I love when people recommend books to me. I can get a severe case of tunnel-vision when I deep-dive into a genre or series. Even worse if it’s some sort of potato-chip reading (I’m looking at you, Nora Roberts).
Richly Recommended Reading
Darkly Dreaming Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay, was recommended by a friend about a year before the TV series came out. He even loaned us the book. Both The Husbeast and I became sucked into the world of a serial killer with a heart of gold. Or…at least tarnished silver. He tried, at least. Things started getting silly in the books not long afterward, but the first book was a paradigm-shifter all right.
I was positive we’d borrowed this book from a friend and forgotten to return it (Hush you in the back. People bring things over and suddenly their stuff lives here. I can’t explain it). Either we did actually manage to sneak it back into their possession, or it’s in a box somewhere because it’s definitely not on our shelves. I took a picture of the next book in the series that we bought on our own 😉
Less an assignment, more like entertainment
Technically, The Handmaid’s Tale was assigned rather than recommended reading, but but at the time it felt like a personal recommendation. I moved to the lower arctic partway through my senior year of high school, and when my teacher realized I could blast through a book in a couple of days, he just kept exchanging one book for the next.
I caught up to the rest of the class pretty quickly, blasting through My Name is Asher Lev before keeping up with them on Orwell’s 1984. Then my teacher gave me The Handmaid’s Tale. It kinda blew my mind with how good it was. It didn’t read like a standard curriculum book.
Handmaid’s Tale was already famous but it was about 10 years past publication date. I didn’t realize it was Speculative Fiction, straddling the border of Science Fiction and Fantasy. The concept of dystopian literature was fairly new to me. I had no idea it was such a big deal. Then again, this is Canada. The US has Mom and Apple Pie. We have Margaret Atwood and Burton Cummings. If we’re lucky, it’s our turn on the Neil Young timeshare.
You have no idea how happy I am that, due to the TV series and a serious push from publishing, a new generation of young Canadians are getting to experience Atwood’s insta-classic. It’s pretty awesome.
I don’t know how much the romance industry realizes it, but we ladies swap our books all the time. Or at least, we used to. We bought my mother a Kobo a few years back, and she’s fallen in love with it. Not only because she can carry hundreds of romance novels with her when she goes out, but also because she can adjust the size of the text.
Sincere thanks on behalf of my Mum, Kobo. You’re all right.
Through Mum, I became aware of Nora Roberts, and by extension, the vast, never-ending stream of J. D. Robb In Death books. I already feel guilty because a new J. D. Robb hit around the same time as the latest Stephen King (The Institute…it’s a big one), and I haven’t had time to read either.
My friend Cee introduced me to the work of Kimberly Bell, then started dropping names like Courtney Milan. So many thanks to her for the entire Brothers Sinister series. It is excellent. If you spend any time on Romance Twitter, you’ll find all kinds of folks pointing to Brothers Sinister as recommended reading.
I think Cee also recommended Elizabeth Hand’s books to me. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. If you need a good thriller, check out Wylding Hall. It’s a good way to read away an afternoon.
Light and Dark Fantasy
I can’t discount the opinion of The Husbeast. I was into Stephen King — but mostly the earlier standalone works. The Stand, Christine, Carrie, Firestarter, etc. The Husbeast, on the other hand, loves The Dark Tower series. He started urging me to check out the earlier books that hadn’t appealed to me (because I was reading them out of order. That MIGHT have something to do with it). Soon we were both racing through the backlist.
He’s also introduced me to the work of Terry Pratchett — mostly the Discworld series. I was very sad when Sir PTerry passed away, but he left a huge catalogue of books, some of which take a little brain power to process. I’ll be savouring those books for years, methinks. No need to rush.
Don’t go into the basement
Last on the recommended reading list is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. I can’t remember who it was that originally suggested it. I know at least three people mentioned it, but for the life of me, I can’t remember who they were.
We picked up a copy around Xmas time one year, and it really messed with my head – to the point where I had to put it down and come back to it a couple of months later. The book features stairs. And darkness. Never. Ending. Darkness.
Funny thing is, I think I’m due for a re-read soon. Might want to wait until summer. We have longer days in summer.
What are some books that folks have recommended to you? Or do you prefer to follow the beat of your own drum? Let me know!