3 Great Books Featuring The Circus.

My 3 favourite books about the circus.  Plain and simple.

Geek Love created quite a frenzy when I featured it in post on how to stack books a couple of weeks ago.  Those who choose to read this book love it.  Those who have it pushed upon them, usually don’t.  Geek Love is an incredibly dark, disturbing book.  I’m not going to tell you anything about it other than the fact that if you do not like deeply disturbing and strange subject matter, this book is not for you.  If that sort of thing intrigues you, then by all means read it.  I read it and loved it.  When I described the book to one of my sisters, she was horrified and said something had to be wrong with you if you liked that kind of book.  Well said. And probably true.

Moving on ….  Not all books about circus people are as graphic or strange as Geek Love.  Case in point … Water for Elephants.   This book has dark moments, but there is a beauty to it. It’s a moving story that almost anyone can enjoy.

If you’re lucky you’ll still be able to get a copy that doesn’t feature Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon on the cover.  The book was recently made into a movie starring these two.   It  comes out later this year.

For some reason I can’t stand it when publishers put movie stars on the cover of their books.  It cheapens the book.  I do not like it.  At all.  Blech.   Seriously.  Which cover draws you in more?

My final pick in the list of my favourite circus based books is The Final Confession of Mable Stark.

The book revolves around the 5′ tall tiger trainer Mable Stark who worked for the Ringling Brother’s circus in the early 1900’s.  The story takes you through at least a dozen tiger maulings, 5 husbands and countless mishaps.

The most exciting part of the whole book?  Mable Stark isn’t a fictional character.  She was a real person.  And an incredible one at that.  This is the unbelievable story of her life written in fiction form.

It’s entirely possible that none of these books will appeal to you.  Which is fine.  Because if you don’t wanna read em, you can always just stack em.



  1. Beth says:

    Thank you, thank you! I’ve been looking for an “off-the-beaten-path” sort of book, and Geek Love most definitely fits the bill. I would love any other weird book suggestions!!

  2. Jodi Trevino says:

    I just finished Water for Elephants, and declared, as soon as it was finished, that it was one of the BEST books I had ever read. No lie. Loved It. Made my Mother and Great Grandmother read it too. I plan to get it back and save it for a rainy day to re-read, for sure. As for Geek Love… I’m a little scared… I do enjoy Stephen King-ish stuff, but you made this sound like something that might give me nightmares. Haha — However, I’ll be putting both of these down on my “to read” list. Thanks for the suggestions!! P.S. I just found your site thanks to The Homies. You are so funny and a great writer. I’ve started reading from as far back as I can go and working my forward :) Keep up the good work!! Nothing better than a blog that teaches me “stuff” and gives me a chuckle.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Jodi! If you go to the bottom of the page and hit “Archives” you can go month by month from the very beginning! ~ karen

  3. Martie says:

    Hello Karen,
    This is my first visit to your website. Totally groovy! I will probably be lost in it for the afternoon.
    I read Geek Love a REALLY long time ago. Thanks to you I will be yanking it off the bookshelf and re-reading it. I remember it so well. I loved it and I’m excited.
    Oh, I’m going to make a Goodwill run this weekend and will be making Orb I & Orb II. Who wants to wind up the stupid xmas lights anyway? Lucky for me, I have always used just white lights and that is the look I would want cor this project.
    All the best,
    Martie ~ your newest fan from S.W. Washington (the State)

  4. GiniGL says:

    Hi Karen – I’m late to the Geek Love party, but wanted you to know that you were already my go-to blog in the morning, but now you just might be the ONLY blog I read in the morning. GEEK LOVE? On a BLOG? Right in front of god and everyone? LOVE YOU! LOVE IT! One of my all time favorite books that I’m afraid to share with anyone. ‘cept now, you. P.S. I am breathlessly awaiting chicken coop pics cause we’ve decided to go for it and I’m dying to see what you did.

    Your Seattle fan,


  5. Jessie-Lee says:

    Hey Karen! So a bit off topic but, have you even seen the HBO series Carnivale? That show takes the words circus and weird to a new level. It’s not a book, but it is highly enjoyable!

    • Karen says:

      Jessie-Lee – I’ve seen tiny little bits and pieces, but never watched the whole series. I’ve had a few people mention it to me so I’ll probably give it a shot. It goes on my “to watch” list along with Deadwood, Mad Men (only watched the first season) and the remainder of Little Britain. Thx.! ~ karen

  6. Paula says:

    My daughter told me about your blog and I’m so glad she did! I really enjoy it. Read Water For Elephants for my wine drinking oops I mean bookclub. I have a distant relative that was a somewhat famous lion tamer(had his own circus and was in early movies) so I’m drawn to books about the circus. I will be picking up Geek Love and Mabel. Thanks for adding laughs to my days.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Paula! Thanks to your daughter! I’m so glad I’ve created something both a mother & daughter can appreciate! It’s probably because I have discovered the perfect balance of swearing and not swearing. :) ~ karen!

  7. Erin says:

    Geek Love probably doesnt sound appealing to me but I am going to have to read up on it. The other too sound like something I might enjoy and will have to check out. The new Water for Elephants cover looks like a movie I might be interested in seeing but not a book I would be interested in reading. The Old cover however looks appealing to me.

    • Karen says:

      Erin – LOL. That last sentence you wrote was the most confusing sentence I’ve ever read that made absolute, perfect sense! ~ karen

  8. Kate says:

    On the theme of circus books, I have to recommend Wonder When You’ll Miss Me by Amanda Davis. By far one of my favorite books ever — written from the perspective of an adolescent girl literally haunted by her past. After she’s driven to violence, she has to escape to, where else, the circus. I know it sounds like a real downer, but it’s so well-written and the protagonist is one of the best young female characters I’ve read, ever.

  9. Tricia Rose says:

    Well, I’m going to get two of these – no prizes for guessing the odd geek out.

    Have you read Robin Davidson’s book Tracks, about taking camels cross the Outback? A good winter read, especially in Canada…
    One of my all-time greats, up there with A Time of Gifts, Patrick Leigh Fermor.

  10. Theresa says:

    oh mabel sounds very interesting – am tempted by geek love – thinking it over- I don’t belive I’ve ever read a circus book? though the Bones episode set at a circus is a fav and My friend glen heroy was a clown wth Big Apple – my favorite circus( see the docu on PBS) – So I guess I’m in- its off to the circus via mabel first I think.
    thanks having such great mix on your blog.

    • Karen says:

      Theresa – Thanks! I think, if I were to read one of these first to get a taste for Circus books, I’d probably pick Water for Elephants first. But that’s just me. :) ~ karen

  11. deborahinps says:

    An all time favorite of ours. Highly recommend it if only for having read a book you will NEVER forget.
    Yes, it’s dark, but I triple dog dare anyone who starts to read it put it down. You won’t.

  12. Chau says:

    Loved “Water for Elephant”. The book cover in the US looks different than your example. I don’t care for the movie-star cover much. I tend to get excited when my favorite books get made to the movies but often disappointed after seeing them. Most movies don’t convey the books well.

  13. Stacey says:

    Oh I’m so with you in regard to movie-tie-in book covers. hate hate hate ’em! My copy of Water for Elephants looks like this: http://www.shelfari.com/books/10021/Water-for-Elephants

    Never heard of the Mabel Stark book, but will have to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!

  14. Lu says:

    I’m reading Water For Elephants right now with an appropriate cover, sans RPattz. I can’t say that I’m not a little disappointed by that though… It is a great book! I love it so far. And yes, I’ll be picking up Geek Love. Color me curious about it now.

  15. Oona says:

    I despise it when publishers put movie stars on the books but mainly because that means lots of other people liked it and will now buy it. I like liking books no one else does. Like True Blood for instance; I’ve been reading her books since she started and I hate that everybody else likes it now. I mean, I went through four years of absolute hell (also known as H.S.) because I liked “weird stuff” and now all that stuff is being made into movies and t.v. shows and is mainstream. Makes me want to punch a preppy kid.

  16. mbb. says:

    loved loved loved water for elephants – will have to look out for the other two…thanks for the suggestions.

  17. Leah says:

    LOVE circus stories! Probably because I was in a circus when I was a kid and always wished I could have grown up to be a trapeze artist or something.

    I need to read Geek Love. Been meaning to for years.

    Oh and congrats on your feature on Design*Sponge!

  18. Kelly says:

    Just knew when I saw your title on circus books that Water for Elephants would be there. Great book. The author, Sara Gruen, now lives in the States but she is also Canadian. Her two previous books, Riding Lessons and Flying Changes, have a strong horsey theme and are well done. She has a new one called Ape House that I can’t wait to read and I am definitely adding the Mabel Stark book to my list. Nothing better than true stories by Canadian authors about strong women.

  19. Sherry (BTLover2) says:

    Oh, and FYI… The book The Final Confession of Mable Stark is on sale at Amazon for $2.87!

  20. Sherry (BTLover2) says:

    Loved Water for Elephants! I was captivated by the circus life and the story itself. Although I’m terrified of clowns I’m going to read those others you suggest. Thanks for the suggestions!

  21. Haven’t read the other two but LOVED Water For Elephants…..couldn’t put it down. Regarding the book covers, if given the choice I will always choose the book that bares the original cover…can’t stand the movie star thing either…way too cheesey. Just my two cents for the day..

  22. Carol-Anne says:

    I really enjoyed Water for Elephants and so did all the people I loaned it to. I should be receiving my copy of Geek Love in the mail anyday now. I went on a mad search for a hardcover in ‘great condition’ (I’m particular about my things) after your bookcase posting. Now if I could only find that steel table from the same posting!!

  23. marilyn says:

    loved, loved, loved water for elephants. i am quite sure the movie will not do it justice, movies are never as good as your own imagination but we will see..

  24. Jamieson says:

    Mabel Stark is my all-time favourite book. I always have a couple of extra copies on standby to give to people.
    For awhile there Kate Winslet was rumoured to portray her in the movie but nothing developed after she and her director hubby split. Another FunFact: the author is Canadian.
    PS: I stumbled upon this book at a BookTelevision office cleanup day and picked it because the cover looked interesting. Proving once again that sometimes you CAN judge a book by its cover!

  25. Candy says:

    Just added Geek Love to my Amazon Wishlist. You managed to sell it to me without really mentioning anything about it! Skills!

    I loved the Mabel Stark book. I read it a few years ago and I heard that it was also getting turned into a movie.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Seed Starting Calculator

  • About Karen