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Discuss: Belle Needs Reading Material

I watch too much TV. WAY too much TV.  If I’m home the TV is on, doesn’t matter if it’s four hours per day or 16 hours per day. 

Some people will tell you that TV rots your brain.  However, I’ve made the Dean’s list, been on two game shows and most of what I know about animals, medicine, history, etc., I learned from watching TV.  So while it is all about the kind of TV you watch, I’ve been trying to cut back. 

This summer, during the primetime TV hiatus, I’ve decided that I will DVR shows that are on during the week and only watch TV on the weekends.  And I’m going to fill my evenings with more reading and more events.  The thing is, I’ve read all of the books in my apartment and cleared the three books that I had on my iPad.

So let me tell you a little about my philosophy on reading.  Yes, I have a philosophy on reading.  I have a philosophy on how to wear tights in the winter (The 2-out-of-3 Rule (I need to trademark that.).), what makes you think I don’t have a philosophy on reading?

Anyway, I like to read one serious book (a biography, a history book, a current events book, etc.) and then one not-so-serious book (a murder mystery, a piece of semi-intelligent chick lit, a book of essays, etc.).  This keeps my mind sharp and stimulates my intellect as well as my imagination.

So since I’m looking for reading material, I am open to suggestions.  The only things I absolutely do NOT want to hear about are any books by Stephenie Meyer, Emilie Giffin, Sophie Kinsella or Plum Sykes.  Other than that, I’m happy to hear your thoughts on any good books that you enjoyed or books that you didn’t enjoy and I should stay away from.  I prefer mysteries, classics and historical fiction, but show me what you’ve got.  I have an Nook subscription that needs to be used.

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    121 comments

  1. Emily says:

    I can't recommend the Maisie Dobbs series highly enough. She's a private investigator in post WWI England. Mystery + historical fiction + independent woman = the book you're looking for.

    In regard to a previous comment, if your father is still dealing with cancer I'd avoid The Art of Racing in the Rain. Really.

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  2. E says:

    I was going to try to read all of the comments and not repeat previous recommendations, but yea, I just spent several hours driving for a wedding tomorrow, so I'm too tired to read through the comments of 90 other awesome readers. So here is a list of recent and all time loves:

    “Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman” – biography of Catherine the Great, but let me warn you it is very very long.

    “Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me” – I count this as a “fun” book, even if it is a collection of non-fiction stories by Mindy Kalig. You won't be able to stop laughing.

    The Thursday Next series of novels by Jasper Fforde is a fun fantasy-crime series that makes you feel smart as it consistently references great literature. The main character lives in a world where it is possible to move within novels and she must work within that world to solve mysteries that occur in the lives of Elizabeth Bennet or King Lear when you aren't reading about them.

    Historical fiction by Philipa Gregory

    “Julie and Juliet” was a fun mystery/rom-com/historical fiction all in one. It tells two simultaneous stories. That of Julie in the present day and that of Juliet (as in Romeo and Juliet) her long lost relative. Highly recommend!

    If you are a Jane Austen fan, “Death Comes to Pemberly” by P.D. James is a murder mystery with our favorite Darcy family at the center of it. Way better than any Austen spin-off you have ever or will ever read.

    “A Vintage Affair” is a chick-lit novel about a woman who takes over her grandmother's vintage store after a tragedy befalls them. Light, funny, and involves clothes and fashion!

    “The Secret Lives of Dress” see above description for “A Vintage Affair”

    If there is a hint of a foodie in you “Extra Virginity” about the olive oil trade is actually quite good and counts as a “smart” person read as it includes history, buisness, and even a touch of econ.

    The Steve Jobs bio was good, and I am looking forward to the author's Einstein bio, which is on my list.

    And, too fully nerd-out on you, “Nothing to Hide” by Daniel Solove is a great book about Privacy in the modern world and why national security and personal privacy are not at odds with eachother.

    I could go on, but I'm sure you will have enough to read for years now.

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  3. Jennifer says:

    I second (or third) The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Fabulous. For semi-intelligent picks, I turn often to Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine. She's British and writes smart murder mysteries. I've not read a bad one under either of her pen names. Ann Patchett (Bel Canto, etc) is amazing as well. For nonfiction, I tend to read science books, and could not more highly recommend The Blue Death. Or, And the Band Played On.

    I'm reading a bunch of “brain candy” right now–just finished rereading The Handmaid's Tale and then read Oryx and Crake, both by Margaret Atwood. She's a fabulous writer. I am now making my way through Game of Thrones. I've not seen the series, so it's all new to me.

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  4. Kate says:

    I have a similar philosophy! I switch off between non-fiction (biographies, histories, etc. For some reason I adore books about wars/battles. I loved Flags of Our Fathers and The Things They Carried), good literature (Love the lost generation, especially Hemmingway and FitzGerald) and “fun books” (a la Dan Brown and Nicholas Sparks- no means good literature but fun plots). I also am a fan of Shakespeare and some poetry (Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot, Rudyard Kipling, Alfred Lord Tennyson) . I'm currently reading Leaves of Grass (Whitman) , The Beautiful and Dammed,(Fitzgerald) and a book that was free on the kindle called Drop by Drop (Keith Raffle- it was a political thriller that was hard to put down, definitely reccomend it!) . Some favorites include Macbeth, The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, Flags of Our Fathers, The Things They Carried, Me (Katharine Hepburn's autobiography), The Da Vinci Code, Dear John, The Lucky One, and For Whom the Bell Tolls and a biography on Margaret Thatcher (forget which one) .

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  5. Terri says:

    “Unbroken” – World War II the Pacific. Biography that reads like a novel. Quite good. gonna be a movie.

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  6. sb says:

    I go through the same sort of back and forth with my books, but I also tend to read a few books at the same time. I'm currently reading The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain, and it is fantastic…about Hemingway's first wife, set in 1920s Paris. I'm also a bit of a nerd and working my way through Game of Thrones Book 4…they are huge epic novels and take time to get through, but I am obsessed with them. And I've found a few girlfriends just as obsessed with me, so apparently there's a secret nerdy women contingency in DC, which I love.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  7. Virginia says:

    I'm a huge fan of Philippa Gregory books — she wrote “The Other Boleyn Girl.” I think most of her works are historical fiction centering around Tudor England, but they're all very well written and entertaining reads.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  8. BN says:

    Dearest Friend, A Life of Abigail Adams, by Lynne Withey.

    It tells the story of her life, with a focus on the letters she and John wrote while he was in Europe and Philadelphia. It's a fantastic portrayal of how a woman helped shape the birth of our country. It also demonstrates her conflicting views of feminism and cherishing her time as a wife, mother, and homemaker. When I finished it, I actually missed Abigail, as if we had been friends and suddenly she was gone — that's how well the book is written.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  9. Cara says:

    I second sb and recommend The Paris Wife. I loved it and have put Moveable Feast, Hemingway's book about one of the major events in the novel, on my to-read list. I've also read the Game of Thrones series and was surprised by how much I liked them. I'm embracing my nerdery. If it makes them more palatable, they're loosely based on the War of the Roses.

    Other recent reads I've enjoyed and that I believe fall within your restrictions have been Cutting for Stone, East of Eden (Cathy is fascinating!), Bound South (falls within smarter chick lit – I met the author and was impressed), and White Oleander. I'm also working my way through Joshilyn Jackson's novels.

    You should check out Goodreads. It's free and I've gotten some good recommendations on there.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  10. Helena says:

    Two great historical fiction authors are Sarah Waters and Hilary Mantel. I would recommend any of their books.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  11. Blair says:

    A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle. It's a historical fiction that chronicles the life of a boy born at the on-set of the Irish Civil war who goes on to fight. I'd also recommend The Woman Who Walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle. Also fiction, but about domestic abuse in Ireland. It's haunting but fantastic.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  12. hcg says:

    I have a similar reading pattern where I want a good fictional story but also want to read something that is beneficial whether it's a biography or a random book about the history of coffee and how it shapes culture.

    Here are my “not-so-serious” suggestions.

    Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, whose writing and blog keep me in stitches DAILY!

    The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz, a regular Joe who traveled around Europe for a year, came back to CA and became a chef, became bored, and moved to Paris where he kept a blog about his transition and move to the French way of life- primarily about food – It's funny and enjoyable.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  13. Alyson says:

    For your lighter book, I'd try Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, if you haven't already read it: https://www.amazon.com/Bel-Canto-Ann-Patchett/dp/0060838728/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1336749002&sr=1-1. It's one of the most beautiful pieces of contemporary lit I've come across. For your serious read, one of the best biography's I've ever read is Massey's Peter the Great: https://www.amazon.com/Peter-Great-His-Life-World/dp/0345298063/ref=pd_sim_b_9.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  14. LN says:

    I'll second Cutting for Stone. And if you like dogs at all (don't have to be a “dog person” or a “dog lover”, just not anti-dog), I recommend The Art of Racing in the Rain.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  15. Emme Gee says:

    Jo Nesbo's mystery series based on the first book “The Snowman” are addictive. You can read about them here: https://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2011/05/norwegian_mood.html. Also, his other book “Headhunters' is a great, quick read.

    As for biographies, I really enjoyed “Appetite for Life,” one of the lesser-known biographies of Julia Child. She was an amazing, intelligent woman who had an accomplished life even before she started cooking (she learned to cook at 37!). She was in the OSS, the earlier version of the CIA, and traveled the world. The love story between her and her husband Paul Child is also really compelling.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  16. Kath says:

    I just finished two great books–both fiction. The first was Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian. It's about a plane captain who crashes his jet into a lake and survives, but has to deal with the ghosts of the passengers who died. It's pretty creepy, but after I got into it I couldn't put it down.

    The Beautiful and Damned was the other book I just finished. I love F. Scott Fitzgerald and can't believe I haven't read this book until now.

    I agree with sb–The Paris Wife is a really great read!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  17. Aunt_Pete says:

    For intelligent chick lit, I don't think you can top Jennifer Crusie. I've read 'em all. I'm also a Micheal Chabon fan and have recently become interested in Haruki Murakami's books. Next in my to be read stack is “Wild”, Cheryl Strayed's memoir and “The Chronology of Water” . The last thing I finished was “The Age of Turbulance”. It took me awhile to get through it, but I would absolutely recommend it.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  18. Emme Gee says:

    Correction: you need to start the Nesbo series with “The Redbreast.” I also highly second the recommendation of “The Sweet Life in Paris” by David Lebovitz. His blog is awesome too.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  19. JB says:

    I recently finished Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok and loved it from start to finish. It follows a young Asian immigrant (and her mother) from their arrival in NYC past her graduation from college etc. Its a great dichotomy between her incredible success in school, and the necessity of working in a clothing factory to make ends meet. There's a little bit of a love story, and all in all, was one my most favorite recent reads.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  20. r says:

    I love anything by Lisa See. Her books, especially the historical novels (not the mystery series), are so captivating and take you right to China.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  21. bex says:

    For my serious suggestions “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho is beautiful. It's one of those books to read with a pencil nearby so you can underline quotes. (A benefit to reading it on an e-reader). For a more historical read, “The Weight of All Things.” It is a story of war told through the eyes of a nine year old boy set in El Salvador, based on real events.

    For my fun suggestion I recommend “Black Heels to Tractor Wheels: A Love Story.” It's by The Pioneer Woman on Food Network. I thought I was going to hate it, but I'm hooked.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  22. giggling gourmand says:

    Some of my favorites that I think count as both enriching AND fun are Oscar Wilde's comical plays and Saki's short stories, particularly the Clovis ones.

    On the totally light side for mystery novels I like Rex Stout stories and for just good plain fun hilarity anything by P.G. Wodehouse, but particularly Jeeves and Wooster.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  23. Jen says:

    LAMB by Christopher Moore – story of Jesus' “missing” years from the bible as told by his best friend Biff. Hilarious, yet Moore is crazily historically accurate w/r/t the time of Jesus. Moore is an absurdist author and this is a fantastic read. His latest SACRE BLEU is great too. An amusing take of the late 19th century artists and their muse.

    Easy reads you will enjoy, not want to put down, but you will actually feel as if you are learning!

    Enjoy!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  24. MM says:

    I just finished The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer, and it is a good one for your “light” reading list–really great memoir!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  25. Mel says:

    For fun reading –The Tana French (author) Dublin Murder series is fun. I still need to read the third book, but the first two are good reads.

    For serious reading –I'm working my way through “Sex at Dawn.” An interesting take on human sexuality and modern times.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  26. lisa says:

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my faves, and P.D. James writes great mysteries.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  27. BCN says:

    I have two “literary” suggestions. City of Thieves by David Benioff which is a novel set in the seige of Stalingrad, and Vaclav and Lena by Haley Tanner, set in Brooklyn about two Russian immigrant children in the 21st century. Both quick, well-written reads, and very interesting.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  28. Melissa says:

    In No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin, its about the Roosevelts and is so well done (and not boring at all).

    On my blog every year I do top ten lists of my favorite books that I have read, and in 2010 I picked the Book Thief, and in 2011 I picked Room as my #1's. Both are so unique and captivating.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  29. KA says:

    I just finished The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark. Highly, highly recommend it. Couldn't put the book down. Finished it in one rainy Saturday afternoon.

    The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark
    A sweeping novel that brings to life two love stories, ninety years apart, set against the rich backdrop of war-torn India. In 1947, American historian and veteran of WWII, Martin Mitchell, wins a Fulbright Fellowship to document the end of British rule in India. His wife, Evie, convinces him to take her and their young son along, hoping a shared adventure will mend their marriage, which has been strained by war. But other places, other wars. Martin and Evie find themselves stranded in a colonial bungalow in the Himalayas due to violence surrounding the partition of India between Hindus and Muslims. In that house, hidden behind a brick wall, Evie discovers a packet of old letters, which tell a strange and compelling story of love and war involving two young Englishwomen who lived in the same house in 1857. Drawn to their story, Evie embarks on a mission to piece together her Victorian mystery. Her search leads her through the bazaars and temples of India as well as the dying society of the British Raj. Along the way, Martin's dark secret is exposed, unleashing a new wedge between Evie and him. As India struggles toward Independence, Evie struggles to save her marriage, pursuing her Victorian ghosts for answers. Bursting with lavish detail and vivid imagery of Calcutta and beyond, The Sandalwood Tree is a powerful story about betrayal, forgiveness, fate, and love.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  30. K says:

    If you haven't already, you HAVE TO read Washingtonienne. HAVE TO. Its trashy chick lit about a girl working on the Hill getting into assorted sex scandals and making fun of Vera Bradley. Its a total guilty pleasure.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  31. Liz says:

    I second Cara with the Goodreads recommendation. It's a great way to keep track of what you want to read and get suggestions for what to read next. My most recent favorite reads are Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof (non-fiction) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Marie Ann Shaffer (fiction).

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  32. Annie says:

    I always try to through a good classic into my rotation – right now i'm re-reading The Great Gatsby and remembering why I loved it so much in high school.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  33. E says:

    Life of Pi. Really makes you think about religion and life. And it's very creative.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  34. Al says:

    'Serious Material'- I recommend Black Swan by Talib Nassim on the impact on history/govt/society of highly improbable events. It is an extremely enlightening and interesting read.

    'Light Reading'- Postmortal by Drew Magary was one of the most entralling and well-thought dystopias I have ever read. The premise is that a cure for aging is discovered and the book covers the ensuing changes to humanity.It's pretty dark at parts, but definitely thought and discussion provoking.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  35. shilpi says:

    A couple juicy books that you can sink your teeth into but also satisfy your brain are A Secret History by Donna Tartt, The Emperor's Children by Clair Messud and Special Topics and Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. Of course, the classics are always amazing, but these are modern without rotting your brain.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  36. MM says:

    One of my favorite intellegent but not heavy novels is “Prodigal Summer” by Barbara Kingsolver (really, anything by her, but this one's the only one I read over and over).

    I also really like the kind of pop-science/pop-sociology genre of non-fiction that Malcom Gladwell does so well. In addition to his books, I really liked “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, and “The Unthinkable: Who survives when disaster strikes and why” by Amanda Ripley. You learn something, but they're written in such a way that you don't want to put them down.

    I also like food related memoirs for something that doesn't feel as silly as chick-lit (for that, Meg Cabot, Jennifer Weiner and, sorry, Sophia Kinsella, are my go-tos), but is still pretty light. “My Life in France” by Julia Child, and “The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food” by Judith Jones, and “A Homemade Life” by Molly Wizenberg (of Orangette) are some of my favorties in this genre.

    Also, I read Pride and Prejudice once every couple of months – comforting, almost chick-lit, but because it's considered a classic, I don't feel that chick-lit guilt!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  37. Jamie says:

    Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (historical fiction) and Queen Noor's autobiography were two good ones. Also two of my all time favorite works of fiction are The Secret Life of Bees and The Red Tent.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  38. Morgan says:

    another game of thrones and paris wife rec from me…who knew those two books went so well together? haha

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  39. Amy says:

    I completely second the recommendations for Jo Nesbo and Tana French. I have loved both of those series. Another smart mystery that I love is Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. And for a non-mystery, Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda is a really good read. I suppose one might call it chick lit of a sort, but the characters are more interesting than most and the writing is a cut above a lot of what I've come across lately.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  40. C says:

    Half the Sky was one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read. I second that recommendation.

    Recently I enjoyed Rules of Civility. It's set in New York in the 30's and it's about a smart, ambitious young woman navigating her way through society. The story is captivating and Ithink most of us would be able to relate to the protagonist.

    My favorite book ever is The Secret History by Donna Tartt!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  41. C says:

    MM, have you read Blood, Bones, and Butter? I really enjoyed that food memoir.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  42. NJN says:

    A great read on a fascinating woman, Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir. I also enjoyed the Crusades Trilogy by Jan Guillou, start with Road to Jerusalem. It follows a man from childhood to adulthood and how he is a catalyst for the unification of Sweden. It's fictional but really great story telling.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  43. KNK says:

    Your reading philosophy sounds quite similar to mine. Tana French's mysteries are fantastic. Unfortunately there are only three of them so far. I read them out of order by accident and still loved them, but I highly recommend reading them in the order they were written. All of the stories are so smart and well-written. They take place and Ireland and her writing makes you feel like you are there.

    You should post about the books you read. I'm always looking for good recommendations.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  44. Mary says:

    I have a similar reading pattern as well. I used to think I was alone in that but I've found that most intellectual women in DC have a similar pattern. But since i'm still in grad school part time, I tend to read more not-so-serious books between course work.

    Serious picks:
    Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. It was fascinating and full of historical detail, but not dry or boring.

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The story focuses mostly on her family's experiences but some of the scientific aspects about HeLa cells were interesting.

    Devil in the White City. I think the world's fairs are such an interesting piece of american history to begin with but adding a serial killer into the mix makes this book one that you can't put down.

    Not-so-serious picks:
    I really like The Best American Non-required Reading series. It's published yearly and I've read 2005-2011. All of them were excellent. They are full of short stories that you wouldn't normally come across or think of reading.

    I agree with the above suggestion of Phillipa Gregory books. Those have been my not-so-serious historical fiction beach reads for the past few years.

    I also like Kate Morton novels. She only has 3 books out but I hope she will publish more soon. I found them suspenseful. For me at least, it's very rare to not have any clue how a book will end. I can usually figure it out a few chapters in. I couldn't guess the ending with these. She gets brownie points for that.

    John Grisham paperbacks are my go-to when traveling – they are usually the perfect length for a plane ride

    I will also recommend The Book Thief, The Thirteenth Tale, and The Book of Lost Things

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  45. l says:

    Highly recommend “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie”– It's a sweet mystery written by an 80 year old man about a pre-teen in the 1950's. It's a mystery with a heart: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sweetness_at_the_Bottom_of_the_Pie

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  46. bookworm says:

    I only heard good things about the Maisie Dobbs mystery series, about a detective in the 1930s.

    Meanwhile, I highly recommend anything by Isabel Allende, a particular favourite of mine is The House of the Spirits. Also really good is The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. For something lighter, I have a fondness for Bill Bryson and in my opinion nothing lifts the spirits better that P.G.Wodehouse.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  47. tanvi says:

    I'll second Haruki Murakami, if you're willing to give magical realism a try (of a subtle Japanese version, not the Marquez variety which drove me nuts in A Thousand Years of Solitude). I'm currently reading Kafka on the Shore, which is good so far. My favorite was Norwegian Wood, which is hauntingly beautiful.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  48. Britt says:

    Belle – I am with you on switching up the fun vs. serious books. Recent reads that I'd recommend:

    The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf – random booked I picked up while traveling that I really enjoyed.
    The Glass Castle – Jeanette Walls – a memoir of her life with an alcoholic father and mentally ill mother.
    The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein – told from a dog's point of view, but very good.
    Sarah's Key – Tatiana De Rosnay – fictional look at the 1942 Paris roundups and deportations during the Holocaust.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  49. Dina says:

    I like everyone's suggestions! I'd add into the historical plot the writer Isabel Allende. I have been devouring her stuff lately. Ines of My Soul and Zorro were amazing. I also am a huge fan of Phillipa Gregory for the lighter side – it's trashy, but well researched! Margaret Atwood is also a winner, especially Cat's Eye and the Robber Bride.

    One idea for books to think about is creating a list. I started a Google Document for myself (which grew out of a growing list on my old planner in college). I'd find myself wandering through book stores in train stations and then whenever I'd go to the library I'd never remember what to read. So I started writing things down. I now have it on a google doc and I can cut and paste things into the searching for the public library (I read too much to buy every book!). When a friend recommends a book I email it to myself or make a note on my iPhone and then add it to the list. It's also handy when picking books for book club – I remember what I've been thinking about.

    AND – if you have not read Bossy Pants by Tina Fey GO AND READ IT. And then get the audio book so she can read it to you and you can pretend she's sitting in the car with you and your friend.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  50. Kirstin says:

    I'd second the recommendation for Guady Night – and actually, any of Dorothy Sayers novels.

    Its a little odd, but I just finished Justin Cronin's latest: The Passage. Its the first in a trilogy about a government experiment gone bad. Full disclosure: It involves creatures that are a cross between zombies and vampires. However, its really a distopian future book about what makes humanity want to survive and even what makes us human. It was on the NYT best seller list last year.

    Thanks for asking this – I've been trying to load up my kindle for summer travels!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  51. J says:

    I read A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert last summer on vacation. It's a quick read that chronicles the lives of five generations of women- starting with a suffragette in 1914 and ending with a woman living in post-9/11 Manhattan. There is a great balance of women's history and story, and the transition from one woman's story to the next is pretty seamless. It's also amazing to see how five different generations of women all deal with the same issues. Definitely a more serious read- it will get you thinking!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  52. Dani says:

    Serious Books: “Cry, the Beloved Country” by Alan Paton. This remains my favorite book of all time. I actually read it in high school (and once again after college). The book actually inspired me to travel to South Africa and learn about its history.

    I also recommend anything by Ron Chernow. Two of my favorites are “The House of Morgan” and “Alexander Hamilton”

    Non-serious/fun Book: “I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies)” by Laurie Notaro. Quick and hilarious read. I read almost the entire book on a cross country flight. It was so hilarious that I found myself chuckling out loud at times. The guy next to me probably though I was nuts.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  53. AM says:

    I will second Rules of Civility.

    For a serious book, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick was fascinating.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  54. Renee says:

    Game of Thrones and the Kingkiller Chronicle series are each amazing. Completely draw you in and consume you.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  55. Marta says:

    Sister by Rosamund Lipton – psychological thriller
    Room by Emma Donoghue
    Little Bee by Chris Cleave – such a good writer, they keep the plot pretty hidden til you read it – couldn't put it down
    Sarah's Key – about French Holocaust w/ a modern-day story woven in (some of the modern C-plot stuff I could have done without but overall it was very good)

    (Also, I agree w/ comments recommending Good Reads – it helps me keep track of everything and I read so much more because of it.)

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  56. Kelly says:

    Okay.. so I'm not sure how weird you want to get with this book purchase, but what I'm about to suggest may make you roll your eyes. BUT I SWEAR ITS THE BEST BOOK I HAVE EVER READ. It's called “The Passage,” by Justin Cronin, and made the New York Times Bestseller list (I mean I guess what hasn't…) but it is incredible. Here's the bizarre part: It's about a virus that basically wipes out mankind, and then how people try and live in a psuedo-democratic way while avoiding the “virals,” or people who have been infected. The writing is insanely beautiful, and it had me literally reading at my desk at work (big no no, I know.) Trust me on this one.. you'll be totally blown away by it. My boyfriend suggested it to me and I almost shot him. But I became addicted, and now have my mother and grandmother reading it too. Give it a chance!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  57. Kristen says:

    I read “How to Love and AMerican Man” by Kristine Gasbarre a few months ago and loved it! It's non-fiction and all about the things the author learned from her grandmother in the time she spent at home after her grandfather's death. Another long standing favorite it “The Art of Racing in the Rain.” It's a must read if you are a dog lover. And my most recent chick lit favorite was “The Midwife's Confession.” It's set between Wilmington, NC and Old Town Alexandria/DC… all places I have lived.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  58. Elena says:

    Belle, I love that you have a reading philosophy. I also have a similar one regarding book choice, however I tend to be choosy about authors and not subject matter as it's more important to me that the writing sucks me in than what it's about, I end up learning all sorts of bizarre things.

    Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (non fiction about the Chicago world fair and the serial killer that was on the loose then. Brilliantly written and reads in one gulp) He also wrote Isaac's Storm about the hurricane in Galveston that changed the future of that city and Houston.
    Lavinia by Ursula K LeGuin – fictionalized story of the last wife of Achilles, great description of pre-roman culture and relationships.

    I second all the Christopher Moore suggestions, I've read everything he's written and it's all a good break from serious
    Jasper Fforde start with the Thursday Next series books (the first is the Eyre Affair) very fun literary mystery full of lit references and makes you feel rather smart when you get them.

    kinda serious:
    To Rule the Waves by Arthur Herman, – great overview of the history of the British and then American Navy. Thrilling accounts of Francis Drake's exploits, discovery of Australia etc. I don't like history books, but this is written mostly like fiction and is very entertaining.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  59. LE says:

    Fantastic post and I've really enjoyed reading all the suggestions! I'm going to have to give some of these a try.

    While I absolutely hated Twilight (no offense to those that enjoyed it), I do enjoy urban fantasy novels and have enjoyed series by Kelley Armstrong, Patricia Briggs, Carrie Vaughn, Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, and Charlaine Harris. They all have great character development and interesting plots. I also have to second (or third…) the George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones) and the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. I do really enjoy Paulo Coelho's books and Nelson Demille's books as well.

    It seems like I really tend to gravitate towards series for some reason.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  60. TG says:

    I second The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I stayed up all night to finish it. My friends and I discovered it in college and passed it around, Sisterhood-of-the-Traveling-Pants-style. There's also a movie version coming out in 2013.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  61. Lisa says:

    I really loved “March” by Geraldine Brooks – a story about the parents in “Little Women.” It would fall between serious and not-so-serious.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  62. S says:

    Add me to the group of DC girls secretly loving Game of Thrones. They are surprisingly good, but ridiculously long.

    For my serious reading I usually alternate between politics and classics. Last summer I read all of Jane Austen's novels, this year I'm working on Charles Dickens (Love Great Expectations, didn't love A Tale of Two Cities). And my political leanings are different from yours, so I'll spare you those recommendations.

    For light reading, love love loved Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). It's a really quick read and had me laughing aloud on the metro. And if you haven't yet, you must read The Hunger Games.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  63. Evie says:

    I had a book hangover after Cutting for Stone – it was so good I literally could not stomach any other books for weeks. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Marriage Plot by Jefferey Eugenides, The Line by Olga Grushin, and, yes, I would even recommend The Passage too (and that is way off base the rest of the reading I do). Also very funny, I am rereading and reloving the Great Gatsby too!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  64. Carrie says:

    I'm more of a fiction girl myself so lets do the non-serious books first:

    Agreed with anything by Christopher Moore (though LAMB is definitely my favorite)
    I'm also a fan of Tracy Chevalier (Virgin Blue was weird though, so I'd go with Girl with a Pearl Earring or Lady and the Unicorn)
    If you're feeling a French mood (and a lovingly told joke at their expense) I suggest A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke

    For more serious reads:

    Agreed that the Devil in the White City was great (one of the only non-fiction books I've actually read cover to cover in one go)
    Madam Secretary by Madeleine Albright

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  65. W says:

    UNBROKEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Do it!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  66. Ellen says:

    I have to agree with Virgina's suggestion of Philippa Gregory, I love the mix of history and chick-lit and I always keep a real history book with me while I read (yes, I'm that dorky and I cross reference my historical fiction with actual history)! Also, like Jamie I also enjoyed Pillars of the Earth (watch the TV miniseries after reading it not before) and its sequel World Without End – both have history and a bit of dramatic adventure!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  67. KB says:

    Although Emily Giffin is my favorite chikc-lit author, Jennifer Weiner comes in at a close second. I took two of her books on my honeymoon and read them both before we landed in the Dominican. I highly recommend her books, “Then Came You” and “Fly Away Home.”

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  68. H says:

    I second Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. It's an incredible story. I also would recommend Loving Frank, about Frank Lloyd Wright's wife, over The Paris Wife. I thought it was much better written, and it has a shocking (and true) ending. For fun, I also like Furious Love, about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and Chasing Aphrodite, about the Getty Museum's entanglement with looted antiquities.

    For something more serious, I really loved The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood, which is particularly spooky in light of today's debate over reproductive rights. I recently read and enjoyed Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, a woman who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail by herself after her mother died of cancer and her life imploded. I found it very powerful. One of my favorites of all time is Just Kids, by Patti Smith, about her early years in New York with Robert Mapplethorpe. It's spectacular. And the writing style is similar to Joan Didion, whom you've said you really like (as do I!).

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  69. MPG says:

    I'm so pleased that this was today's topic! As a Language Arts teacher, much of my reading is either technical materials or students' work. The breaks, however, are my own to read whatever delightful little gems my friends have been reading through the year. I am in full support of the aforementioned Red Tent, Secret Life of Bees, and Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society suggestions. Most books by Barbara Kingsolver are also solid choices.
    The author that I don't think has been mentioned yet is Sarah Addison Allen. What delightful quick, whimsical, feel-good reads! I have read four or five of her books so far and I just feel like all is right with the world after finishing them.
    My last book was The Madonnas of Leningrad. Wonderful. My sister did not like it as much, but anytime an author has me reaching for a dictionary while engrossing my in great historical literature, it is much appreciated!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  70. nancy says:

    serious: “first they killed my father” by Loung Ung… heartbreaking first person story of a survivor of Cambodia's Kmer Rouge.

    historical setting: the follow up to PIllars of Earth – “World without End”

    Also, love LeCarre and Frederick Forsythe. For somewhat current intrigue “The Afghan” by Forsythe was a good read.

    fun: I second the Nero Wolfe story's from Rex Stout

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  71. sp says:

    For the record, I definitely think you should trademark your 2-out-of-3 rule for tights! I quote it to my roommates, friends, etc. whenever they ask me which tights to wear with their outfits.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  72. Emily says:

    I am guilty of read too much crap because I read so much technical stuff at work. A couple books that I think may interest you include Sammy's Hill and Sammy's House by Kristen Gore and Bossy Pants by Tina Fey.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  73. DCGal says:

    Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, this is my favorite book of all time, if you know Spanish read it in the original version, but the translation is good too.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  74. Amy says:

    I just finished The Book of Night Women, which would definitely fall under the serious/literary category. The story follows the (fictional) uprising of a slave plantation in Jamaica and is written entirely in dialect. Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin is also fantastic. It follows a variety of New Yorkers in the 1970s, with all of their stories woven around Petit's tightrope walk between the World Trade Center towers.

    I would highly recommend anything by Raymond Chandler for something fun and light! I personally like Chandler for his gritty writing style and evocation of a film-noir version of 1940s LA (no wonder The Big Sleep was such a great movie!). You also can't go wrong with Tales of the City by Armistad Maupin – a soap opera in book form, following timid Mary Ann's move from Ohio to the wild streets of San Francisco n the 70s. That series is such a guilty pleasure of mine. I also second the Roddy Doyle recommendations in previous comments.

    Thanks for posting this topic – I'm getting ideas for what to read next as well!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  75. Whitney says:

    Check out Sloane Crosley. Her books are very funny observational humor essays. Only a few out of every book are serious.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  76. Heather says:

    I have a similar reading pattern, because I have a kindle and buying books is so easy I force myself to read a free classic or two between every book I buy. Some of my favorites, both classics and not, are Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Count of Monte Cristo, Little Bee, The Handmaid's Tale, and currently I am reading the Phantom of the Opera.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  77. Sharon S. says:

    I'm not sure if someone suggested this already but I recently read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and it is by far the best novel I've read in some time. It is absolutely magical and will make you feel like you are right there in the circus walking around. Beautifully written. I can't recommend enough. I even got my grandma to read it!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  78. L says:

    “A Walk in the Woods” and “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” both by Bill Bryson. Definitely fun reads but not trash.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  79. Rachel says:

    The Best of Friends by Mariana Pasternak fits both categories – its a memoir written by Martha Stewart's former best friend and full of interesting (sometimes juicy) stories.

    I'm currently reading and enjoying Paris My Sweet by Amy Thomas.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  80. Capitol Hill Barbie says:

    Thanks for this post because I was looking for new books too!

    I will second and third a couple of the suggestions here.

    Phillipa Greggory's books are fun historical fiction and are so very dishy;

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was the book I read while waiting to deliver and I loved it. It's a little science-nerdy, but reads like a mystery.

    I love all the Kate Atkinson mysteries, if you end up liking her, she's got tons. I particularly liked Case Histories and One Good Turn.

    Blood, Butter and Bones is on my readling list for the summer, I also really enjoyed “Heat,” by Bill Buford.

    Now I have to go make a list of all the other suggestions here!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  81. D says:

    So this may just encompass all three of your critera, in a way – there's a mystery author, Matthew Pearl, who writes
    mysteries based around the works of famous authors. Amazon describes his first book, The Dante Club, as such: “Boston, 1865. A series of murders, all of them inspired by scenes in Dante’s Inferno. Only an elite group of America’s first Dante scholars—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and J. T. Fields—can solve the mystery. With the police baffled, more lives endangered, and Dante’s literary future at stake, the Dante Club must shed its sheltered literary existence and find the killer.”

    I used their description because it was far better and more succinct than anything I could think of. Anyway, I recommend this one to anyone who likes mysteries, it's one of my favorites.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  82. Ashley says:

    I am happily adding all you ladies' recommendations to my goodreads!

    I too am a huge Game of Thrones fan, only 2 books in. I haven't been this sucked into a series since Harry Potter.

    I try to alternate too – one book I know I will enjoy and one book I really should read. I love coming of age stories/classics so those are my favorite. I recently read In The Country of Men about the Libyan revolution and it was really moving. My all time favorites include How Green Was my Valley, Angela's Ashes, The Quiet American, Gone with the Wind and Cry, the Beloved Country. I also adore Chaim Potok (WW2 era Jewish kids growing up in NYC and struggling with their faith and history).

    For lighter reads I would recommend Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and The Hunger Games.

    Let us know how your reading goes!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  83. Cara says:

    My Goodreads and email accounts are getting a workout today! This is great. I'll have to add The Country of Men to my list. The events over the past year have shown me how much I've forgotten from history class about Africa, the Middle East and China. I need some good books on those.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  84. DrIng says:

    I would suggest; The Elegance of the Hedgehog, it's especially good if you love Paris but either way is a good discussion of fitting in with other people's expectations. Anything by Dickens (I love his use of language). Also, 'We need to talk about Kevin' is great,creepy but great. Plus it gets you the whole, oh yes I saw the movie but have you read the book, bragging rights… 🙂

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  85. M says:

    Belle, if you like historical fiction, you might like the three biographies of Russian royalty that Robert K Massie has written: Catherine the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and Peter the Great. I'm about halfway through Catherine the Great right now, and it honestly reads like a piece of historical fiction, even though it is a biography. He is an enchanting writer and makes the personalities really come alive. He's also won a Pulitzer, if you needed more convincing. Happy reading!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  86. Meghan says:

    I recommend that Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. It will appeal to both your narrative fiction and historical sides. It is, hands down, my favorite fiction series.

    For the non-fiction side, I recommend anything by Mark Bowden – extra points for his Black Hawk Down and Killing Pablo.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  87. C says:

    Another thumbs up for The Art of Racing in the Rain. One of my all time favorites, and the only book that has ever made me cry (which I did through the last several pages.)

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  88. Rie says:

    The spirit catches you and you fall down by Anne Fadiman. I read it for a cultural anthropology class and I have been obsessed ever since. Seriously the best book. Here's the link to the amazon review:

    https://www.amazon.com/The-Spirit-Catches-Fall-Down/dp/0374525641

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  89. Jessica says:

    I would recommend “Lets Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir” by Jenny Lawson; there are parts that made me laugh so hard I cried. Also just finished reading “Everything Matters” by Ron Curie – which I found strangely compelling. It's a little out there but it has an interesting premise, is hopeful when it should be heartbreaking, and inspires heated discussions on the choices made by the protagonist. And if you haven't read it – I highly, highly recommend “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. And because you love mysteries, Tana French is someone you must read. Start with her “In the Woods” and have “The Likeness” on hand for when you finish; you'll want to dive into the next.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  90. Ann says:

    1. The Mallory Series by Carol O'Connell, a really good mystery series set in New York.
    2. The Temprance Brennan series, by Kathy Reichs. Although Fox's Bones claims to be (did I say very distantly related?) based on this series, the two have nothing other than the protagonist's college degrees in common. And save for the most recent installment, it's a very enjoyable series.
    3. The V.I. Warshawski series, by Sara Paretsky. Has been great, except for the most recent one.
    4. The Shadow of the Wind. (“epic” novel)
    5. Sherlock Holmes. what genius! You must read these even if you ignore suggestions 1-4.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  91. Ann says:

    One more– Bossy Pants (Tina Fey). TOO FUNNY!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  92. Meg says:

    When living out in Colorado I fell in love with Connie Willis – she lives in northern colorado. She's a fiction writer who borrows from several genres: historical fiction, sci-fi and mystery. Her books always have multiple things going on but in the end everything makes sense. In her latest books Blackout and All Clear follow a group of graduate research historians as they travel back in time to research life in 1940s London during the bombings of WW2, and do their best not to change the course of history. Some of my other favorites of hers are: To Say Nothing of the Dog, and Bellwether. Hope you enjoy.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  93. Laura B says:

    Hi, Belle
    One of my favorite historical romance authors is Julia Quinn, I own almost all of her books and they are fantastic. My favorite series by her is The Bridgerton Series. I absolutely love her works. Here is her website so you can gather more information if you wish: https://www.juliaquinn.com/index.php
    I hope you'll consider her as you create your reading list!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  94. Mary M says:

    For non-fiction, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Guns, Germs and Steel are good. For non-fiction, I want to read Death Comes To Pemberley, by P.D. James. I am curious to see what she does with the Austen characters. I have just read Kill Me by Stephen White, and enjoyed it a lot. My DH is not a reader, but I got him an audio version for his commute and he enjoyed it as well.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  95. Mary M says:

    Ack, P.D. James and Stephen White are fiction. Proofreading fail.

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  96. MidWest Chic says:

    I suggest you read The Lovely Bones. Such a great book. I even cried a bit in it!

    May 11, 2012/Reply
  97. joyce says:

    i've been reading the wonderful books my 13 year old recommends. she has killer taste. and they are definitely not children's books. none of them are serious — i do that at work — and i want to second the suggestion for guernsey literary and potato peel pie, which i avoided for years because i thought the name sounded too contrived, only to fall totally in love with the book and it's characters. Ellie's picks:

    The Hunger Games Trilogy, of course, and if you haven't, you must
    Good Omens by Neil Gaiman
    The girl who circumnavigated fairyland
    The Night Circus — another must read
    Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, oh you MUST read this one

    May 12, 2012/Reply
  98. saramel says:

    Loving this topic and all of the feedback (as a lot of people are based on the number of comments)! The non-fiction book I'd recommend is 1421: The Year China Discovered the World by Gavin Menzies. I was an art history/archaeology major in school and this made me rethink EVERYTHING I learned in my history and anthropology courses. I love books that make me question what I already think is true. For fiction I'd second (third? fourth?) Pillars of the Earth. I tried watching the mini-series but couldn't finish it, I loved the book so much more (not a rare attitude, I know, but I was really looking forward to watching it). I'm making a list of books to add to the huge pile beside my bed…I wish I had more time to read!

    May 12, 2012/Reply
  99. Emily says:

    Belle, I think you would really enjoy either John Grisham and/or Mary Higgins Clark. I've read dozens by both of them and they're excellent. You might especially enjoy Grisham as there are constant political undertones 🙂

    May 12, 2012/Reply
  100. Victoria says:

    “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. Locus Award nominee. Geek and 1970s/1980s pop culture. The sheer number of references and allusions will feel like you're playing trivia, but they're fun. Really, really fun.

    May 12, 2012/Reply
  101. Dolly says:

    If you're looking for something serious, I just finished reading a biography of Thomas Jefferson that I absolutely loved. “American Sphinx,” by Joseph Ellis. It takes a while to get through, but I think the book gives some great insight into Jefferson and the writing is absolutely superb — hilarious, even.

    For something light and fluffy, anything Jen Lancaster is excellent. Although, she has a lot of footnotes which are hard to keep track of on e-books, I've noticed. You can sample her writing style at her blog: https://www.jennsylvania.com/

    May 12, 2012/Reply
  102. GR says:

    “The Ugly American” by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick if you are at all interested in US Foreign Policy. It's a fictional take on US diplomacy set in a made-up Asian country. It was written in the early 60s but is still surprisingly relevant today. Quick read and well worth your while. It's made my top ten list.

    “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, if you haven't read it yet. Non-fiction. So engaging and informative that I basically read it in one sitting.

    Thanks for this thread! I've found some great suggestions.

    May 12, 2012/Reply
  103. MCA says:

    I listen to a lot of mystery/trillers on my ipod during my commute. Harlan Coben is one of my favorites to both listen to and read. I've skipped the ones with Myron Boltar as the main character. Just One Look is one of the most engaging books I've read in a long time. I couldn't put it down!

    May 12, 2012/Reply
  104. R says:

    My favorite author for “fun” reading is Jen Lancaster. She writes hilarious memoirs and I've loved each one, though my favorite has been “Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest to Discover If Her Life Makes Her A– Look Big, or Why Pie Is Not the Answer.” They are instant mood-boosters!

    May 12, 2012/Reply
  105. CM says:

    I'm currently reading the (serious biography) book Escape From Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West. It's well written and I'm learning tons about the secretive hermetic nation of North Korea.

    I will place another vote for the already recommended amazing biography Unbroken, about a former Olympic runner who ends up working navigation on planes in WWII, gets shot down, and spends 40+ days on a lifeboat. Very well written book by Laura Hillenbrand, who also wrote Seasbiscuit.

    For the fun and frivolous reading, I blew through The Bronze Horseman books, a historical fiction romance trilogy set in pre-WWI Russia and written by Paullina Simons. It has everything: love, loss, death, adventure, war, sex, family, trust, and betrayal. The third book isn't as great as the first two, but you'll want to read it to find out what happens to the main characters.

    Also in fun is the epic novel Forever, by Pete Hamill. It spans hundreds of years in the life of an Irish man who finds himself to be immortal and travels to Manhattan as it is being built. I read this on a trip to Ireland and loved the magic of the writing.

    I'll second the Chaim Potok novels. His book The Chosen was on a required reading list in high school and I loved getting a look into the lives of New York Hasidic Jews (which I knew nothing about prior).

    Finally, another high school reading list requirement that I ended up loving was Snow Falling on Cedars. This made those summer assignments seem far less painful!

    May 12, 2012/Reply
  106. Pavo says:

    Anything by Christopher Moore. His latest “Sacre Bleu” was just released and is still only available in hard cover, but it is amazing. However, if you have a visceral reaction to purchasing hard cover books when you KNOW they'll be in paperback within the year (ahem, yours truly), then pick up anything else by this author. I started with “A Dirty Job” and haven't been able to stop. This book was given to me as a gift and it languished in my living room for years before I finally picked it up. Don't read the back cover – it will make you not want to read the book at all. Seldom have I seen such injustice done to a book by a few paragraphs on the back. Part mystery, part fiction, and utterly hysterical – you won't put it down.

    Since you're into historical fiction, you could also start with “Fool”, also by Christopher Moore. It is King Lear written from the perspective of the court jester. Don't ban me from commenting yet – it is fun, sexy, and more than a little intellectual.

    Pick up a few of his paperback selections, they're at least a dozen, and keep them around. I have read every book by him at least twice, which is not something I can say for any other living author.

    I promise you won't be disappointed.

    May 12, 2012/Reply
  107. Angela says:

    I read a little bit of everything. I write reviews for Amazon as well. You can check them out here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A3E02KBFI21TY0?ie=UTF8&ref_=ya_56

    May 13, 2012/Reply
  108. RMS says:

    American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld and Maine by J Courtney Sullivan

    May 13, 2012/Reply
  109. Jess says:

    I'm a little behind on commenting, but <i>Bringing Up Bebe</i> was a great, thought-provoking read (even though I'm not a mom). Another book I'd recommend is John Steinbeck's <i>East of Eden</i>.

    May 14, 2012/Reply
  110. Nellie says:

    I second “American Wife”! As a liberal I sympathized with the conservative elements in a way that pleasantly surprised me,so maybe the reverse would be true for you, Belle? A beautiful, well-written story. I also enjoy the Hunger Games trilogy more than I expected to – really engrossing and entertaining. Also seconding Isabel Allende and “In the Time of the Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez. For non-fiction/serious (I totally have this rule as well), I'll go with Slave Next Door, Medicine in Translation, and the Blue Sweater. Not historical but compelling current events.

    May 14, 2012/Reply
  111. @marginfades says:

    Try “Travel as a Political Act” by Rick Steves and “Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War” by Annia Ciezadlo. Both on my summer reading list.

    May 14, 2012/Reply
  112. Kitty says:

    A lot of lovely suggestions here for you, Belle – a few more, fiction:

    “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell. His writing is gorgeous.
    “Swamplandia” by Karen Russell
    Camilla Lackberg for mysteries – not as graphic as the “Girl with…” books.

    Second on “Art of Racing in the Rain,” “Bel Canto” and “Henrietta Lacks”.

    Non-fiction: “The Six Wives of Henry the 8th”; “Stiff” by Mary Roach

    May 14, 2012/Reply
  113. A says:

    My favorite historical fiction ever is The Royal Physician's Visit. It's translated from Swedish, but it's beautifully written, moving, and intelligent.

    May 14, 2012/Reply
  114. X says:

    Terror in the Name of God, by Jessica Stern. Stern investigates what makes terrorists “tick” — it's a fascinating look into this important part of history. Quick read.

    May 15, 2012/Reply
  115. Alexis says:

    This thread will definitely fuel my book club.

    While I think it is irresponsible that the Pulitzer committee did not award a prize in the fiction category this year (because they couldn't reach a consensus) I really enjoyed The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. I also read quite a few magazine articles praising it as well.

    For something a bit more delicious that I can't seem to get out of my head, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown.

    Enjoy!!

    May 15, 2012/Reply
  116. Theresa says:

    I have to insist that you read Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. It's a more adult coming-of-age story with loads of 80s references and a completely honest amount of cursing. It's also hilarious and will take you back to your days as a stupid teenage girl without needing to contextualize it with vampires.

    In the vein of history books, I'm your girl. I'm a masters student in history at GW and I just finished a semester on Revolutionary America. Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett is a totally refreshing perspective on a famous guy everyone thinks they know, and it's so well written that any layman could not only follow but thoroughly enjoy it. I've also been meaning to read Pickett's Charge: A Microhistory of the Final Attack at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863 by George Rippey Stewart. It's supposed to be a minute by minute account of the happenings of just the one day, which you might find interesting if you a) like military history or b) are interested in what men think about during battle.

    Happy Reading! Please let us know what you decide on!

    May 15, 2012/Reply
  117. Cindy J says:

    Everyone — EVERYONE — should rush right out any buy anything by Laurie King. She hits the trifecta of fabulous writing, amazing stories, and intelligence. I have no patience for reading good stories accompanied by crappy writing (e.g. Dan Brown books) but Laurie King's stuff is like sipping single malt scotch. It's strong, heady stuff and a ton of fun in the bargain.

    Just one word of warning — if you read the Mary Russell, series, start at the beginning and read the books in order, otherwise you'll spoil some awesome surprises and character development. I just finished Folly and it was the best thing I've read in years.

    May 15, 2012/Reply
  118. anth says:

    Late to the party on my recommendations, so I will 2nd several and add some new ones:

    Fiction:
    State of Wonder (Ann Patchett's most recent)
    Special Topics in Calamity Physics (no, it's not about physics)
    Visit from the Goon Squad
    The God of Small Things (this is my favorite piece of contemporary fiction, supposedly she is coming out with her second novel this year, I have my fingers crossed)
    She's Come Undone
    Sag Harbor (by Colson Whitehead, or Zone One if you're into distopian/post-apocalyptic stuff)
    A Thousand Splendid Suns (preferred to Kite Runner)
    Prep

    Non-Fiction:
    Henrietta Lacks
    Friday Night Lights
    Freakonomics/Superfreakonomics
    Scorecasting
    Columbine
    Moneyball and/or The Big Short
    Into the Wild

    Memoir:
    The Tender Bar
    anything by Anthony Bourdain
    All Souls
    My Life in France
    Born Round
    Heat

    May 16, 2012/Reply
  119. Larissa says:

    Hey — check out…

    The Good Father – Noah Hawley
    Wench – Dolen Perkins-Valdez
    The Kitchen House
    The Orphan Sister
    Girls in White Dresses – Jennifer Close
    The Lost Wife – Alyson Richman
    The Murderer's Daughters – Randy Susan Meyers

    May 20, 2012/Reply
  120. Mary Krulia says:

    Hey Belle!

    I just read the most entertaining mystery novel! It's called The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It takes place in Barcelona, which I found refreshing since most books take place in NYC, and added to the intrigue since I wasn't familiar with the environment. I could not put it down, actually took lunch breaks to read, and finished the whole thing within a week. I highly suggest it! Here's a link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/The-Shadow-Wind-A-Novel/dp/1594200106

    May 21, 2012/Reply
  121. Rachel says:

    Bond Girl by Erin Duffy.

    I think you will really enjoy this- smart, savvy, college grad goes to work on wall street ca. 2007. She deals with pressures of the fast paced job, working in a male dominated environment, and navigates New York dating pool. Extravagance of pre-downturn wall street is ridiculous, but is about to end. Quick and fabulous read!!

    May 22, 2012/Reply