Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Sunday Salon: Recommending Books

Recommending a book is serious business. There are times when I just say, "no, I can't think of anything right now" rather than recommending (or loaning) one only to have that person not like it. If I've liked it enough to recommend it, that book has moved from "just a book" to "friend" and it kinda hurts if I suggest it and the other reader doesn't love it like I did. So, I'm a hesitant recommender.

Sometimes, though, I've just gotta put that all aside. There are some books out there that are just to good to not share. Here are some that I always recommend. Always.

1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. Don't look so shocked. . . this book is a feast of beautifully written language. I've never read a novel whose subject was so unappealing and yet whose prose was so drawing. Nabokov skyrocketed into my top five favorite authors after I read this.

City of Light2. City of Light by Lauren Belfer. A friend read it and raved about it, prompting me to try it. It sounded then, and still sounds now, dull and dry from the description, but it is one of the most engrossing novels I have ever read.

3. Sonny's House of Spies by George Ella Lyon. Here's another one that sounds like a yawner but was so beautifully written as to be unforgettable. For a more detailed review by me, you can pop over to it's page on Amazon, but here are a few fantastic lines from this book, many of which are like poetry, others of which capture the flavor of Southern small town life to a T!
"It was a sleepy kind of morning, the air like bathwater."

"Like some reversible cloth, Mama's laughter flipped over into sobs."

"We just stood by the shiny gray coffin with its handles like fancy toilet-paper holders and said "Yes" and "No" and "Thank you" and breathed whatever breaths came by: mint, onion, tobacco, whiskey, and bad."

Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam (Plus)"All the windows had been propped open, but it was one of those afternoons when the air lay on top of you like a big cat, and no waving of cardboard Jesus-at-the-door fans could make it get up and move."

4. Standing Alone by Asra Nomani. I read the ARC of this, when it had a slightly different title and a very different cover, and was awed by it. The message she has to tell is so timely and so important.

5. A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer. Don't be fooled by the title or even the blurb; this is not a Harry Potter type novel! It is a fantasy, but delicately and deliberately written with a complex story and characters. I have recommended it to even non-fantasy readers and thus far haven't found anyone who disliked it.

6. Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin. This one is just a gem! I read the ARC and have shared it what many people since. It's a sweet, funny, moving book with a wonderful story. Just a gem, I tell you!

7. Nation by Terry Pratchett. A lot of people are afraid to try Pratchett, afraid he'll be "too fantasy" for them. This is a stand alone book, only lightly fantasy in that it is in an alternate history, and is one of the most powerful books I've read. It breaks the walls of gender and race and age, gives a moving message about love and about prejudice. It is just SO wonderful. I can't recommend it highly enough!

One last one. . .
Evolution Man: Or, How I Ate My Father8. Evolution Man: Or, How I Ate My Father by Roy Lewis. I'm really not sure how to describe this book. It's witty, it's intelligent, it's a great read. Other than to say, "give it a try", I don't know what else to say about it!

So, what do YOU recommend?


  1. I have different ways of recommending books. One way is I give a selection of books that I think the person will like and that I love. This way I feel less out there than if I was only recommending one book. But like you there are a few I will always recommend: Time Traveller's Wife; Wuthering Heights; On Beauty; The Color Purple and Forever Amber. Based purely on the fact that I love them so much that if someone else doesn't, then it's OK. They're still my faves!

  2. I've only read a couple of those; I'll have to check out the others! :)