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Book Suggestions: The Sequel + A Massive Giveaway

It is time, after a small break from reading, to hop back on the awesome reading list train. You guys are incredibly well read and have amazing amazing book suggestions, so here we are again. I’m asking you to tell me all about the books you wish everyone would read. It’s been about 6 months since the last time we did this and I had almost 70 comments with multiple book suggestions. It was pretty much the greatest thing ever.

But this time! You also benefit. This time, the ending book list (with anywhere between 10-15 books) will also be given away to one of YOU! And let me tell you – receiving a giant box from Powells will be the best thing that happened to you all month. I answered the door in a tank top with no bra and a spatula in my hand when a neighbor came-a-knockin’ (because our stupid delivery guy gave it to the wrong building) and then repeated, “My books! My books! My books!” until I had stacked them all neatly on our table (in a size-centered pyramid).

So! Here are the rules:

In order to win your very own box-o-books you must first leave a comment with 1-3 of  your favorite reading suggestions.

Then!

You must either 1) retweet my blog link on twitter (either by “RT: etc” or by hitting the retweet button) or 2) “Share” my post on facebook from Better In Real Life’s facebook page. By hitting the share button I have a record of who did what so when it comes time to pick a random comment from random.org, I will know who is in (heidi klooming it right now) and who is out.

The more fabulous book suggestions I get the better the book list will be! I’ve been super stoked to do this give away for months and months. Yay everybody wins! Let’s do this.

61 Comments

  1. Yay! My three most recent favorites:
    1) “11/22/63″ by Stephen King
    2) “Before I Go to Sleep” by S.J. Watson
    3) “The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morton

  2. 1. “Delusions of Gender” by Cordelia Fine — witty science writing!
    2. “Cat’s Eye” by Margaret Atwood — female friendships + melancholy
    3. “The Magicians” by Lev Grossman — smart adult book for people who wanted to go to Narnia/Hogwarts but had to grow up instead. So good. SO GOOD.
    4. Bonus: “Never Let Me Go” — Kazuo Ishiguro — dystopian, but not in “Hunger Games”-y way (also, not YA).

    • My husband has “The Magicians” stacked up on my “to-read” bedside table and has been nudging me to read it for a few weeks.

      Never Let Me Go *is* really good… really subtle, though.

      • I loved the subtlety of Never Let Me Go — it’s kind of rare for a dystopian book to *not* be all “and THIS is different and THIS is horrifying” in a kind of obvious way (which is totally fine for lots of books!) — Never Let Me Go is kind of way more horrifying I think because of its subtlety. :)

    • Loved Never Let Me Go – wish I had had a book club to discuss it with! I’m going to have to add The Magicians to my list!

    • Thank you! The Magicians sounds right up my alley and I loved Never Let Me Go, definitely recommend that.

  3. The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia: “I stayed up all night writing you a letter. It had perfect sentences–sentences that took years off my life.” A beautiful, lyrical book by a Mexican author who went to school in my hometown in California.

    Illywhacker by Peter Carey. I wouldn’t have known about this author except the professor of the capstone course for my English degree did her thesis on Australian literature. The main character is named after an Australian bird who builds houses out of scraps and then dances around them to woo a mate. If I remember correctly, the first page is the narrator telling us he’s a liar and a trickster.

    Both books can fall into the metafication or magical realism category, which I love. They are stories about places and culture, but they are both love stories too, or I wouldn’t give a damn about them!

  4. 1) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon. Quite and adventure and an epic tale. I felt immersed in their world the entire time I read it, and was truly sad when it ended.

    2) Truth and Beauty – Ann Patchett. I love Patchett’s fiction, but Truth and Beauty, a tender memoir about close friendship, is so spot on that I gave it to all of my best friends.

    3)Nine Parts of Desire – Geraldine Brooks. One of the most interesting and well-written books I’ve read on woman and Islam. Fascinating. Plus, I love Geraldine Brooks.

    • “Truth and Beauty” is so good — I’d pair it up with “Autobiography of a Face” by Lucy Grealy.

    • I loved Truth and Beauty too. Came across it accidentally at a book sale and picked it up because I liked Bel Canto, and was so very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

    • YES to the Michael Chabon rec.

  5. “The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling.”
    ― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

    The book isn’t new, but the idea’s within it are still ahead of their time. Truly a great read (whether you wrench on gears like me, or just want more out of life).

    • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is *such* a good book. I reread it every couple of years and take something new out of it.

    • I was going to suggest this too! I’m reading it for the first time and loving it.

  6. The books I wish everyone would read? EVERYONE? That’s tough, but I’ll give it a try. ;)

    1) Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer. I love this book. It really shook me up when I first read it and I found it both fascinating and so well written it was one of the first non-fiction books I loved as much as I’ve loved fiction.

    2. A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, by Yiyun Li. Just because I love her writing and I didn’t suggest her last time. Any of her books would be great, including her novel The Vagrants, but I loved her short stories first, so that’s what I’m assigning to EVERYONE.

    3. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. OHMYGOD. I read this earlier in the year and I think it changed my life. It’s so good and detailed and rich and damn. There is going to a movie, too, so it’d be a timely one to read. It’s a rockstar of a book. Maybe a god of a book. Is that high enough praise?

    • I loved Under the Banner of Heaven, too! Really made me think, and a fast-paced thriller at the same time.

    • My experience with Under the Banner of Heaven made me so angry that I had to stop reading it. My boss had given it to me to read about two years ago, and about half way through I was so upset and angry that I gave it back to him. I’m not saying that others may not enjoy this book, because he did as well as you ladies, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

  7. Don’t even know where to start…

    1) Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach – Sounds morbid, but one of the most clever and interesting (and funny!) books I have ever read!
    2) Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. AMAZING. Perhaps my favorite book ever.
    3) My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliviera. Just read this for my blog’s book club and I really enjoyed it. Story of a Civil War-era midwife who dreams of becoming a surgeon. The author is a nurse, which I love!

    P.S. I live in Portland but we’re moving away next week. So a box from Powell’s in my new home state would just about make my freaking year.

  8. 1. The Likeness by Tana French- reeeeead it! You already know this, but as I was reading A Secret History I couldn’t stop thinking about this book. I’d actually recommend all of her books, but if you can only read one, read this one!

    2. All three of the Ferrol Sams books- Run With the Horsemen, Whisper of the River, and When All the World Was Young. They are chronological, but again, if you only read one… I can’t pick one. These are my favorite books EVER, and are beautifully written and hilarious and touching and memorable all at once. I think Whisper of the River may be my favorite, but its hard to say.

    3. The Beekeepers Apprentice by Laurie King. This is not a super intellectual, life-changing, impressive book but it is still one of my favorites. Its a wonderful break from reality, and its not one of those books that you have to really focus on- its perfect to pick up and read for 30 mins and then continue about your day. It is a retelling of the Sherlock Holmes saga, but from the perspective of Mary Russel, a young girl who becomes an apprentice to Holmes in his later years. I don’t usually like Sherlock Holmes re-writes (I’m not even a big fan of the originals, for that matter), but I love this series beyond the telling of it.

    Okay, I think that is technically 25 or so recommendations if you read every book in every series :) yay!

  9. Based on your reviews, I’m guessing you’re mostly a fiction girl but I never hesitate to recommend books by William Least Heat Moon to anyone. Blue Highways is his classic but River Horse and Roads To Quoz are really good too. (I like PrairyErth too but it’s a little bit slower and less exciting to some people.)

    Oh! And fiction! David Gutterson! East of the Mountains is really powerful.

    Dave Eggers can be a bit cloying but his collection of short stories, How We Are Hungry, is excellent.

    • Love David Gutterson, will have to check out East of the Mountains!

  10. I’ve been on a total guilty-pleasure kick this year, so it’s kind of difficult for me to recommend books right now, but here are some that have been very good.

    Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward, had me sobbing for an hour after I finished it. It’s a little bit about poverty, a little bit about motherhood, a lot about family. And a little bit about Hurricane Katrina and its impact on on the southeastern coast of the U.S.

    The Book of Blood and Shadow, by Robin Wasserman, is a YA book that has been described as the Da Vinci Code for YA-ers, and it is in a way I guess. There are conspiracy-type mysteries that are loosely related to religion/the search for God, which is a topic that always fascinates me. Also, this book is REALLY well written; I was highlighting passages here, there and everywhere.

    The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield – a gothic book about books, what could go wrong? Loved this one.

    • The Thirteenth Tale is definitely worth reading! I passed it by about half a dozen times before finally grabbing on to it and I absolutely devoured it.

      • Yes! Alyssa gave me that book like 2 years ago?? It was the perfect book nerd read. Amazing.

        • If you liked the mystery aspect of that one, A Rule Of Four is also great. I can’t remember the author, but I describe it as “Dan Brown but better” and it revolves around some ancient art and literature.

  11. Needed to leave a comment because we’re moving to Portland and our house will soon collapse from the weight of all the books I’m going to be buying… POWELLS!!!!!!!!

  12. Recent favorites:

    1) Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn)
    2) The Tiger’s Wife (Tea Obreht)
    3) When She Woke (Hillary Jordan)
    4) The Glass Room (Simon Mawer)

    I’m not sure why I numbered them, they’re in no particular order. Except reverse order that I read them. I love your book lists, I always discover fun stuff! Also, winning a box of books would be a-mah-zing.

    • I second the suggestion for the Tiger’s Wife – it was a fantastic book!

  13. Lauren, you should really read “Hopscotch” by Julio Cortazar.
    I also recently read “Storyteller” the biography of Roald Dahl, by Donald Sturrock and I kept thinking about yoy in the parts that described Dahl’s writing process. But since I am crazy for fairy tales I liked getting a glimpse of the quite amazing life that inspired it all.
    And if you haven’t read Milan Kundera, I really liked “The joke” or to a lesser exent “Ignorance” and “The unbearable lightness of being”.
    Now I am off to facebook to share your link… I love reading and book suggestions, so this is the best giveaway ever.

    • I concur, hopscotch is mind blowing!

  14. 1) The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje
    2) True Grit by Charles Portis
    3) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

    I also second Before I Go to Sleep, The Likeness, and The Tiger’s Wife.

  15. You guys are blowing my mind with AWESOME!!! And getting me really really excited. :) YAY!

  16. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore (or really any of his works). It’s kind a mix of fantasy and comedy and it’s unbelievably good. I don’t usually go for comedic works but this guy gets me laughing out loud every time. (He’s also got one called “Fool” which is a take on King Lear that you might like, but I don’t know if it’s as strong as some of his others).

    The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan. I think it’s probably better than the Joy Luck Club.

    • I totally second A Dirty Job! I was going to recommend it myself, but Sheryl beat me to it. Such a great great book! I would be on my lunch break at my office laughing out loud at some parts, and then trying to hide my teary eyes at the more touching parts. The humor is very sarcastic/dry/dark, which is right up my alley. It was a phenomenal read and totally worth it!

  17. Last books I read that I really, really enjoyed:
    The Chaperone
    Gone Girl

  18. I love, love, LOVE latinamerican literature, so I’m going to recommend my very favourites:

    1) Hopscotch, by Julio Cortazar, read in Cortazar’s suggested order. Mind blowing. Also, if you can find a good translation, the funniest book I have ever read is Cortazar’s “Stories of Cronopios and Famas”. Those books have travelled with me wherever I have gone.

    2) Love in the times of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and, if you haven’t read it yet, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

    3) The Aleph, by Jorge Luis Borges (And Fictions as well, and all his poetry, and, and, and…well, all of his work, really ;)

    Ahh…I love books, this could go on for hours! ;) I’m off to read the rest of the suggestions and to share your link!

    • Have you read any Isabel Allende? I took a Latin American Lit class in college and really fell in love with Eva Luna. Though I know some other Latin American authors don’t really think too highly of her.

  19. Top 3 books (like Top 5 Records from High Fidelity)
    1) Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (all-time fave)
    2) The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
    3) Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (if you haven’t, read it before the movie ruins it!)

    I love books! I got stopped at a hotel a few months ago by an older lady. She told me that she and another older gentleman were discussing how nice it was to see “someone my age” reading for pleasure. Ha!

  20. I just finished re-reading _A Tree Grows in Brooklyn_ and the _His Dark Materials_ series from my childhood. ATGIB and The Golden Compass were true treats to revisit. Both are must reads!

  21. 1. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
    I read this in high school. It is a bit dark, but Conroy uses really beautiful descriptive language and I couldn’t put it down.

    2. The Gift of Rain by Twan Eng Tan

    • **sent to soon accidentally**

      2. Gift of Rain con’t
      This book is written so well. The story is poignant and I definitely cried at the end.

      3. Room by Emma Donoghue
      Told from the perspective of a 5 year old who only knows the 11-by-11 foot room he has lived in. It’s a sad story, but from his p.o.v. it keeps it optimistic and innocent. It’s a quick read.

      • I second Room. It was excellent. Everyday items become proper nouns because Table and Rug are the only things he knows.

      • I loooove Prince of Tides- I read it right before moving to Atlanta, and there were some scenes in the book that completely gave me the heebie jeebies when I drove by the locations in real life :)

        • I moved to Atlanta almost a year ago now! Apparently I need to re-read The Prince of Tides too, because I don’t remember any of the mentioned locations.

          • Callanwolde… CALLANWOLDE!

    • I love Pat Conroy. Beach Music is the first of his books I ever read, and I re-read it every few years and learn something different.

      Also, look into Jim C. Hines’ the Princess Series: My favorite is The Snow Queen’s Shadow and while it can stand alone, you might start with the first book; The Stepsister Scheme, to get an idea of whether or not you want to go the whole series.

  22. I’m currently reading The Bronze Horseman trilogy by Paullina Simons and LOVING it – epic romance/drama set in WW2 Russia :)

    I love it when you do these posts because I trawl through the comments to find new books to read!

  23. Unbroken. This book has changed me. I like to think I am a better person having read it
    The ultimate story of survival amd forgiveness. I don’t have twitter and I’m done with fb, so if you don’t mind i’ll just hang out for the awesome list/recommendations :)

    • OMG Unbroken! I can’t believe I forgot about it! I triple, quadruple recommend this. I actually listened to it on audiobook, which I think definitely enhanced the story. Wow. Incredible.

  24. Books!!!! Okay. #1 would be The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, #2 would be Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (duh!) and #3… hmm. Maybe The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr. Yay books!!!

    • Helen! We are the same person !! I love it.

  25. Ohhhh I love books! I always have such a hard time picking favorites. But here are some of the recent ones that I’ve enjoyed:

    1. Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans — This is a series of short stories, mostly about young women and life-changing and/or rite of passage kind of experiences. Each one is profound in its own right. I had to take breaks between them to just soak it in!

    2. This I Believe. I know it’s gotten a lot of circulation, but I just love to read people’s statements of belief. And it would be cool to write your own when you’re done!

    3. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Because I think you are an anthro/socio nerd like me, and this book is all about the social factors that make people highly successful, apart from just “hard work”.

  26. :) book giveaway! Fantastic! I’m feeling a bit intimidated by all the awesomeness and book suggestions (since I dont recognize so many of them, but thats good right?) – anwaysy, here goes!

    1. The time travelers wife (which I see others posted also, weee!). I would literally stay up till 2am reading this and could not stop. It was mesmerizing, mystical, and other worldy – while at the same time being very very real feeling. It was pure magic.

    2. The Bluest Eye – this never stops being one of my favorites. I wrote many a paper for this, and I loved every second. Due to that fact, of being on so many highschool and college read for class lists, I’m not sure everyone likes it, but I think it is so so so important timeless, incredibly jarring, and hits me a different way each time I come back to it.

    3. Long Walk to Freedom (Nelson Mandela autobiography) – it is by far, one of the best books I’ve read – across all genres! Its a commitment, in length, but there are abridged versions. It has so much depth and for me, it was a pageturner, despite already knowing so much of his story.

  27. This post could NOT have come at a better time for me! Im flying out to San Diego tomorrow for what will probably end up being a solo retreat complete with yoga, beach and my kindle. So ive been on a hunt for the book I will consume throughout the weekend. Love, love, LOVE reading through all the comments and taking notes! I just started reading Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand. I read another book by her a few years back, I think it was called A Summer Affair, and quite enjoyed it. A great mellow beach read. *Which I think this book I started will end up being as well. But I am tempted to put it down for the weekend and pick up something in one of these comments! Or maybe Outlander, finally….hmm….

  28. These books kind of run the genre gamut, so not sure they’ll *all* be up your alley, but I’ve greatly enjoyed:

    -The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

    -Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

    -Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

    -Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

    -The True Story of Hansel and Gretel: A Novel of War and Survival by Louise Parker

  29. I am in the process of moving so am not commenting for the sake of winning the box of books (although that is an awesome prize!). But I still wanted to leave a list of suggested reads:

    1.) Shantaram
    2.) Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
    3.) The Tiger’s Wife (which I realize I already gave props to above)

  30. House to House by Staff Sergeant David Bellavia. It’s an intense, gritty read that gives a very personal portrayal of the brutal urban warfare our soldiers faced in Iraq, culminating in the Battle of Fallujah.

    Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1. As he intended, published a century after his death, Twain’s autobiography includes dictations, manuscripts, and autobiographical pieces. It’s a treasure chest of literature! Always one of my favorite authors, this volume provides great insight into Twain’s ever-sharp mind and fascinating life.

  31. Let’s see..my top 3 would be…..

    1. The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins (I know most people have read this but they were just awesome!)
    2. Water for Elephants (again another popular one but a must read if you haven’t)
    3. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (which is actually a Trilolgy but only 2 have come out so far)
    and one more just because it was a good read…11/22/63 by Stephen King

    • Words cannot describe how much I love Deborah Harkness. I’ve read Discovery of Witches about 10 times now, and I’m halfway through reading Shadow of Night for the second time.

  32. The Art of Fielding – Chad Harbach
    Pattern Recognition – William Gibson
    Under the Feet of Jesus – Helena Maria Viramontes (I may have recommended this one last time you did this. I can’t remember and it’s that good.)

  33. So. I’ve barely read shit since Zoe was born so I neeeeeeed this list. For those having babies, operating instructions. A must read.

Who the hell is she?


Lauren

I am a writer living in Seattle and I believe that life is a grand adventure and only boring if you believe it to be. Plus! You don't need money to have fun.

I live with my husband, a photographer by education and a maker-of-video-games by trade, and a baby named gabe in an apartment on the hill.

I am romantic about most things and I cry... about almost anything. I tell stories to entertain you, I spread stories to keep you in the loop. I am not a grammar freak, but I do know how to spell it. I am exceedingly proud of my scrambled eggs and I really could eat an entire pan of cupcakes. If I met me, I would be my best friend. I tend to be irreverent.

If you would like to chat with me or see what else I'm up to you can follow me on Twitter (betterinrealife), on facebook, or email me at betterinrealife at gmail.


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