Design

What’s Your (Book) Type?

What Books Do You Love?

When I was in my twenties, I read the same book over and over again…

Okay, not really. But I may as well have.

Back then, I used to gravitate toward stories I could easily find myself in — books where the protagonist was trying to find their (usually her) place in the world. Fiction or non-fiction, I wanted to see my life reflected on the page. Did the main character live in a big city? Did she feel lost? Did she have a terribly confused dating life? Did she perpetually try to make it on her own, a la Mary Tyler Moore? Sold.

It’s not that I saw no interest or merit in all stories. It was that, as a lost-seeming lady, I wanted — no, needed — to hear from my lost-seeming sisters. Above all else, I wanted my book choices to provide a sense of camaraderie. I wanted them to say, “I see you. I get you. I am you. It’s going to be okay.”

While I would sometimes be bothered by the patterns playing out in my bedside pile (a lot of weeping over broken hearts, a lot of good-natured tripping on shopping bags), they felt like friends. And it wasn’t for naught. This approach led me to discover some of my all-time favorite titles, like the short story collections The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing and Self-Help.

Then slowly, I started spending less time with the lost ladies of yore. I cared not for their weeping nor their shopping bags. Their stories felt predictable, largely because I’d already lived them.

Instead, I read the poetry of Mary Oliver and Nikki Giovanni and revisited the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson that had so moved me as a student. I am not married, but I devoured the accounts of marriage in books like Hourglass and Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give. I am not a mother, but I tore through the memoir And Now We Have Everything. I lost myself in now-favorite novels like Asymmetry and A Little Life and An American Marriage, though the characters’ lives, on the surface, were all quite different than my own.

These days, motivated by a desire for escapism and learning in equal measure, I am mostly drawn to books about people with backgrounds and circumstances and experiences that seem nothing like mine. And yet. There is that same recognition I was always searching for.

Because whatever shape a story may take, that pesky human thread runs through us all. I’d spent years wanting someone to validate my experience by mirroring it back to me. But as we’ve always suspected, the mirror is everywhere. You just have to look.

Do you often gravitate toward the same type of books? Have you read anything good recently? Let’s discuss…

(Photo by Alpha Smoot from this Brooklyn apartment tour.)

  1. Im reading Wallace Stengers Crossing to Safety right now. His writing is staggering.

  2. I had a dystopian phase, and then (until now) I found myself reading a lot of books on specific moments in wars. Both fiction and non-fiction. John Hershey’s “Hiroshima” is a favorite. For fiction, it’s Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five”. Currently, I’m reading Elizabeth Norman’s “We Band of Angels”, where she tells the stories of American nurses trapped in Bataan during World War II. I haven’t looked deep inside enough yet to figure out what draws me into reading about war.

    I am also a big fan of stories that are set in Asia, and lately, I find myself trying to discover more authors who grew up and tell stories from this part of the world. I also enjoy books that explore “ennui” – so, most definitely a lot of Murakami – and where characters are prone to having conversations with themselves.

    If you have recommendations for these, I’m open to them!

  3. Em says...

    Books that make me FEEL! Strong female leads. Love stories (The Bronze Horseman, Outlander). Classics from Austen, Bronte, and L.M. Montgomery. Fairytale retellings for adults (I’ve loved fairytales and myth stories since childhood). Funny, witty novels. And sometimes, dark and strange books, like Dark Matter by Blake Crouch or The Last Hour of Gann by R. Lee Smith (probably the strangest and most random book I’ve ever read, but wow, it was an emotional journey).

    When I read, I want to be transported, especially after almost a decade of working on a doctoral degree while also dedicating myself to motherhood. I used to love historical fiction but find that anything too connected to reality weighs heavily on me these days. Though I did recently read Sapiens, and it was an amazing non-fiction read that has changed my worldview forever!

  4. Sarah says...

    Not at all related, but my heart jumped seeing the Communication Arts magazines in the lower corner of that photo! My mom is a graphic designer and worked from home when I was growing up; whenever I’d wait for her to finish work as a clingy 8-10 year-old, I’d sit on the floor of her office and pour through her CA collection. My favorite issues were always advertising and typography! Thanks for the little reminder of things I love :)

  5. Emily Ellis says...

    I find myself reading memoirs and autobiographies constantly (When Breath Becomes Air is one of my favorites!). It’s probably because I have to do so much academic reading that endearing stories and memories are a perfect escape.

  6. Margaret says...

    I have two go-to categories these days. My very favorite is what I think of as literary fiction – books with beautiful writing and complexity and nuance, though I shy away from books that are terribly depressing. And my other category is books that help me escape from the stress of my own work, or what is going on in the world around us: and that includes mysteries and slightly lighter fiction that still has good writing and some depth. I’ve got three recommendations, one from each category: The Snow Child is gorgeous, and transporting. I haven’t finished it yet and I’m a little afraid of how it might end! But I really love this one, and highly recommend it. For mysteries: The Lost Man by Jane Harper – she’s a gem. Also fabulous is her first one – The Dry. And then I finally listened to What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, which lived up to its hype. Happy reading everyone!

  7. Sam says...

    I spent so much of my early twenties reading what I thought I was supposed to have read, mostly classics, which I enjoyed enough, but didn’t quite relate to and now realize were mostly written by white men from another era. These days I read only what I feel drawn to in the moment and I’ve realized most (but not all) of my reading in the past two years has been fiction by diverse women about diverse women and so many of these more recent reads have become my favourites. Even when these female characters’ lives are so different than my own, I feel bound to them in some way.

  8. Marnie says...

    Read Normal People by Sally Rooney if you haven’t already! So so good!

  9. Michelle says...

    First of all, let me say that I love this website and the thoughtful posts (including reader comments!). I especially enjoy how easy you make it with links to the clothing, stories, or products you write about. One question I have is about how books are always linked to Amazon. I wonder if you would consider linking them instead to a website such as goodreads, which also has summaries and reviews of the book? It would be great if people would be encouraged to buy books from their local independent bookstore instead. Just a thought!

    • Molly says...

      love this idea :)

    • Abby says...

      Agree. I click the link, remember it goes to amazon, and search for each book in goodreads, every time.

    • Laura Frey says...

      If you’re trying to avoid Amazon, remember that they own Goodreads… but I agree, there’s more relevant info there than on amazon.com.

  10. KY says...

    Crime, suspense, murder mystery… I feel bad admitting that I haven’t read anything from a different genre for a long time. My job is so stressful that I can’t seem to focus on any other kind of book. It’s like binge watching Netflix – easy entertainment (if you can say that about crime and murder :) ). Also love biographies and true crime (again crime :/) stories – the one from Michelle McNamara, “I’ll be gone in the dark” is amazing! I actually didn’t read it but listened to the audio book, which is fantastic.

  11. Gigi says...

    I have fallen deeply in love with Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I never told you. It ached and touched me deeply as a mother, and helped me to feel more from my girl’s perspective and her yearn for love, and a glimpse of what I wish to be and not to be as a mother.

  12. Meredith says...

    First and foremost, I love anything that will shock the pants off of me…the ones in which I think I know where the author is going and then I turn the page and am stunned to find out that my internal plot GPS was totally wrong. Drives my husband nuts because when I start a book like that I cannot sleep until I finish it and then I wonder why I am tired the next day. Also after a hard work week where I have literally been confronted with the worst that humanity has to offer, I love witty books that literally make my laugh out loud…queue someone like Jenny Lawson. And if I am just plain tired and run down with no vacation in sight Elin Hilderbrand, Mary Kay Andrews, and Nancy Thayer take me on my favorite beach vacays. And Marisa De Los Santos is such a treat…perfect for a rainy day in my favorite chair with my blanket. I need a whole day and a box of tissue for her. I always try to scope out new authors but I definitely have my reliable favorites (David Baldacci, John Sanford, Michael Connelly, Lisa Scottoline, Sandra Brown, Harlan Coben).

  13. Sharon says...

    Love this post and all the comments! I have fallen in love with reading as an adult (I was a good student, but never much read for pleasure as a kid) and swear everyone can love to read, you just have to find your genre! I favor memoirs by women for sure. I also love escaping into books where I can see myself as the main character, but perhaps more traveled, worldly or ambitious than I ever want to be in real life. I also hate the idea of short stories… I want the stories I love to never end. I am going to use these tips to find some new books. Thank you!!

    • Amanda says...

      Sharon! You are my reading twin! Find me on GoodReads as ReaderAmanda, and we can swap suggestions.

  14. Hayley says...

    Thanks for the wonderful post and discussion! I was an avid reader until grad school, whcih sucked the joy out of reading for many reasons. I must be a bit of an escapist, because I love travelogues, fiction or non-fiction, as well as fantasies and sci-fi. I used to read a fair amount of geopolitics and history stuff but it usually makes me sad so i don’t reach for them as often now. Recently I listened to Circe (audiobook), which was so vibrant it hurt.

    p.s. silly sci-fi is candy for the brain! I enjoyed the Magic 2.0 series and am now listening to the Bobiverse series during my commute.

  15. mary theresa says...

    Thank you so much for this! I am a new mom, and my reading list currently consists of books about nursing and parenting. I forget sometimes how much I love novels. But this post brought me right back. I majored in English in college, and I found myself so attached to the writings of Tony Morrison and James Baldwin. As a white, middle-class girl, it was perhaps surprising that I gravitated towards these two writers, but they allowed me to step into a life different than my own. They grew me. They changed me. Art has the power to do that. Sharing our stories has the power to do that. We take all that we are and step into the experiences of another, and we come out somehow different if we let ourselves. (Which, in my eyes, is so needed given the current political climate.) It is awe-inspiring how we truly can find the mirror anywhere we look, but that these mirrors also have things to teach us; they often give us a new perspective. I’m so grateful for stories that don’t look like mine. Thank you for reminding me.

  16. Tammy says...

    With two young kids at home and the news increasingly more disturbing every day, I am the actual mom from The Onion that just wants to “watch nice show.” This extends to books, too. I’m also surprised that depictions of the challenges of motherhood don’t give me insight or make me feel seen, but are actually depressing. I don’t need to relive the hard parts.

    • Tammy, I agree! I can only take so much news and seriousness. When I watch something or read, I want to feel good or empowered or thoughtful when I’m done – not angry or depressed. Sometimes the brain just needs a break!

  17. Sarah says...

    I try to vary my reading but still definitely have a favourite. Always novels over non-fiction, there’s just something about a made-up story that takes me on a journey like no other. My absolute favourite type are ‘window books’ (thanks for the term, dear fellow commenter <3), I love reading about lives different from my own, lives I will never live outside of the pages of a book. Epic tales of a history of a country through an individual's experience, with a healthy dash of magical realism (think Midnight's Children, House of the Spirits, Half of a Yellow Sun, The God of Small Things, The Famished Road).

  18. I am a big fan of short story collections (Amy Hempel, Lydia Davis, George Saunders, Ellen Gilchrist, Lorrie Moore, Grace Paley, Jamaica Kincaid, Alice Munro…so many). And I have a total crush on Ross Gay, who is a poet (I highly recommend “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude” which was a 2015 National Book Award finalist) and just came out with a book of essays called “The Book of Delights” which is in fact, delightful. Most recent novels that I still think about are “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid and “Edgar & Lucy” by Victor Lodato – both were gorgeous. And I love memoirs too (anything by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay’s “Hunger”.) I started a book club a year ago + joined another one about 6 months ago and it has helped light a fire under my butt. I have always LOVED to read. I’m making more time for it now.

    • MCW says...

      Andrea, have you heard of Granta? It sounds right up your alley. It’s a quarterly “magazine” that looks more like a regular paperback book. But each edition has a theme and several hundred pages encompassing fiction, non-fiction, poetry and art from emerging and established voices. It also makes for great book club material!

  19. Ashley says...

    I love memoirs. Especially food memoirs. Made up stories feel like a waste of time. I am fascinated with the human experience. What it felt like to live in different families, different eras, different cultures. I just find it fascinating. I loved my human geography type classes in school. These feel like an extension of that.

    • Chris says...

      Just finishing Ann Hood’s Kitchen Yarns which is lovely. You might enjoy…

  20. agnes says...

    I have noticed that in the last 4 years, I have almost only read contemporary women writers (Zadie Smith, Annie Ernaux, Virginie Despentes, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, Joyce Carol Oates, Susan Sontag, Mona Chollet, etc); it might not be the same kind of stories, but definitely the same kind of energy in the writing. I’ve loved to read all these women as if I had been starving for them.

  21. Lindsey Joy Fox says...

    After law school almost destroyed my ability to savour writing, I’ve slowly been rebuilding my “enjoy reading for the pleasure of it” muscle. The best book I’ve read in AGES is Women Talking by Miriam Toews. I cannot get it out of my mind. It is a stunning piece of writing based on an unimaginable true story. READ IT. You won’t be sorry.

    Haha. I’m a Women Talking evangelist. :)

    • Meghan says...

      YES to Women Talking. It was indescribable. Miriam Toews is a national treasure! (Proud Canadian, here!)

    • frankie says...

      Miriam Toews is incredible. Get in to her back catalogue it is fantastic – equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking.

      Related – everyone go read Heartbreaker by Claudia Dey right this minute.

  22. M|J says...

    What about a runnning page of books recommended in the comments? I get the best recommendations but it’s cumbersome to dig through the comments. I’m a tad lazy but love to read!

  23. Emily says...

    I have fallen in love with Persephone Books. I won’t say too much, so look it up. I love supporting these negelted books by mostly female writers, and the store in London is full of charm!

  24. Kit says...

    In college I devoured big ole Russian novels & everything Virginia Woolf. These days I tend to want to pick up contemporary novels and short stories by super smart, quirky women – observational, poetic, chock full of great characters, on the way to mystical. Recent favorites: Rachel Cusk’s Outline series; Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels; Recent fave short story collections: Lucia Berlin, Lydia Davis, Joy Williams – amazing!

  25. Amy says...

    So… my to “Booket” list is now huge thanks to this fruitful comment thread!
    in my 20s… I read all of the Tony Hillerman mysteries, Amy Tan stories, any of the Jeeves stories by PG Wodehouse, and various collector adventures by Gerard Durrell, Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey, and all the vampire books (a la Ann Rice)!
    … in my 30s… Books about food and travel abound… everything by MFK Fisher, Brillat Savarin, Bill Bryson, Peter Mayle, Michael Pollan. Lovely stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Also the Game of Thrones series and Dirk Pitt stories by Clive Cussler.
    Now in my 40s… I am also in the memoir style (fiction or non) by primarily women authors… those beautiful arching windows into the entire lives and histories… (Homegoing Yaa Gyasi , Educated Tara Westover, so many great comedian memoirs). Reflections on the natural world like The Canon (Natalie Angier), Braiding Sweetgrass (Robin Wall Kimmerer). and a ton of YA fantasy/sci-fi books.

  26. Alexandra H. says...

    “These days, motivated by a desire for escapism and learning in equal measure, I am mostly drawn to books about people with backgrounds and circumstances and experiences that seem nothing like mine. And yet. There is that same recognition I was always searching for.”

    I was going to write just this; though probably not with the same amount of eloquence or brevity. :) I relish in finding connections with the unfamiliar. I made a conscious decision as a young adult to become a reader; one of my best life decisions.

  27. Lauren says...

    I read a lot of non-fiction, but in fiction, I supposed I’ve always searched for the other, not necessarily myself. Or perhaps who I would like to be. A Dorothea, an Elizabeth, etc. (I’ve spent an awful lot of time reading Victorian lit). Or where I would like to be. At the bottom of a well (Murakami carried me through some very dark times). Or who I’m glad not to be. I will shed tears for you, Monelle.

  28. Jessica says...

    Historical Fiction has become my favorite genre. Specifically WWII-related stories – The Alice Network, The Lilac Girls, We Were the Lucky Ones, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. I recently did some travel in Germany and Austria last year, with a stop at the Mauthausen concentration camp and it was one of the most heart-wrenching experiences I’ve ever had. It has spurred by desire to dig deeper into both fiction and nonfiction books about that time period.

    • Meg says...

      Jessica!

      I, too, am a WWII fiction connoisseur. I love the first three in your list. However, I finished The Tattooist of Auschwitz last night and was so disappointed. Was it just me? I found the prose so simplistic and boring…the character and plot development lacking…It felt like she sped through the story so quickly without actually spending any time on any one part of the story.

      I have high expectations for, well, any book, and I just couldn’t understand why this one was getting so much acclaim when the writing was (to me) so poorly done.

    • Betsy says...

      I highly recommend The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck if this is your “type.” It’s amazing!

    • Laura says...

      This is my favourite genre too! The Nightingale is a great read.

      Meg, I was disappointed by The Tattooist of Auschwitz too. I thought it was fine, but not nearly as great as some other WW2 historical fiction reads.

  29. Multi-generational tales of love and loss, set in the backdrop of a war. Civil wars are the best. You’d be surprised how many incredible books fall into this category. Kite Runner, Half of a Yellow Sun, Cutting for Stone. I’ve read all of these books multiple times and I find something new and moving each time.

  30. Susan says...

    I’ve always loved biographies (since I was a young girl) and historical nonfiction.

  31. Allison says...

    science fiction/fantasy with a strong female (ideal POC) lead.

    • I love those too! Do you have any favorites? I enjoyed The Bear and the Nightingale, and if you like YA Sky in the Deep was great.

    • I loved N.K. Jemesin’s Broken Earth series (the first book, The Fifth Season, is tremendous as a standalone work, but you’ll be eager to read the rest, too!). I also loved The Golem and the Jini – such an obsessing read!

    • June2 says...

      The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson is a classic in this genre.

  32. Nadine Hughey says...

    I’m not sure I know how to classify. At one time I was reading a lot of books about spiritual journeys, Right now I’m reading books about/by POC, but I’ve always loved people’s stories.

  33. Courtney says...

    I have been making an effort to revisit classics and focus on female authors. I am currently devouring Circe by Madeline Miller, and it is gorgeous and riveting. I love all of the suggestions here!

  34. Usually I love fiction that follows families and stories over time so you can see how relationships and people change. But lately I’ve been reading A LOT of romance and historical fiction with light romance- I’m pregnant with my first child and finding I only want happy, feel-good stuff for my brain instead of heavy or too much thinking reading!

  35. Sarah H. says...

    My types:
    1) Beautifully written novels that make you think really deeply about the way the world works. Ann Pattchet, Kazuo Ishiguro, Jeffrey Eugenides are my faves. They write the kind of books I’m still thinking about years after I read them.
    2) Nerdy non-fiction about neuroscience, psychology, human nature and relationships. For the last few years, I’m reaching more for non-fiction than fiction.
    3) Anything magical — wizards and fairies but also stories about magical things happening in otherwise ordinary lives. This is the type I’ve had since childhood!

  36. Martini says...

    Biographies…..no “auto”-biographies….too self-serving.
    British and Russian royalties.
    American Presidents…esp. Lincoln & Theodore Roosevelt and their families.
    The White House…. history of the actual building itself.
    Dr. Lucy Worsley’s ( curator of Historical Royal Palaces) “History Of” books.
    Cookbooks, Anthony Bourdain, Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher, etc.

    • Mac says...

      Lucy Worsley is so charming! This isn’t a book rec, but she hosts Empire of the Tsars on Netflix, I loved it.

  37. Jenny Koenig says...

    This really resinates with me! I totally used to read things where I saw myself in the main character. Now I gravitate to things that help me to escape from my norm…I’ve been reading a lot of historical fiction taking place in and around WW2, a lot of these books have been atop bestseller lists for the last few years- I wonder if other readers are drawn to it for the same reason I am? For me, it’s different enough from what we’re living now, but at the same time, it’s giving me a sense of empowerment to read about men and women standing up to terrible, oppressive regimes and winning.

    • Sarah AuMiller says...

      YES! This is me too! Have you read the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett? If not, you must, even better if you listen to it. The narrator is wonderful.

    • T says...

      Jenny I was about to comment similarly…. that I’ve been drawn to WWII novels recently. It has been helping to remind me that humanity has emerged from terrible times before – and endured worse than what we are seeing now. I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  38. liz says...

    ** taking notes on this comments section to advise my next library-borrows!** Sooo many good comments here

    • Jo says...

      right?!?! these comments could keep me with enough book suggestions for a lifetime! Love this so much too

  39. Cheryl says...

    I’m a “dive in and get lost down the rabbit hole type.”
    Memoirs of a Geisha, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Angela’s Ashes,
    The Night Train, Lord of the Rings series….
    Hell, even the Harry Potter series, I’m no snob. I just don’t want to know what time/day it is, I want to be gone.
    My newest obsession is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and I don’t usually gravitate toward romance. But her writing is total immersion and the first two books especially are heaven.

  40. Jill says...

    Just finished rereading The Diary of Anne Frank….well almost finished. I know the ending but I can’t bear the thought of it. So, I put the book down and that’s that. I’m now committed to reading anything about WWII and planning to go to Amsterdam someday.

    • Jill, I read that in middle school, it was tough. Highly recommend the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam, a must see for all. And Amsterdam is lovely!

      A recent book about WWII I “enjoyed” (as much as you can enjoy a book about war) was The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer.

    • Lindsey says...

      I went to Amsterdam with a friend when I was in my early twenties. We wanted to see the Anne Frank house so badly, and we were only passing through for the day. Every person we asked (I’m old so this pre-cell phone) didn’t know what we were talking about. Finally, a nice lady was like yes! Anne Frank! and she drew us a little map. We were only a couple blocks away! So we follow it and turn the corner and find ourselves standing in front of an Ann Taylor store. Hahahaha! We never did get to the house but we got a good laugh out of that one.

  41. Dawn says...

    The last three sentences of this post REALLY spoke to me. To anyone else?

    • Jo says...

      yes yes yes! The human thread is so mysteriously and wonderfully woven in ways the younger me wouldn’t have seen. And, I trust I’ll see even more as the days and years tick on…

  42. I am a historical fiction junkie, but being in a bookclub has been great to expand my horizons and have folks to chat about the book with!

  43. Carly says...

    Lately, I’ve been addicted to romantic comedies, probably because I long for my life to be one too.

  44. Amy says...

    I actually have divided books that I buy into two categories. I call one “Dinner Party Books” which are like historical fiction, memoirs, anything that has buzz around it that results in me learning something and holding my own in a hoity toity conversation. And then there’s the second category, which are “Books for Me” which are ALWAYS murder mysteries, Stephen King, or some sort of Fairy/Elf thing. They’re books I don’t really brag about reading, but I have so much fun with them that I keep them just for myself! I always try to have a balance when I go to the bookstore and purchase from these two categories, but I always tend to like the fantasy books more, no matter how much I said I loved “House of Names” (I liked The Outsider so much more!)

  45. Libby says...

    I’m not one to read books more than once, but The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing and Self Help are both books that I’ve revisited! I read The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing at least 4 times throughout my twenties and I loved how I could come back to something familiar yet still pull new insights from the book, and relate to new parts of it as I grew.

    • Kate says...

      I loved The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing! I’m pretty brutal with my book collection (lots of weeding and donating) and that book consistently makes the cut.

  46. Jessica says...

    I’m in desperate need of new books.
    I also went through a weeping-and-shopping-bags phase, at around the same time, and loved the *novel* A Girl’s Guide To Hunting And Fishing (ahem, sorry to be persnickety, but it’s a serialized novel about one woman, not a collection of short stories) – but they became predictable, and seemed trite.
    I still crave the escapism of those books and found it, for a while, in fantasy – the Game of Thrones first few books were amazing – but I haven’t been able to escape into anything in much too long. Now I find myself rereading Jane Austen too often.
    So thanks for starting a thread on this, because I need some recommendations!

  47. Melanie says...

    I read to be entertained, to be comforted, to learn, but my very, very favorite books are the ones that I have to read more than once to truly understand. It’s not that they’re difficult or inaccessible but that they say such profound things about human nature and the human experience that I need multiple readings to plumb their depths. Wallace Stegner, Eowyn Ivey, Wendell Berry, and Jane Austen are some of my favorite authors in this category.

  48. Sophia says...

    I’m drawn to books that develop characters deeply, show their humanity, and feature strong women. I loved Becoming, An American Marriage, Little Fires Everywhere, and Circe.

  49. Lately I’ve been loving authors who can create a totally different world that I can sink into. Mostly these are fantasy books since the world-building can be so intense, but I also loved Educated, which is a memoir. The author’s upbringing was so different from my own, but she made me feel like I lived on that rural mountain with her.

  50. Kelly says...

    I go on kicks. Last year was my year of romance–I read 170 romances. Some more diverse favorites were those by Rachel Spangler, KJ Charles, Cole McCade, Em Ali, and EE Ottoman. This is shaping up to be my year of nonfiction.

  51. Amy says...

    I can’t say I gravitate towards any one topic, but I love a really well-crafted novel in which the way the story is told is just as interesting as the story itself (as long as it doesn’t require a separate book of annotations to get through–cough cough Joyce, Pynchon). In that category, I would say Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Jeffrey Eugenides are my favorite authors. (This list is notably lacking women authors–anyone have recommendations along these lines?) I also love my classics (hello Jane Austen, Bronte sisters) for different reasons. About once a year, I force myself to read a dense classic that I feel I *ought* to read (Joyce, Faulkner, etc) but don’t particularly enjoy per se. (Is guilt-reading something that all former English majors do? I hate knowing that there are important books I haven’t read, and I’ll never get to them all in the course of a lifetime.) I also like to throw some nonfiction into the mix…highly recommend Rothstein’s The Color of Law.

    • Guilt-reading is something that all people do! I used to joke that I’d read “one for me” and “one for them” because I didn’t like having not read a lot of the classics.

    • Susan says...

      His Favorites, Station Eleven and History of Love are all by women authors and all have something interesting in the way they’re crafted. You might like trying them, if you haven’t already.

    • Heather says...

      I just eventually started only reaching for books by women, about women. I would suggest: Jesmyn Ward, Louise Erdrich, Barbara Kingsolver, Ann Patchett, Elena Ferrante, Lauren Groff, or Tayari Jones. The list goes on and on!

  52. Helen says...

    Growing up in a Chinese/Korean family for me meant be an obedient child, don’t ask questions, and respect everyone’s privacy. Fast forward several decades later and now I’m reading every memoir out there! I devour them as learning about other people’s lives, which can be so private, but through their book feels intimate at the same time. Plus, it still follows my mom’s rule of mind your own business!

  53. Alice says...

    This reminds me of a concept my daughter’s 5th grade teacher taught this year– Books as windows or mirrors (based on the work of Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop). Mirror books are ones we can see ourselves in, while window books give us a view into someone else’s life. Both are valuable! Mirror books can validate our feelings, beliefs, and who we are. Window books help us see different perspectives, open our eyes to new situations, and help us build empathy for others. There are different times that I gravitate to or need one of those types.

  54. Yasmine says...

    Wow this was beautifully written. Kudos to you, Caroline!

  55. Val says...

    I think I may have a book type. I read all kinds of fiction and non fiction books – funny, intense, sad, crime, travel, memoirs, etc. But there is a book I want to read – A suitable boy by Vikram Seth. Its a weighty one and with my work schedule, being a mom, and taking a class, I cannot find the time to read this book. Couldn’t find an unabridged audio version too. It hurts me that I am not able to enjoy this book just yet. Based on this, I think my type may be nostalgic stories from the Indian Subcontinent.

    • Anu says...

      A Suitable Boy is absolutely worth your time, so do get around to it whenever you can. I couldn’t put it down. I was seriously just astounded that anyone was able to write the thing. And I’m not one who usually has patience for really long books. My next really long book I want to read is Middlemarch, so I’m trying to clear my to read pile in preparation for it.

  56. amy says...

    I can’t stop reading memoirs about living (and how to live) death/dying. I just finished THE UNWINDING OF THE MIRACLE by Julie Yip Williams. It was my favorite book with a close second to WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR by Joanna’s brother in law. Also LOVED Nina Rigg’s THE BRIGHT HOUR. I’m not sure what this says about me but it certainly reminds this young mother of the preciousness of life as I constantly need to be reminded to take stock of the many blessings of my everyday life.

    • Molly says...

      Same! Same! I loved all of those as well and still can’t quite figure out what that says about me. And I too am a young mother. Have you read “Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved?” SO GOOD and fits beautifully in here.

  57. Jen says...

    I guess I just like well-written books by women that are (mostly) about women. The best ones I read in the last couple of years were:
    Severance by Ling Ma
    The Power by Naomi Alderman
    The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
    The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling
    New People by Danzy Senna
    Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
    Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
    The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

  58. Olivia says...

    I don’t know that I have a book type per se, but if I read a book I love I always look for other books by that author.

    I also keep a book list by year, which helps me remember the books I’ve enjoyed (always forget) and makes me feel very accomplished :) last year was 45!

    • I’m finally starting to keep track, too! I always read a lot, but this year I’m actually doing a little blurb for each book so that I can look back and feel that accomplishment :)

  59. I love any CoJ article that merely *mentions* books purely for the comments! I always find myself adding so many books to my ‘to read’ list…!

    • Jessica says...

      SAME!

  60. Ashley says...

    Caroline, you have such a beautiful and distinct writing style. I find myself captivated by your posts, and then scrolling up to confirm my hunch, that yes, it was you who spoke to me so clearly.

    I have had difficulty focusing on reading lately, so have been treating myself to guilty pleasures, like Anna Kendrick’s book “Scrappy Little Nobody” and “Crazy Rich Asians.” I won’t lie, it’s great fun :)

  61. Brittney says...

    I totally do this – historical fiction is my go to – the more quaint and pleasant the better :)

  62. Blythe says...

    Caroline, when I read your words, “I wanted them to say, ‘I see you. I get you. I am you. It’s going to be okay,'” my thoughts immediately turned to The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing. Jane was that character– her relationships were those relationships– for me in my late teens/early 20s. I probably read it ten times in the course of a few years, always finding comfort in that flash of recognition. Imagine my delight when you referenced it later! I think I’m going to go back and re-read Girls Guide now; thanks for the trip down memory lane and the reminder of who I used to be.

    • Natalie says...

      Same!! Girls Guide was dogeared and always on my nightstand in my 20’s. Melissa Bank’s style just so perfectly captured the feeling of being lost and stumbling on mini moments of clarity that I felt that entire decade. I also devoured The Wonder Spot — similar in style, through another character’s eyes, but a few folks from Girls Guide show up in those stories too. I always keep an eye out for if MB releases something new!

    • Megan says...

      SAME. One of my top 5 books, ever. And I’m a voracious reader. I’ll never forget when I first read it, in 2000. I was at a friend’s place in London and was going to take a bath and asked for something to read. From the first page, it was love.

  63. I prefer books with happy endings and if not that, filled with people who are finding their way toward happiness. I recently read Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and I just can’t stop thinking about it. Highly recommended. Though it’s not happy in the traditional sense that I enjoy, Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward is also a really wonderful read. Both books have lingered long after I read the last word.

    • Have you read Salvage the Bones? Even more remarkable than Sing, Unburied, Sing, I thought! Same bayou, same world, different characters.

    • Rebecca says...

      I am constantly on the hunt for a book like Pachinko! Any recommendations much appreciated!

    • Heather says...

      I agree – I love Salvage the Bones and in general, books that linger and the idea of people finding their way in the world. Generally, for me, its books about women, by women and that involve some connection to the land and region it takes place in.

      Those general ideas written in prose that essentially takes my breathe away or that I can really feel – those are my kind of books. They are the ones that stay with me and that change me.

      They say that reading makes you more empathetic and my favorite authors really excel at that.

      Other than Jesmyn Ward, I’ve found this with Barbara Kingsolver, and Louise Erdrich. And I’ll throw one guy, Kent Haruf, in there as well.

    • Nigerian Girl says...

      @Rebecca Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

  64. Anna says...

    I read The Idiot by Elif Batuman (based on a recommendation on CoJ) and LOVED it. Rarely does a book make me laugh out loud and that one did in such charming, quiet ways. However, I have no idea what “type” of book that is considered to be (coming-of-age? but it wasn’t sappy or navel-gazing like a lot of “coming-of-age stories seem to be, plus it was FUNNY!), so have had no luck in finding another similar book to enjoy. :(

    If anyone who has also read The Idiot has any recommendations, I would be ever so grateful!

    • Jen says...

      Love the Idiot. Have you read Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney? Equally funny. Also, Severance by Ling Ma is excellent.

    • Katie says...

      I loved Severance. It has really stuck with me!

    • Kate says...

      I also loved The Idiot! I just picked up Call Me Zebra and think it has a similar feel.

    • I just read Conversations with Friends and am now on to Normal People. I don’t think it’s out in America yet (I live in Ireland) but it’s so great so far. Totally recommend!

    • Anna says...

      Yay, thank you for the recommendations! (Please keep ’em coming.) I love CoJ.

    • MB says...

      I loved ‘Less’ – so amusing and the visuals often had me chuckling to myself

    • Nigerian Girl says...

      Try Problems by Jade Sharma. Wickedly funny and true.

  65. Kristen says...

    LOVE: “the mirror is everywhere. You just have to look.”

  66. Doodle says...

    COJ –
    Man I want you guys to have a like or heart button. I want to like so many of these comments!! This is a great topic and I’ve made so many new reading lists. Thanks for opening new doors –

    • Tilly says...

      Great idea! How’s about it, COJ??

      Like / Heart / Thumbs up

  67. liz says...

    love it. this line made me laugh out loud in my office: “I cared not for their weeping nor their shopping bags.” :)

    I used to gravitate to philosophy/history books but now that I’m lawyer and I literally read nonfiction all day sometimes for work, I just try to only pick fiction for leisure reading, with the exception for a good memoirs. Right now I’m reading Educated by Tara Westover and it is gripping!! I can’t wait to go home tonight to finish it! It’s not fiction but it’s so beautifully written and crazy it’s hard to believe it’s all true.

    • I started reading Educated 2 nights ago and cannot get it out of my head! So gripping and just crazy that it’s a true story! I decided that, even if it came out that the story is made up, I would not even care. It’s an amazing piece of writing that everyone should read!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      educated is so so incredible!!! i’m jealous of anyone who is reading it for the first time :)

    • Lacey says...

      This has been my favorite book since reading it earlier last year. Everything I have read since (granted, the others have been fiction rather than memoir) has not measured up. It was so, so good. Maybe I just need to read it again. :)

    • Cassidy says...

      I read Home Fire this past Sunday. I haven’t been so moved and devastated by a book since reading A Little Life.

      I loved Susan Orlean’s response in the NYT’s By the Book column on what moves her most in a work of literature:

      “I’m a sucker for a sad book. As wrenching and messy as it is to have a big cry while reading, I consider it one of life’s great pleasures. I’m partial to beautiful, heartbreaking sentences about loss and about the ultimate futility of the human condition. I’m particularly gutted by the idea of missed connections and doomed families. At the end of “A God in Ruins,” by Kate Atkinson, I was crying so hard that I nearly choked. But I was also really happy to be so transported by a piece of writing.”

      Me too Susan, me too!

    • Sylvie says...

      She was on Ellen and seemed really cool. COJ should do a style piece about her!

  68. Maggie says...

    I love big sweeping novels that wrap in characters, cities, politics, history – some that come to mind are All the Light you Cannot See, Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Middlesex, White Teeth, City on Fire, The Invention of Wings, Americanah, and Refuge by Dina Nayeri.

    • Kara Hagerty says...

      This is the kind of fiction I love, too! However, I only seem to find one or two meaty novels to read a year and end up reading a bit of a mix (I usually read about 20+ books a year so I try to keep it interesting). I do find as I’ve gotten older though that I enjoy reading non-fiction much more than I used to. I’ve also heard that you aren’t considered to be a “good reader” unless you do… so perhaps that’s my only motivation? Ha.

    • Sam says...

      I love many of these books too. Your description reminded me of a book I hadn’t thought of in a while: The Crimson Petal and the White. A venerable publisher I worked for called it one of her favorites, and I read it a her recommendation. It’s remarkable. One of the most atmospheric and visceral books I’ve read. This is not the Victorian London you see on Masterpiece Theater. Highly recommend.

  69. Court says...

    I didn’t think I had a type because I read such different books, but there are definitely some underlying qualities I gravitate to. My favorite books involve a combination of a conflicted hero(ine), a struggle to understand some kind of truth, some degree of peril, and, if I’m being honest, a degree of underlying sexual tension. Plop that into an interesting geography/ unusual period of history, and you’ve probably got 80% of what’s on my shelf ;)

    • Rachel says...

      That’s exactly what I want to read too! Any recommendations?

    • Nigerian Girl says...

      @Rachel Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.

  70. Meg says...

    This comment section is a goldmine. I always circle back to the Brothers K and anything by Marilynne Robinson when I want to remember what kind of person I want to be.

    • I love the idea of reading “to remember what kind of person I want to be.” So perfectly and encouragingly phrased!

  71. Katie says...

    Reading is my escape. By nature, I’m a worrier and to quelch the thoughts always present in my head, I gravitated towards thrillers/mystery that would captivate me in the first few pages. It started with the Bobbsey Twins and then books by Louis Duncan. At 13, I picked up my first Mary Higgins Clark book, All Around the Town, and promptly devoured the rest of my mom’s collection. The books aren’t great my any means, but at 13, I enjoyed them. They seemed more adult. She comes out with a new book every year and I still read them. More out of comfort, a throwback to my teen years, than anything else. I mostly stick with thrillers/mysteries. Right now, my favorite world to escape in is the Inspector Gamache books by Louise Penny.

    • Julie says...

      I just read Still Life and am now OBSESSED with Gamache!

  72. Bethany says...

    I stumbled upon Persephone Books online (bookstore in London) a number of years ago and every couple of months I treat myself to one of the books from their catalog. They publish books by mid-century women, who may not have received much attention, and I have loved every book I have ordered from them (I live in a small town in southern Illinois). The books are gorgeous and lovingly printed. I tend toward their selections about country and village life–probably because a number of years ago my husband and I lived outside of Oxford in a village that had fetes and gardens (not back yards) and I still think about that time and the lovely people we met. Check them out!

    I tend toward literary fiction (my favorite read so far this year is The Friend by Sigred Nunez), scandinavian mysteries and apocalyptic novels.And while I’ve never been a big fan of non-fiction and memoirs, I am reading more of it these days. Just finished The Salt Path by Raynor Winn and loved it!

    • Annie says...

      I love Persephone Books ! Have you read “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” by Winifred Watson ? It’s a gorgeous book.

    • Joana says...

      Yes to Persephone Books!
      Check out the incredibly funny classic “The Diary of a Provincial Lady” by Delafield. One to re-read and share…

    • Kim says...

      Annie, Miss Pettigrew lives for a day is one of my favorite books of all time that no one has ever heard of! I just had to comment. I wish I could find more books like it! Glad someone else out there agrees that it is lovely.

    • Annie says...

      Kim – yes – such a perfect little book – I gave it to several family members and friends. Did you see the film ? Films rarely live up to the book but I did enjoy it (Frances McDormand is Miss Pettigrew).

    • Kendra says...

      Persephone Books is wonderful, and I also adored The Diary of a Provincial Lady!

      Though she’s not on Persephone’s catalogue, one of my all-time favorite 20th century novelists is Angela Thirkell, who started as a between-the-wars writer. (Also interesting: her grandfather was Edward Burne-Jones and her cousins were Rudyard Kipling and Stanley Baldwin.)

  73. Janelle says...

    When I was a child, I started making a “Booket List,” a list of books I wanted to read before I die. I still have the list today, continually add to it, and keep track of the age I was when I read each book. Now when I look at the list and see a title like “Pride and Prejudice” accompanied by “age 12,” I vividly recall the story and also see a window into who I was as a person at the time I read it. I try to read widely, but confess a proclivity for classic Russian literature, psychology books, and early female writers, such as Virginia Woolf and Charlotte Brontë.

    • “Booket” list! love.

    • Blythe says...

      I am so sad that it’s too late to go back and do this!! Not that I couldn’t start one now, but I love the idea of having a record of my twelve year old reading goals/ ideals…

    • Dawn says...

      Janelle, this is so sweet! I will definitely encourage my future children to start their own “Booket List”. I would love to see what I read when I was young.

  74. Laura says...

    Great article, Caroline!! I am drawn to memoirs about single & happy women (also in the search of that reassurance that I’m going to be OK ;) , but I’m also very driven by escapism and learning new things. Which is why I read foreign fiction, and feminist scifi/fantasy, and I’ve also gone back to studying something new and different. Best of luck to you!

  75. Jo says...

    Thank you for this fantastic read! I find it so interesting to know what others are reading… books are such a wonderful gift. As for my style, it has changed so much through the decades. I’m over 55 & while I used to gravitate to books that I could relate to (my mirror): family life, risking for love, up against difficult odds, but through trauma, they triumph. Now, I look for books that take me into a very different life: different time, place, & ethnicity… both fiction and memoir (I suppose these are my big new windows). I often wonder if the switch has come in tandem with my desire to take in more all of life – be more present & soak it all in – while it flies by at rocket-speed. Whatever the case, I’m happy for it, and will be stacking my reading pile with a lot of suggestion in these comments – and will be revisiting so I don’t miss any!

  76. Samantha says...

    I like to read a little of everything, here is what I’ve read this year:
    1. Braving the Wilderness – Brené Brown
    2. What Remains True – Janis Thomas
    3. Inheritance – Dani Shapiro
    4. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine -Gail Honeyman
    5. A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
    6. Our Souls At Night – Kent Haruf
    7. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry – Neil deGrass Tyson
    8. Rock Needs River, A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption – Vanessa McGrady

    Last night I started Forever is the Worst Long Time by Camille Pagán !

    • Julie says...

      I loved Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine! That is my type of book , and I’m not sure how I would categorise that genre. I do love to immerse myself in heavier books (such as Nightingale), then I like to escape in lighter books. I also enjoy reading new cookbooks, and general books about living healthy.

  77. I have a deep love of genre fiction — romance, mystery, sci-if, fantasy — exactly because of that human thread. I think genre fiction writers do an amazing job of putting their characters in heightened or fantastic or even “predictable” situations (i.e., genre conventions) and then showing the deeply human ways they react and change based on those circumstances. Some of the best philosophy out there is in sci-fi. Some of the best character studies I’ve ever read are romance. I think if genre fiction like metered poetry: there is an expected form and structure, and within that you get to be amazed by what the authors can do with characters and words and emotions, and bowled over by the creative and unexpected ways they bend and break the rules.

    • Fiona says...

      I could not agree more – one of my favourite of all times is Terry Pratchet – I introduced him to friends who described him as “candy”: Delicious and playful – for me what I love is that it starts like candy, and you read 3/4 of the books and then suddenly you realize you’re actually in the middle of a three course meal and what you thought you were reading is actually something completely different – throws me for a loop every time and every time I’m completely delighted.

    • Katharine…. I am sure you’ve probably read it already, but you should be sure The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell is on your list. It is definitely one of those “philosophy in the guise of sci-fi” books, one of the most beautiful explorations of humanity, religion, and relationships that I have read!

  78. Karli Lancaster says...

    YES! Woman goes to live in foreign country and whimsical, sweet stories. I also like celeb memoirs!

  79. Mouse says...

    I read mysteries of all kinds if well-written; they are my television. I’ll read anything though, except romance novels. And I must admit I am not a fan of the genre of Gone Girl. Lately I’ve been loving fiction that absorbs me in another world that I am sad to leave. This usually involves the long arc of a character’s life:

    A Gentleman in Moscow Amor Towles
    Fair and Tender Ladies Lee Smith
    Arcadia Iain Pears (anything by Iain Pears; what an imagination)
    The Essex Serpent Sarah Perry
    The Signature of All Things Eliz Gilbert

    My all -time favorite book is Remains of the Day by Kazuo ishiguro. Never Let Me Go is pretty great too.

    • Bethany says...

      The Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears is my favorite book ever!! and it’s in my husband’s top 5!

  80. Kat O says...

    I *continuously* read memoirs about people who make radical changes and start to live unconventional lives centered around nature. I’ve read Wild about a million times, I love Desert Solitaire, and I just finished THREE books about people who traded suburbia for farming. Plus I constantly read nonfiction books about food and/or nature. It’s really all I want to do with my life….and it’s so hard to take that leap….

    • Ellen says...

      Kat, can you share the three books you read about trading suburbia for farming?

      Have you read Miraculous Abundance?

  81. Bex says...

    For the past few years, I’ve only read non-fiction and have lost any interest in reading fiction….wonder if that means anything?

  82. Leah says...

    Beautiful, Caroline! <3

    And it sums up exactly why I did a PhD in — of all things — YA fantasy 'for' girls! Yup, not just lit for teenagers but *fantasy* lit for *teenage* *girls*. It's nearly the most un-academic topic in the history of such things. But stories are powerful and the stories we read and read again shape us in so many ways.

    I reference Tamora Pierce (a lot) in my work. She began writing in the mid-80s, and we're really now starting to see the massive impact she had on women who've gone into (esp) the creative industries. My nerd's heart explodes!

    • Anne says...

      I want to read your PhD!

    • KC says...

      I’d also be interested in reading your dissertation! (Patricia C. Wrede is one of my favorites.)

    • Kendra says...

      What a cool PhD topic! Who all did you write about?

  83. Contemporary literary fiction, always! I find this encompasses the world I know and also helps me explore the unfamiliar. And the odd very niche and specific non-fiction book – like Deep by James Nestor is INSANELY good.

    All insta-friendly reviews are here, if you’re interested!: https://www.instagram.com/thebookpervert/

  84. Kay says...

    For many years my first love was victorian literature, I was never happier than when I was reading books by the Bronte sisters or Elizabeth Gaskell. Even as a child I was happier in olden times just loving L.M. Montgomery and Susan Coolidge, if I did delve into the modern period it was for boarding school series such as Chalet School and Malory Towers as my greatest wish back then was to be an orphan or go to boarding school to get away from an unhappy home. In my late 20s I discovered jane Austen and went even further back in time for my reading. I did go through a period of self help books of many kinds, showing a lack of self esteem. Nowadays I love a good mystery novel, as opposed to gory crime, I am more of a ‘he did it in the library with a candlestick’ than a bloods and guts type. Again I love a good series, so happily reread all my Louise Penny books among others. Times and seasons. x

    • Kath says...

      Elizabeth Gaskell! I recently read North & South and I liked it so much I can’t believe she’s not more well known. I’m with you on Jane Austen and Victorian Lit :)

    • T says...

      Oh my gosh, Malory Towers! I read all those books too and haven’t thought of them in the longest time. Thank you for unexpectedly transporting me to some very happy times in my childhood, curled up in a beanbag chair :)

    • Anu says...

      You’re basically my reading twin! Love pretty much all of that. I consider both the Chalet School and Malory Towers books to be formative. Kind of glad I didn’t manage to persuade my mother to send me away to boarding school though!

  85. Nigerian Girl says...

    I like what I like and I read what I like. I read memoirs, poetry, biographies, essays, articles, blog posts, pretty much everything, but fiction is my first love, my one true love. A few good books I’ve read and enjoyed lately:

    – Evening in Paradise by Lucia Berlin
    – Don’t Cry by Mary Gaitskill (Love, love the story “Today I’m Yours)
    – A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter
    – Don’t Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier

    • Dawn says...

      Have you read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier? It’s my all-time favorite book. I’m excited to check out Don’t Look Now!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh my gosh, dawn, du Maurier’s house was in the same town as my grandmothers house in Cornwall!

    • Nigerian Girl says...

      @Dawn I’ve heard tons of good things about Rebecca. It’s on my to-read list.

      @Joanna That is so cool.

  86. june2 says...

    When I find a book I love I read it again and again over the years; cases in point: the Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson (power through the first chapter which is nothing like the rest of the book – a joy to read for the writing alone), and A Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin (felt he lifted his style straight off of Virginia Woolf but whatevre, the story is just great). Just finished The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman and two dollar store books that were surprisingly enjoyable: All In by Simona Ahrnstedt (business/romance’ish), and The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson, a modern take on Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale, no relation to Helprin’s story above.

    • Blythe says...

      I haven’t read Diamond Age in so long but LOVED it.

  87. WMom says...

    As a middle school English teacher, I think it is so important to expose my students to books that they might never pick up on their own. For example, I just taught Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. It is a story about World War II friendship and the Holocaust. My students need to read stories about people who have very different experiences than their own. There have been studies done that show that reading about others’ experiences teaches empathy. Literature is great for learning about ourselves, but it also great for learning about others, therefore expanding our sense of self and place in the universe.

    • Lacey says...

      One of my favorite books from childhood! I still have my original copy and refuse to part with it.

    • Ditto Lacey, I remember reading this in elementary school! It stayed with me a long time. I’d love to re-read it.

      WMOM you sound like a great teacher! :) That is how I approach books too.

  88. RLN says...

    Narrative history. Jill Lepore’s These Truths. Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns. Heather Ann Thompson’s Blood in the Water. David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon. Plus fiction, trying to seek out books in translation. I’ve been thinking about trying to read poetry (maybe aloud?)

  89. Nicole says...

    Anything dark is my jam- dark comedies, dark family sagas, dark coming of age/musings of a single character a la Olive Kittridge (though I hated A Little Life- the best description I saw of that book was ‘tragedy porn’). Anyway- my favorite this year has been Where the Crawdads Sing- plot is centered around a murder but the book is written so beautifully and the characters are captivating

    • Kate says...

      Lol… yes on A Little Life! Totally agree.

      Have you read The Family Fang (Kevin Wilson)…. dark comedy… :)
      Or… My Year of Rest & Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh … also dark/weird/but good

  90. Yes! I won the 3rd grade prize for most books read in the school year — one of my finer achievements — so I’ve been a book worm since childhood. My favorite books tend to be literary fiction written by women, particularly ones set in other cultures and countries, such as Aminatta Forna’s The Memory of Love. But, I’ll read outside of that too, like I loved David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks.

    Recent favorites in the last year: Pachinko, Less, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and The Summer Before the War.

    I love going to Powell’s here in Portland and just walking around looking at all the books I COULD READ. It’s mind blowing.

    • Pachinko is my new work book club read, chosen yesterday! I’m excited!

    • Ann-Marie says...

      Nice, Emma! Hope you enjoy it too!

  91. Krista Estell says...

    My novel wheelhouse is typically coming-of-age stories with serious family drama (Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger; all the Barbara Kingsolver, the Brothers K). But, it’s been a rough few months for me and the family drama is just too real. Whenever I’m in a dark place I read the following books, in this order:
    Watership Down
    The Silmarillion
    The LOTR series
    A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
    Tracks
    Their Eyes Were Watching God

    It’s better than comfort food! But I am in a serious rut so if anyone has a substantive book that won’t make me weep for the family relationship(s) that I will never have, I’ll take it : )

    • Louise says...

      The His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman sounds like it could be a good fit for you

  92. Ingrid says...

    I love to read all kinds of books: memoirs, history, biographies, general fiction, lots of mysteries, but my greatest pleasure comes from a great fantasy. I really don’t know why. They just make me so happy. Magic, dragons, heroes overcoming evil…. Lord of the Rings, A Wizard of Earthsea, Spinning Silver, Uprooted, Harry Potter…

  93. Bailey says...

    For the last ten years or so my favorites have been 1) family sagas 2) fiction by or about immigrants 3) fiction about middle aged gay men. An all-time favorite is more or less a combination of all three, Three Junes by Julia Glass. Other favorites of late are Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, All the Rivers by Dorit Rabinyan, Waking Lions by Ayelet Gunnar-Goshen.

  94. Loren says...

    My favorite novelists are Laurie Colwin and Nancy Mitford. Mitford wrote two absolutely classic British novels, called The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate. Once when I was trawling the internet looking for articles about Colwin, who died suddenly in 1992, I came across a blog post comparing her books to an author I had never encountered, Barbara Trapido. I immediately read through her works and loved all of them, especially her first novel, Brother of the More Famous Jack.
    I also adore an author named Dorothy Canfield, who wrote the children’s classic Understood Betsy, and many beautiful, intelligent adult novels. I think my favorite is called The Brimming Cup.
    I also love food writing and will read anything by Ruth Reichl, Michael Ruhlman, John Thorne, Ludwig Bemelmans, or Lora Brody.

    • Sam says...

      Omg, Understood Betsy! I’m going home this weekend to help my mom pack up her house and that book is one thing I’m hoping to find. Loved that book.

    • Kendra says...

      I remember loving Nancy Mitford!

      Did you read Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking and More Home Cooking? I found those back in the 90s, and they were wonderful. Understood Betsy is on my To Read list now. Thanks!

  95. In my 20’s, I was obsessed with books about travel (ie. Eat, Pray, Love; Anthony Bourdain’s books, Bill Bryson’s, etc). These inspired me to see the world, which was quite easy, as I was living in Singapore–the perfect jump off point to anywhere in Asia and the world. There was the occasional romance books (Cecilia Ahern, Jojo Moyes, etc). As a mom of 2, approaching 40, I read suggestions from Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club, and these are mostly novels by women (ie. Big Little Lies, Little Fires Everywhere, The Last Mrs. Parrish). But this month, I’m giving James Patterson a try–starting out with his latest stand-alone “The First Lady”.

  96. Suzanne says...

    In an uncertain world, good murder mysteries are my comfort reading. I like the puzzle aspect of trying to piece together who-dun-it, but I think I also take comfort it’s knowing that dark things will happen in the book, but things will mostly tie up by the end. In recent years in this genre, I’ve loved Tana French’s books set in Ireland, JK Rowling’s (aka Robert Galbraith) detective series, and more recently, LOUISE PENNY, about a French-Canadian detective in rural Canada. SO GOOD.

    Another commenter reminded me that I read a couple No 1 Ladies Detective Agency books years ago and should revisit those to read the rest. Maternity leave coming up, so a perfect time!

  97. Kate says...

    I like it dark but smart. The Library at Mount Char is one of the most bizarre but most incredible books I’ve read in years. I love magic that’s not fantasy. I love Welcome to Night Vale, Alice Isn’t Dead, All the Ugly and Beautiful Things….and any story about evangelical/purity culture, like Educated and Pure.

    • Melissa says...

      Have you read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell? If not I suspect you’ll love it :)

    • Kate says...

      @Melissa, I started listening to the audiobook about 10 years ago (on CDs!!) and got busy and didn’t finish it, but you’ve inspired me to get it again!! I did love what I listened to, so much!

  98. Em says...

    Somewhat related: Whenever I travel to a new country I ask a local about what’s popular. It started when my cousins in Norway loaded me up with contemporary literature. I’ve found the best books this way.

    My favorites:
    1) The Half Brother by Lars Saaybe Christensen.

    2) Naïve Super by Erlend Loe

    Google them!

    • Kate says...

      This is a great idea!! Looking these up now! I travelled through Europe a few summers ago and I tried to spy on people to see what they were reading, and then made notes and looked for the books when I got home :)

  99. Julie says...

    I gravitate towards well written novels with a fantasy edge (e.g. Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere), comedic novels with ridiculous plots and loveable characters (e.g. Christopher Moore’s Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal), novels based in history with female protagonists (e.g. Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life), or straight up mystery/fantasy series (The Dresden Files, the Kate Daniels series, and the Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy).

    Right now I’m reading Peter Swanson’s All the Beautiful Lies, he writes really fun twist thrillers.

    • Abby says...

      For novels with a fantasy edge I recommend The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Beautiful images and love – perfect if you want to escape this world a bit, but need some environment of the story to still feel real.

    • Julie says...

      I ADORE that book, Abby! It was so beautiful.

  100. Jessica says...

    I am reading Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy right now and can’t stop talking about it. I feel like it is rearranging my brain.

    • elinor says...

      Whoa cool to hear about someone else reading this! I read Woman on the Edge of Time recently and thought it was awesome.

  101. Katie says...

    I tend to only read historical biographies about women. Even though I buy many books from other genres, usually don’t even open the covers.

    • b says...

      I’m obsessed with biographies lately. Other peoples’ lives are so much more interesting than my own.

      One fiction book I’ve loved within the last few years was The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt. That book was smartly written and funny.

  102. Abbey says...

    Are you familiar with Nancy Pearl’s doorways to reading? She identifies them as the different ways a reader experiences reading: language, character, setting, and story. I am a high school librarian and readers’ advisory – matching readers with books – is a huge part of my job. There are many ways I can drill down to identify a type of book a reader might like, and conversations about these doorways is one of them. Every book I read I think to myself, what is it about this book? Are the characters new friends I cannot bear to live without? Am I living and exploring right then and there through the book’s setting? Is the language is so perfectly rendered that each word is a delicious treat? I have readers come up to me and say, “I need another character book!” Doorways can be a great way to explore new genres, experience windows into others’ experiences, and hold mirrors to our own.

  103. U says...

    I love classic fiction and semi-academic non-fiction. Recent favourites of the former variety include The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (so funny!) and of the latter, Sidewalk by Mitch Duneier.

  104. Rachel says...

    Just finished Heavy by Kiese Laymon. His memoir was heartbreaking, but his writing is so poetic. It was indeed a heavy, yet important read.

  105. Elizabeth says...

    Food Memoirs! It all started with Julia Child’s ‘My Life in France’! Since then I’ve torn through Ruth Reichel’s memoirs as well as Anthony Bourdain’s. Right now I’m reading Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher and it is lush!

    • Me too!! I love reading lush descriptions of food! If this is your thing, you’ve gotta read “A Really Big Lunch” by Jim Harrison. Thanks for the recommendation of Gastronomical Me– you had me at “lush”.

    • Judy says...

      I had had Save me the Plums on my Amazon pre-order for months, eagerly awaiting this next one from Ruth Reichel! Love the food memoirs also, combines two of my great loves.

    • Elena says...

      YES! This is totally my niche too. Recently I’ve liked two essay collections: Women Who Eat and Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant.

    • Rachel says...

      Yes! I love these, too! Especially if they take place in another country.

    • Lily says...

      Garlic and Sapphires was the one that send me down the food memoir rabbit hole. Some other titles to check out (if you haven’t already):

      Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton (she’s such a good writer)
      A Homemade Life and Delancey both by Molly Wizenberg

    • Molly says...

      OOh I’m a huge fan of this genre too! My favorite was Heat by Bill Buford, I was blown away by how much I loved it

  106. Molly says...

    I’m big on two types these days, memoirs by funny women (from Carrie Fisher to Phoebe Robinson I’m here for it!) and what I call “Mom Thrillers” (Big Little Lies, The Perfect Mother etc.). I like thrillers where the main characters are badass, dynamic moms. Also, since around 2016 I’ve read almost exclusively books by women. A book that I really liked last year that was neither: Climate Justice. It was a must read, authored by an amazing woman and it really changed me for the better.

    • Laura says...

      If I can make a recommendation–Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips. It is definitely a mom thriller, but one that makes being mom–a person who knows the fastest route to the bathroom and always has snacks and tissues–the only route to being a superhero. I just bought Climate Justice, so thanks!

    • MaryB in Richmond says...

      Laura, on your recommendation I just DEVOURED Fierce Kingdom! It was FANTASTIC! On the off chance you’re following this thread, do you have any other suggestions? Because clearly we like the same kinds of books.

    • MaryB in Richmond says...

      Hi, Molly!

      I also loved Big Little Lies, and at your suggestion I’m halfway through The Perfect Mother, and I would *love* any other suggestions you might have!

  107. Robin says...

    I found myself following the same pattern too. I loved reading stories and about women and girls by female authors to help me process my own world. I’ll read anything by Jennifer Egan. Recently, I’ve been asking male friends to refer a book to me, and I read it — no matter what it is. Even if I read the jacket and shrug (or roll my eyes), I give it at least 50 pages. I read Freedom by Jonathan Franzen last (a male writer who has been critiqued for his portal of women), and have A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James on my nightstand next.

    • Trish O says...

      I have read the first few chapters of Freedom so many times. I just can not seem to get into it

  108. Annalise says...

    I read Crossing to Safety every summer by Wallace Stegner. Ive read its pages all over the globe, I’ve read it when happy, depressed, single, married, bored with life, and everything between. It still speaks to me.

    • Kristin says...

      One of my favorite books!

    • MaryB in Richmond says...

      Yes. This.

  109. Lauren says...

    I read all different genres but have fallen in love with the Goodreads app. (It’s free!) You basically track what you’ve read, rate it between 1 and 5 stars and after 20 or so books it starts offering you recommendations based on your choices and ratings. You can also add friends and see what they’ve read (and rated highly). And the function I love the most is that you can look up books and mark them as “want to read” so when you see a blog post like this one you can read through the comments and add all of these great suggestions to your list.

    • Jo says...

      I have the same love! Isn’t it so good?! The Goodreads app is my best friend when I’m out with a reader friend, and ask what they’ve read lately… I quickly open the app and add what they recommend to my “want to read list”. Then, when I find myself in my favourite used bookstore – by mistake again;) – I can quickly open the app, look at my list, and browse the shelves to make a match. I always find at least one book… the app has become my memory keeper!… even in a reverse fashion, if another friend asks what I’ve read lately, I open the app and share all I’ve been reading (yep, the need for a memory helper is real!)

  110. Sarah says...

    Last year, I resolved to only read books that sounded enjoyable, as opposed to the books I felt like I “should” be reading….

    …. and now I only read sci-fi and it’s SO. MUCH. FUN!

    • Anne says...

      love that! where shall I start?

  111. Alice says...

    Wildly outside my life and experience if anything. I recently finished ‘Deep Sea and Foreign Going’, all about the container shipping industry – fascinating stuff.

  112. Becky says...

    I could never sum up my reading style.
    I love quirky easy humorous reads like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. I’m originally from the Philadelphia area and have been to Trenton where some of the scenes take places. I can totally picture her scenes playing out.
    I had a love of Nicholas Sparks and John Grisham books in Jr high/ high school.
    But I also loved biographies and non fiction work. Two of my favs,
    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. AHHH MAZING! It’s a true crime book but Savannah is the real star of the book. I had to visit and take the book tour.
    I may love even more, The Brain That Changes Itself,
    Woah brain plasticity rocks my brain. It’s such a fascinating topic. So much to learn and to give hope for cases of traumatic brain injury.

  113. michaela says...

    I just finished An American Marriage yesterday, and oh my goodness, it was so engrossing. I love novels with characters whose lives are different from mine on the surface, but who contend with universal questions and struggles.

    When I was first out of college, I was really drawn to pop psychology books, or anything in the non-fiction genre that was somewhat light and geared for non-subject matter experts. I guess I was still itching for learning, but without the heavy language of academia. I felt a bit like I was grasping to catch up with what it meant to live in the world, since I was entering the “real” world for the first time.

    Now I’m mostly into fiction and memoirs, and I love character-driven dramas or family-centric stories. I break things up every now and then with a young adult book, a graphic novel, or a romance novel (I just read my first recently, The Wedding Date!)

    I spend about 2.5 hours commuting by bus every day, so that gives me plenty of time to melt into a deep, impacting story. I also attend a monthly book club architected by a grad student and a new mom, so we tend to pick quick reads for that.

  114. Bonnie Blackard says...

    Maybe as an antidote to the lack of civility in today’s world, I love Brit Lit. Victorian England is such a stark contrast to now in America. It fascinates me. Elizabeth Gaskell, Thackeray, the Bronte sisters, Henry James, and, of course, Jane Austen are my favorites.

    • Mrs Z says...

      I am with Bonnie. Also Russian classics

    • Jeannie says...

      Yes! I am rereading Jane Eyre for the millionth time right now. It’s been a while, so it seems fresh!

    • Britt says...

      Agreed. My favorite books of all time remain classics – Anna Karenina, War and Peace, The Great Gatsby, and Tender is the Night.

      I haven’t read Elizabeth Gaskell but will check out this author.

    • Em says...

      If you love Gaskell, watch North and South based on the novel. It’s so good, and brings the book to life in such a beautiful, emotionally poignant way.

  115. Trish O says...

    Regency Romance. I love the escape and that there is a new one all the time. I also find peace in the predictable format. They make me happy.

    • Rachel says...

      I’m right there with you, I love them. Who’s your favorite regency author? I’ve been reading Jo Beverly’s Company of Rogues series lately.

  116. Em says...

    There are three categories of books that I always find myself gravitating towards:

    1) Long fiction books covering a lengthy span of the main character’s life (Like The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, The Nix by Nathan Hill, and The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne).

    2) Memoirs of atypical childhoods (like Educated by Tara Westover and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls)

    3) Nonfiction stories about surviving disasters (like Endurance by Alfred Lansing or Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink)

    Would love any recommendations of books that fit into my categories :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Omg we are reading twins!

    • Robin says...

      Have you read I Am, I Am, I Am, by Maggie O’Farrell? And Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot? I found both of these to be breathtakingly beautiful and honest, but not sentimental and they fit into your criteria! Which I can relate to :)

    • Annie says...

      Bonjour Em,

      As for atypical childhood, may I recommend Don’t let’s go to the dogs tonight (an african childhood) by Alexandra Fuller? It doesn’t get more atypical than that!

      Bonne lecture!

    • Laura says...

      Try Pachinko and Without a Net and An American Woman!

    • Julie says...

      Strange Piece of Paradise by Terri Jentz
      Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Eric Larson
      Alive by Piers Paul Read
      Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

    • Tara Bee says...

      SAMESSSS!! PS LOVE JOHN BOYNE!!

      Long fiction……kind of> The Sympathizer. Homegoing.

      Not atypical childhood but adulthood– Eleanor Elephant is completely fine, A tree grows in Brooklyn (atypical due to the passage of time more so)

      Surviving disaster- we wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families ( about Rwanda genocide), more medical but – The Deepest Well, currently reading Poverty and Profit in the American city!!
      Not a disaster but I also really really enjoyed/was moved by- My Own Country (follows the AIDS outbreak in rural Tennessee through the experiences of an Indian doctor working there). PS loved Sheri Finks also!

    • Michele says...

      1) Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
      (Nathan Hill lives in the same coastal town where I live … I told my hairdresser once that I loved The Nix and then she told me that she cuts Nathan Hill’s hair!! Needless to say, when I met him at a book signing, I couldn’t resist commenting on how good his hair looked.)
      2) A Life of My Own by Claire Tomalin

    • Maggie says...

      This thread is fantastic! I second Pachinko and The Sympathizer. Also anything by Michener for a good long multi-generational historical memoir-type novel (my favorite is Hawaii).

    • Em says...

      Thanks for all the amazing suggestions, everyone! I’ve written down all of them.

    • june2 says...

      Did you ever read the memoir, West With the Night by Beryl Markham? One of my favorite books ever. Gorgeously written and incredibly inspiring, it covers all three of your criteria! The atypical childhood: British but raised in early 20th century Kenya on a farm by her father. Her only playmates are the local tribal boys, then when the farm fails she becomes one of the first airplane pilots in the world with her father’s support and begins a long career as a bush pilot. An incredibly good read.

    • Kate says...

      For disaster books, I recommend Touching the Void, Into Thin Air, and the Long Walk. For long fiction, I’ve had Shantaram on my list forever.

    • Nigerian Girl says...

      Recommendations:

      1) Long fiction books spanning a main character’s life: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

      2) Memoirs of atypical childhoods: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.

      3) Nonfiction stories about surviving disasters: Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala, The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander.

    • Julie says...

      These are the same as me! Have you read the Corrections by Franzen? Soo good for #2.

    • Lisa says...

      #2 – yes! I loved both of these books. I read The Glass Castle years ago and just finished Educated. Great reads.

      I read trashy novels as an escape and because I can get them free on my Nook, but normally read nonfiction when I buy a book. I just bought The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and am loving it already.

    • Annie says...

      1) “Any Human Heart” and/or “The New Confessions” by William Boyd
      2) “Small Fry” by Lisa Brennan Jobs
      3) “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer (Mt Everest climbing disaster) or “Into Thin Air by Joe Simpson (survival in the Andes after a climbing accident)

    • Lily says...

      I love that two different people inadvertently recommended different books by the same author (My Own Country and Cutting for Stone – both by Abraham Verghese)! Great minds, ya know?

      Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone. About the 2011 tsunami that hit Japan.
      The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why. This dives into the way people react in the face of disaster. It was a good, quick read (I read it on an airplane–don’t exactly recommend that part!)

    • Maggie says...

      I thought of one that fits almost two of your categories!

      The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee is a memoir about a young girl raised in North Korea, and her escape through China as an adult. It was absolutely fascinating!

  117. Sarah says...

    Caroline, your writing is beautiful! I enjoy reading your posts so much.

    • Heather says...

      Yes, yes!! Stunning. Beautiful.

  118. Caroline, I can totally relate to the idea of wanting to read a mirror, but in a different sort of way. It’s thrilling to me when I come across a line – or scene or character – that tells me something about who I want to grow into. Great writing can do that to me … hold a mirror to my soul like a refining fire. They reflect back to me the best of how I’m made, and shore me up with courage to start down that path.

    And now I’m thinking about how Michelle Obama described Barack as someone who understands the world as it is, while always seeing what it can become. So yeah, great writers can be my Barry. That’s a metaphor I’m more than happy to work with ;)

    • Coco says...

      Ginny, I’m about to fly to a job interview and your comment just distilled what I want to tell my prospective (fingers crossed!) employer about me. So thank you!!
      Wishing you and everyone here a fantastic day.

  119. Kile says...

    This is exactly what I love so much about reading! Books can be mirrors or they can be windows—and the teach us so much about what it means to be human.

    • Dee says...

      I love this, they can be mirrors or windows

  120. elizabeth says...

    I love memoirs, some fiction, and biographies. I find that the more stressful my life is the more insignificant the biography. When I finished studying for a difficult professional exam about 20 years ago, I cracked open the biography of Peggy Fleming, who I loved when I was 10. (And no, I can’t say that PF is insignificant but is she on your radar as a potential biography?)

    It’s interesting to think about what I read in my 20s. I feel that the New Yorker gave me a second education. I also seem to recall books about people in foreign places and women who didn’t have very defined lives getting married (like me! Except I didn’t get married in my 20s). I needed assurance that things would fall into place, hopefully without my having to work at it very hard.

    Then I discovered Anita Brookner and her beautiful writing but continually hurt female protagonists. This cured me of both the female-victim fiction and waiting around to have my life defined by someone else (although it certainly looked like that worked out fine for everyone I knew).

    Now I’ve returned to school and I am happy to get through the newspaper!

  121. Caroline, can you please explain to me what appealed to you about Asymmetry?! I was so let down by that novel…

  122. Jules says...

    If looking for something outside your own world, I highly recommend Shantaram – a novel (based on the author’s own experiences) about an Australian felon who flees to Bombay.

    The vivid imagery of Bombay in the ’80s is incredibly rich, funny, and moving. It will absolutely transport you.

    • june2 says...

      Oh, I definitely second this – I’ve read and reread it several times – even though I do not like how he handled his relationship! and the more times I read it the more I disliked it until I was finally over it. But it is a greaaaat story to read. Did you know that Johnny Depp bought the film rights and was going to star as the lead but it never happened for some reason.

  123. Anne says...

    I read a little bit of everything, but I recently read my fIrst romance and I LOVED it! It was The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory. A great first pick and I’m excited to read her next two.

    I don’t remember when I made this decision but a couple years back I started reading pretty much exclusively works by women. Maybe I decided I needed to repent from all the white cismen I read as a twentysomething (Kerouac, Vonnegut, DFW, and Pynchon to name a few). I don’t regret reading those works, they played an important role in my literary life, but I’m glad I’ve since moved on. I think there’s a lot of value in reading voices of those that don’t typically make it into the canon and I’ve been made better by their stories.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Same, Anne! I read almost exclusively women authors now — although I LOVED exit west xo

    • Molly says...

      Ah me too! Save for a few I’ve read almost exclusively women authors since around 2016! So interesting. Joanna this might be a great thing to write about! Now I’m curious to see if this is a thing!

    • Amanda Tyler says...

      Yes same here! I was just going to comment to say my biggest ‘criteria’ is whether the author is female-identifying or a BIPOC. We have been fed the same, tired white male narrative for SO LONG that seeking out other stories honestly feels like the least I can do to offset that in my own brain.

    • JESSICA says...

      Same! I read almost exclusively romance right now because the genre is so fertile (sorry) with great female authors. I LOVED The Wedding Date. I totally cast the movie version:

      Alexa – Tessa Thompson
      Drew – Chris Evans
      Olivia – Susan Kelechi Watson
      Theo – William Jackson Harper
      Maddie – Janelle Monae
      Carlos – Michael Pena
      Amy – Emily Vancamp
      Josh – Chris Pratt
      Molly – Bryce Dallas Howard

      I realize the last two are bananas cameos, but god do I love casting great novels.

  124. Carrie says...

    Click click buying all these books now

  125. Vicki says...

    I have books that I will go back to over and over again as a sort of comfort l, the calm in the No 1 ladies dective agency feels like a cup of tea when the world feels like too much. Harry Potter is magic, and I love to revisit it to discover a detail I miss or read it as a mother who is deeply sad for Ms. Weasley in a way my younger self never was. Even so I love losing myself in a new book, especially one I am uncertain about – Case in point despite the hype I was unsure if I wanted to read an American Marriage, its premise felt too sad, and it was AMAZING (if you loved it, read the Silver Sparrow also by Tayari Jones) – This finding I was so wrong encourages me to expand my list, take more risks. Research says reading fiction helps build empathy so I am reading widely these. Trying to lose myself in all sorts of stories.

    • P says...

      YES!!! Love The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency! I am currently dealing with crippling nausea/sickness in my first pregnancy and have been re-reading the whole series starting at book 1. I feel like Mma Ramotswe is keeping me company during this tough time. So happy you mentioned this series!

    • Caitlin says...

      I like the No. 1 ladies detective agency series too!

    • Hannah C says...

      YES to Harry Potter! I read the series ages ago when each book first came out, and always remembered the books fondly but hadn’t gone back to read them since. Then, my daughter was born in October and my husband and I decided to read out loud to each other to get through the extremely long days and nights. We picked Harry Potter and flew through the 6,000 pages in about 66 days. It was so special and we loved snuggling up with the books while rocking our baby girl to sleep or during one of her many late-night feedings. I look forward to doing this again when our daughter is a little older and can remember this new-found tradition.

  126. AJ says...

    I LOVE historical fiction. History was not relevant to me when I was young, I found it so boring. Now as a grown up, history is everything and I’m enjoying relearning it. Nothing like learning history wrapped up in an amazing story. Ken Follett is my favorite – sweeping, intense, heavily researched trilogies. I have learned so much from his books.

  127. Katrina says...

    I just finished The Library Book by Susan Orlean and it was absolutely fascinating. It’s about the 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library and the library’s history, but so much more, and her writing really pulls you in.

    • Amanda says...

      As an avowed library lover, several people recommended this to me and I was not disappointed. Absolutely fascinating! If you liked this, you may also like her (retired) podcast Crybabies with Sarah Thyre.

    • Katrina says...

      Thank you for the recommendation!

  128. Diana K says...

    YES! I love sci-fi and novels about the tortured and vain male psyche (Roth, Bukowski, etc.)

    Philip K Dick has written enough in his lifetime to keep me very busy with his wildly creative sci-fi fantasies- AND so many of his books have been turned into amazing movies/shows too. I’ve been reading him forever and I will never stop.

    As for the Bukowski and Philip Roth books- there’s something so satisfying about reading about self-indulgent male misery. It’s the same pleasure I get from slouching. It’s very alarming when I hear men glorify these authors and idolize their protagonists, but I think that these texts can definitely be appreciated and valued by a critical reader. I wonder if there aren’t any female author’s that have taken on this genre/style of writing that I’m missing out on?

  129. Rachel says...

    I just re-read The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks. It is the next generation after The Notebook, but you don’t have to read that, or even like it, to read The Wedding. And its not as formulaic as Sparks later books. It’s such a feel-good story with exactly the kind of comfortable, well-worn, everyday love that I want in my life, and every time I read it I find myself being extra sentimental and romantic with my husband.

  130. Colleen S says...

    I like mysteries, but I want something with some romance. Not like graphic sex scenes, but some love and kisses. I also read biographies and history novels about World War 2.

    • Vale says...

      I find it so hard to find a good love story, that Isn’t a “romance novel”. Scanning these comments for suggestions but no one EVER says what you just wrote (or my reply). Good luck!

    • M says...

      “Consequences” by Penelope Lively.

    • Krista Estell says...

      The Time Traveler’s Wife is super romantic! And heartbreaking, but romantically so.

    • CB says...

      I quite like the Barbara Trapido and Mary Wesley novels for a bit of romance without schmultz

    • Colleen S says...

      Vale, the closest I came was Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts. I’m still on the lookout.

    • I am working my way through Sue Grafton’s ABC mysteries and feel they are light romantic mystery you describe. I am also currently listening to an audio version of Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce. It is lightly romantic, set in London WW2. Great so far… Happy reading wishes!

    • littlebear says...

      You might try Dorothy Sayers – her Wimsey-Vane romance plays out over mulitple books and is full of fascinating insights about the way relationships work, plus the characters are clever and fun (Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night, Busman’s Holiday and Talboys). She is also a genius wordsmith and mystery spinner; stories are set in post WW1 England. Ngiao Marsh is another classic who usually includes a bit of romance, either as a subplot or for her Inspector Alleyn (his courtship takes a couple of books as well). And don’t forget Christie’s silly but adorable Man in the Brown Suit! :)

    • Anne says...

      Check out Everyone Brave is Forgiven if you haven’t already, seems right up your alley!

    • Anu says...

      Seconding Dorothy Sayers! Some of my all time favorites!

      You might also be interested in the books of Mary Stewart – her books are basically mysteries/adventures with some light romance thrown in. Pretty predictable, but definitely page-turning and well written. Each one is set in a different beautiful location too so that’s an added plus. Some are definitely better than others so I’d recommend Madam, Will You Talk?, The Ivy Tree and The Gabriel Hounds. Can be read in any order.

    • Anu says...

      Hmm, actually the Gabriel Hounds is more racist than I remembered at the end (written in the 60s). But the rest I stand by.

  131. Nectar says...

    I was never much of a reader, only read what was assigned in school.
    I made it a goal to read a book a month for 2019. I actually got around to 2 books a month, so I’m on book 5!

    I follow Girls Night In’s book club or just walk into a bookstore and read anything that appeals to me.

    Anyone have tips on how to pinpoint? Here’s what I read so far or currently reading:

    The Power by Naomi Alderman
    Just Kids by Patti Smith
    Circe by Madeline Miller
    The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
    The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

    • Ashley says...

      Are you on Goodreads? (goodreads.com, it’s free to make an account). You can track the books you read or want to read, read reviews etc. The site has book lists and recommendations and every time I am on it, I find myself adding to my “Want to Read” list.

    • Laura says...

      Talk to booksellers, too. They are usually good at giving really *specific* recommendations. Like, I want something fun and surprising. Or, my favorite request, I always ask booksellers to point me to the book that can’t stop thinking about but that no one seems to have read. I often discover books from small presses or older books that aren’t in the limelight anymore that way.

    • june2 says...

      Making friends with a good librarian is often a great resource – or checking out the Staff Picks shelf in independent bookstores or libraries – I’ve found some good ones there.

    • Amanda says...

      A lot of public libraries have a service called readers advisory where you can tell them what kind of books you like and they’ll come up with suggestions. (Some might ask what kind of TV shows or movies that you enjoy and then come up with books you might like based on those–e.g., if you like shows like Parks and Rec and The Office, here’s a book that’s a workplace comedy with a strong ensemble of characters, like Microserfs by Douglas Coupland.) I’m a librarian and that’s one of my favorite parts of the job.

      Websites like bookriot.com have a lot of good book lists, too, broken down by theme or genre or other criteria.

  132. Meg P says...

    For a long time, I’d find myself reading mysteries and I realized I was drawn to them when I felt anxious. In a mystery, you can feel reassured because you know that by the end, things will be sorted out. We’ll have the answers.

    I’ve always been pulled into fiction first, but these days I find myself picking up more and more non-fiction and memoirs. These stories feel more urgent to me lately…