Our Personalized Quarantine Book Recommendations, Round 3

More Stay-at-Home Reading Suggestions, From Us to You

Two weeks ago, we put out a call asking that those of you who need something good to read in this trying, frightening time, might send us a few of your favorite books (and other things) so we could recommend a good book for you to read. And turns out quite a lot of you are looking for something new to read! We got hundreds of requests, from everywhere from Belgium to Rome to Cape Town to Ireland to Tasmania to Singapore. So firstly: thank you. We are all reading together in solidarity!

You can find our first round of 50 answers, pulled from email, Facebook, and Twitter, here. Our second round is here. Our third round is below. While we (still) haven’t been able to get to every request, we’re hoping that these recommendations might be useful to more than just the readers who sent them in, which is why we are publishing them as a column here. Read on, everyone.

Athina D. loves:

Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men
John Williams, Stoner
Colm Tóibín, Nora Webster

Lit Hub recommends:

Dear Athina, All the King’s Men was one of my starter drugs as a reader—I can’t bear to go back to it to see if it’s still as good. I love these other books you’ve selected for their sobreity and dignity. Have you read Evan S. Connell’s 1959 novel, Mrs. Bridge? Like Williams, Connell understands how life’s accumulation is not of happiness but a kind of growing sense of disquiet. It’s also just exquisitely written—it’s like a miniature symphony. Meantime, I think one of the best moral thrillers I’ve read in recent years in Aminatta Forna’s The Memory of Love, which is set during the Civil War of Sierra Leone, and it involves political and emotional decisions that echo off each other. Like Tóibín, she has a masterful grasp of how to write into a character as if she, the author, were simply pure storytelling intelligence. Finally, I could simply direct you to any number of Colm Tóibín novels, you really cannot go wrong with him—but I wonder if you’ve read Elizabeth Strout’s fiction, especially Olive Kitteridge, which is a composite portrait of its heroine, told in a series of stories which are funny and perfect and heartbreaking.  –John Freeman, Executive Editor

after the tall timber

Liz C. loves:

T Kira Madden, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls
Myriam Gurba, Mean
Emilie Pine, Notes to Self

Lit Hub recommends: I see you’re a fan of hip, sharp, voicey nonfiction by women—same here. It seems like you probably have the up-to-the-minute contemporary slate of writers in this category well in hand, so let’s go backwards a little—have you read Renata Adler’s essays, recently collected in After the Tall Timber? She’s the queen of hip, sharp, and voicey in old New York.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

Annie Proulx, Barkskins

Shelly K. loves:

Richard Powers, The Overstory
Téa Obreht, Inland
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Water Dancer

Lit Hub recommends: 

Two fantastical works of historical fiction set in 19th Century America and a Pulitzer Prize-winning meditation on the natural world? You might be the right person to tackle Barkskins, Annie Proulx’s 2016 multi-generational epic. It’s a Dickensian story, spanning 300 years, of the descendants of two immigrant woodcutters in the Canadian wilderness. A time and focus commitment no question, but hey, all we have is time now.  –Dan Sheehan, Book Marks editor

Cadel F. loves:

Edward St Aubyn, The Patrick Melrose series
Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo

Something of a beautifully written deep character study over a period of societal change, and don’t be afraid to make it surrealist if possible.

Lit Hub recommends:

If you haven’t read it, I think you’d enjoy Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, his subtle, gorgeous Booker Prize-winning novel about an English butler in the late 50s looking back on his years of service. If it’s surrealism you’re looking for, I think you’d enjoy Álvaro Enrigue’s Sudden Death—though don’t go to it looking for a deep character study. It’s more like a historical patchwork with a meta-narrative bent. Extremely cool, though.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

my life in middlemarch

Sara L. loves:

George Eliot, Middlemarch
Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth
Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch

Lit Hub recommends:

There are few people I get to recommend My Life in Middlemarch to, but you are one of them!! The New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead, like you, loves Middlemarch and in this book, she explores the way it’s shaped her life and the way she tells her own story. It’s memoir and literary criticism rolled into one. It reads like a compelling portrait of a writer’s life and feels like a conversation you’re having about George Eliot’s classic. Enjoy your second stay in Middlemarch!  –Katie Yee, Book Marks Assistant Editor

Tom McCarthy, Remainder

Irina M. loves:

W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz
Yasunari Kawabata, The Sound of the Mountain
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot

Lit Hub recommends: 

Do you have concerns about your mortality? Perhaps a feeling of existential imbalance? Me too, friend. Tom McCarthy’s Remainder will not soothe you, but I suspect you’ll like it anyway.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

a better angel

Claire C. loves:

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Jhumpa Lahiri, The Interpreter of Maladies
Julia Phillips, Disappearing Earth

Lit Hub recommends: 

Because I’m just so glad you listed a short story collection among your favorites, I’m going to go out on a limb and recommend Chris Adrian’s A Better Angel, a brilliant and deeply weird collection. If I stretched, I could make a connection between it and Disappearing Earth, in that both have an inflection of tragedy (in the case of Adrian’s collection, each story has a different flavor of calamity), but the truth is that I think you’ll like A Better Angel because it’s wonderful (and you clearly have good taste).  –Jessie Gaynor, Social Media Editor

Kathy H. loves:

Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose
Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex
Donna Tartt, The Secret History

Lit Hub recommends:

I see you’re a fan of big, satisfying literary novels—maybe with a bit of history attached, maybe multigenerational, definitely with something unique to separate them from the rest of the herd, definitely populated by unforgettable characters. Another book in this category is Min Jin Lee’s wonderful Pachinko, which begins in 1920s Korea (when Sunja gets pregnant out of wedlock) but spans four generations of one family living far from home.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

Andre P. loves:

Ottessa Moshfegh, My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Ann Patchett, The Dutch House
Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy
Anything by Deborah Levy

Lit Hub recommends:

I would describe the narrators of most of the above books as solitary ones. Even when they are around crowds, they seem somehow by themselves, within themselves, as they discern the world, accept the world, or turn away from it. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson is what I will recommend to you: it is solitary too, but in a sweet way, in a way that makes it seem as though there isn’t all that much to need that you can’t create for yourself. In fact, this book is perfect for quarantine: it takes place on an island in the summer, about a six-year-old girl and her aging grandmother. They are together, but embarking on their own understanding of what life will mean: the girl is just beginning her life, the grandmother is accepting the end. What’s created in this book is a complete world, through their conversations and games and squabbles and adventures. Days turn to weeks; they watch the seasons change around them.  They’re all each other has, that and the island itself, and for them, it’s enough.  –Julia Hass, Editorial Fellow

Autobiography of Red Anne Carson

Rachel B. loves:

Maggie Nelson, Bluets
Eula Biss, The Balloonists
Carmen María Machado, In the Dream House
Björk
the smell of fresh bread
dog video compilations on YouTube

I am so thankful for your content right now and your daily news to keep up with the literary world. In a bit of a tough spot—my library is closed and so is the local bookstore. Could you recommend something I might be able to access online?

Lit Hub recommends:

A human after my own heart! I can’t even begin to tell you how much I talked about In the Dream House when I finished reading it. (And, honestly, how much I continue to talk about it.) Based on your impeccable taste, I think you will enjoy Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, a beautiful novel in verse that’s also a retelling of a Greek myth in which a boy-monster bares his volcanic soul. It looks like it’s miraculously available here? But I also want to take this opportunity to spread the good word about Bookshop, the new, cool way to order books online (boo you, Amazon) while also supporting independent bookstores. Since you like dog video compilations, I also wanted to share this video compilation of the first 365 days of a corgi’s life. (The video is only 1 hour and 44 minutes long, and I’ve only seen it, like, three or four times.) His name is Gatsby, so this is Literary Content!  –Katie Yee, Book Marks Assistant Editor

flamethrowers kushner

Mai S. loves:

The Beatles
Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
How literary or art movements begin

Lit Hub recommends:

How about Rachel Kushner’s excellent 2013 novel The Flamethrowers? Set in the Futurist art scene of New York City and the protest movement in Italy in the late 70s, it should satisfy your desire for that feeling of watching a seed begin to grow. It’s also absolutely brilliant writing, in my opinion, which doesn’t hurt at all.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

Karen G. loves:

Sheri Holman, The Dress Lodger
New York
Erik Larson, Devil In the White City

Lit Hub recommends:

Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy was written just for you. It starts with a mystery writer who gets caught up in a case. The first part recounts some sleuthing through the streets of New York City. The case starts to fold in on itself in the second and third parts of the book in a way that feels like eerie experimental fiction but reads like a thriller you can’t put down. I swear: every time someone I know has read this book in New York, they’ve said they’ve found themselves sitting in the exact spot the characters cross at some point. If you happen to be in the city, look over your shoulder and make sure Paul Auster isn’t stalking you, too! (Or if he is, that he’s doing it from a safe, respectful distance of six feet away.)  –Katie Yee, Book Marks Assistant Editor

richard mason history of a pleasure seeker

Andrea B. loves:

Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy
Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Lit Hub recommends:

I think you’d get a kick out of Richard Mason’s History of a Pleasure Seeker, a modern, romantic (and um, sexy) coming of age story set at the height of Europe’s Belle Epoque. It’s a little lighter and more irreverent than your current favorites, but I think that will make you appreciate it all the more, especially these days, when we all need a little extra entertainment.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

east of eden

Rollee J. loves:

Donna Tartt, The Secret History
Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Lit Hub recommends:

I’m going to recommend to you a title that I hope doesn’t offend in its seeming basic-ness: East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Yes, we all read this junior year of high school, and recommending classics we read when we were 15 may not be the sexiest suggestion in the world, but I have to say that I re-read it for the first time in ten years recently and it threatened to become my entire personality. I doubted that I would be able to read another book again for the rest of my life that could hope to measure up to this epic. (Spoiler: I have been able to read other books, but! They have not measured up!) Even if you’ve read it before, I stand by saying you should pick it up again. It seems you like length, and layered sagas that have an air of a mythic nature to them, and novels that take on the most difficult questions of humanness, about greatness, about the choices we make that form our character. If I hadn’t been for my recent re-read I would be diving into it now; even that might not stop me.  –Julia Hass, Editorial Fellow

Sean W. loves:

Lisa Ko, The Leavers
Alexander Chee, Edinburgh

Lit Hub recommends:

You might be interested in Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, for the beautiful language, the heartbreaking story of sacrifice that comes alongside assimilation into a new culture, and the complicated relationship to one’s mother. (For something a little more sinister, I would also recommend the forthcoming Lake Like a Mirror, by Sok Fong Ho, which tells nine stories of women in strange and disturbing circumstances in Malaysia and Taiwan.)  –Katie Yee, Book Marks Assistant Editor

millhauser dangerous laughter

Siobhan M. loves:

George Saunders, Tenth of December
Elizabeth Strout, Olive, Again
Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Lit Hub recommends:

You need to read Stephen Millhauser—really I think you’d enjoy any of his short story collections, but I’ll direct you towards my favorite, Dangerous Laughter. He’s woefully underread in America but if you fused George Saunders and Elizabeth Strout, this is pretty much what you’d get: small town surrealism. To the Lighthouse doesn’t really apply, except to say that Woolf lives on my own personal top 5 list of favorite writers, and so does Millhauser. Coincidence? There are no coincidences in Literary Hub.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

An American Marriage - Tayari Jones

Anne-Marie S. loves:

Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being
Nicole Krauss, The History of Love
Richard Powers, The Time of Our Singing

Lit Hub recommends:

If you love solid literary romances and family stories, I think you should try Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage, a quietly devastating portrait of a marriage torn apart by the US prison system, told from every angle. Don’t be turned off by the fact that it was an Oprah pick! It’s beautifully written and cuts to the core.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

Logan F. loves:

Don DeLillo, Underworld
Mark Danielewski, House of Leaves
Truman Capote, In Cold Blood

Lit Hub recommends:

Wow. Those are three dark, totemic masterpieces you’ve selected for us, Logan. This recommendation might seem a little out of left field, but might I suggest Victor LaValle’s 2017 hybrid work of horror/fantasy/social realism, The Changeling? It’s a terrifying contemporary New York fairy tale about a bookseller who, in the wake of terrible and inexplicable personal tragedy, embarks on a quest through the otherworldly underbelly of Gotham.  –Dan Sheehan, Book Marks editor

Pamela Erens, The Virgins

Caroline A. loves:

Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood
Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides
Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Lit Hub recommends:

Oh man, you need to read The Virgins, by Pamela Erens, and not just because of the one to one word association.  It’s a very sexy prep school novel that both tells a love story and interrogates our understanding of it, from both without and within. More importantly, it is fully delicious in every way.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

David K. loves:

Christos Tsiolkas, The Slap
Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad
Philip Roth, American Pastoral

Lit Hub recommends:

Worlds turned upside down in the wake of single, seismic acts of violence. Explorations of the hollow myths upon which contemporary America is built, and lengths people will go to in order to dismantle or perpetuate them. You should check out Kathleen Alcott’s America Was Hard to Find—a reimagining of the Cold War era through the eyes of an astronaut, an activist, and their damaged son—which I consider to be one of the Great American Novels of recent years.  –Dan Sheehan, Book Marks editor

Miranda Popkey, Topics of Conversation

Kendall T. loves:

Sally Rooney, Normal People
Marcy Dermansky, Bad Marie
Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series

Lit Hub recommends:

For more up-to-the moment literature about fascinating, imperfect women, I’d recommend Miranda Popkey, Topics of Conversation or Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen. Though Topics of Conversation is more of a diffuse, philosophical take, and Eileen basically a thriller, both sucked me in completely—which is just what you want when there’s a pandemic outside.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

TheHotelNewHampshire

Alex S. loves:

Ted Chiang, Exhalation
Romain Gary, Michael Cunningham
A sophisticated (complex) and emotional family saga

Lit Hub recommends:

If you’re on the hunt for a complex and emotional family saga, you must check out John Irving’s 1981 coming-of-age novel The Hotel New Hampshire, a book which has been very dear to my heart for almost twenty years now. Tragic, funny, harrowing, outlandish, and often quite devastating, it’s the story of the eccentric Berry family and the trials and tragedies through which they persevere over the course of three decades.  –Dan Sheehan, Book Marks editor

cassandra at the wedding

Melda E. loves:

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Naomi Alderman, The Power
Sally Rooney, Conversations with Friends

Lit Hub recommends:

For you, I’ll recommend my favorite book that I read in the last year: Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker, an NYRB reissue. Written in 1962, it’s the story of Cassandra, a queer college student, as she returns home to attend her identical twin-sister’s wedding. It captures the Bell Jar-esque ennui and heartbreak of being a woman alone, of wanting something badly, and barely knowing what it is that she wants. It also, dare I say, rivals Sally Rooney’s masterful dialogue: Cassandra and her twin have an equivalent rapport to Frances and Bobby’s, in that it feels as though their method of conversation is something they invented. Most of us would be lucky to experience conversations like these in our own lives: a created language between people who would die for each other, who choose to live for each other.  –Julia Hass, Editorial Fellow

what belongs to you garth greenwell

Nikhil W. loves:

Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones
Akwaeke Emezi, Freshwater
Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

Lit Hub recommends:

You, my friend, lover of gorgeous writing and high-stakes emotional landscapes, should be reading Garth Greenwell. I’d say start with What Belongs to You and then move straight on to his latest, Cleanness. Greenwell is one of the best prose stylists working today, so there’s really no reason to choose between his books. Both are incredible: lovely and elegant and sexy and heartbreaking and weirdly generous towards anyone who has ever doubted themselves or wondered what they were even for.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

James D. loves:

Stephen King, the Dark Tower series
Rick Riordan, the Percy Jackson series
Rick Riordan, the Kane Chronicles

Lit Hub recommends:

Looking for another engrossing series to transport you out of this timeline? I feel you, James. You might like Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, starting with The Final Empire—there’s magic, political intrigue, and plenty of action. At the very least, you won’t be bored.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

the english patient

Maria P. loves:

Books where women are historians/professors and they also are very successful in many other ways, sometimes including romance
Books with mysteries that are intricate and branchy but all tie together at the end
Books where people represent countries during a global crisis and there’s poetry and also sometimes romance, but it’s usually not the main plot, because the countries they represent are at war and that’s much more pressing

Lit Hub recommends:

Lots going on here. A. S. Byatt’s Possession and Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient instantly spring to mind. Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, too. Or maybe the Robert Galbraith mysteries—if you resist because you know that Galbraith is actually J. K. Rowling, rest assured that they read somewhat like the love child of Kate Atkinson and Tana French. That is, they’re good.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

a study in charlotte

Pearl S. loves:

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Elizabeth Wein, Code Name Verity
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

I’ve been in the mood for some strong heroines (maybe with some love thrown in).

Lit Hub recommends:

My very favorite tough, back-talking YA heroine is Brittany Cavallaro’s Charlotte Holmes—start with A Study in Charlotte and work your way through the series. If you’re craving more 19th century, you might also like Mackenzi Lee’s Montague books—particularly the second one, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, which focuses on Felicity. Or try Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree, which has literary bona fides and a great female protagonist and a juicy mystery.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

jemisin fifth season

Kate D. loves:

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams
I also like Tolkien, but want fantasy that features female characters.

Lit Hub recommends:

This may be remedial for you if you’re a big fantasy fan, but um, have you read N. K. Jemisin? I’m obsessed with her Broken Earth trilogy, and can also recommend pretty much everything else she’s ever written too. And what about Garth Nix’s Sabriel? A classic.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

Iris Owens, After Claude

Meredith T. loves:

Ottessa Moshfegh, My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Alexandra Kleeman, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine
Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies

I’ve been reading lots of what I call “cool girl fiction”—contemporary, voice-driven books with alienated protagonists—but I’ve read most of the big ones! Help. 🙂

Lit Hub recommends: 

If you’re already up on all the latest books in this emerging (fully emerged?) genre—Hilary Leichter’s Temporary, Halle Butler’s The New Me, Catherine Lacey’s The Answers, Jessi Jezewka Stevens’ The Exhibition of Persephone Q, etc.—but want more, I suggest you dig into the archives and try Iris Owens’ After Claude, originally published in 1973 and reissued by NYRB in 2010. It fits right in with all the books you love, and includes gems like “I gathered from Claude’s tone that I had committed a crime, but the only offense I could think of was that of retaining my sanity throughout the endless dirge” and “I forgive myself for not instantly despising him, because one: it’s not my style to pass hasty judgements on people, and two: it was my luck to meet him under circumstances that made anyone not holding a knife to my throat look appealing.” Relatable!  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

the third hotel

Omar W. loves:

Kazuo Ishiguro, The Unconsoled
Haruki Murakami, The Wind Up Bird Chronicle
Patrick Modiano, In The Cafe of Lost Youth

Lit Hub recommends:

I like your style, Omar. Usually I’m in the position of recommending international authors based on American tastes, but going in reverse here, I suspect you would like the fiction of Laura van den Berg, especially her novel, The Third Hotel. Or maybe consider A. Igoni Barrett’s Blackass, a modern take on Kafka from one of Nigeria’s most talented novelists. Finally, have you read Juan Gabriel Vásquez? If you’re into Modiano, I think The Sound of Things Falling might be another one for you.  –Dwyer Murphy, CrimeReads Managing Editor

Amie S. loves:

Maria Semple, Where Did You Go, Bernadette
I love quirky characters and travel
My favorite director is Wes Anderson

Lit Hub recommends:

It’s common knowledge that Kevin Wilson is the Wes Anderson of books, and while his latest, Nothing to See Here, is wonderful, I think you’d particularly love his very quirky 2011 debut, The Family Fang, in which the adult children of two famous (and recently missing) performance artists (who more or less used them as props when they were kids) try to hunt them down. It’s a ride.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

Nina Revoyr, A Student of History

J. W. loves:

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
James Ellroy, My Dark Places

Lit Hub recommends:

I like how you went from those classics and then took a dark left turn to Ellroy’s memoir; I didn’t see that coming. Imagine A Moveable Feast with a noir bend and you have the work of French Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano, so there’s one place to go. Also, Nina Revoyr’s excellent recent novel, A Student of History, had strong Gatsby-meets-Sunset Boulevard atmospherics, so I think you’d enjoy it. Consider the novels of Lawrence Osborne, too. He has that pitch darkness of Ellroy, but with a controlled, disciplined, graceful style of writing that might appeal to you.  –Dwyer Murphy, CrimeReads Managing Editor

Jane H. loves:

Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex
Salman Rushdie
Don DeLillo, Underworld
Birdman

Lit Hub recommends:

Instead of doing the obvious thing and choosing yet another a large, structurally complex, magical realism-tinged novel for you, I’m going to prescribe three very short ones: Donald Antrim’s Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, The Hundred Brothers, and The Verificationist, to be read in that order. They are weird and subversive and surrealist and truly exceptional and I think you’re going to love them. (And if you want to know, it was the inclusion of Birdman that really made me think these books were going to work for you—take that however you may.)  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

Jo Ann Beard The Boys of My Youth

Cara R. loves:

Lily King, Writers & Lovers
Miriam Toews, All My Puny Sorrows
Zadie Smith, On Beauty

Lit Hub recommends:

I remember when I read On Beauty for the first time; it was immediately after reading The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, and I was in dire need of a book to help me regain some faith in humanity, or at least to not feel quite so desolate as Franzen had left me. On Beauty did just that: it warmed me. My recommendation for you, Jo Ann Beard’s memoir, The Boys of My Youth, continues in this vein of warmth. It’s sweet and funny and about being young and being in love, and is one of the most graceful and honor-filled portrayals of friendship that I’ve read. Jo Ann Beard has written two books, which makes me both respect her for writing only what she wants, and so mad at her for not giving me more to devour.

True History of the Kelly Gang

Dennis B. loves:

John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany
James Carlos Blake, The Friends of Pancho Villa
Caleb Carr, The Alienist

Lit Hub recommends:

How about trying Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang, a wild epic somewhere between a western, a crime saga, and alternative history, all told with a noir heart? And if you liked The Alienist, you might be into Jess Kidd’s Things in Jars, another Victorian era mystery about the underbelly of the medical world, this one set in London, with some strong gothic undertones.  –Molly Odintz, CrimeReads Senior Editor

Tim K. loves:

Richard Powers, The Overstory
David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
Kate Atkinson, Life after Life
Nathan Hill, The Nix
Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall & Bringing Up the Bodies
Namwali Serpell, The Old Drift

I normally gravitate to big, sweeping, vividly told novels, but am up for anything that has a strong narrative and compelling characters. Not a big fan of the recent wave of interior-focused, stream-of-consciousness novels told in fragmented form, though I respect the artistry. 

Lit Hub recommends:

What about Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries? It’s definitely big and sweeping, with lots of oddball characters and a driving mystery. You have to tolerate gritty, detailed historical fiction, though it seems (since you’re a Mantel and Jacob de Zoet fan) that you do—similar to those novels, and most of those on your list, this one is a little hard to access at first, but will richly reward your patient attention.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

Maria D. loves:

Graham Greene
Thomas Hardy
Jane Austen

Lit Hub recommends:

Honestly, Maria, my first instinct is to suggest you dive right back into that excellent trio; there’s no exhausting Austen / Hardy / Greene, is there? But, if you want to move to something new, let’s see, somewhere in the overlap between Greene and Hardy lies the elusive, introspective, witty novels of Javier Marías. Start with A Heart So White and if the rhythms work for you, give The Infatuations a shot next. For the Austen part of your soul, how about a modern epic of big ideas and big emotions, something like Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage–Dwyer Murphy, CrimeReads Managing Editor

Catherine O. loves:

Jean-Philippe Blondel, The 6:41 to Paris
Milena Busquets, This Too Shall Pass: A Novel
Idra Novey, Ways to Disappear

Lit Hub recommends:

Great choices, Catherine. From Ways to Disappear I’m going to recommend you check out the novels of Rubem Fonseca, Brazil’s postmodern literary crime master. Maybe start with Crimes of August, or with Vast Emotions and Imperfect Thoughts. From your other selections, you might like Katie Kitamura’s A Separation and possibly Daniel Alarcon’s At Night We Walk in Circles–Dwyer Murphy, CrimeReads Managing Editor

Sandra Newman, The Heavens, Grove Press; design by TK TK (February 12, 2019)

April W. loves:

Kate Atkinson, Life After Life
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
Anything by Kelly Link
Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

Lit Hub recommends: 

Dear April: I love all these books; let’s be friends. Like me, you obviously love literature that plays with form and convention, and if there’s a magical element in there, so much the better. At the risk of repeating myself, because lord knows I’ve written enough about how much I love all the books to follow, I think you would love Sandra Newman’s The Heavens and Susan Choi’s, Trust Exercise, both of which experiment with form and time in the most delicious, satisfying way. For short stories, considering your love for Kelly Link, I highly recommend Diane Cook’s Man V. Nature and Thomas Pierce’s Hall of Small Mammals, both of which should appeal to your desire for truths about the world told through an off-kilter, fantastical lens.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

Sarah Waters, Fingersmith

Jane W. loves:

A.S. Byatt, Possession
Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
Tana French, the Dublin Murder Squad mysteries

Lit Hub recommends:

Hi Jane, I think you might have a taste for modern mysteries with gothic tones, so how about checking out the work of Sarah Waters (if you haven’t already)? Start with Affinity or Fingersmith and see what you think. And where you liked Tana French’s series, you might enjoy Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt books, which take a very different approach to crime but have a similarly strong voice and innovative spirit.  –Dwyer Murphy, CrimeReads Managing Editor

Hopscotch Julio Cortazar first edition 1963

Sam G. loves:

Roberto Bolaño, 2666
The first volume of Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu
Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude
Fellini’s 8 1/2
Works that are stylish, extravagant, off-balance, lyrical, at times absurd.

Lit Hub recommends: 

You know, I don’t usually recommend Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch to people. You have to have a certain tolerance for experimentation, for stream-of-consciousness, for releasing expectations—and it’s hard to suss that sort of thing out in people. Plus, I figure that those who do have such tolerances will have already found their way to the book. But I’ll take a chance here and recommend it to you—along with Álvaro Enrigue’s Sudden Death, which also fits your criteria quite nicely.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

Iulia I. loves:

John Green, Looking for Alaska
Patrick Modiano, In the Café of Lost Youth
William Golding, Lord of the Flies

And anything that was written by Fitzgerald

Lit Hub recommends:

Hi Iulia, always glad to make the acquaintance of another Modiano aficionado. Have you read any Juan Gabriel Vásquez? I always tie his work up with Modiano’s, for some reason; there’s a certain aching to remember and an ambiguity that their work shares. From Golding and Green, I’ll deduce that you like stories about young people with an edge, and I’m thinking you might be into Megan Abbott’s books, Dare Me or You Will Know Me–Dwyer Murphy, CrimeReads Managing Editor

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Brenda G. loves:

Alix E. Harrow, The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Rachel Kadish, The Weight of Ink
Robert Hellenga, The Sixteen Pleasures

I like books about books, bookbinding, book artists, secret or magic books, SECRETS! art and artists. Also magic. 

Lit Hub recommends:

I feel you, Brenda. Without giving away any of its secrets, you must run to read Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, in which you will find many of the things on your list. I am sure it will delight you.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

Eka Kurniawan, tr. Annie Tucker, Beauty is a Wound

Elise T. loves:

Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Lit Hub recommends:

Hi Elise, I love these books—anything where the world is as alive as we are sings to me. I wonder if you might like Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine, a novel about the heart and the cosmos and the stories a family on a reservation tell each other to make sense of the rupture between these two. It’s also a great family novel. One of the best books of all time, in my opinion. I’d also recommend Halldor Laxness’ Independent People, especially if you have time to read it slowly; it’s a great book about fairness and stubbornness in a world where sheep are treated more preciously than people. Finally, since you seem to love a bit of magic, I’d say Eka Kurniawan’s Beauty is a Wound might take you aloft—it’s a heartbreaking and beautiful novel, the kind of book that, by the end of page one, you’ve forgotten you’re reading.  –John Freeman, Executive Editor

paula fox desperate characters

Victoria G. loves:

Shusaku Endo, Silence
Magda Szabo, The Door
Norman Rush, Mating
Also anything by Stefan Zweig but especially The Post Office Girl

Lit Hub recommends: 

I can’t quite justify myself in this recommendation, except to say that I love all the books you listed and I love this book too, and perhaps to say that it is a compelling investigation of human nature on a small scale that gestures to much larger systems, plus it has that knife-twist of irreverence and strangeness—it’s closest to The Door, I guess, but American postwar lit. Call it a hunch. I’m thinking of Paula Fox’s Desperate Characters, in which a woman gets bitten by a cat that may or may not have rabies. I know—but read it and tell me if I’m right.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

muriel spark the drivers seat

Alice C. loves:

Ottessa Moshfegh, My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts
Ling Ma, Severance

 I love a protagonist who’s about to fly off the handle (or already has…) 

Lit Hub recommends: 

The protagonist of Muriel Spark’s The Driver’s Seat has 100% flown off the handle. Lise is sick of her life. She hates her job at an accountant’s office, so she takes a holiday in search of an adventure. She stops man after man, but the thing she’s looking for isn’t love or sex. She’s looking for someone to murder her. It’s not a whodunnit, but a “whydunnit.” And it sounds bleak, but it’s actually quite funny. Lise, with her wry asides, makes for excellent company. Strap in for a wild ride.  – Katie Yee, Book Marks Assistant Editor

middlemarch book cover

Anna W. loves:

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Emily Dickinson

Lit Hub recommends: 

Anna, you’ve got an eye for the classics! I’m hoping you’ll also enjoy George Eliot’s Middlemarch (a personal favorite), which nestles in nicely with this time period. It was written some time after Emily Dickinson’s poems and two years before Anna Karenina. Middlemarch, “a study of provincial life,” follows a large cast of characters with intersecting lives and calls into question a woman’s place in society, the institution of marriage, selflessness and sacrifice, education, politics, religion—yup, it’s got everything. It’s also the perfect time to pick up this beautiful beast of a novel. I know it’s long, but that doesn’t seem to scare you, and it’ll honestly all be worth it for the moment you hit the line: “I’ve never had a preference for her any more than I have a preference for breathing.” Ugh.  –Katie Yee, Book Marks Assistant Editor

The Lover Marguerite Duras cover

Cathryn R. loves:

Marie Redonnet, Rose Mellie Rose
Lydia Davis, The Cows
Emily Dickinson, The Master Letters 

Lit Hub recommends:

These are wonderful choices, Cathryn—weird and elegant and captivating, all. I’m very glad to know there’s another Redonnet fan out there. I’m assuming you’ve read Maggie Nelson’s Bluets (if you haven’t, that’s definitely the ticket), so you might try Marguerite Duras’ The Lover, which was originally conceived of as an annotated photo album, and retains much of that elliptical, image-centric charm.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

Carmen Maria Machado, In the Dream House

Kyla D. loves:

Maggie Nelson, Bluets
Janet Fitch, White Oleander
Kate Zambreno
Ottessa Moshfegh, My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Suzanne Scanlon, Promising Young Women
Sarah Manguso, My 37th Year
 Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Olyphant is Completely Fine 

I’m drawn to memoirs, female authors, books written by women for women, and books that tackle difficult subject matter (I just finished Jeannie Vanasco’s Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was A Girl, for example) but I would also like some more uplifting books too.

Lit Hub recommends: 

Hmm, let me think. A memoir written by a woman, for other women, that tackles difficult subject matter but can be uplifting in the end? Kyla, you are looking specifically for Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House. I could talk about this memoir forever. It’s one of the most heart- and groundbreaking things I’ve ever read. She tells the story of a queer abusive relationship from many angles. She uses footnotes and folktales and mythology and movie tropes and queer theory in an attempt to find the structure with which to tell this story, because it’s something that hasn’t really been done. It’s heavy, but that’s also part of the healing.  –Katie Yee, Book Marks Assistant Editor

Chandler Klang Smith, The Sky is Yours

Tanya K. loves:

Ottessa Moshfegh, My Year of Rest and Relaxation  and Eileen
Jennifer Giesbrecht, The Monster of Elendhaven
Rory Power, The Wilder Girls
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Stephen King, Revival

Lit Hub recommends:

Lots going on here, Tanya. I’m going to go out on a limb and recommend one of my favorite books of 2018: Chandler Klang Smith’s The Sky is Yours. It’s fantasy, it’s dystopian, it’s influenced by Gothic romance, it’s sharply witty, and it’s also a roaring adventure and funny as all hell. Give it a shot; I think you’ll be seduced.   –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

Emily Temple
Emily Temple
Emily Temple is the managing editor at Lit Hub. Her first novel, The Lightness, was published by William Morrow/HarperCollins in June 2020. You can buy it here.





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