3 and 4 because they were checked out and I couldn’t wait for them. What happens in a future, dystopian society, where everyone age sixteen and up is surgically altered to look alike. The main character is reluctantly pulled into a rebel enclave and is forced to think more critically about getting everything she wants- to fit in with all her friends, who have already become Pretty.

      • Cleo

        I LOVE Uglies (+ Pretties, Specials, Extras). Absolutely love that series.

        Another good one for you to check out if you like that series is Unwind (et. al.) by Neal Shusterman.

        It’s dystopian YA about a society where juvenile delinquents or children in a foster care system, or children whose parents belong to a certain religion are tithed/used for spare parts and the consequences of those actions. Three of these kids band together to try to survive until their 18th birthday, when they can no longer be harmed.

    • Another vote for Night Circus being amazing.

      Have you seen the game? http://nightcircus.failbettergames.com/Home/Auth

    • Oh! Also on the YA front: Cinder by Marissa Meyer. It re-imagines the Cinderella story on a future earth where cyborgs (humans with robotic parts) are considered second-class citizens. Cinder, a cyborg and gifted mechanic, finds herself in the middle of royal politics. I really enjoyed this one, and can’t wait to read Scarlet, the next in the series, which just came out this spring.

    • My sister got me the Matched trilogy for my birthday in April and I read all the books in one weekend. Another dystopian recommendation. Also, yes to the Night Circus. I read that last summer and LOVED it. I may just need to re-read it. :)

    • Night Circus is like reading pure magic. Worth every second (my only regret is that it was over too soon).

  • Meredith

    Yay new books to read! Several of the books I find myself rereading or relistening to regularly are Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I think I have all three memorized at this point.

    Any suggestions for good epistles? I’m always looking for more.

    • Emily
      • Meredith

        Thanks for the list. Any off of it you particularly recommend?

    • Epistles as in stories in the form of letters? Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede, Caroline Stevermer. If you like that, they wrote several more like it.

      • Meredith

        Thanks! I’m actually reading the third in the Kate and Cecelia series, The Mislaid Magician. Love those books. Also rereads for me.

        • k

          Dorothy Sayers’ The Documents in the Case was a fun epistolary mystery.

          And of course there’s always Daddy Long-Legs.

        • Freedom and Necessity by Steven Brust and Emma Bull is quite good.

    • LMN

      Pratchett, Gaiman, and Austen? You are clearly a fabulous person.

      I’d start by recommending *anything* by Pratchett or Gaiman if you haven’t already devoured them. I’ll also join in the chorus of “Kavelier and Klay is wonderful!” and add Dianna Wynne Jones’ Chronicles of Chrestomanci series (I am less impressed with her books outside this series). Oooh and Jasper Fforde is very amusing in a quirky sort of way (Thursday Next series… I have not heard very good things about his other books unfortunately). I could keep going but this would be a VERY long post.

      • jess

        YESSSS for Jasper Fforde. Thursday Next is definitely the best series (thats definitely my favorite books and the only ones that get rereads), but I found I enjoyed the grey and nursery rhyme serieses (serii? whats the plural of series??) as well, just because I happen to be a fan of his. They weren’t particularly noteworthy, but good for an already fan.

        But Thursday Next series. Anyone who is a fan of literature in general should love them. Lots of humor and references to other authors and books. Really great reading. :)

    • Meg

      I loved the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I don’t reread that many books, but I would definitely reread that one. Pride and Prejudice is probably the book I have reread the most times; I think it’s a toss-up between that and Little Women, my childhood favorite.

    • A really good epistolary novel is 84, Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff. It is a compilation of real letters between an American woman and a British bookseller in London right post WWII. They corresponded for twenty years. It is a short and endearing book.

      • Peabody_Bites

        Anyone who happens to love 84 Charing Cross Road (as I do), or who loves books and is travelling to London for the first time, might also be interested in The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, which is the sequel when Helene Hanff goes to London to meet the family of her correspondent. Is wonderful.

        The particularly wonderful thing about 84CCR is that it introduces you to lots of 18th/19th century literature which I had certainly never heard of, and ended up hugely enjoying.

        • k

          She also wrote a book entitled Q’s Legacy (about how she “met” Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch in the NYC Public Library, checked him out, and got her college education from him), as well as a charming little book called Letter from New York, which reprinted the five-minute talks she gave each month on the BBC’s Woman’s Hour radio broadcasts between 1978 and 1984. I love Helene Hanff, and it kills me that I actually lived two blocks away from her in 1990 without knowing it, because I first read 84 when I was ten in rural Oregon but hadn’t reread it for a few years before I lived in NY. After leaving the city, I opened the book again and saw the address at the top of every letter and freaked right out.

          • Peabody_Bites

            Oh good. I will definitely look out for letter from New York. That is lovely re. you living so near her. When I first went to New York when I was about 14, I went on a pilgrimage to her apartment. She was still alive then, but I wasn’t brave enough to ring the bell.

            Little known but pleasing fact – the man who wrote the poem
            “The life that I have
            Is all that I have
            And the life that I have
            Is yours

            The love that I have
            Of the life that I have
            Is yours and yours and yours.

            A sleep I shall have
            A rest I shall have
            Yet death will be but a pause
            For the peace of my years
            In the long green grass
            Will be yours and yours and yours.

            which I think appeared in the APW round-up of poems a couple of weeks ago, or definitely in the comments, was written by Leo Marks who was the son of the co-owner of the bookshop in 84 Charing Cross Road, Marks & Co.

          • k

            I’m replying to myself because I can’t reply to you, but THANK YOU for that fact. That just made my day.

            Also wanted to say I had a set of Alcott and yes, I loved Eight Cousins growing up, though oddly Rose in Bloom wasn’t included in the set so I only read it once or twice. And going back to Anne Shirley for a nice calming influence? Absolutely.

            AND you mentioned Broken April! That was amazing, wasn’t it? I have a reporter friend who worked in Kosovo who brought back a copy of The Code of Luk Dukagjini for me, which includes the blood feud laws. Chilling.

  • Lena

    I’m reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts… right now and love it! I’m slowly working my way through The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America. There are some great recs in this list; I don’t need my kindle wishlist to grow longer but adding to it anyway….

    • i just finished “quiet” – it was great. i am always impressed with nonfiction writers who manage to be ‘light reading’ while still conveying a lot of great information. (because unfortunately light reading seems to be all i’m capable of these days. i think being busy all the time has had an impact on my ability to relax…)

      i’ve loaned it to my mother-in-law, with intent to get it back for my mom (and godmother as well) when she’s done – i’ve discovered that on the rare occasion i actual buy a book anymore, i much prefer to pass it along than keep it. i don’t really re-read things that are not “pride and prejudice,” so they just take up space.

      • My mom does the same thing. She buys books from the paperback trade, but generally doesn’t keep them, since she doesn’t re-read. But she and her friends are always swapping good ones back and forth!

  • Paige

    Currently reading the the WHOLE Harry Potter series again. Husband is not impressed, but then again, he hasn’t read them and doesn’t understand the pure JOY that they bring to my heart.

    Also reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. It’s very good, and has helped me harness embrace my introversion at work and at home.

    Excited to start Exploring Diabetes with Owls! I love David Sedaris, and might get it on audiobook if he’s the narrator.

    Also might re-read 1000 Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. I love the fantasy and romance of those books, and the rich imagery is just perfect for a hot summer afternoon.

    • I imagine your husband must have loads of other redeeming qualities, if you married him even knowing he hadn’t read Harry Potter :-P I realized last fall/winter that I hadn’t been reading as much because I miss the good ol’ HP days when a book would grab me and pull me in as strongly.

      I found Love in the Time of Cholera to be a tough one to get through. Best of luck with it!

    • alyssa

      Love in the Time of Cholera is one of my favorite books of all time. Have fun!

    • Em

      My husband and I have read the HP series out loud to each other TWICE. It’s our go to book for long road trips – and we’ve driven all over the place. I can re-read them over and over again. So good!

  • SO excited about this!!

    Doubling down on the rec’s of Tiny Beautiful Things, Into the Woods, Middlesex, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Definitely must-reads

    Currently reading: Redshirts by John Scalzi. So far, hilarious. I highly recommend Old Man’s War by Scalzi as well. Redshirts discusses the sad fate of extras in a Star-Trek-like world. Old Man’s War takes place on a future earth where 75-yr-olds can enlist for the intergalactic military.

    I needed some Scalzi humor because I just read The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. So, so, so depressing. I mean, well-written, good story. But there is nothing happy anywhere in that book. I was grouchy for days before I realized it was from reading this.

    Also recently got into Deborah Harkness’ new books, A Discovery of Witches and its sequel, Shadow of Night. Witches and vampires in a more historical perspective. Fun reads, both of them.

    I tend to re-read Harry Potter every summer (such a good idea last summer while fighting through the end of a crummy job). This summer, I re-read my partner’s faves: The Name of the Wind, and its sequel Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. They’re definitely on my favorites list now, too. Fantasy books infused with the power of story-telling, which makes for a very complete world to lose yourself in. The main character is searching for truth about his parents’ death- but the answer is a long-hidden dark secret that after hundreds of years has become mere childish fairytale. I cannot recommend the books highly enough.

    • I’ll second your red for Redshirts. Hilarious and surprising.

    • Martha

      I felt the same way about The Casual Vacancy. It was so well written, but because the greater portion of the characters are highly deplorable, it’s hard to like the book! The only character I did like ended up dying, so it was highly depressing. I agree!

      • Yes! Even though you build up sympathy for that one person, it’s not like anything goes well for her ever. There was one other kid I liked, but his was not a happy story, either. Kudos to Rowling for the great character-driven writing, but it sucked me in to the despondency!

  • mira


    Hilary Mantel won the Booker for it in 2009.

    Then she won the Booker again last year for the sequel (Bring Up The Bodies).

    It’s historical fiction, set in the time of Henry VIII and told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell.

    • Emily

      Loved these! I listened to both and recently found a used hard copy of Wolf Hall in hardcover at the bookstore so it’s now on my list to re-read. The audiobook was amazing and so well read but I have to read it in hard cover, too. I’ve been recommending it to everyone so I can talk to someone about it!

      • Meg

        Such an incredible book! I study British history, so I tend to be pretty skeptical of a lot of historical fiction about it, but the research Mantel put into it was so thorough that the book was very believable and period appropriate. I’m hoping to read Bring Up the Bodies in August, though I know it’s going to be sad.

        • Mira

          The thing that blows my mind is that you’ll get stuck on a totally luminous sentence, turning it over in your mind — and only then realize that she’s simultaneously sprinkled in these amazing little snippets of period-appropriate detail. In another writer’s hands, those details might sound like trying too hard — but because her prose is so wonderful, they just fade into the texture of the story. She could be writing about tax law* and it would sound good.

          *(she actually does write a bit about taxes. ha.)

          • Peabody_Bites

            I totally agree – I loved both Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. I actually read Wolf Hall again just before BUTB came out, to prepare myself, and am much looking forward to reading them both again before the third comes out.
            The narrative voice is extraordinarily authentic and as Mira says, the details are an utter joy.

          • k

            Yes. Favourite Mantel lines: ‘..you are practised at persuading, and sometimes it’s quite difficult, sir, to distinguish being persuaded by you from being knocked down in the street and stamped on’ and “She turned the pages of her great book of rage and paused to put her finger on exactly the right word.”

            A Place of Greater Safety is also amazing, but kind of a bummer since you know everyone in it is going to get beheaded in the end. (As opposed to only a *few* beheadings in the Cromwell books.)

    • Rachel

      I have sort of an embarrassing love for any/all history related to Henry VIII (like, I read/own a bunch of textbooks on the topic…) and I can’t wait to read these! I feel like I just need to clear my schedule because I know I’m just going to get sucked in completely and totally.

  • km1312

    A MILLION TIMES YES TO ‘THE ART OF FIELDING.’ By far the best book I’ve read in the past few years.

  • Kate

    Thank you, Maddie! I also looooove Tana French, and will try out “The Yard.” If anyone out there is also a Tana French fan, you might want to try Sophie Hannahs’ books, too.

  • Emily
  • Extra credit: anyone who is on Goodreads is also welcome to add me as a buddy. Mostly so I can stalk your book lists and continuously add to my own. ;)

  • recently read The Paris Wife and The Age of Miracles. I recommend both although Miracles wasn’t what I was expecting.

    I started my love of Tana French with The Likeness —–soooo good and my favorite of the series! Excited to read Broken Harbor.

    • Kate

      Accidentally reported this comment when all I really wanted to say was I loved Broken Harbor but it creeped me out way more than any other Tana French book. Happy reading (and sorry about the comment-reporting)!

      • Really?! That makes me even more excited to read it, as I can’t imagine being MORE creeped out that Into the Woods and The Likeness. Damn, that woman writes a fine thriller!

        • Kate

          She really, really does. I also highly recommend Sophie Hannah’s books if you like Tana French!

          • Sophie Hannah is amazing! It didn’t surprise me at all when I learned she also writes and publishes poetry.

            Such gorgeous, gorgeous language, such gripping, intense mysteries!

  • The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea is the most awe-inspiring book I’ve ever read.

    • Oooh, I haven’t read this one, but I loved Into the Beautiful North!

    • Peabody_Bites

      Yes! I read the whole thing in one sitting in a hammock under the trees in a Mexican garden when our car broke down a couple of summers ago. My husband was going nuts waiting for the car rental place to come and replace it, but I was so happy under the trees with my book. It was so compelling and also a fascinating insight into late 19th century Mexico.
      I didn’t even regret it when we finally rolled into Oaxaca at 3am, but then I didn’t have to drive.

  • Mary

    As a long time lurker, I have to come out of the woodwork long enough to talk about books.

    This summer has mostly involved revisiting the books I loved as a kid to see what has stood the test of time. If you like fantasy but are wistful for more well-written female protagonists, the Old Kingdom Trilogy by Garth Nix and Tamora Pierce’s body of work fit the bill. They were written for a young adult audience, but I’ve enjoyed them just as much as an adult. Though I haven’t tried them yet myself, but I’m told the Deed of Paksenarrion books are similarly satisfying.

    And oh goodness, someone else who has heard of Tana French? Swoon! With the sense of atmosphere she creates, her books make perfect late summer/early fall rereads for me. Guess I’ll have to add The Yard to my reading list now.

    • Tamora Pierce is phenomenal! I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Mark Oshiro’s project Mark Does Stuff, but he watches entire television series and reads books completely unspoiled one episode/chapter at a time, and posts an in-depth reaction and review of each episode/chapter as he goes. He applies a lot of literary criticism to his projects and facilitates a lot of amazing discussions about class, feminism, racism, LBGTQ issues, etc.

      I bring him up, because he’s currently tackling ALL of Tamora Pierce’s work, one chapter at a time. He’s halfway through Keladry of Mindelan’s Protector of the Small series (he’s already done Song of the Lioness and The Immortals).

      You can find him at markreads.net and markwatches.net

      • Trouble editing my comment (this has happened a few times lately. A good reminder to proofread before submitting, I suppose!).


      • Hah, my wife LOVES Mark reading the Tamora Pierce books (which are her favorite re-reads ever). Why is he never prepared? I also thoroughly encourage people to watch him reading 50 Shades of Gray, b/c I laughed so hard I nearly sprained something.

      • Mary

        I remember having fun with Mark Reads Harry Potter, but I didn’t know he had gone on to other such projects. Thanks for the rec! Guess I know what I’m bingeing on this weekend…

      • I was about to make a TAMORA PIERCE OMG BEST EVER and then my wife beat me to it. Jerk. (I cannot wait until Mark gets to the Circle of Magic books, because GAY PEOPLE EXIST AND ARE NOT SHUNNED!)

        If you do join us on Mark Reads, please read the comments and join in the fray. Queen Tammy will occasionally comment (as scrivener) and came to a Mark Reads event in Buffalo, which made my life.

        • grace b

          Woah holy flashback! I loved Tamora Pierce as a kid. Had no idea about this Mark Reads thing and it sounds aweeeesome. Thanks for the heads up.!

    • Seconding your Garth Nix recommendation. I was upset when I found out I didn’t own Sabriel, like I suspected, and then hunted all three books down so my partner could read them. Those are definitely books I can re-read multiple times.

      • I read his Keys to the Kingdom books and really enjoyed them. Sort of a modern day Wrinkle in Time.

        • You know, I read the first one, but had trouble staying with it (just like the first time I attempted A Wrinkle in Time), so I didn’t look into the rest of the series. I might have to come back to it. . .

    • Rebecca

      If you’re looking for fantasy with solid female protagonists, Terry Pratchett does a pretty good job. His run more toward humor/ satire, but Monstrous Regiment, any of the Tiffany books (YA but awesome), and in the older section Equal Rites are all good times. (Actually, even in the versions with more male characters the women characters hold their own).

      Terry Pratchett is my go-to re-read author of choice.

    • The Abhorsen books are so, so, so good. I’ve read other things by Nix and didn’t like them as much as that world (though I enjoyed them).

      Tamora Pierce writes the best heroines. I love the fact that they actually *deal* with things like periods and birth control in fantasy novels. Complex and satisfying.

    • Tamora Pierce is the epitome of reading my childhood. The first series that I discovered for myself, went back to over and over again – and my first email address was even based on one of her characters.

  • Sabrina

    I love to reread, its like visiting a really old friend. Sure you know all their stories, but it’s so nice to just be with them you don’t mind. I have reread all of A Song of Ice and Fire at least 3 times, and Harry Potter at least 7 times. I am ridiculous about Harry Potter, and way too proud of the fact that I have answered over 200 HP trivia questions correctly in one go. (Also, one of my life goals is to own a corgi named Neville Longbottom because OMG SQUEE!)

    • Kippster9

      Aww, I love your post! I’m a lifelong re-reader and my family always makes fun of me for it. I always try to explain that it’s like hanging out with old friends and no one ever gets it.

      • Itsy Bitsy

        Also a re-reader! I explain it to people that it’s like watching re-runs. Familiar, comforting, still engrossing. I always just hope that the people I’m talking to are also re-run-watchers, otherwise I’m at a loss. I love the old friend analogy!

        • question for the self=proclaimed re-readers: i never started re-reading things until around the same time i stopped reading voraciously. as such, i have difficulty viewing it in a positive light (i tend to think of it as “lazy” reading and to associate it with the fact that i have a hard time engaging myself in new fiction). any thoughts on that? intellectually, i have nothing against re-reading, but personally it is kind of a struggle.

          • Melise

            Re-reading kind of fits into the idea that different books work for me at different times. I love to read good, long stories that make me think, but my brain can’t always handle that. Sometimes, I want to fall into a book that feels comfortable. It’s like I get to hang out with my favorite characters again, and I think nostalgia plays into it a lot. I very rarely re-read adult novels, but I’ve read From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler more times than I can count. And as an adult, I get to go back to my 10-year-old mind and dream of running away to a museum. For me there’s something magical in those books I read growing up, and I’ll probably always want to go back and re-live that.

  • Meghan

    YES to “Bossypants” on audiobook. My husband and I laughed all the way to the beach (and we’d both already read it in book form)!

  • It is always interesting to read and love a book, and then read and find yourself nodding your head in agreement with strong critiques of the book and the author.

    I read “How to be a Woman” and loved it. I laughed out loud. I recommended it to others. Then I became aware that some folks I respect had beef with Moran. So I looked into it. (I won’t sum them up, but it you Google “Caitlin Moran problematic” you’ll find a bunch.) And I agreed with quite a bit of what was said. None of it occurred to me at the time, but it was very accurate.

    I still read Moran. I follow her on Twitter and I love the book. But I read her words with a little more perspective. Not the first author I’ve done that with, just the most recent and relevant to this convo.

    Then there are authors whose books I used to devour in one night and who I will now go out of my way to avoid. Orson Scott Card, for one. I will spend neither my money nor my time on his work, knowing his toxic, bigoted views on homosexuality and his work to prevent marriage equality. Years ago I would have been very excited to see the movie of “Ender’s Game” but not today.

    I think the main difference is whether you discover that an author whose work you enjoy has a great deal of unexamined privilege and some troubling viewpoints or whether you discover that they are actively harmful to others.

    Anyway, on to the recommendations: I highly recommend Julia Serrano’s “Whipping Girl” on the non-fiction front (would make for a good combination with “How to be a Woman,” actually) and on the fiction front N. K. Jemisin’s “Inheritance Trilogy” will knock your socks off. Great summer read *and* fully of amazing imagery. Finally, if you like graphic stories
    Digger, by Ursula Vernon (http://diggercomic.com), which one a Hugo and the Mythopoeic award. It’s that good.

    • Rachel

      Here’s my short response to a very-complex topic…I had already read How to Be a Woman before all that shizz went down with Caitlin Moran and while I believe she REALLY screwed up, it somehow didn’t ruin that book for me. I will definitely read her writing with a more critical eye going forward, but I also still think it’s a really good, really funny feminist memoir. (I also thought the chapter on her abortion was an absolute most-read.) So, I dunno. It’s complicated, I guess.

      • Exactly. It’s a good book and while I think the things she said are big problems and they are coming from a place of privilege they aren’t actively, positively malicious.

        “I don’t care” is a problem but “I am going to work cause problems” is a much bigger one. She didn’t cross that line.

        Michael Crichton is another author who, like OSC, I used to read a lot as a teen. Then he started being active as a climate change denier and my urge to read his books shrank to nil.

    • Orson Scott Card is a hard one. I love a lot of what he writes, and with the things I read before I found out about his personal views I’m still able to go back and enjoy. Since then it’s a struggle. I get a lot of enjoyment out of what his mind can come up with, but at the same time I don’t want to support his views – especially when they begin to creep into his fiction.

      Hidden Empire was a recent read of mine that has made me more and more uncomfortable. Fiction shouldn’t be a lecture, and when some of the views are so awful it’s really hard to be ok. I want to read a new book of his, though, and am thinking I’m going to have to dust off the library card for it. Buying doesn’t feel right.

      • I loved the original Ender Quarter (the EG was my favorite, well beyond the next three). Then I read the Alvin Maker books and enjoyed them, but I was started to notice something, which got clearer and clearer through the Homecoming books and Enchantment. By the time I got to the Shadow books, and Petra, who I had adored in Battle School, was all “my role is to make baybeeees!” I was like, “OK, Car, I get it. You think I have one very specific role in life and I suck if I’m not doing that. Shut up.”

        By the time he started being an active boor about the Iraq war and marriage equality (and equal rights in general) I was pretty much disgusted and done with him.

  • I have to echo the recommendation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I’ve loved it since I first read it in high school. “I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them” has stuck with me since then.

    Right now, I’m on a memoir kick. I’m currently working my way through Dave Pelzer’s trilogy and about to start A Man Named Dave. I have no problem rereading favorites or books that have been on the shelf a while. That said, I’m bookmarking this list for my next stretch of free time.

    • If you’re on a memoir kick, definitely read Wild by Cheryl Strayed, if you haven’t already! That one stuck with me for a long time.

      • I’ll second that – I’m in the middle of reading Wild and really, really enjoying it. Looking forward to picking up Tiny Beautiful Things after this.

        • While reading Tiny Beautiful Things, you may need a box of tissues or a stiff drink (whatever suits you for the heavy emotional stuff), as well as a journal- because heavy emotional stuff, lady. Like, _damn_.

    • Darcy

      I love how he explains the difference between a simile and a metaphor. I’ve used it in real life a few times.

    • Peabody_Bites

      Best personal memoir I have read for ages (not a genre I usually much enjoy, not sure why) was The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. Very well written and an intriguing story. Without spoiling it, one of the most interesting conversations I have with people who have read it is at what point in the story they stopped seeing the story from the narrators relatively uncritical perspective. Brilliant.

  • Oh and for a classic must read: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. Then, you can read The Letters of Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf. Ah-maz-ing.

  • Shiri

    I have so much to say that I feel like I can’t even start this comment.

    YAY books, first of all!

    Ok, Night Circus, Rules of Civility, and – please, please, PLEASE read this – A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, which is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.

    All I ever want to do is read. It’s why I was excited to eventually be a grown-up, so that I could go home and read.

  • Katie

    Ahhhhhh so happy someone recommended Outlander! I am in love with Claire, Jamie, and the rest of that wonderful cast of characters. I recently finished “A Breath of Snow and Ashes” and I’m waiting to start the next because I don’t want to have to wait for another one to come out.

    As for recommendations of my own, here goes. I’m reading Good Omens right now and it. Is. Awesome. I also read A Discovery of Witches around Christmas and loved it. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson was just lovely, and I highly recommend it. Also: The Night Circus, Swamplandia!, and The Braindead Megaphone.

    Ok I’m going to stop now because otherwise I’ll just keep recommending books all day.

    • I love the Outlander series as well! I picked up the first one seems like forever ago in the clearance bin. My mom and I are both huge fans of the series…eagerly awaiting the new book when it comes out. Mom gets to read it first, and then she mails it to me to read. Next book comes out in March of next year, and I can’t wait. It’s been too long!

      • SamanthaNichole

        The next one comes out this December actually! You don’t have to wait that long. :)

        • We have it on pre-order from Amazon and it’s saying the end of March. :(

        • Jessica

          It was just pushed to March because of the new Starz show! According to the author, they wanted to publish the new one closer to the premiere of the show. I was pretty upset when I found that out, I’ve been waiting forever!!!

    • SamanthaNichole

      OUTLANDER! I can’t capitalize that large enough. I read the whole series last late summer/ fall/ winter and have just started to reread the whole series again until the new one comes out in December. They are so incredibly written. A mash up of historic fiction (my favorite), action, romance, sex – it has it all really. It’s like an emotional roller coaster every time you read. Love.

      • Sarah in Australia

        I am so glad you mentioned Outlander!!!

        The Cross Stich series ( Cross Stich was the title it was published under originally and still is for those Aussie/UK readers) is my “oh I don’t have a book I’ll just re-read this until something else pops up” default. Dreadfully, I feel like half of my knoweldge of the Scottish 1745 rising /American revolution comes from these books!

        (As an aside, my husband recently had Diana Gabaldon sign a 20th anniversary print addition of Outlander and gave it to me for my 30th. Pretty special seeing to arrange from half a world away!)

      • Elisabeth

        You guys, I might make K name our as yet only theoretical baby after hunky Jamie.

      • Ashleyn

        I started reading Outlander secretly as a twelve year old – my mom was reading it but thought I needed to be a bit older before I read it, so I had to sneak! It was my first sexy book.

        Now, I am still in love with the first one and also really like Dragonfly in Amber, but I got lost in Drums of Autumn and couldn’t go any further after that, it just couldn’t hold my interest as I wasn’t that into Brianna.

        But Outlander is my fallback book to read while tanning on my roof, going to the beach, etc. I still love it.

  • Elena

    Ooooh fun. I love reading lists. Can’t wait to see what folks recommend.

    Currently reading: Cooked by Michael Pollan and Burn Lake by Carrie Fountain (If you dig contemporary poetry, please, please read Burn Lake.)

    Read and Recommend: Mink River by Brian Doyle. This is basically my only fiction recommendation, because I’m not much of a fiction-reader these days and because it’s a magical book. Any book of poetry by Tony Hoagland, but especially What Narcissism Means To Me. And in the spirit of this month’s theme, Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett, which is the story of Ann Patchett’s friendship with Lucy Grealy.

    Excited to Read: Gulp by Mary Roach. The Steve Jobs biography. Hoodoo You Love by Gary Lilley and Renee Stout

    Reread all the damn time: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed and Macnolia by Van Jordan

    • CII

      Second the recommendation for Mink River.

      The mostrecentbest book I read was Transatlantic by Colum McCain. I thought it was visually stunning (in terms of the characters and pictures it forced me to build in my head) and really beautiful.

  • alyssa

    Perfect timing! My summer goal is to read more regularly, and the Seattle library is so wonderful at making that happen for me :)

    I love YA Fiction and just finished The Book Thief – my middle school aged sister has been recommending it for years and I finally read it so I could do so before the movie. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book as smart, deep, and well-written as this. Couldn’t put it down.

    I’m reading Gone Girl right now and LOVING it – if you’re looking for a quick and compelling read, this is great.

    Sherman Alexie is a local legend, and I just finished his murder mystery Indian Killer, which was an angry, beautiful, poignant thriller that had me on the edge of my seat.

    And next on my list is Bossypants by Tina Fey – because I love me some Tina Fey. But after so many endorsements I’m going to have to get Quiet from the library, too!

    • ohmygosh Gone Girl is really good but also left me so freaked. Just wait til the ending, totally unexpected.

      • alyssa

        I’ve heard that! I need to know this ending… There’s nothing better than a good twist. :)

      • CII

        I liked some of Gillian Flynn’s earlier books even better than Gone Girl (and I liked Gone Girl).

    • Katie

      Oh man, The Book Thief killed me. Like, ripped my heart in two. It was so beautiful, and I was so sad when it was over. (Though it was so emotionally draining I was kind of happy, too.)

      • It was my best friend’s favorite book, so I finally got it from paperback swap and read it and, man oh man, I just sobbed through the whole damn thing. So good but not one I want to reread.

      • alyssa

        Right? It was definitely a “cry alone in your bathtub for the last 80 pages” kind of book…. in the best way? I just think it was so beautifully written, and very rarely do YA Fiction books trust their YA readers with such a dark topic, and immerse them in the situation so fully – I really think it is a YA triumph.

    • Jess

      The Book Thief is PHENOMENAL. & if you like Sherman Alexie…you need to read his The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

      • alyssa

        So good! That was one of the first I read. He also has pretty incredible poetry – Seven Love Songs which Include the Collected History of the United States of America is one of my faves.

  • KINA

    Art of Fielding is SO amazing. Also, The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger and The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty. Loved both of those intensely.

    Is there an APW Group on Goodreads? Can we start one?

    • Olivia

      I looooved The Newlyweds too! What a fantastic novel.

  • I’m currently reading The Fall, the second book of The Strain trilogy by Guillermo del Toro. So far it’s been a fairly good science fiction/horror series. I would recommend it to others.

    I’m also working my way through the Dune books, which I’ve borrowed from a friend.

    Next I will likely read “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”

    Other books I’ve read within the past year that I’d recommend: The Handmaid’s Tale, Slaughterhouse 5, The Left Hand of Darkness, and the A Song of Ice and Fire (aka A Game of Thrones) series.

    • Ocean was very good. It’s also a fast read. Perfect for summer.

  • k

    Ooh, ooh, book lists….

    Currently Reading: The Queen’s Lover, novel about Marie Antoinette and her lover Axel von Fersen by Francine de Plessix Gray. It caught my eye and I picked it up because I read Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety (amazing, though not as great as Wolf Hall imo) last year and could not believe how little I know about the French Revolution vs. the England of ‘Enery the Eighth. Jury is still out, so far I’m a bit skeptical but I’m only 40 pages in.

    Also reading Harold Bloom’s Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human and other various Shakespeare criticism along with a few of the plays — Summer is free Shakespeare in the park season, and I like to read or reread the plays and critical essays after I see each play.

    Excited to read: Lesley Hazelton’s The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammed.

    As the only adult in the US who hasn’t read the Harry Potter series, I’m working my way through them in Spanish and have book five on hold at the library. I love the learning process, but hate how looooong it takes me to read 600-odd pages in Spanish.

    Also Annabel Lyon’s The Sweet Girl, the story of Aristotle’s daughter. I read her The Golden Mean, which imagines the relationship between Alexander the Great and Aristotle, who was his tutor, a year or two ago and enjoyed it enough I’m excited to read her second novel.

    And I’m looking forward to the August release of Marisha Pessel’s second novel, Night Film.

    Recently Read and Recommend: Michael Chabon’s “Gentlemen of the Road” is a rollicking swashbuckling adventure, great for a summer read, which Chabon said he mentally subtitled “Jews with Swords.” So fun. Tea Obrecht’s The Tiger’s Wife enthralled me with its fable/allegory/Balkan folktales all twisted together in a skein, and it won the Orange Prize. Finally, while I can see how Marisha Pessl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics could be a little too self consciously postmodern for some, I enjoyed it a lot.

    Excited to Reread: I don’t reread much these days, though it used to be a way of life, but Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and Dandelion Wine are perfect summer rereads.

    • Lena

      And now I’m wondering if I’d be crazy to try to re-learn Russian by reading Harry Potter in it…..

      Probably. But you’ve got me thinking.

      • k

        Doooo itttt!

        It’s been great for me, as an adult learner of a new language, to read novels in that language. I first started with HP because a friend gave me the first 2 in Spanish so I thought why not? I am at the stage where I want to read more books originally written in Spanish, but now I’m halfway through the series and find I actually want to know what happens next. grrr.

  • Kristen

    I’d love to know if I truly am alone in this world as a person who has disagreed with the last few years of award winners and generally popular literary fiction. Because in my eyes, Gone Girl was a terrible novel, full of really bad writing choices. I couldn’t finish Room despite getting 2/3 of the way through. A Vist from the Goon Squad? More like a visit from the snooze squad. I’m not a pretentious reader and I feel very open minded about what constitutes a good book. From the beauty of Love in the Time of Cholera to the trashy, sexy thrills of a good historical romance, YA Lit, classics, I love books.

    The last great book I read was The Hunger Games and that was the highlight of a series w/real writing issues and it was several years ago. It’s tough to get recommendations when you feel like you’re on another literary planet from everyone else. Just wondering if I’m alone in feeling this way.

    • I finished Room, but reluctantly and hated the entire thing. I just read Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn’s other novel, and while it was okay, it wasn’t AMAZING. I’m hoping Gone Girl is as good as people say it is. I just read Reconstructing Amelia, which was hailed as “this year’s Gone Girl” and frankly, I wasn’t thrilled.

      My favorite, recent, fiction has been Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. I also liked The Age of Miracles, although wasn’t in love. I feel like so many of the “award winners” aren’t as good as people say they are!

      • Ooh, I read Cutting for Stone last summer when it was the pick for our “One Book, One City” initiative. I’ll definitely second the recommendation.

      • EB

        I loved Cutting For Stone!

    • I have a habit of being really picky about the way series end. Especially if it’s a series I’ve spent years waiting for and am deeply emotionally invested in (*cough* Deathly Hallows*cough*Mocking Jay*cough).

      I tend to be alone in my harsh criticism of these final books, so while it may not be quite the same thing, I very much understand the feeling of standing in the midst of a swooning crowd thinking “Are you guys serious? This was TERRIBLE!”

    • Melise

      Ugh. I probably stopped about the same time you did in Room. It was pretty terrible, and I have absolutely no interest in reading the rest. You are not alone.

    • Lena

      Yes, 100%, absolutely. But my problem is I also don’t love fiction? I really like learning so I primarily read non-fiction, and I don’t like pop science, so I end up feeling like I read obscure things even though they’re not. I go to award lists when I want to pick out fiction to read but half the time even the summaries leave me “eh.” I’ve found some good stuff mainly by friends’ recommendations; there’s a few people I know who have great taste who I go to for fiction recs, and I also read a lot of book reviews in the New York Times or other papers to find stuff I’ll like.

      Sometimes I feel like the only woman who hasn’t read Cheryl Strayed or Caitlin Moran or just woman-oriented books like theirs? (I don’t know what you’d call their genre. Memoir esque I guess?)

      • I just read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild this spring. Yes it’s a memoir, but I think it resonated so much because it’s about her navigating the human condition, rather than being a girl-power kind of thing.

        • Lena

          The human condition! That’s what I was looking for, thank you.

        • meg

          I wasn’t crazy about Wild, to be honest. First book full book I read post baby (yay me!). It was good, I’d pass it along, but I wasn’t over the moon for it in the slightest. Tiny Beautiful Things is beyond compelling, but I don’t think that has to do with being a woman, other than the lingering sexist tendency to ghettoize women artist as creating “girl music” or “woman books.”

          In fact, as I type that, I realize how I have a deep seated font of anger on this issue. Male writers that write good books don’t write MALE books, but women writers, well, we write for ladiez, apparently. But worse, other women trash women writers as just writing “lady books,” like everyone cool enough plays with the boys.

          I don’t know. Lots to unpack on that subject, but I find it to be this troubling lingering sexism.

          In short: I didn’t love Wild, unrelated to my status as a woman. I ADORED Tiny Beautiful Things, unrelated to my status as a woman. I am CRAZY about How To Be A Woman, completely related to my status as a woman.

    • Rachel

      I haaaaated Room. I finished it but I just hated it.

    • AMK

      I agree with you about A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD. I was so bored!

      Two other great books:

      THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB — so sweet and thought-provoking without being overly sentimental

      JOSEPH ANTON — Salman Rushdie’s intriguing 3rd person memoir

      • A Memoir of Joseph Anton was beautiful. His life story is amazing to begin with, but telling that story in that voice just takes it to another level. So perfectly written.

    • meg

      OOOF. I think A Visit from the Goon Squad is possibly in the top 10 of best books I’ve read EVER.

      I read the Hunger Games on book tour. I ripped through them and found them throughly enjoyable.

      • Kristen

        Honestly Meg, I didn’t even get through the first chapter so I don’t feel I gave it a shot at all. I also recognized this winter that when I’ve got the winter blues, (something you lucky Californians may not have to deal with) that I have trouble liking anything. I figured I might give it a try again at some point in the future. Especially since I don’t usually credit the opinion of someone who hasn’t truly tried the thing they’re judging a d I feel like its a smart thing to hold myself to the same standard. I.e., I can’t really say I hated it unless I’ve given it a solid try.

        • Peabody_Bites

          I completely agree about Gone Girl – I thought the writing was indifferent, although she is brilliant at creating tension, and at the end I just felt like the whole book had been a colossal waste of my time. And I am an extremely fast reader, so it had been a waste of three hours, not wasted weeks.
          I just finished The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud, and felt very similarly about it. I think she has a nice turn of phrase and that she sometimes highlights states of being or thoughts which resonate very strongly with me – but ultimately I took very little from it. I should have known better, because I felt exactly the same way about The Emperor’s Children, which was similarly well reviewed.

      • I absolutely loved A Visit from the Goon Squad. I don’t even have words for it. It was sooo good. I just read The Hunger Games trilogy two months ago after holding out for years. All I could think was why did I wait so long?? I thoroughly enjoyed them.

    • APracticalLaura

      If you like good writing/storytelling, try reading Jhuma Lahiri’s books. Some of them are short stories, others are novels, but all are beautifully written. Unaccustomed Earth is my favorite.

      Another MUST READ is “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green.

      • Kristen

        Thanks for the great suggestion! I LOVED Interpreter of Maladies. I was bored by The Namesake. Since I didn’t like the first novel, I never tried another but I should.

        • APracticalLaura

          I LOVED Unaccustomed Earth – even more than Interpreter of Maladies. I’d definitely give her another shot – I think short stories is where she shines. (Also realized I spelled her name wrong – Jhumpa Lahiri for all those other APWers who may be interested).

          As others mentioned Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is a very powerful story, as well. Non-fiction that reads as fiction and totally worth the hype.

  • For those of you who like Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, or Tamora Pierce and *haven’t* already read anything by Diana Wynne Jones, you totally should. She wrote “Howl’s Moving Castle” (among other things) which became a Miyazaki film. (The book is rather different from the movie.) Complex stories with rich world building and complicated family dynamics.

    • LMN

      Her Chronicles of Chrestomanci series is one of my all time favorites. I especially think anyone who like Harry Potter should read these because although the stories are very different they have the same sort of feel to me.

    • You know, I saw Howl’s Moving Castle and then read the novel and I liked the movie more. I think I was expected the same level of steam punk and craziness and it felt much more mainstream. Still good, though.

      • Maybe it just depends on which you read first? I love the book and was confused at the movie. I had to tell myself that they were entirely different things and not to compare them. I know DWJ loved the movie.

    • Darcy

      Also for the Prachett and Gaiman crowd I suggest Christopher Moore. Lamb, the story of Jesus’ childhood friend Biff makes me laugh until I cry every single time. The more history and dogma you know, the funnier it is.

      • Oh heck yes. Lamb is on my reread-when-I-need-cheering-up list forever.

  • OMG THANK YOU FOR THIS!! I’m always on the lookout for my next book!!!!

    Also, for any of you out there with an e-reader, YOU CAN GET E-BOOKS FROM YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY FOR FREE! I didn’t know this when I first got my kindle, and finding out was a REVELATION!

    Some of my favorite books from this year. (I was on a real non-fiction kick):

    The Boy Who Loved Batman by Michael Uslan

    Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll

    Just Kids by Patti Smith

    The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman

    When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

    Don’t Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems
    by David Rakoff

    Half Empty by David Rakoff

    Zombie, Spaceship, Wasteland by Patton Oswalt

    Mind the Gap, written by Jim McCann w/ art by Adrian Alphona, Rodin Esquejo, and Sonia Oback

    To read list (all comics for right now):

    American Vampire by Scott Snyder

    The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

    Sin City by Frank Miller

    Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan

    Saga by Brian K. Vaughan

    I’d provide fancy links for each of these, but I’m commenting in a rush. Sorry, all!

    • I’m not really a comic reader, but my partner has recently dived into the Fables series, and I may have to start in on them next. Apparently Once Upon a Time (the TV show) was directly ripped off from the creators of Fables (as in, they were in talks to create the show, then talks fell through, then the powers that be made the show anyway.)

      • Fables is wonderful! I’m way behind at the moment, but its a fantastic series.

  • CPM

    Books I’ve read and loved lately:

    The Vanishers, by Heidi Julavits (totally engrossing book about mothers and daughters, set in a world where psychics are real). Recommended if you like: Harry Potter but also literary fiction. WARNING: reading this book while wedding planning may lead you to examine your relationship with your mother in finer detail than is comfortable during this trying time.

    Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson (totally engrossing book about fathers and sons, set in rural Iowa in the 1950’s). Recommended if you like: thinking about What It All Means. WARNING: do not read in one sitting while on a train through the Swedish countryside, as you will start ugly-crying near the end and that is Not a Good Look, according to the Swedes.

    Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste by Carl Wilson (fascinating book-length music criticism about why we like the music we like, what we get out of art, and the one time “My Heart Will Go On” moved the author emotionally). WARNING: you will want to read every book and study cited in the text, but there is no bibliography.

  • A couple of friends and I saw the BuzzFeed list of books that are being turned into movies in the coming year (and beyond) so we’re using that as our book club list. We just read Reconstructing Amelia, and it was definitely a quick and easy read. Next up is The Spectacular Now, which must be good, because all 8 copies at my library are checked out and on hold!

    Currently reading: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, (Susan Cain) Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness (Jessica Valenti), The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression (Andrew Solomon), The Marriage Plot (Jeffrey Eugenides), The Girls (Lori Lansens), and will soon be adding The Spectacular Now (Tim Tharp).

    Read and Recommend – Nonfiction: Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity (Andrew Solomon), Genome: the Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters (Matt Ridley), Let’s Pretend this Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir (Jenny Lawson)

    Read and Recommend – Fiction: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams), Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides), American Gods (Neil Gaiman), Good Omens (Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett), Cutting for Stone (Abraham Verghese), Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood)

    Excited to Read: Gone Girl, If I Stay, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Life After Life, Quirk: Brain Science Makes Sense of Your Peculiar Personality,

    Reread all the damn time: I don’t reread much, but books I have reread include The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Good Omens, The Great Gatsby, Atlas Shrugged, and The Handmaid’s Tale.

    Also, if anyone wants to friend me on GoodReads, here’s my link!


    • Ah, I forgot Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, b/c I assume everyone has already read it, b/c it’s amazing and perfect and you should read it now.

    • alyssa

      I was inspired by that list, too! Wow, Buzzfeed is getting people to read?! Nice.

  • Cassy

    I love Terry Goodkind, Diana Gabaldon, and Jean Auel! I tend to read science fiction and fantasy, so here are my recommendations:

    Discworld series, by Terry Pratchett. Absolutely brilliant and funny! If you know a little bit about science, his books are even more enjoyable. Every book is a great read, and they are good summer books because you can pretty much pick up the series at any book; you don’t have to read them in order.

    The Long Earth and The Long War, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. Amazing science fiction novels about people exploring parallel Earths (think all the different Earths that could exist if one small thing changed in Earth’s history, like if dinosaurs weren’t killed off by that asteroid). Fascinating! I’m hopeful that another book will come out in this series.

    Outlander series, by Diana Gabaldon. Historical fiction + romance + time travel. So well researched/written and fascinating! Highly, highly recommend reading.

    An old series I’m re-reading for the first time since middle and high school: the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. The first couple of books are a bit silly in the writing, but the stories are fascinating and the books are usually less than 200 pages, so good quick reads. Also very fun for young readers.

    Audio books: the British version of the Harry Potter books. I love these so much and have listened to the books at least 5 times through now. It’s my summer laboratory work go-to collection. The American reader makes Hermione sound like a chain smoker to my ear; I think the British version is a lot more complex and enjoyable.

    • I just finished The Long Earth! I didn’t realize it had a sequel, so yay!

  • I read fluff. I don’t really enjoy reading serious literature. I like non-fiction and romance novels. Recent novels I liked:

    – Own the Wind + Fire Inside, by Kristen Ashley
    – The Impact of You, by Kendall Ryan
    – Beautiful Disaster, by Jamie McGuire

    The books I reread:

    – Ender’s Game series (I like Ender’s Shadow best), by Orson Scott Card
    – Sugar Daddy + Smooth Talking Stranger + Blue Eyed Devil, by Lisa Kleypas
    – The Bridgertons series, by Julia Quinn
    – The Hathaways series, by Lisa Kleypas

    The books I’m looking forward to:

    – The Sum of All Kisses, by Julia Quinn (October 29)
    – Mine, by Katy Evans (expected in 2013)
    – Montana Bride, by Joan Johnston, (January 7)

    • In terms of fluff, probably the best clever, engaging, feel-good “chick lit” I’ve read comes from Sarah Addison Allen. All of her novels are easy, happy reads, but are still very smart (saccharine, but in a peach-pie-made-from-scratch kind of way).

      I also really liked Blessed are the Cheesemakers, a departure from my usual fare, but I thought it was just the right level of sweet.

  • I love this so much! I’ve already bookmarked lots of new to-reads. My two cents:

    If you enjoy a graphic novel (or even if you don’t, really) I cannot recommend Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ Saga enough. I haven’t been sucked into passionate adoration for a book so fast in AGES. It’s your general “star-crossed lovers in the middle of an interspecies trans-galactic war, being hunted by weirdly likable but deadly bounty hunters while toting around a baby and her dead nanny” story. You know, the usuhe. And the art is goooorrrrgggeeeouusss. I actually read it from comixology.com, b/c 1)instant gratification and 2) since the art is digitally created, it looks super good on the computer. Also, I think it’s worth it to buy it by issue rather than collection, just for the lolsome letters column at the end.

    Other than that, I think Mary Roach is always good summer reading (Bonk is still my fave, b/c I’m a big perv and love reading about sex) and I very much enjoyed Sam Kean’s The Violinist’s Thumb, which is a really readable book about the history of genetics. I got really evangelical about it for a while. SCIENCE!

    Re-reads are always the Harry Potter books, the Sandman books (although I’m meaning to re-read American Gods too, since there’s an HBO series coming out.) and Tam Lin by Pamela Dean, which remains my favorite “Scottish ballad spooky mystery romance set at a Midwestern college in the 70’s” book.

    • Bonk by Mary Roach was great! Also good for those who didn’t get sex-ed in school. Just enough humor to laugh through the awkward stuff, but good science at the bottom of it.

  • AAAAHHHHH, book lists.

    What I’m currently reading: The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter.

    Recently read and recommend: Mama Day — although I felt like there was a whole ‘lotta stuff that I didn’t get the first time around. I’ll definitely pick it up again.

    What I’m looking forward to reading: SO MUCH. Here’s my Goodreads to-read list, and I’ve pared that down greatly. Highlights are The Round House, Escape from Camp 14, And the Mountains Echoed, and Americanah. And about a bazillion more. *sigh*

    Rachel, The New Cult of Domesticity is on my list, so I’m glad to see that you have good things to say about it. And Meg, how funny that you should mention Difficult Men; I just read the article on Slate today (from a few days ago, I’m behind) about the cast of The Wire while filming in Baltimore, and I was intrigued . . . although I’m not sure if I want to read the entire thing. If you get around to finishing it, I’d be curious to know if it’s worth it.

    • To add . . . my rereads are HP (I pick one of the series to read between Thanksgiving and Christmas each year), and What Dreams May Come. That book grabbed my heart. No, I haven’t seen the movie, and I do not want to see it. Evaaaah.

      • Good plan. The movie was mediocre at best. I can’t even blame Cuba Gooding, Jr.

      • Good plan. The movie was mediocre at best. I can’t even blame Cuba Gooding, Jr.

  • If I could recommend one book with all my heart, it would be Who Will Run The Frog Hospital? By Lorrie Moore.

    It’s more of a novella than a novel, and it’s a book that I can truly say changed something in me. Also another gorgeous, gorgeous book about female friendship.

  • Ali S

    I’m totally on the Song of Ice and Fire bandwagon. Thank you to HBO for bringing those books into my life. I’m not really a fantasy person so I had never heard of them before the series (I don’t even have HBO), but they are amazing.
    And the fan network keeps me occupied for hours online- so many theories and details to hash out!

  • Emily

    I read the Orphan Master’s Son recently and absolutely loved that and I’ve been recommending it to everyone.

    Also, if you haven’t heard of it before, The Tournament of Books (http://www.themorningnews.org/tob/) is so much fun and coincidentally a great resource for finding out about and reading about new books. Digging through their archives is great too.

    I’m currently reading MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood, loaned to me by a friend with an advanced reader copy. For any Atwood fans out there, read it to finish out the series. If you haven’t read Oryx and Crake before and you’re in to dystopian fiction, I highly recommend it! These sequels have been interesting but not nearly as all-encompassingly engaging and mind-bending.

  • Teresa

    As a high school librarian, I LOVE THIS. Here are some of the best books I’ve read recently:

    Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe-Benjamin Alire Saenz
    Rapture Practice-Aaron Hartzler
    Eleanor & Park (ahh! ALL THE FEELINGS. ALL THE TEARS)-Rainbow Rowell
    Just One Day-Gayle Forman
    Every Day-David Levithan

    Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore-Robin Sloan
    Wild-Cheryl Strayed
    What’s Eating Gilbert Grape-Peter Hedges
    11.22.63-Stephen King
    Ready Player One-Ernest Cline

    I also second Kavelier and Clay, The Night Circus, The Rules of Civility, The Curious Incident…, and The Art of Fielding.

    My constant re-read is the HP series…I think I’ve read them all at least 20 times and my husband and I are headed to London and Paris for our first anniversary next month and we our spending the day at the HP studio tour! SO COOL!

    My book club is about to read Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld–so psyched!

    • KINA

      Love LOVE Curtis Sittenfeld! I’ve read all her books except Sisterland!

    • Jess

      YES to Eleanor & Park!!

  • Jess

    How has no one recommended The Fault in Our Stars by John Green yet? Read this, now.

    • Probably because we would NEVER STOP CRYING.

    • alyssa

      so, SO wonderful. Even my husband loved it! John Green is everything, ever. If you’ve never watched his youtube videos he does with his brother Hank, you must. http://www.youtube.com/user/vlogbrothers

      • Jess

        Oh, I’ve been a nerdfighter/follower of John & Hank’s work since Brotherhood 2.0 : )

        • I would be fascinated to see a ven diagram showing the overlap between APW readers and nerdfighters. Have you seen their new Sexplanations channel?

          • Jess

            I feel like it might just be me & you, Alyssa!! Haha. Fun to have found an overlap, though : )

            I have actually *not* seen the new Sexplanations channel! I’ll check it out. I have a 4 1/2 month old son so I’ve been a little bit behind on my vlogs ; ) I was obsessed with the Lizzie Bennett Diaries, though, & I feel like a lot of APW readers would also enjoy it? So good!

          • grace b

            I’m a lapsed nerdfighter! I first found out about it through Sarah Dessen’s blog. I’ve been reading her blog literally for ten years! She mentioned it when it first started. I started actually watching in 2008. A friend of mine and I got sooooo hooked! (we also watched Wheezy Waiter haha). Oh college. Free time. I haven’t seriously watched vlogbrothers since about 2011 but I follow John Green on twitter. And also really love his books. Just awesome people…DFTBA! :)

        • alyssa

          Whoa, two Alyssas! Good to know we both have good taste in nerdfighting. :) You too, Jess!

    • Melise

      Definitely read it when you need a good cry. I stayed up wayyyy too late to finish it and then cried myself to sleep. Worth it.

  • YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES. BOOKS! I read so quickly that I love things like this for the recs. My tastes tend to run to steampunk / fantasy, though for some unknown reason, I’ve gotten into regency romances as escapism from grad school. You guys have hit most of my favorites, but here are some I haven’t seen.

    I recommend:
    Seriously, anything Tamora Pierce has ever written. I would buy and read the phone book if she wrote it, because there would be frank and open discussions of birth control, periods, LGBTQ people and girls being who they want to be.
    Graceling / Fire / Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore – they are SO GOOD, but Bitterblue will wrench your heart out 8 times, stomp on it, and then make it whole again.
    The Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig
    The Phryne Fisher novels by Kerry Greenwood (yes, they’re murder mysteries, but awesome ones)
    The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger
    Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger (same series as parasol, 30 years earlier, different characters)
    The Magnificent Devices Series by Shelly Adina (steampunk, didn’t quite like how it ended, but compelling reads)
    Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch
    Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase (Regency romance, one of the better written ones I’ve read)

    I’m just about to start Feed, the zombie horror series, before diving back into reading about public policy, hoping it doesn’t suck.

    • I completely second Graceling/Fire/Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore!

    • Oh yeah, I forgot the Ben Aaronovitch books! I speed read them all in like a week, good times. And I second the Pink Carnation series too; I usually hate romances, but my co-McPants made me read one, and I got sucked in by the second chapter. It’s historical romance written by someone with an actual degree in history, which I think makes it so much more readable. It has a snooze-worthy frame story that it could do without, but you can skip those chapters and miss nothing important.

    • If you love fantasy stuff you should check out Jim C. Hines. I love his Princess Series: The Stepsister Scheme, The Mermaid’s Madness, Red Hood’s Revenge, and The Snow Queen’s Shadow. He has two other series as well.

      Also, I love the YA books by Jess Verdi My Life After Now, and The Summer I Wasn’t Me.

      • Peabody_Bites

        If you like regency romance, I truly cannot recomment Georgette Heyer highly enough. Well researched, well written, use period appropriate slang and have excellent heroines, great men, usually in knitted pantaloons, and relationships you can actually imagine enjoying (unlike most romance novels which model relationships I can’t imagine wanting). When I lived alone in Moscow and used to get frightened at night, these are what I would read to calm down and cheer up. In case it sways you, A.S. Byatt also thinks she is wonderful….

        My favouites, though its extremely hard to choose:
        – Venetia
        – The Grand Sophy
        – Frederica
        – Cotillion
        – Arabella

        She also had a fascinating life, having taken up writing in 1920 to support her brothers after the sudden death of her father, she then moved to Tanzania with her husband and continued to write there.

        • Anu

          Seconding this very very strongly! Seriously, if you haven’t read any Heyer romances before, I’m jealous.

    • Elisabeth

      TAMORA PIERCE. K reluctantly let me read her precious, tattered copies of Alanna etc etc this winter and I basically had to wash my hands and wear archival gloves before I even touched them.

  • I keep having “Oh yeah, and!” moments while following this thread.

    For those heading to the beach, I love Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series (starting with A is for Alibi). Follows a sarcastic, loner private detective. You could probably pick up one of the middle books and follow along just fine- you can get the gist of the relationships easily. I read most of the Janet Evanovich books, and I prefer Grafton. Less slapstick humor, more on the drama (but the first person narrator has a good, dry sense of humor)

  • Heidi

    Yay books. For a good summer read, I recommend “Repeat Year”. It’s about a girl who wakes up on New Year’s Day to realize that it’s New Year’s day from one year ago. As she relives the year, she has to decide what to change or not. I happen to be friends with the author and it’s her first published novel (major props!) You can go to her site to read an excerpt: http://andrealochen.com/

  • I recently read Neil Stephenson’s “Cryptonomicon.” It took me forever to finish but I am glad I powered through, great book, felt a bajillion times smarter afterwards.

    I am currently reading the last Wheel of Time book, A Memory of Light (by Brandon Sanderson/Robert Jordan), which I started more out of a sense of obligation than out of a real desire to read it. I read all the existing Wheel of Time books during an 11 month stint in 2010-2011, and I figured if I had devoted that much time to all of Nynaeve’s braid tugging and skirt smoothing, I might as well finish the damn thing. However, 30% in (KINDLE FOREVER) and I am pretty intrigued and enjoying the damn thing. Still, I will be relieved when it is all over and Rand al’Thor does his Dragon Reborn thing.

    When I am done with A Memory of Light I will read the Wool Omnibus. I also have the first two novels of Brian K. Vaughan’s new graphic novel, Saga, coming to me in the mail. Neil Gaiman’s new book is on my short list of things to read as well.

    I rarely ever re-read books (because there are so many books to read!) but I frequently thumb through and re-read passages of Ender’s Game (why you so homophobic Orson Scott Card?), Lord of the Rings, and the books from A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones to the rest of you). The only thing I re-read on the regular, and I am due for a re-read soon, is the entirety of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman trilogy. That is always worth a re-read.

    • That said, if I were ever to re-read anything, it would likely be the entirety of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, by Stephen Erickson, which is some of the most staggering epic fantasy I have ever read. However, the first read through took nearly TWO YEARS OF MY LIFE, and I’m not sure I have the strength to commit that kind of time to a re-read. Still, a gorgeous series, for anyone who loves epic fantasy. It easily trumped A Song of Ice and Fire in terms of MY FAVORITE EPIC FANTASY EVER.

    • Loved Cryptonomicon! Did you read the related Baroque Cycle? Also pretty dense, but I highly recommend them, possibly more than Cryptonomicon.

      • No not yet–I sort of had to take a break from Stephenson, since I read Snowcrash, Diamond Age, and Cryptonomicon back to back to back–it was a little intense, but it is on the list!

    • I haven’t been able to get my hands on either Cryptomicon or the Baroque books yet but Neal Stephenson is a favourite. I recently read Reamde and it has me scrambling through boxes to find Diamond Age and Snow Crash to re-read.

      His skill with both the epic, large scale books and the shorter, more intensely contained ones is quite impressive.

  • Stephanie

    For those who are looking for classics that are free on Kindle — a friend recently recommended Vanity Fair by Thackeray and I’m loving it! It feels incredibly modern and relevant.

  • Martha

    Meg! OMG – Kavalier & Klay is just amazing. Stunning, my favorite book and I always recommend it to my friends in need of a good read.

    I recently read The Passage and The Twelve by Justin Cronin – they are also fantastic reads.

    My go-to summer read it The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney (I have re-read this book a million and one times. And not just during the summer).

    • I liked The Passage and The Twelve, but I’ve found my friends have mixed reviews (from “OMG!” to “eh”), so I don’t often recommend it. Did you hear they’re making a movie, apparently?

      • Martha

        WHAT to the WHAT? Noooooooooo. I don’t feel confident about that one.

        To be fair, though I’ve recommended it to several people, my Mom is the only one who has taken me up on it – and she loved it too.

        • Yeah, I feel like it will be the kind of movie I don’t want to see, even though I found the book entertaining. Oh well. Saves me the ticket $$!

      • This is one instance where I feel that the film could be better than the book. I was expecting so much from The Passage, especially after the first several pages, but then it just fell short. (Which is why I almost always hate reading hyped novels. With the exception of The Night Circus, of course.) I finished it, it wasn’t bad by a long shot, but I didn’t pick up The Twelve immediately, and I’m not sure that I will.

        • Now that I think of it, I’m not sure I finished the Twelve. I borrowed it from my friend who was over the moon for both books, and he needed it back, so I think I just let it go. I definitely liked the Passage though- it wasn’t the best thing ever, but I found it entertaining through the end.

  • carrie

    I don’t think I’ve seen Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles on here – the first one takes a little bit to get into, but once you’re in, it’s awesome. Really wonderful worldbuilding and characters in this as well.

    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a must read for any kid of the 80s who loves games and identifies a bit nerdy. It’s a really quick read as well.

    Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, which I got for APW DC Book Club but didn’t get a chance to read till well after the meetup, is intense, but ultimately worth it. I was really glad to get to know Louis Zamperini. (sorry for the excessive commas)

    The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde is one of my very favorites, especially if you love books. Mrs. Havisham has a starring role in one of Thursday’s books.

    And I haven’t seen The Secret History mentioned on here, by Donna Tartt. This book is so weird and excellent and creepy. I can’t place my finger on why it’s amazing, but I recommend it.

    I’ve got Neil Gaiman’s new one on the Kindle now….and now approximately one thousand new books on Goodreads.

    Thank you, smart ladies!

    • Yes, the Kingkiller Chronicles are a must!

    • Emily

      Yes to the Secret History, I read that last year and it’s on my bookshelf-nightstand as a re-read.
      Speaking of weird excellent and creepy books, have you read Geek Love?

      • Rachel

        Absolutely love The Secret History! Glad to see this on here.

      • Carrie

        Nope, but it’s on my list now! Thanks!

    • I was wondering how long it would take for someone to mention Rothfuss. The Kingkiller Chronicles are so good (and I just stayed up late the other weekend to finish the second). His writing definitely gets stronger as he keeps going, and particularly in the second book his humour became amazing. I laughed out loud at least half a dozen times – and this is fantasy. Not very common.

      • carrie

        Am dying for the third book.

  • Addie

    I hardly ever read biographies but Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff was seriously compelling. I spent weeks being mad that I could speak Troglodite.

    Also, my dad has recently gotten into reading which is awesome. So we share an obsession with thrillers: James Rollins, Lincoln Child, Douglas Preston, Steve Barry, etc. I’m not much into “chick lit” (except maybe Maeve Binchy) and there is something really fun about sharing books with my dad. He never understood my obsession with books as a child so we’re having fun with our father-daughter book club.

    Also, if you can handle the length Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth is one of my favorite historical fiction novels.

    • Pillars of the Earth sucked me so far in.

  • Here’s an interesting request: My husband and I read books aloud to one another. I grew up in a read aloud family, and when David and I started dating he got really into doing this with me. In almost six years we’ve gone through over 20 books (not counting those we abandoned before finishing) and are always on the hunt for more.

    What works best for us are action-y adventure books, with strong characters (a mix of male and female) and good dialogue, and lots of suspense and comic relief. Fantasy and Sci-Fi have been especially enjoyable. Although we’re open to reading anything, we have done especially well with Young Adult books.

    Some of our best experiences so far have been with:
    Harry Potter 1-7
    Peter Pan
    The Princess Bride
    The Hunger Games
    Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen
    The Hobbit

    Anyone have any great suggestions for read alouds?

    • Addie

      Have you tried any of Rick Riordan’s stuff? It’s very YA but has different narrators (including both male and female), are action-adventure (along Greek, Roman, or Egyptian myths lines), and are hilarious. ManPerson and I read them together pretty regularly. Riordan’s Kane Chronicles are a relatively short trilogy and have both a male and female (siblings) narrators which might be fun for you guys.

    • Definitely look to Old Man’s War (John Scalzi) for action and comedy in a sci-fi kind of way. Its the start of a trilogy with a mix of narrators (and a bonus fourth book, which is the retelling of book 3 from the daughter’s perspective).

    • I don’t know if it will fit all your specifications, but my fiance and I are reading the Outlander series together.

      He’s dyslexic and I love to read out loud, so I’ve read the first book to him and we’re nearly finished with the second.

      We both love it! (Although he does tease the author about how many times she describes Jamie’s hair).

    • Jess

      Since you mentioned YA & sci-fi/fantasy…

      Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
      Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson (2/4 books currently published)
      The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare

      • I have major ethical issues with Cassandra Clare, but the other two suggestions sound great!

        • Jess

          woah. i’m not sure this is the place for a conversation about that, but i’m really curious to hear why??? perhaps you could share via e-mail if you’re open to it? i understand, of course, if you’re not!

          • You can email me via my blog if you like, but some googling should get you at least some of the major points. I was very active in the Harry Potter fandom back in the late 90s early 00s when she was writing fan fiction, and witnessed some pretty horrific stuff. The plagiarism is one of the biggest issues, though, as is the way she responded to it. A lot of this has been swept under the rug–you’ll find no mention of it on her wikipedia page, for example, and she has some hardcore fans who are viciously defensive of her. But shit was pretty ridiculous back in the day.

            Plus, you know, I work in publishing. I hear things.

          • http://www.journalfen.net/community/bad_penny/10481.html

            This is a huge multi-part examination of most of it.

    • alyssa

      So fun!
      Fantasy/Fiction: I love the Kingdom Keepers series (What happens in Disneyworld after dark? The battle to save the world from the villains, of course!)
      the Artemis Fowl series (evil mastermind 12 year old tries to take over the world… in Ireland… and there are faeries)
      Historical Fiction:
      Rifles for Waite
      The Book Thief
      Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
      The classics:
      You can never go wrong with The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, Treasure Island, etc. Those are great action/adventure stories.

    • Ooh! We do this too! We are finally finishing our Lord of the Rings read-aloud TONIGHT (30 pages left to go). I love YA as well. I second The Kane Chronicles, although Percy Jackson didn’t really float my boat.

      My very first rec would be Terry Pratchett – especially the Tiffany Aching sub-series (start with the Wee Free Men). I actually started reading Pratchett because a friend of mine read them all aloud to his girlfriend and then lent them to me.

      A few others (most are series, so I’ve just listed the first book):
      Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos (R.L. LaFevers)
      Here, There Be Dragons (James A. Owen) (especially fun if you have even the slightest familiarity with Peter Pan, Tolkien, Narnia, etc. – lots of easter eggs woven in)
      The Mysterious Benedict Society (Trenton Lee Stewart)
      The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet (Eleanor Cameron)
      In the Garden of Iden (Kage Baker)
      The Society of Unrelenting Vigilence (Glenn Dakin)
      The Wardstone Chronicles (Joseph Delaney)
      The Fairy-Tale Detectives (Michael Buckley)
      Redwall (Brian Jacques)
      The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (Laurie R. King)
      Emperor Mollusk vs. the Sinister Brain (A. Lee Martinez)
      Inkheart (Cornelia Funke)

      All-of-a-Kind Family (Sydney Taylor) is lovely, although not necessarily in the action-y genre you’re looking for. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy might also work.

      • Rebecca

        I will totally second Terry Pratchett and The Wee Free Men/ all the Tiffany books. If there were more children in my life they would all own those books.

    • Jodi

      I think “The Gift” by Lois Lowry is a beautiful book to read-aloud, I love her way with language. I cried at the intensity and ambiguity of the ending. Keep the tissues handy.

    • Rachel

      Have you tried The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley? Absolutely love that book, have read it 10+ times since first reading it in middle school.

      Another sci-fi/action series that is a fast, fun read is the Kris Longknife series by Mike Shepard. I seriously read the first seven books in about three days last summer.

      Not so great for reading out loud, but I have to mention the Liaden Universe novels by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. I have enjoyed every single one, but the best place to start in my opinion is Agent of Change or Conflict of Honors. Every time I tell someone about these books and they enjoy them I feel like it’s Christmas morning.

      The novels are constantly going in and out of print, with different novels being packaged together each time. Here’s a place to start:

    • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell would be great, I think!

  • Peekayla

    Happy to say I’ve either read or want to read some of these books already. And, am currently adding a few new ones to my “To Read” list because of this post. Thanks!

    I LOVE the Clan of the Cave Bear series (minus the last 2 books). I read them in 8th grade and continually reread the series every few years. I talked about them so much when I first read them that my dad decided to read them too and he loved them as well! He even gave me the nickname of “Ayla” because of it =)

    My handle is a smooshing together of my two favorite characters:
    Ayla from Clan of the Cave Bear
    Peekay from The Power of One.

    • I’ve always meant to read that!

    • When I was much younger, I used to just read the sexytimes between Ayla and Jondalar :)

  • Jo

    FUN! FUN.

    Towards the end of the latest Barbara Kingsolver novel, and it’s good! Flight Behavior. Love it. You will too if you’re into nature and subtle culture clashes.

    Can also recommend Carry On, Warrior if you like memoir that’s funny, spiritual, and raw.

    I loved Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner – awesome multi-generational pioneer story.

    Thanks for all the recs!

    • Catherine McK

      I loved Flight Behavior! Although, it was a little bit excruciating to read four weeks in to marriage. I pretty much love all of her books. Animal Dreams has long been a favorite, and Animal Vegetable Miracle was excellent and interesting and challenging.

    • Rachel

      Yes Barbara Kingsolver! Just finished Flight Behavior and couldn’t put it down. I love all of her books – The Lacuna, Prodigal Summer, Poisonwood Bible, etc etc. Also really loved Animal Vegetable and Mineral.

  • KINA

    Oh, also, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. I thought it was a beach read and figured “Meh, I don’t usually like these, but I’m on vacation so….” and wow, it was so much more. Amazing characters, wonderful story told across a fifty or so year period.

    Wow, I cannot hold back when it comes to posting about books!

  • kim

    My to-read list has just exploded! Thanks to all for the fantastic recommendations, especially excited to read The Night Circus and Kavalier and Clay now.

    Schroder by Amity Gauge was the last book that gave me an almost physical punch, it was amazing. I second The Orphan Master’s Son. I loved A Visit From the Goon Squad, but I’m a sucker for books written in complementary chapters (exhibit A: The Cloud Atlas).

    Read and would recommend: Annabel by Kathleen Winter, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, March by Geraldine Brooks, Patti Smith’s Kids (so raw!), Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany (although may be too Australian-centric for some?), Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, heartstoppingly beautiful.

    Standard re-reads: the Time Traveller’s Wife, Seven Little Australians and Looking For Alibrandi for my taste of home from far far away, any of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books…aargh, why do I have to work tomorrow?!

  • I love this so much!! I’ve wondered for years what you all read. Any of you on Goodreads, please add me – I would love to see what all of you are reading (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/3835725-liz).

    I get a ton of books from the library on my Kindle as well – I’ve only ever bought one book for it, in the 2+ years I’ve had it. It helps that I love old books, so Project Gutenberg is great. I’ve downloaded thousands of unique fascinating books from there (the Grace Harlowe series is amazing).

    Currently reading:
    A Clash of Kings (George R. R. Martin)
    The Silmarillion (J.R.R. Tolkien)
    The Good Soldier (Ford Madox Ford)
    Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Freedom
    Blotto, Twinks, and the Dead Dowager Duchess (Simon Brett)

    Might read next:
    Eye of the Red Tsar (Sam Eastland)
    The Godfather (Mario Puzo)
    The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Michael Pollan)
    The Prague Cemetery (Umberto Eco)
    The Slippery Year (Melanie Gideon)
    The Year of the Hare (Arto Paasilinna)

    Read recently and recommend:
    Angelology (Danielle Trussoni) – fluffy like Dan Brown, but better writing.
    Archive 17 (Sam Eastland)
    Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls (David Sedaris)
    A Voyage Long and Strange (Tony Horwitz) [nonfiction]
    To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 (Adam Hochschild) [nonfiction]

    Re-reads (not just summer, but any time):
    Emma (Jane Austen)
    The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
    Good Omens (Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaiman)
    How Stella Got Her Groove Back (Terry McMillan)
    Lost in Translation (Nicole Mones)
    I Shall Wear Midnight (Terry Pratchett)
    Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)
    Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (Rebecca Wells)
    Tevye’s Daughters (Sholem Aleichem)

    • Read the Omnivore’s Dilemma. So informative.

  • I love books! I love them so much that I started a publishing company.

    Actually, now that I look at the date, it was exactly a year ago! Wow, the time flies.

    We publish romances and chick lit. I may have been a writing major in college (or, as I like to call it, part of the literary puppy mill), but I love fun relaxed books with sharp women! :)

    • Rebecca

      Awesome! Anything you guys have published recently that you’re excited about/ would recommend?

  • Pamela

    YAY!!! Booklists! I have a feeling I’ll be adding about eleventy-billion books to my ever-growing Goodreads list.

    Some of my favorite books read this year:

    An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler – gorgeous writing, none of the guilt you get from other food writers (in my opinion). You will want to have a bottle of olive oil, good bread, and parmesan cheese on hand to try her suggestions.

    Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – Read this. Now.

    The Daughter of Time – find the Derek Jacobi audiobook recording, and you’re in for a treat!

    Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World by Lisa Bloom – not even sure why I picked this up, but it’s a great challenge to women to stop obsessing over celebrity culture and get busy changing the world.

    The Feminine Mistake by Leslie Bennetts – examines why so many ambitions, high-achieving women decide to leave the workforce. Not sure I agree with it all 100% but an interesting perspective.

    Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

    The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber

    The Matthew Shardlake series by CJ Sansom – star with Dissolution. Fun historical mystery series.

    The Year of Biblican Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans – looks at the Bible from women’s point of view. Having been raised in fundamentalist Christianity, parts of this book made me cry and think about the Bible/Christianity/religion differently.

    Currently Reading:

    Anna Karenina – bought on our trip to Scotland for the plane ride home because I burned through my other reading and figured Tolstoy would keep me busy for a while, and to my delight, it’s been a wonderful read (so far, anyway)

    The Round House (on audiobook when I do house chores) – loving this too. Even though it deals with some heavy-duty subject matter (rape), it has moments of humor and lots and lots of love.

    The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

    Super, super guilty pleasure series: Faefever by Karen Moning. Omg, these books are sooooo trashy and sooo much fun. I devoured all five in a week. Sex, gore, the end of the world, supernatural beings, it’s all in there.

    And finally, I have an ongoing project to read a biography of every US President in chronological order. Started with Ron Chernow’s biography of Washington, then read David McCullough’s bio of John Adams. I’m currently making my way through Jon Meacham’s bio of Thomas Jefferson. Totally fascinating stuff here – I mean, I never knew that Washington did *no* campaigning for the presidency. And Sally Hemings was Jefferson’s wife’s half-sister.

    Anyway, thanks for this thread!

    • Lena

      IIRC, Washington didn’t even WANT the presidency, right??

      This might sidetrack you, but The Hemings of Monticello is a great book. Good luck getting through all of them, that’s an awesome idea!

      • Pamela

        That’s the impression he liked to give – apparently personal ambition was Frowned Upon, but accepting a high profile position at the request of others was totally ok, honorable, etc.

        Also, he (mostly) refused any salary for his service to the country because it was somehow ungentlemanly to work for wages. This was despite the fact that he was in his own financial hot water since his plantation wasn’t as profitable as he would have liked. He literally couldn’t fathom why his slaves didn’t care about the property as much as he did, nor work as hard as he thought they should(imagine that, enslaved people not wanting to make their owner richer…who woulda thought..although I’m sure those slaves were working their tails off, it just wasn’t enough for him).

        The stuff I’m learning about slavery is fascinating too – I mean, clearly it’s bad because it’s an inhumane system, but it was also a really bad economic system as well. It’s fascinating to me that men who were brilliant in so many ways (like Washington and Jefferson) couldn’t or didn’t want to see that.

        • Class of 1980

          Because it made THEM rich.

          Think about how many people in the financial institutions made horrible decisions that led to the financial meltdown, which the taxpayers are now paying for. But it made THEM rich.

    • Meghan A.

      I think it is awesome that you are reading a bio of all the presidents. My father did this, and I’ve thought about doing it as well!

  • Becky

    Emily of New Moon – YES! I have read and re-read every LM Montgomery book. Two weeks ago I dug up Jane of Lantern Hill at my parents for this summer. Such wholesome, awesome, girl-power, goodness. Love.

    • I love Anne. I also adore the Blue Castle. Valancy Anne is just the perfect name, I think.

  • Elsie

    About to finish Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Totally worth all the praise it receives; great (and enlightening) non-fiction story that reads as fast as a novel.

    • Lena

      That was a great, great book.

  • Martha

    Ah, I just remember my real favorite summer read: The Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. A really great story, so well written!

    • Oh, I’m so glad you mentioned that one!

      Powerful, smart women. Plus, great themes about relationships in nature and our relationship with nature. (Which is totally my jam) Definitely one of my top favorites ever.

  • Jodi

    I just read “The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break” by Steven Sherrill. It is a very thoughtful story about a person who is different (he’s actually THE Minotaur, half-man, half-bull.) He is a rather sad, misunderstood creature who has a hard time in life, hoping (without much hope) to find understanding- and maybe even love – while working in the kitchen of a North Carolina restaurant. It’s unusual, funny and very literate, and I was rooting for this hero so hard I could hardly stand it. I can’t recommend it enough, especially for those who have had disappointments in life and need a little hope.

  • grace b

    I only have maybe 5 or 6 books in my collection these days. I am a library addict.

    However the one book that I LOVE to pieces and will reread every year is Dizzy and Jimmy by Liz Sheridan. She was 1950’s actor James Dean’s girlfriend in his early days in New York and recounts their relationship. It is so sweet and really captures the heady days of everyone’s early romance.

    And I also love Love Is A Mixtape by Rob Sheffield. Makes me tear up everytime…

    I am super picky about fiction, will have to scan the comments for some suggestions! Thanks y’all!

  • Jessica

    I wish this had been published sooner! I just spent hours last night loading up my kindle with new reads!

    I second both Outlander (LOVE LOVE LOVE) and The Ocean At The End of The Lane!

    I recently re-read The Pillars of the Earth and could not find a single thing I disliked about it (huge historical fiction nerd).

    Currently reading Gone Girl. I’m only about 10 pages in, and already I can’t wait to find out what happened.

  • Has anybody else tackled The Mothers yet? It’s about the effects of infertility and adoption on a marriage. And somehow it’s also funny. Go reserve it a the library!

  • NTB

    I’m a librarian, and I I have to comment, so I will just say this:

    The Round House by Louise Erdrich is the best book I’ve read all year.

    • Stella

      I LOVED that book!

    • I just got it on library loan. I’m excited about it.

  • I cannot recommend Quiet highly enough. As an introvert I found it absolutely life changing. A lot of traits I had been previously ashamed of I realized were things to be proud of. It made me more confident and self-aware. I seriously tell everyone I know that it should be required reading for being a human. It is just so fascinating. I will never go into a job interview again and use “introverted” as a weakness.

    • Class of 1980

      Agree 1,000,000%.

      It should be required reading.

  • Class of 1980

    Currently reading “Financial Reckoning Day Fallout – Surviving today’s global depression”.

    Yeah. I know. :(

    • Class of 1980

      To add insult to injury, I’m going to watch “The End Of The Road” at 8:00 p.m. tonight on the Documentary Channel.

      Experts weigh in on the effects of the bailouts on our economy.

      • reviews? recommended? inquiring minds and all…

        • Class of 1980

          Which one? The book or the documentary?

          • both sound fascinating (potentially =).

          • Class of 1980

            You can probably find the documentary on You Tube, and it probably plays over and over on the Documentary Channel. It’s a must see for every citizen.

            The book – I’m only 1/4 of the way through it. It’s a lot of information, but something everyone should read. It talks about several historical economic events that provide a lesson on what we have to look forward to. It also explains a lot of what the documentary above explains.

            People would change the way they view the gov’t and their impact on our lives if they knew more about this subject. So many get excited about some candidate who ends up making no impact whatsoever on the inherent problems that underlie our sham of an economy.

            Our economic setup harms more people than all the other issues put together in my opinion.

  • Katie

    Top 5 books I’ve read so far this year:

    Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
    Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
    Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
    The Round House by Louise Erdrich
    The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

    Yay book lists! I’m combing through now to add books to my to read list :)

  • I am so excited by all of these book recommendations! A little bummed because I start grad school next month and will likely not be able to read nearly as much as I’d like for the next couple of years, but I do want to make sure that what I do make time for is worth it, so this is perfect for me.

    The best book I’ve read recently is A Moveable Feast by Hemingway. Normally I read fiction and generally judge by story unless the writing is bad, but all throughout A Moveable Feast, all I could think about was how completely stunning the writing was. As a super-wordy writer, I’ve always been fascinated by good, concise writing.

    My go-to reread book is Pride and Prejudice. Mostly I take it on vacations because what if the other book I take isn’t any good or I finish it and have nothing to read. WHAT THEN? Pride and Prejudice to the rescue. (I do always have to finish it though, no matter how little I may have gotten through at the end of a flight.) Though I’ll reread Anne Lamott over and over too. I just know with P&P, I’ll have many, many hours covered.

    This comment may make me appear more high-brow than I actually am. I love me some chick lit. And when I bought three books for my trip to Asia, I saved Team of Rivals and Katharine Graham’s Personal History for the flights and read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me… half at the bookstore, half when I got home.

    And I have to say that I remember Lightning and while I read it over a decade ago and haven’t reread it, parts of it have totally stuck with me.

  • In 2008 I read 54 books. That was a great year. In 2009 I started a challenge to read one non-fiction book with a topic for each letter of the alphabet, in alphabetical order. That was a blast! And took till 2012 (darn graduate school getting in the way).

    Currently I’m reading “The Philosophical Baby” and loving it.

  • so…not to start a battle or anything, but am i the only nerd on earth who didn’t like “a game of thrones”? i read it after everyone i know was enamored and it was lent to me, and…i am both unimpressed and kind of disgusted. sorry to be negative, but on the subject it is my most recent read (finally finished it last night).

    • carrie

      I totally understand where you’re coming from. Especially after the slog that was the fifth book. I think the first three were really amazing though.

      • The fifth book was readable. It had slow parts, but it was readable. The fourth though? That one was disappointing.

  • MegsDad

    I just finished: Mary Ann in Autumn by Armistead Maupin. It is the eighth novel in the Tales of the City series. about San Francisco. If you love San Francisco and irony, they are a lot of fun.

    And Pillars of the Earth is wonderful.

  • I love these lists!! I’m currently reading the complete Sherlock Holmes and I am also sad to be almost done. To delay the inevitable I reread Dean Koontz’ s The Good Guy last weekend snd also started My Thirty Third Year by Fr Fittkau (super sad but uplifting story of surviving a Soviet gulag). I also recently received The Power of Habit and look forward to starting it.

  • Rebecca

    Recent read that might be of interest generally: Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners by Laura Claridge. It contains an awful lot of interesting architectural history that may be of less general interest, but I loved it. Overall I found it really great- she lived through a lot of changes and it’s neat to see how her advice changed as the nation did.

    Up next: Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry by Helaine Olsen, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Dodger by Terry Pratchett, and probably a random assortment of romance novels (hopefully ones that don’t make me want to throw them across the room- I’ve hit a real string of duds lately.)

    For the project gutenberg fans, Librivox.org does a similar thing with audio books- they’re volunteer read, so quality varies, but many of them are awesome, and the price (free) can’t be beat. Also, they have an extensive selection of Wodehouse, and the Pickwick Papers is very well read.

    My re-read all the time is always Terry Pratchett. I hit the library for almost everything, but his books I buy in hardback because I know I’ll be rereading them for a while.

    • Rebecca

      Oh- and read awhile ago, but highly recommend: India- A Portrait by Patrick French. I read it while I was in India and found it really interesting. Also, if anyone has a recommendation for a history focusing on the partition of India and Pakistan, I’m looking for one.

      • Peabody_Bites

        Your question reminded me that I have been meaning to read a history of Partition, so I asked my Pakistani political journalist step-father (a useful person to have around!). He recommends Patrick French’s Liberty or Death as a good overview of the independence movement and Partition, and Mushirul Hasan’s India’s Partition for a more specialised focus.

        I will probably start with Patrick French. Hope one of them works for you.

        For an apolitical but intriguing take on Partition and one angle to consider when thinking about the speed with which the British withdrew, I read Edwina and Nehru: A Novel by Catherine Clements about 10 years ago. Not particularly well written as I vaguely recall, but an interesting take – and, by all accounts, pretty close to the truth.

        • Rebecca

          And here I thought my question was a total shot in the dark! Thanks for the recommendations- I’ll probably start with Patrick French as well.

  • Meghan A.

    Thank goodness for more book recommendations! I’m in desperate need of some new ones!

    Because I wanted to cry, I’m currently reading “And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini. It’s a great follow up focusing more on sibling relationships.

    I recently finished “Bossypants” by Tina Fey. I loved it, and made the book-adverse husband read large chunks of it with me.

    I’m also a re-reader. Series that I’ve read multiple times include Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Divergent. (I tend to try to re-read all books before moving to the next movie/book that has been released). I regularly re-read novels by Nick Hornsby and Truman Capote.

    • Peabody_Bites

      I do that! See comment up-thread re. Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. The other series I am doing it for is Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke: wonderfully rich novels about, nominally, colonisation and the development of global trade, but with strong narratives and extraordinary use of language.

      • Meghan A.

        I’m a sucker for historical fiction. I’ve added them (and many other books mentioned today) on my to-read list! Thanks!

  • This is awesome!
    Ok so … Madeline l’engle who wrote a wrinkle in time…. Rad her crosswicks memoirs. The last one is sooo much about marriage it is beautiful and warning…terribly sad.
    Te unabridged journals of Sylvia Plath shows that form the tender age of 18 she was much more than a “confessional” poet. She gets a bad rap in the literary community, but I think she was a genius.

    Nerdy me is reading some pretty good fan fiction about James potter, Harry’s son, by g. Norman lippet. It is free on goodreads for e readers. It is decent, not perfect, but fun if you liked the epilogue of hp

    Interpreter of maladies, is one of the best short story collections ever. Read it!

    Read some Shakespeare other than Romeo and Juliet, I recommend twelfth night for something light and king Lear for something more intense.

  • Peabody_Bites

    I got to work an hour ago, and have cheerfully spent most of it chatting to myself as I work my way through this excellent thread, and adding books to my lists (one for purchase, one for library). I tend to read mostly modern fiction, often by international writers or set abroad.
    Making this list has made me realise how lazy I am about remembering what I read and what I love – it might be time for a reading journal.

    Some books that I haven’t seen mentioned:

    Books I read recently (ish):
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell – set in Japan when the Brits and the Dutch had recently opened trading posts there.
    Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri – wonderful short stories by an Indian woman set in Boston. Everything she has written is fantastic (and her use of language reminds me a little of Lorrie Moore).
    How to Get Rich in Rising Asia – Mohsin Hamid. Having loved Moth Smoke, mostly because it is set in Karachi, and also A Reluctant Fundamentalist, I thought this was somewhat slight, but I did enjoy it and its relatively unusual use of the second person.
    Flight Behaviour. Wonderful. Will probably send me back to The Bean Trees which was a favourite when I was younger.
    The Yellow Birds – Kevin Power – about a soldier recently back from Iraq/Afghanistan. This rarely happens to me, but I couldn’t finish it. I could see it was beautifully written, but I simply didn’t enjoy it.
    The Wandering Falcon – Jamil Ahmad – short stories about the tribal lands between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bleak, spare, wonderful. Particularly interesting in light of the ongoing drone debate. While on the Pakistani writer theme, Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, is an amazing book of short stories and Kamila Shamsie’s novels are some of my absolute favourites.
    Broken April – Ismail Kadare – set on the high plateau in Albania, it is about the laws of the Kanun, the honor laws which bind rural Albania.
    Happier at Home – Gretchen Rubin – brilliant at helping me settle into a new house

    My re-reads are very much the books I loved when I was younger and which make me feel calm:
    – Anne of Green Gables (all 8. I actually particularly love Rilla of Ingleside)
    – Rose in Bloom
    – Little Women et al. Currently in the middle of Good Wives, again.
    – Georgette Heyer (favourites listed upthread)
    – Persuasion

    And very rich books, often with a lot of potential for reading around or picking up different references:
    – The Children’s Book by AS Byatt
    – Wolf Hall / Bring up the Bodies
    – Lord of the Rings

    Reading this summer:
    The Round House
    Girl who Fell from the Sky (Simon Mawer’s first book. The Glass Room, is brilliant, set in Czechoslovakia in late 1930s)
    These Old Ways
    Telegraph Avenue (hurrah for a new Michel Chabon novel)
    Why Nations Fail

    I could do this all day! But even by summer standards it is time I did some work.

    Could this be a quarterly feature? Or perhaps the Open Thread could quarterly be gently book/movie/TV show themed?

    • Meghan A.

      I love the idea of this being a reoccurring feature!

  • Meaghan

    OMG LIGHTNING. I thought I was the only person who ever read that book several times as a weird kid.

  • Amy

    I am a huge fan of crime novels and some of my favorites are from John Sanford’s Prey series.

  • Many of my favourites have already been covered, so trusting that everyone is going to immediately pick up the Night Circus here are a couple I’m surprised aren’t here yet.

    Christopher Moore is great light reading. Anything by him, really, though A Dirty Job and the vampire series are generally good places to start. Irreverent, funny, well written. I would read his work any day.

    Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry is a must read for any fantasy fan. Everything he does is well done, though his recent work leans farther towards historical and pseudo-historical fantasy than true fantasy. The Fionavar Tapestry is true high fantasy and it’s amazing. Also, he worked for the Tolkien family and helped put together the scraps of work that were unpublished when JRR Tolkien died. He learned his craft well.

  • Kelsey

    I just finished ‘The Engagements’ and I enjoyed it, but I really liked ‘Commencement’ best out of J. Courtney Sullivan’s books, so don’t overlook that one!

  • I’m surprised that no one’s mentioned A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry yet. It’s a wonderful, wonderful story. I read almost all of it during a read-a-thon a couple of years ago, and it didn’t feel long at all.

  • Emily

    Long time APW fan/lurker and first time commenter because OMG BOOKS.

    I’m currently reading the 5th book in the Game of Thrones series, which is so far good but taking me forever (I’m a one book at a time type of gal). Books I’ve read so far this summer and LOVED are The Burgess Boys, by Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kitteridge is also a past favorite) and Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. Also read and mostly liked The Newlyweds, by Nell Freudenberger, Maine, by J. Courtney Sullivan, Snapper, by Brian Kimberling, and The World to Come, by Dara Horn. My favorite book of the year so far is Tiny Beautiful Things.

    Other books that I can’t speak highly enough about are An Everlasting Meal, The Night Circus, Wild, The White Tiger, The God of Animals, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, State of Wonder, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and The Namesake. I also have a whole list of food writing books that I love if that’s of interest!

  • Ashleyn

    I’m late to the party, but I HAVE to recommend A.S. Byatt. A couple people have mentioned her briefly, but I am so in love with her I need to expound upon her virtues.

    Possession by A.S. Byatt – An amazing book with complexity, a story within a story, and it encompasses literary theory, philosophy, romance, mystery. It is dense, but oh so worth it. I am a writer, and this book is one of those books that when I finished it I thought, why bother, when this has already been written?! But in a good way.

    The Virgin in the Garden – This is the first book in a series dealing with a family living in fifties and sixties in England, starting the year that Queen Elizabeth II is crowned. Told from multiple perspectives of many characters. Frederica is my favorite character in a lot of ways, though the whole family is amazing. Continue the series with Still Life and Babel Tower.

    She also has several collections of short stories that are imaginative and fascinating.

    For fluff, I am currently reading the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris and am finding them hilarious, suspenseful, and sexy. Good, light, summer fantasy reading.

    Other recommendations I didn’t see above:

    Atonement by Ian McCewan
    The Reader by Bernard Schlink – Better than the movie, amazing writing
    Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier – French pirates! Need I say more?

    Also, it is sometimes controversial, but I absolutely adore Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. So much better than the movie. So heartbreaking. The first time I read it, I bawled through the last like eight chapters and after reading it over and over, it still makes me cry. Say what you will, but it will always be one of my favorites.

  • C

    THE OUTLANDER SERIES by Diana Gabaldon. Seriously. Amazing. About a woman that travels through time, has a lot of Scottish history, VERY well researched. I have no idea if they’re listed on this thread already; there’s SO MANY good book recommendations, y’all! Read them. You won’t be sorry.

  • Bethany

    I’m also late to the party but OH MY GOD Mindy Kaling’s “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” is laugh out loud hilarious. I’ve listened to the audiobook twice (she voices it) on road trips and it made me fall in love with her/want to be her.

    I also adored “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – it’s heartbreakingly beautiful. I got into the author Meg Donohue, I read both of her books, which are great for easy reads about female friendships. I just started reading “And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini. I’m only two chapters in but so intriguing already.

    Yay books!

  • Maddie:yes, yes, yes, read 100 years of solitude in Spanish! If you need help, just ask. García Marquez in Spanish is…glorious. After you are done, read “Hopscotch”(Rayuela), by Julio Cortazar! :)

  • E

    Have to disagree with Meg — I loved Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Favorite book I’ve read in a long time. Must-read, people!
    I also really liked Lean In if you haven’t read it yet — despite all the initial controversy, I found it pretty inspiring/interesting.
    Also really liked The Round House by Louise Erdrich. It won the National Book Award for fiction last year. Heartbreaking and not exactly a beach read but beautifully written and illuminating about violence against women on reservations.
    Also enjoyed in the last year: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn & This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper.