5 Books I read, Plus 5 Books I’m gonna read.

I read every night before I go to bed.  If I don’t, I feel weird.   Bed and reading go together.  Like peanut butter and jam.  Salt and pepper.  Wigs and kittens.

I used to read every book I picked up from beginning to end regardless of whether I thought it was great or not.  I don’t do that anymore.  If I get 1/4 of  the way through a book and the only reason I want to open it is on the off chance the pages burst into flame like in a magic trick , I know it’s time to take that magic course I always wanted to.  Plus it’s time to get rid of the book.

There are too many good books out there to read, to suffer through something boring, stupid, pretentious, bland or difficult.  The odd time you get these things ALL ROLLED INTO ONE BOOK!  For me that book is often written by  Jonathan Franzen.

The  stack of 5 books below are ones that I’ve read.  It’s  a list that includes both the books I loved and one I gave up on by page 58.

Books I- Read


The Rosie Project is a really fun little book about a professor who may or may not have Aspergers Syndrome.  It’s funny, thoughtful and an easy enjoyable read.

The Book Thief is one of the many books I’ve read that focus on the time during the holocaust.   You need to read this book.  Now.

Secret Daughter is also an easy read and engaging.  The story revolves around a baby who is given up for adoption in India and the lives of her birth parents and adoptive parents.

The Casual Vacancy, by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling was about something.  I have no idea what.   I couldn’t force myself past page 58.   J.K. Rowling is an incredibly talented writer whose  book I was hoping  would burst into flames.

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy sat on my desk for a year before I read it.  I was a huge Maeve Binchy fan years ago because she is a true storyteller.  But her more recent books seemed to be missing something.  When she died I vowed to read her last story.  And I did. It was a cute, story about a multitude of flawed but likeable characters.  In true Maeve Binchy style.

Gonna Read



These, on the other hand, are the books I’m going to read.  And I’m looking forward to each and every one of them.  Except one.

Don’t Get too Comfortable by David Rakoff is a book I tried to read a year and a half ago but just couldn’t get into.   I didn’t wish flames upon it, I just wasn’t in the right state of mind to read it I think.  Apparently if you like David Sedaris you’ll like David Rakoff.  I happen to love David Sedaris.

N-W by Zadie Smith will be the second novel I’ve read by this British author.  The first was On Beauty which I really liked, but sadly can’t remember a single thing about.  I’m gonna be honest with you.  Of the list of 5 books this one kind of worries me.  Poof!

The Woefield Poultry Collective by Susan Juby is another bit of a risk.  When a novel only has 6 reviews on Amazon despite being published 3 years ago … you’ve gotta worry a bit. But an Art of Doing Stuff reader recommended it so I’m givin’ it a shot!

We are Water by  Wally Lamb will be the 3rd novel I’ve read by this American author.  The other two,   I Know this Much is True  and   She’s Come Undone were both pretty darn good. Besides  as a general rule any book with the word “water” in the title can’t burst into flames.  It’s just common sense.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini is the book I’m most looking forward to.  Hosseini has authored  two of the most remarkable novels I’ve read over the past several years;  The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns .  Like his previous two works, this  story takes place in Afghanistan.

Books like any other form of artistic endeavour is very subjective.  You may love it, I may hate it.  But the odd time there are books that are almost universally loved.  If I had to recommend 3 books from these lists they would be A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Book Thief and The Rosie Project.

I really can’t imagine anyone not liking them.

Feel free to leave your comments now telling me all about how you got 1/4 of the way through one of them before it burst into flames.

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  1. Dana says:

    I loved The Book Thief, and The Rosie Project is up next for my book club. We’ll be discussing The Curiosity this week– should make for some heated discussion about science and morality.

  2. Barbie says:

    YOur such a crack up! Isn’t “The Book Thief” out in theaters / theatre soon? I thought I heard that from my daughter the other day. I want to SEE it so bad. Now if I read the book the movie just won’t be good to me at all though.

  3. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I read at bedtime too which is about to happen now..nite nite and thanks for the book suggestions..

  4. Maggie V says:

    I belong to a book club and The Book Thief, Secret Daughter, The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns as well as And The Mountains Echoed were read by us and I loved each and every book. Good Picks Karen.

  5. Pat says:

    I just finished reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee which I read way back in high school. I think it is an important, thought provoking book to read because of it’s social commentary which still applies today.

  6. Sara says:

    The Book Thief is in my top 5 books of all time! I am a very picky reader, probably because I have read sooo much. The other 4 of those 5 are: City of Thieves (David Benioff), The Secret History (Donna Tartt), A Reliable Wife (Robert Goolrick) and The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay).

    Very nearly making the top 5 are: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith), Perfume (Patrick Süskind), Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy), The God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy) and Rules of the Wild (Francesca Marciano).

    Looks like maybe I have a top ten. My top twenty really are all stellar books. I am very picky, so you should really consider all of these as potential time-eaters. I can’t wait to get my hands on a few of your rect..it’s so deliciously escapist!

    • Karen says:

      I’ve read many on your list and especially loved The Secret History and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. My time devoted to Russian authors began and ended with Crime and Punishment I’m afraid. Never, ever, again. Ever. Again. ever ~ karen!

      • Sara says:

        Well, that’s why the joke, right? To recommend is the crime, to read is the punishment. That’s a rough one. For sure read the City of Thieves and A Reliable Wife if you haven’t yet!

      • Becky says:

        City of Thieves was very good!

      • Bols says:

        I have to admit that Crime and Punishment is not an easy read but it IS an excellent book. You will miss out on a lot if you exclude all Russians based on innocent Myshkin (well, Dostojevskij – whatevere the English transcription of his name is).
        You may find it hard to believe but War and Peace (all thousand pages of it) is a stellar book.

        • Karen says:

          My judge of whether something is an excellent book for me is whether I think at the end, “I’m glad I read that”. I was not glad I read Crime & Punishment. I was glad it was over. ~ karen

    • Monica says:

      Just wanted to say I am shopping on kobo right now for your recommendations, since I loved ‘Perfume’, ‘The Secret History’, and ‘The God of Small Things’.
      I’ll also add my voice to all the fans of ‘The Goldfinch’. That’s my audiobook right now, and I’ll admit to lingering over washing the dishes and sitting in my parked car just to hear more.

  7. Valerie says:

    I am also a voracious reader. If I happen to get a book that I am having trouble getting into I go to a site called Goodreads.com. It is so very tempting to go there before I start a book but I resist. That site reviews countless books and gives an overall synopses. What follows is a one to five star rating from their various “readers” and if there are “spoilers” that give too much away by the reviewer then that fact precedes their review. To be a good bed reader one MUST have a perfect light source – a little from the left if you are right handed and a little from the right if you are left handed.
    Besides Scandinavian mystery writers whom I adore, one of my favourite authors is Ian McEwan. He wrote Atonement and his latest is Sweet Tooth with which I was intrigued. He always plants a tiny bomb early on in his novels and although he has prepared you it is always a surprise when it finally explodes.

  8. Julie says:

    You must, I mean absolutely must read Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It is dangerous because you will not be to turn out your light and go to bed!

  9. Tracie says:

    Well, I found hard covers of The Kite Runner, and A Thousand Splendid Suns at a book sale my bank was having, for two bucks each! Great right? I lent them both to my mother, who was visiting a friend about an hours drive from me, as she really needed reading material. She found them boring! And then the friend picked up and moved away! I’ve been looking for Lonesome Dove in the used book stores, but no luck yet. Just finished Minding Frankie, by Maeve Binchy. Just starting Voyager of the Outlander series, third in. Need to write down some of these titles, Lord knows I can’t rely on my memory these days….Thanks!

  10. Susan R says:

    Karen, no Robertson Davies? My all time favorite author. Amazon just delivered The Accidental Anarchist, Night and I Am Malala. I’ll let you know.

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Well no, but these aren’t the only 10 books I’ve ever read! I do love Robertson Davies. Always have. Ask my mom. She’ll tell you. ~ karen

  11. Marti says:

    I had to google Franzen and what comes up? “Oprah’s Book Club” and “Chinese Author Guo says American Lit is ‘MASSIVELY OVERRATED.’ ” Hahaha! I learn so much from your blog, Karen. Always such great insight!

  12. Sue says:

    I haven’t had as much time to read this past year as usual, but I did read “We Are Water”, and I really liked it. “The Book Thief” has been on my list for a while. I hope I’ll finally get to it this year. I’m also a Goodreads member, but I use it mostly to keep track of books that I want to read, or have read, even so, I’m behind. It’s great, there’s a phone app that can scan isbn codes so you can look up reviews wherever you are, and then it’s an easy step to save the book to your “shelf”, and you can set up all sorts of different lists.

  13. Stephanie says:

    Dont know if this is your cup of tea, but try: The Good Good Pig, by Sy Montgomery

  14. Noelle says:

    I’m a sucker for Maeve Binchy, I’m not sure I have that one. Hmm

  15. Jasmine says:

    If I don’t read in bed before I go to sleep, I can’t sleep. I have been married 26 years and two or three times a week my husband will say to me “Are you reading again tonight?”. Sometimes when I have a really heavy book I will let it fall on him. I just finished a mother of heavy books ‘Pillars of the Earth’. Very heavy. Great book though.

  16. Melissa L. says:

    I echo just about everything you said… What was that Franzen horror eons ago? The Corrections? I absolutely forced myself to finish it. But, like you, The Casual Vacancy, alas, lies unfinished in my kindle library. Perhaps it’s maturing, and stamping our little feet and saying, “Why should I waste my precious time on this drivel?” Read every Binchy starting when I was pretty young. Hosseini makes me weep. Love, love, love a good book. (Have you read The Far Pavilions by MM Kaye?)

  17. Lauren from Winnipeg says:

    How funny that The Rosie Project is on your list. I just finished it today. I also enjoyed Secret Daughter and I have to agree with you about Casual Vacancy. I finished it, but it was a struggle. Disappointing considering how much I love Harry Potter.

    A couple of recent interesting reads were The Dinner by Herman Koch (very different and a little weird) and The Witch Doctor’s Wife.

    I have also been reading everything by Jhumpa Lahiri.

    I read Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese a while ago, but it is excellent! Probably one of my favourites.

    I also don’t understand not reading before going to sleep.

  18. Auntiepatch says:

    I read 4-5 books a week. I get samples on my Kindle before I buy a book and that helps weed out the “dogs”. The one time I got burned was when a new book came out by J.K. Rollins called “The Cuckoo’s Calling”. I LOVED the Harry Potter books so I figured what the heck, how could it be bad? I slogged my way through this murder/mystery and at the end I didn’t care WHO killed the Cuckoo; I just wanted the book to end. Unless she does another HP, I’m done with JK.

    If you want to get HOOKED on a series try Archer Mayor. His books all take place in Bellows Falls, Vermont and the Northeast. Mayor’s hero is an every day cop with no budget, old equipment, and a love for law enforcement. I’ve read at least a dozen of his books and they keep me turning pages until the very end (usually at about 3 am). DON’T start one if you don’t have the time to finish it! You won’t be sorry.

  19. Janet says:

    On your recommendation I read Night Circus. Absolutely loved it and passed it on to someone who also absolutely loved it. Now in New Zealand we have the winner of the Man Booker prize 2013, so to you and everyone else reading this, I recommend you read Eleanor Catton’s “The Luminaries”. [Warning it is long – 828 pages of clever clever writing]

    • Julie says:

      I second The Luminaries, it took me a little while to get going but once I was in, I couldn’t put it down! Great timing on this post; I’ve been trying to decide what to read next & seeing as we have a few favourite books in common, I trust your recommendations. Now to choose one…

  20. Lindsay H. says:

    I loved We Are Water. I can’t quite explain why, but it stuck with me. It had just enough intrigue, plus Wally Lamb does what he does best: narrating the intricacies of families.

  21. Abby says:

    I got the Kindle edition of The Rosie Project on special after Christmas and it’s next on my list. I also got The Casual Vacancy in audiobook form a while back and gave up on it because I hated the narrator’s voice and the story wasn’t interesting enough to me to finish the book.

  22. Pat green says:

    Great recommendations, thanks. I’d like to add a brilliant book by William Boyd called Any Human Heart.

  23. Judith says:

    I love your book posts! Thanks to you my BIGRL (Books I’ve Gotta Read List) just keeps growing. Just like you, I’m looking the most forward to Hosseini’s ‘And the Mountains Echoed’. His first two books were so moving and were unlike anything I’d read.

  24. Call Me Patty says:

    I just finished And The Mountains Echoed, LOVED, LOVED LOVED it. As I did Kite Runner. Thanks for the list Karen.

  25. Ileana says:

    Hi Karen,
    If you like David Sedaris, you might like Sarah Vowell. She’s one of my favorites, blending witty with facts. (Also, I believe they are friends in real life)
    Love your blog!

    • Adrienne in Atlanta says:

      She’s another great one to listen to. Her tiny voice belies her brilliant brain. Saw her on the Daily Show once and people started laughing the minute she opened her mouth, even though she was just answering a simple question. The girl is deadpan.

  26. Tris says:

    Huge Binchy fan here. I haven’t read the last one yet because I’m still angry about her dying. I do agree that the modern setting books aren’t quite as good as the ones set in the past. Maeve had a way of making you fall in love with her characters. Copper Beech and Light a Penny Candle were my favorites. Heck, I even named a cat after her! Another author that gets me is Christopher Moore. Lamb makes me laugh through almost every paragraph.

  27. Adrienne in Atlanta says:

    David Sedaris and David Rakoff are both great choices, but when you can get their audiobooks, it’s always a better experience. I highly recommend googling Rakoff’s This American Life reading of The Scorpion and the Tortoise. It’s excellent and moving. A year or so before his death, he also performed a segment in the TAL movie which you can find on YouTube. He was wonderfully, subtly expressive.

    If you can catch Sedaris on a book tour, his readings are so fun to attend.

    My favorite recommendation of yours ever was The Night Circus — excellent — even though I am not usually one for anything so magical.

    Love the book posts and the conversation that ensues. 😉 Good move in this weather!

    • Annie says:

      I second David Sedaris. The only author on the planet that makes me laugh out loud while reading. I also recommend seeing him live – there’s nothing like it. My favorite is Me Talk Pretty One Day.

  28. LaineyDid says:

    I second the “the Goldfinch” recommendation. Also, “The Signature of all Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Both books are very engrossing and hard to put down.

  29. BurbHappy says:

    I agree that The Casual Vacancy was not a favorite. However, Cuckoo’s Calling, written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, was soo much better.

  30. Jody says:

    Perfect timing. I’ll be finishing The Thornbirds soon and having been looking for a new book to read. It’s interesting re reading The Thornbirds after 30 years of living/maturing.

  31. Bonnie says:

    I totally agree about letting go of the books that just aren’t “doing it” for you. Thnaks for the recommendations and warnings!

  32. Tigersmom says:

    I actually got to meet David Sedaris at a book signing he did. He was so incredibly gracious. He arrived early and stayed late and made sure he spoke for a few moments with everyone who wanted a book signed. And he signed multiple books, too.

    If you ever go to a book signing of his, he will ask you to tell him your favorite joke, so be prepared.

    • Adrienne in Atlanta says:

      A friend of mine waited hours in line to meet him and apparently that night he was asking what their favorite book was (of his, apparently). She replied The Santaland Diaries, and he told her that was his least favorite. She was mortified, but I suspect he was just looking for reactions from people. 🙂

      I heard on NPR that he got the newest book title from a book signing due to an odd request from a lady in line to have a specific message inscribed. Hence “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls”.

  33. If you’re ever in Knoxville, TN, you have to stop at McKay Used books…a literal mini-mall of books, cd’s, dvd’s, you name it. You’ll want to put up a tent and stay, seriously. Take a peek: http://www.mckaybooks.com/

  34. Jen says:

    Have you ever read Women who Run with the Wolves? That is a book I keep going back to. It’s got short stories/fables, then explains the lesson that we can draw from the story. It’s a really good read.

  35. Beckie says:

    The Red Queen (The Cousins’ War #2) Philippa Gregory

    I forced myself through about 2/3’rds and one day when I sat down to my daily torture, I realized I truly didn’t CARE how it ended.

    I pulled out my book marker and filed the book on the shelf

    I’ve enjoyed other books she wrote, just not this one

    I’ve chosen to read the Harry Potter series this year. I think I’ve only read 4 of the 7 books (might be 4-1/2, I don’t remember now where I stopped reading them)

    Wally Lamb is awesome…love his stuff

  36. Jane Snider says:

    I’m reading the Rosie Project right now. Can’t stop laughing out loud. That’s my basic criteria for books these days. Got Bridget Jones Mad About the Boy for Christmas. Also laugh out loud silly.

  37. Ann says:

    I am so glad to see that someone else thinks the same thing I did about “The Casual Vacancy” I read it a bit more than 58 pages because there was one character I did find I wanted to know more about. The teenage girl. But I still couldn’t finish the book.

    My recommendation is read anything by Barbara Kingsolver. My fav would be “Prodigal Summer” or her only work of non-fiction, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”.

    I guess I need to read/listen to “The Book Thief” I can’t see to read well at night and prefer audio books. But I did just break the rule and read “Hollow City”, the sequel to “Miss Peregrin’s Home for Peculiar Children”. I could not wait for it to be on audio book, besides there are pictures one must see to totally appreciate the story.

    • Pam W says:

      Oh, I LOVE Barbara Kingsolver! I go back and reread Animal Dreams and The Bean Trees every few years. I adore the tone of her writing. Highly recommended!

      I also have no patience for books that I can’t get into within the first few chapters. I just don’t think reading should be a chore and that’s how some books feel. I am one block away from a library so its easy for me to check out and return books almost daily. (And some books do get returned the next day!) I recently really enjoyed We Are All Completely Ourselves by Karen Fowler. I actually hadn’t heard about the big spoiler in the story so it was a surprise to me.

  38. Beth says:

    Just finished The Rosie Project…very good and very hard to put down!

  39. Do you ever read Philipa Gregory books or Sandra Gulland? Very sexy, sultry romantic … Kings/ Queens / Knights sorta stuff. LOVE. PS. Sandra Gulland lives near Toronto ! Very cool !

    • Karen says:

      LOL. No. Sexy, sultry romantic novels with Kings and Queens aren’t my thing for some reason. I’d rather eat a sandwich and stare at my toes. ~ karen!

  40. Maria says:

    I love Khaled Hosseini! Have read his previous two books and now getting ready to read “And the Mountains Echoed” and next “The Book Thief”!

  41. Reg says:

    I loved A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner. Looks like I’ll be off to the Library for his newest book.
    Reading in bed is such a guilty pleasure for me. Until I retired from work I couldn’t get past a paragraph or two before falling asleep and then I wouldn’t remember what I read the next time I picked up the same book.
    Reading in bed is right up there with ice-cream and dark chocolate.

  42. Jodi says:

    My best friend Sarah and I were lucky enough to briefly meet Markus Zusak during a special screening of the movie adaptation of his wonderful book, “The Book Thief” . It was a moving film but an absolute heartbreaking epic of a book, please go read it now! Karen is right. Markus chatted with one of our local movie reviewers (who was a bit of a douche to be honest – I was sitting there wishing it was someone else asking the questions) and he also answered audience questions, and then patiently signed books for about 1000 people – I’m exaggerating but we were in the back of the very slow line – and he remained focused and gracious the whole time. You have to read this book. And buy it if you can afford to.

  43. Dannie says:

    I love to read. Just like you ladies, I read in bed almost every night. Fave book of all time for me To Kill A Mockingbird. Least fave Catcher in the Rye. But most of my fave books are easy reads ie. Nicholas Sparks, Jude Devereax, Laurell K Hamilton, Kim Harrison. I don’t usually go for thought provoking books. I have to think to much in real life. In a book I just want to run away 🙂

  44. Jodi says:

    This means you, Barbie. Listen to Karen. READ READ READ!

  45. Blaire says:

    Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett is my most favorite book of all time. At my suggestion (ok, insistence) my husband read it…….my mom read it……..my dad read it…….they all loved it. My dad even tried to convince a person on a plane to read it when they asked what he was reading. We are all hooked.

  46. lisa says:

    I think my copy of Casual Vacancy might have actually burst into flames! So disappointed in that book.

    I’ve recently started reading Jo Nesbo, a Norwegian crime fiction author. Very good!

  47. Donna says:

    I tried to read The Casual Vacancy also–so boring, going no where, skipped to the last few pages and still did not get it!! Will not read her books again. Just read The Orenda by Joseph Boynton and Brain on Fire, both good.

  48. ~JackieVB says:

    I’m listening to ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ now, I don’t always go for audio books but I also listened to The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns and they are beautifully done. I’ve been reading the Outlander series and enjoy those as well – they are going to be a (miniseries or regular series don’t know which) on the Starz channel sometime in early spring. Oh and the book that burst into flames was The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. Except that it didn’t burst into flames like it should have. The first three, maybe four chapters were great but it was like they had a different editor for the rest of the book. It was during a stage where I too was determined to finish a book no matter what. Those days are gone – life is too short.

  49. Janet Thomson says:

    Hi Karen
    The Woefield Poultry collective is funny, quick to read, and definately worth your time. Not The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying,,,,, just funny and light…. made me want to homestead!! I also loved The Age of Miracles. Stay warm, drink tea and READ!!

  50. marilyn says:

    reading is like breathing..i must do it every day!! the rosie project was fun! the kite runner and a thousand splendid suns were awesome..there are just way too many books out there!

  51. gogothrift@etsy.com says:

    Just finished The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat Pray Love,which I did not read)
    LOVED IT!!
    Now reading Goldfinch by Diana Tartt…..LOVING IT!!

    will try The Book Thief when I’m done, thanks for the suggestion

  52. I just finished ” a Year in Provence” by David Mayle and it was great. It’s about a British family relocating to France and all of the situations they get into while settling in. You feel like you are there with them! He has about 5 books.

  53. Tracy Wasser says:

    One book I recommend to everyone is Insane City by Dave Barry – it is hilarious!!!

  54. korrine says:

    I, too, am a bedtime reader. Even if I go out and get piss drunk I will literally read with one eye for as long as I can before I pass out. I will then re-read that portion the next night.

  55. Jodi T. says:

    I have about a gazillion books listed (somewhere) that I want to read. I’ll be adding the last three you mentioned…. Isn’t it you who recommended Water for Elephants? I think it was, and THAT is one of my most favorite books ever. Love it. I had my Mom and my Great-Grandmother read it and they loved it as much as I did.

    Thanks for the recs! I know where I’m going during lunch. 😉

  56. Robin says:

    I’m in to two series – one by Louise Penny – it’s about a chief of police in Canada and a little fictional town “Three Pines”. Wonderful – funny, suspenseful! The second series – Chet and Bernie mysteries. Very funny – narrated by Chet the dog.

    Also, loved A Thousand Splendid Suns and the Book Thief – they are both in my top five. The others in my top five are by Barbara Kingsolver – The Poisonwood Bible and Prodigal Summer.
    Oh, and also, Cutting for Stone was great!

  57. Patti says:

    I started The Book Thief but it wasn’t really doing it for me, so it’s one of those books I just walked away from. Should I go back and pick it up?

    • Karen says:

      Yup. I did the very same thing. I picked it up at … well … let’s call it a dark time in my life, lol and I just didn’t care about it. Plus the first few pages made it seem like it was going to be … I don’t know … odd. But it isn’t odd, it’s a fantastic book. Definitely try it again. ~ karen!

  58. Marilyn says:

    Lonesome Dove is my all time favorite book.
    Also enjoyed The Goldfinch. The Mountains Echoed was my least favorite of Hosseini’s books. Loved A Thousand Splendid Suns.
    So many books so little time!

  59. Cathy says:

    Hi Karen, I’m curious if you ever read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I loved it and from your list I think you would too!

  60. Mindy says:

    The Kite Runner was hands down one of my favorite books. I have the second one sitting in my room, ready for me to pounce. And then I can read the third. You know, when my three kids are in college. I’m gonna pin your other faves to my “Books I Wanna Read” Pinterest board.

  61. Stephanie says:

    I wholeheartedly endorse the philosophy of quitting a book if you’re not enjoying it. I think it’s interesting how many of us haven’t allowed ourselves to do that until well into adulthood. I’m a librarian and when I tell kids that it’s perfectly okay to stop and put a book down if you don’t like it (as long as it’s not for a school assignment) they look at me like I’m trying to set them up for something.

    Anyway, my biggest recommendation from 2013 was Tell The Wolves I’m Home. It’s pretty much perfect.
    I also second all the love for Goodreads. Sadly, my “to read” list is going to take me years to get through at this point, and I add to it almost daily. One of the perils of working surrounded by books all day. If only I could read at work…

  62. Jennifer S says:

    I read The Book Thief years and years ago and loved it so much! That author has another book that I’ve read and was really good too. I also am a fan of David Sedaris, so maybe I’ll pick up that Rakoff book, or at least add it to my list. All of my reader friends who aren’t in a writing program (like me, currently) are in love with all of Wally Lamb’s books. Will definitely be sitting down with them once I graduate!

  63. Deb Booth says:

    If you are looking for recommendations for books to put on your ‘to read’ list, I have a doozy for ya – “Wonder” by R. L. Palacio – just finished it yesterday. Classified as YA, it’s really for everyone who has a beating heart, I think. I laughed, I cried, and I loved the characters, the storyline and the different perspectives used to tell the story. if I had six thumbs, A) I would be awesome, B) I’d be categorized as deformed and C) they would ALL be up for this book. “Wonder” *is* a wonder. Wonder-filled, and wonderful. Highly, highly recommend.

  64. Laura says:

    Have you read anything by Alan Bradley? I LOVE his books, and the fact that he’s Canadian! They’re mysteries. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is his first in the Flavia series and is great. She’s an 11-year-old heroine who mixes poison on her room. LOVE her!

  65. Karen Dyck says:

    I just thought I’d weigh in with a few added suggestions, not already mentioned. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple and The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. Both are full of quirky characters and very interesting and unusual situations. The first is very humorous, the second very touching. Enjoy. Thanks for this. very interesting book discussion. I’m always trolling for ideas. I’m not happy unless I have books piling up in drifts in the corner, waiting to be read. Now the piles are digital ones, usually.

  66. Diana says:

    The Book Thief is so great, I cried a 100times. Was not able to finish the book. Hold it in my hands, turned it around…
    I know, what a lot of people think about us germans, but I`m the 2nd generation after all and both of my grandfathers and my father in law lost everything as refugees. Home, beloved ones and identity.

    I would add The Hunger Angel by Herta Mueller.

  67. SarahP says:

    Okay – my next book is The Rosie Project – too many recommendations to deny. Thanks everyone

  68. Trish says:

    I love a good murder mystery and Louise Penny is currently the author of choice. Once I start reading her b00ks set in Three Pines I’m gone….laundry, tv, dinner, sleep – everything is put on hold. I’m just waiting for the last book in the series…impatiently I might add.

  69. Mary Jane says:

    Wow, lots of good recommendations! My favourite book ever, is Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskill. I love mid 19th Century literature and read all of the Bronte , Jane Austin and Elizabeth Gaskill books every few years. Villette is a book that takes a long time to get into but by the end of it you come to appreciate the depth of it.

  70. Tanis says:

    It seems like I’m part of a small minority- I didn’t mind A Casual Vacancy. Yes, it was hard to get into, but it was like one of those movies where everyone’s life is connected and you don’t know how until the end (like Love Actually).

    Right now I’m enjoying the Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. I’ve liked all of Kate Morton’s books so far.

  71. Laura Bee says:

    Thanks for the list. Wish you’d warned me about Franzen earlier. I mostly read during my 1/2 hr lunch break & it has tken me months to get through 2/3 of The Corrections. (I took a month off to crochet for Christmas)
    Sigh…Maybe I’ll bring it home & just get it over with in a night or two.

  72. Charlotte W says:

    I have been enjoying your blog for awhile now and never felt compelled to comment, but when I read your thoughts on Casual Vacancy I had to reach out to give you a cyber high five or something of equal awesomeness because I too could not finish that book. I think I made it about as far and decided I would enjoying lying in bed staring at my ceiling more than I would enjoy reading another page of that book.

  73. stephanie says:

    Oh Canada! The Hosseni is good, but not as good as the first two….felt like he rushed to finish the ending. I’m currently 89% of the way through The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt….excellent, long but excellent!

  74. Gina S. says:

    Great list of books. Many of my favorites were on here….Let me add a few that haven’t been mentioned…among my top reads from last years’ pile…
    Dirty Love: Andre Dubus III;
    Men we Reaped:A Memoir: Jesmyn Ward;
    Eleanor and Park: Rainbow Rowell;
    Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Karen Russell;
    The Emperer of All Maladies: Siddharta Mukherjee;
    Deep in the Shade of Paradise: John Dufresne….

    and some twisted detective series: Sara Gran’s Claire Dewitt series, and John Burdett’s Sonchai Jitpleecheep series.
    Happy reading!

  75. Adel says:

    I say you have to give A Casual Vacancy another try. I lost a whole weekend to reading, and consequently being depressed after reading this book, but a good book should make you feel like you want to kill yourself, shouldn’t it?

  76. Annie says:

    Yet another reason to love a kindle – get a sample to see if you like it before you spend the money! I like to use the library too, but I’ve recently moved to BFE, and they don’t have that many books here…

  77. Janet says:

    Oh boy, I’m a bed time reader, too….if I don’t read, however tired I am, I don’t sleep….it’s the only thing that will turn my brain off long enough to relax and get into sleep mode. Ok, so I tried reading the new J.K.Rowlings book too. I struggled for at least 58 pages….kept thinking something MUST be wrong with me…..Nope, you didn’t like it either…I am SO GLAD I’M OK!!!! Thanks, Karen, whew… I live another day, knowing not every book should be on my “must read”. Just knowing how many books there are out there and so little time I have to read them all….and the amount grows by probably thousands a day….going to the library makes my headache trying to figure out which books I should choose….I listen to books on my mp3 player while I work, I listen to them in the car…. well, now you can see why I need to turn my brain off by reading, before I can sleep. So, thanks again.

  78. Kristin says:

    I read The Casual Vacancy and found it hard to get into at first, but soldiered on because it was a Christmas gift from my Harry Potter-loving daughter. I wanted to like it, and I was determined to read it. Once I got past the first several chapters, the story started to grip me. I ended up in tears, blubbering like a baby, and I definitely liked it. Not the way I loved Harry Potter, but I still found it very moving. It is nothing at all like her children’s books.

    The late David Rakoff is funny, but I wouldn’t say he was as funny as David Sedaris. He brought more poignancy and less hyperbole to his prose. I read Don’t Get Too Comfortable and liked it, but it didn’t have me embarrassing myself in public by laughing out loud on a train like Me Talk Pretty One Day.

    Oh, another book I recommend for sheer tears-running-down-your-cheeks humor is, well, most anything by Bill Bryson. Neither Here Nor There is about his travels in Europe, and is wonderful. I’m a Stranger Here Myself is about his return, after 25 years or so in England, to the U.S., and all the differences between the two cultures, which he comments on with his particular breed of wit.

    I plan to buy The Rosie Project immediately on my new Kindle.

    • TucsonPatty says:

      I’m in the minority, also, about “The Casual Vacancy” I liked it very much. It reminded me of my first Maeve Binchy book “The Lavender Bus” where each viewpoint depends upon the character speaking…you wouldn’t be amiss in trying it again. That being said, it was not my favorite of her books.
      I have been on a spurt lately, and just finished “In the Woods” by Tana French, and am looking forward to reading the next two of her books.
      I read “The Book Thief” and am now unsure if I want to see the movie – I never want to spoil my impressions of the characters as I have imagined them. I also have another recommendation – a biography. “A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World’s Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor” by Caroline Stoessinger. This amazing pianist is now 110 years old and lives by herself in London, still playing piano every day. She has the most uplifting attitude toward life and gratefulness and music.
      I have read many of your recommended books over the years, and now have another unending list of books to read. Thanks. I love your recommendations.

      • Karen says:

        No problem! (but I definitely won’t be rereading “the book” tho, lol. I never read harry potter so it’s not like I’m comparing … i just really didn’t like it. And I really wanted to.) And it turns out my sister who reads everything, all the time, non stop liked The Casual Vacancy. ~ karen!

  79. Stephbo says:

    Congratulations on getting to page 58 of Casual Vacancy. I don’t think I got past page 10. It was awful. I hated every second of time I spent trudging through it. My only concern about it bursting into flame is that I don’t want the fire spreading to my other beloved books.

  80. Kelly says:

    I have SO much to learn from you, Karen. I love to read and, coincidentally, just published the list of my next 10 books on my blog. Clearly, I should have edited the reviews down a considerable amount. As to previous all time favourites, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is up there for sure, along with My Side of The Mountain (a kids’ book but excellent), The Hunger Games and Suzanne Collins other series, which are technically kids’ books in the same way Harry Potter was, The Last Confederate Widow Tells All, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. These all stick in my mind, while others just fade away.

  81. Cred says:

    I love these posts- I don’t read nearly as much as I’d like but have been making it a priority lately. I was in need of some good suggestions= thank you.
    Let us know how you liked the Woefield Poultry Collective- I wanted to love this book but it was one that I had to put down only a few chapters in. Recently, like you, I stopped reading books right to the bitter end if I’m not enjoying them. So, I didn’t stop on a whim- I can’t recall why I didn’t like but just didn’t.

  82. Sheila says:

    Couldn’t get past the obligatory page 58 on EITHER The Book Thief OR The Casual Vacancy. Guess with JK Rowling, I was too used to her Harry Potter books. She just seemed that she wanted to get too much crotch talk in her newest book just to prove that she could write something else. The other one (Book Thief) just didn’t do anything for me. Oh well………..

  83. Gina S. says:

    Speaking of books, just nabbed 8 audiobooks for 6 bucks on http://www.humblebundle.com compatible with Mp3 players and audio capable kindles…..now if I can just figure out how to download etc…..I’m not very technical….but there are some good books in this “bundle” (Dave Eggers, Salman Rushdie, Piers Anthony…)

  84. Deb says:

    I’m halfway through “The Rosie Project” (bought it yesterday afternoon) and have laughed so hard! With the exception of a few specifics, it’s identical to my courtship and life with my Aspie! Sometimes I want to throw in the towel, as it’s exhausting to deal with him on a daily basis, but what can I say…I love him. He is who he is and can be no other way. Thanks for recommending this book, Karen! When I’m frustrated to the max with him, I’ll remember some of the scenes in this jewel of a book, and perhaps be a bit more tolerant of his very special traits. 😉

  85. Rachel says:

    I read Casual Vacancy a few weeks ago. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was very different than what the book actually is. That said, it’s still a good book. When I was describing it to my husband he said it sounded like a Coen brother’s movie, which I’d agree with. If you can push through to about 100 pages in it gets better.

  86. leslie says:

    BEST book I ever read (EVER, NO EXCEPTION!!) is written by Sandra Cisneros and called “Caramelo”. If I could write like her, I don’t think I would ever need to do anything else.

    Please read it!!!

  87. Janet says:

    I, too, love to read at night. My husband says I read way too much and don’t exercise enough, however, one of my favorite reads is…….The Art of Doing Stuff! Thanks Karen for all you do for so many, funny quips, entertainment, drama, wildlife, history, cooking, learning…you write about them all, what a great author.

  88. Karen, I read every night too. I am an avid reader and sometimes read 2-3 books a week. I am in 2 book clubs and I must tell you that one of my favorite books last year was a “young adult” book called The Fault in our Stars but John Greene. I never re-read a book but the writing was so witty and tight that I want to re-read this one. I also loved The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Me before you, and the Girl you Left Behind. Well, I could go on and on but I’ll stop there.

    Thanks for the suggestions….as you can imagine, I run out of things to read. That is why your lil holiday blog break ticked me off. I need to read. Ha!

  89. Pam'a says:

    Thanks for these book chats, Karen.

    I took you up on Lonesome Dove– It took a little while to get the movie out of my head, but LOVED IT (Fun fact– I grew up fairly near Ogallala, NE). Now the husband has it queued up.

    I also read The Book of Negroes, and was amazed that I’d never even *heard* of it… Fascinating (especially since it was written in a woman’s voice by a man), and another winner.

    How does anybody go to sleep without reading? 😉

  90. Dawn says:

    I skipped reading The Casual Vacancy on the principle that the subject sounded depressing and a bit naff. JK’s latest book on the other hand (Cuckoo’s Calling ‘by Robert Galbraith’), was great. So I recommend reading that one instead!

    Oh, and if you haven’t read it yet, everybody should read ‘The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of a Window and Disappeared’ by Jonas Jonasson. It’s utterly random, and very good.

  91. Trish Gannon says:

    Bedtime reading, eating breakfast reading, taking a bath reading, walking out to feed the chickens reading… all are great!

    The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (last time you talked books you hadn’t read it yet)
    An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears
    The Eight by Katherine Neville
    The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber
    The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt

  92. Jackie MacRae says:

    I just barely reached my goal of 52 books last year, and have a huge (200+) list saved on the library site waiting for me, but if you’re looking for inspiration, you should all check out this website-

  93. Karen says:

    Franzen’s books are really horrible no matter who trumpets their glories. The one book that took me years to read was The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, by Benjamin Franklin. I wanted to read that thing so BAD. I would get it every few years and start reading and soon become almost catatonic. I did that for about 15 years and then found it on cassette tape in our library. Bingo! It really was good, and I started listening to more books. I loved Gerald Durrell reading with his great accent and his hilarious style. I would always try and get a book the author read him/herself. Thanks for all the suggestions. I have a new list, now.

  94. andrea meyers says:

    A Thousand Splendid Suns was one of my all time faves. You’re going to love the new one too. I just met the author at a signing, good times!

  95. Gail says:

    Book Thief is the best- AND- the movie portrays the novel beautifully. We read it for our Lakewood Library Knit and Lit Club! Wonderful!!!!! 5 *******’s.

  96. Marilyn says:

    I just finished Sue Monk Kidd’s new book, The Invention of Wings. It is wonderful!

  97. Regina says:

    My taste in books is very simple: mystery and laugh. I finish Janet Evanovich’s Take Down Twenty and I must say it was one of her better ones yet! Lula is obsessed with a giraffe she names Kevin. I laughed out loud many many times! I just started a series The Body Movers by Stephanie Bond. Not Janet, but I got sucked in and am on book three now. I will try to expand my horizons and try some of the suggestions here. Happy Reading!

  98. Jebber Jay says:

    I’m reading “Hyperbole and a Half” by Allie Brosh. It’s a super easy read (i.e. mix of illustrations and text) that will keep you entertained from cover to cover. She shares her crazy life with us through annedotes, written with a perfectly captivating mix of self-ridicule and honesty about how her mind churns its way through life. I think of it as a self-help comedy book. :o)

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