Dear Book Doctor,
I’ve been up to my ears in non-fiction recently, because that’s what people keep recommending – Alain De Botton, Ekhardt Tolle, Amy Poelher, Lena Dunham, Amanda Palmer. From vulnerability to mindfulness, applied economics to gender politics, systemic inflammation to neurodiversity, I’ve covered a lot of ground, but you know what’s missing when I scroll through my Kindle? FICTION!
The only novel I’ve read so far this year is Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (Haruki Murakami). Do you have any recommendations for a good rainy weekend read – not requiring too much effort, but not so brainless that I figure out the ending by the halfway mark? I generally prefer genre fiction to literary, but beyond that I don’t have strong preferences.
I have been there. We all get in a reading rut from time to time. I have been quite submerged in nonfiction myself lately, so it was a treat to come up with some options for you.
A genre read is a cozy thing. As summer is coming I find I need a little break in the form of books that don’t ask me to change my life or rethink everything I’ve ever done. I do gravitate to those books, and it seems like you do as well, based on your list of authors. I suspect we have been hanging out in the same aisle of the bookshop.
Now on to you, Lola. I’m a bit intimidated, as you are quite current in your nonfiction reading, and you’ve already read the most recent Marukami. You know what’s coming out, or at least you hang out with people who do. A challenge to give you something new…
I will give you a few to choose from:
One that I absolutely loved, and will be especially enjoyable for anyone who read and loved Pride and Prejudice, which I suspect you have, is Longbourn by Jo Baker. It’s a dreamy read about the lives of the servants below stairs in the Bennett home and is beautifully done. We Jane Austen nerds get to perk up whenever there is something happening above stairs that we know from P&P, which is so much fun. If you haven’t read it already, I would.
Another that I found magical and that has images that are still with me over a year later, is Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins. The plot switches back and forth between early 60s Italy and present-day Hollywood. The descriptions are incredible, and the characters are both deep and subtle. He even manages to pull of Richard Burton as a character, which is quite a feat. I just adored this book.
Funny, these were both recommendations for my very first book dr. letter, but even so I can’t resist re-suggesting them.
In addition, recent discoveries:
I have just this week started Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch. It’s definitely genre fiction- a London crime novel, to be specific, however there is an X-Files element as well. (If you loved The Rook, this is for you. If you don’t know about The Rook and you like genre fiction, you must read it immediately.) Midnight Riot is surprisingly believable and feels much more like this world with a bit of the unusual thrown into it. And if you like audiobooks, the narrator is fantastic. He has an incredibly sexy voice, a bit like Idris Elba’s, and he’s quite good at characters.
However, if this is completely off the reservation, here is something a bit more traditional:
Jojo Moyes’ One Plus One is a charming little novel. (If you ever want a real weeper, try her Me Before You.) A house cleaner with a gifted daughter has a run-in with her wealthy-but-troubled boss and this unlikely encounter unfolds in a way that changes them both. Moyes is a versatile writer that thrives when characters from different cultural or class backgrounds come together. I quite enjoy her and also find her to be a talented and skilled writer.
I hope this survey of fiction has gotten you fired up to return to the fiction section. Do let us know what you select and how you like it!
the book dr.