Other Recommended books

Recommendations from a non-blogger #4

It has been a long time since I last featured recommendations from a non-blogger, but I do love seeing lists of people’s favourite books and so I am going to try and make this a more regular feature on my blog.

This month I’m featuring Jacqui who lives in a small town in Warwickshire called Southam. She has a fantastic list of favourite books, so I’ll hand you over to her so that she can explain why she loves them so much:



I have read lots and lots of really great books over 50 years – reading is my favourite past time – but these days I tend towards ‘the lighter stuff’ as I haven’t the stamina anymore for ‘difficult’ literature. I’m not ‘old’ or ill, just busy with a demanding full time job and other interests. I love that Jackie asked me to do this, but my list is definitely not high brow! Choosing 10 favourite books was very hard but in the end I decided to go with those that I re-read on a (fairly) regular basis. I think this list is a bit predictable and I am sure many of you will have read most of these but here they are anyway:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Fabulous writing, love the humour, brilliant characters – it makes me smile every time I read it and every time I get something more from it. I have read all Jane Austen’s novels and enjoyed all of them but only re-read this one.


Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

I think this is on a lot of women’s lists as a favourite. I like the dark Gothic style, I like that the ‘plain’ woman gets the man and I love the whole mysterious plot. I am a big Daphne Du Maurier fan and I sometimes think she is underrated – most of her novels are enjoyable and interesting and she certainly didn’t follow a formula.


The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

I am not generally a lover of science fiction but this story which I first read as a teenager grabbed form the start. I re-read it quite often and still enjoy the story and the descriptions. I think there are some powerful ‘word pictures’ in this novel and the part where London is described as a crumbling mausoleum a few years after the disaster is just so evocative – to me anyway. Despite not reading a lot of science fiction all of John Wyndham’s novels appeal to me – he is a great story teller.


Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

A more contemporary book this time – I love the way this is written, the different viewpoints  and voices and of course the love story that runs through it all. After reading this I read Louis De Bernieres first three books, The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts, Senor Vivo and The Coco Lord and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman and heartily recommend these too.


The Time Traveler’sWife by Audrey Niffenegger

What can I say about this book – just gorgeous, clever and I cried buckets the first time and the second time I read it! Hope it makes me cry when I read it again.



The Seduction of Mrs.Pendlebury by Margaret Forster

Margaret Forster is a brilliant writer and I recommend all of her novels (especially the earlier ones) and her non-fiction. This particular story about an elderly lady who likes to keep herself to herself is so sad and so true to life that it takes my breath away with its wonderful observations on ‘the human condition’.



Gentleman And Ladies by Susan Hill

A gentle story but also like the one above, in my opinion, a perfect observation of the vagaries of human nature.



Restoration by Rose Tremain

This is a historical story. Like science fiction I don’t read a great deal of historical fiction although there are a few which nearly made it onto this list e.g. Katherine by Anya Seton. Rose Tremain’s novels are all good but this is the best for me. Very stylish writing.


The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Overall Isabel Allende is my favourite author (I think!). House of Spirits is a magical mixture of romance, family life, history, cruelty, hope, despair and triumph. Please read it.



The Devil’s Feather by Minette Walters

So many books could have made this 10th spot including Katherine which I have sneaked in above and those ‘included’ below but if I am sticking to my policy of including books I re-read then I have to include Minette Walters. Crime is my favourite genre and, quite simply, I think she is the best of the best. These are probably not very ‘literary’ but are very well written. For me her books have unbeatable page ‘turnability’, great plots and appealing characters. This is my favourite closely followed by The Ice House and Fox Evil.

I am slightly surprised at the number of female authors here because I don’t consciously choose to read books by women and certainly read a lot of male authors. The first 3 books on the list were teenage reads that left a lasting impression and I have another favourite read from that era (I am a little reluctant to admit to re-reading this occasionally though!). As a teenager I loved school stories and would pick these up at second hand bookshops whenever I could. There is one that I still own and still love! It’s called The Fourth and Fenella and is by Mary Gervaise. The book has a wonderful plot and is the story of a feisty 14 year old who is sent to boarding school by her long suffering older sister and guardian. Once there she is extremely rebellious and her adventures involve Russian Bolsheviks, recovered fortunes and resurrected reputations and romance (for her sister) – wonderful stuff!

I love this list! The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of my favourite books and I loved The Day of the Triffids and Rebecca. I haven’t read any of the others, but almost all are on my TBR pile. The House of Spirits and Restoration are especially appealing.

A big thank you to Jacqui for sharing her favourites!

Do you love any of these books?

Which appeals to you most?


Recommendations from a non blogger #3

Our recommendations this month come from Rebecca, who not only reads this blog, but also designed my wonderful new avatar! Thank you so much Rebecca! I love it!

I’ll let her introduce herself:


I am an avid reader and even though I work full time as a construction manager, I manage to read two books a week most weeks. I love literary fiction, southern fiction and mysteries but will read anything that is exceptionally well written. I just love a good story. I can never remember not reading, I have always had a book in my hand, one in my car, one in my purse, one on my desk at work and one on my bedside table. The older I get the harder it is for me to read multiple books at one though, so now I find myself lugging one book around everywhere. Oh well, I still have books in all these places though, just in case.

The following are recommendations from my permanent collection.


A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith– This book was actually recommended to me by my son. It was required reading in his senior high school English class when we lived in Florida and when he finished it, he brought it to me and said I just had to read it because it was so good. It is a fictional history of the settlement of the Tampa Bay area in the state of Florida. It follows three generations of the MacIvey family in an epic portrayal of a pioneer family. My son was right. I am not usually a fan of historical fiction, but this one is impressively detailed and I fell in love with the MacIvey family right from the start.

Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish – This may not be the book Kris is the most famous for, but it is by far my favorite, so much so that it made it into my permanent collection which is very hard to do. This book touched my heart in so many ways it is almost impossible to explain. At 56, it is a time in my life when I am looking at where I have been and where I am going with the time I have left. That is what this book is all about, missed opportunities, lost loves and finding the power and the path to go forward.

Blink * The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell – Have you ever  had someone ask you a very difficult question and you instantly knew the answer, but instead of going with that answer, you thought it over, weighed all the options and came up with a different answer? Blink helps you understand that your first answer, the one that come immediately, the one you know without thinking about it, is right. We all have the power to instantly know what is needed but have been taught not to act on that instinct, but to over think everything. This is a very powerful little book and one I keep reading over and over. Just think how short business meetings would be if everyone would use this technique instead of talking everything to death!

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand– This is the one book that has stayed with me more than any other. I first read it as a high school senior in 1971. The story is of one man, Howard Roark, and his struggles as an architect in the face of a successful rival, Peter Keating. Then I went to College and majored in Architecture, and I learned about Frank Lloyd Wright whose life parallels Howard Roark’s in many ways. I had many a lively discussion in college about how they did or did not compare and my belief that Ayn Rand was writing about Frank. If you have not read this book, you must pick it up, if you have but it has been a while, read it again. Even though it was written in 1943, it never seems to be out of style. And after you read it, pick up a copy of Frank Lloyd Wright A Biography by Meryle Secrest and tell me what you think. 

The Art of Happiness, A Handbook for Living by His Holiness the Dalai Lama –This wonderful prescription for living looks at finding peace, freedom from anger and hatred, ways of deepening our connections to others, benefiting from compassion and finding basic spiritual values. There is something in this book for each and every one of us regardless of our spiritual beliefs.

This is a fantastic list, but yet again I haven’t read any of them. I love Malcolm Gladwell, but haven’t read Blink yet. I have heard Fountainhead mentioned a few times, but Rebecca has made it sound really good. I’m going to ensure that I read it really soon.  

Thank you so much Rebecca!

Have you read any of the books on this list?

Are any your favourites?

Other Recommended books

Recommendations from a non-blogger #2

You may remember the wonderful guest post in which Heidi recommended her favourite books. I loved it so much, that I would like to make this a regular (monthly?) feature on my blog.

This month I’m featuring Susan, another regular reader of my blog. Susan has lived in Texas all her life. She is a retired teacher sharing an apartment with 2500 books.  She spends much of her time reading — about 80 to 100 books year.

Here are her favourite books: 


Regeneration by Pat Barker  

Dr. W. H. R. Rivers is one of my favorite fictional/historical characters.   I love the other two books in the trilogy as well, but my interest in the poetry of that period always brings me back to this one.


Annie Dunne by Sebastian Barry   

The contrasts are startling . . . light and dark, young and old, the ancient ways and the hints of modern times, the deformed old hag of a woman and Sebastian Barry’s graceful, lyrical prose.   My favorite thing about the book is that the mysteries involving the children are never solved — there is no sentimentality here, no false happy ending.   Who but Barry could tell this story?   The older I get, the more the story means to me, the closer I feel to Annie, the more grateful I am to Sebastian Barry for giving us this beautiful story.


The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Didion’s writing — her distinctive literary voice — has been part of my world since I read Play It As It Lays in 1971.   I was just out of college and that book, together with Didion’s essays, had a profound influence on my literary taste and outlook.   Now, all these years later — as I face the death of my parents and my own problems with aging — there is Didion again with this gift of a book to light my way.


The Periodic Table by Primo Levi

Levi the chemist and Levi the master storyteller and Levi the Holocaust survivor combine to give us twenty-one tales — each named for a chemical element — that weave memoir and imagination and humor and terror and science and remembrances of friends long departed.  These stories aren’t easy — you have to work at them sometimes — but the rewards are beyond measure.


So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

This is a book about the hold that the past has over us, the way the fragments of childhood memories and dreams haunt us long after we are grown and life has taken us — or so we thought anyway — far from home and the child we used to be.


The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu

The main character is Sepha Stephanos, an Ethiopian immigrant to the United States.  He has come to that place where all immigrants must come — that threshold where he is neither Ethiopian nor American.   The neighborhood he lives in, like the young man, is caught between cultures  — an old, rather poor part of Washington, D. C., that has been discovered by the developers who are evicting the poor and creating lofts and houses for a wealthier clientele.   Sepha’s relationships — with the customers in his small grocery store, with a wealthy woman who has moved into one of the new houses, with the woman’s biracial daughter, and perhaps best of all, with other young immigrants from Africa — reveal so much about him, and about all the people who struggle to find a home, to make a place for themselves.   The young author has taken on so much in this first novel and the result is a brave book, a work of incredible beauty.  


The Habit of Being by Flannery O’Connor

I owned this book for many years before I found the nerve to begin.  I feared that the collected letters of a writer whose work I barely knew would be tedious and full of references I wouldn’t understand.   Eventually I set myself the task of reading a few of the letters each day.   Rather quickly it came to be my favorite part of the day and though there were times I wanted to go ahead and read them all in one weekend, I realized how lost I’d be without her letters to inspire and delight and illuminate, so I continued to ration them, five or six a day.   In a way, I think Flannery became my best friend for awhile and I missed her terribly when the letters came to an end.   She died in 1964 at age 39.  


The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

This is a story about memory and family and numbers and — please don’t let this put you off — baseball.   The numbers and baseball are important but not in the way you might think.    What matters here are the characters and the bond they develop despite an enormous challenge they must overcome every 80 minutes. A beautiful book. 


Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan

It’s just what it sounds like: the local Red Lobster is closing and the manager and his staff are dealing with their regular duties, customers, a snowstorm, the Christmas holidays and their feelings about being unemployed or demoted or having to change jobs.   Not much of a story really and yet I admire this book so much.  I think Stewart O’Nan captures the reality of such a place and of the people who work there.   There’s no condescension in this book, just quiet empathy.  


One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty

This is a lovely remembrance of the early influences on the career of a great American storyteller, her own account of how she developed as a writer.   The three parts of the book are:  Listening, Learning to See, Finding a Voice.   The passage in part one about Eudora as a little girl, sitting on the stairs buttoning her shoes, listening to her parents — one upstairs, one down — whistling to one another, is amazing,  something I go back to again and again.

This is a fantastic list, but although many are buried in my TBR pile, I haven’t read any of them yet. I will make the effort to seek out as many as I can and make reading them a priority.

Thank you so much Susan!

Have you read any of the books on this list?

Are any in your top ten list?


Recommendations from a non-blogger

I love finding new book recommendations from bloggers, but I sometimes feel that we get stuck in a bit of a rut, all reading the same things. This feeling was enhanced recently when I got into an email discussion with Heidi, a former lurker on my blog.


heidiHeidi reads approximately 100 books a year, a pretty impressive number, comparable to many book bloggers, but when I asked her for recommendations I hadn’t even heard of the majority of books she suggested. Here are her suggestions:



The best contemporary and historical fiction book I have read this year is set in 17th century Persia. It is a first book by a new author Iranian American Anita Amirrezvani and is entitled Blood of Flowers (2008). As a first novel there are a few rusty points but overall it is really quite good and well-written. The main character is a young teenage girl whose fathers dies and she and her mother’s only option is to become servants in a rich uncle’s household, leaving their home and small rural village behind. Also because she has no dowry she is forced to become part of a renewable monthly marriage contract in exchange for money. However, she overcomes all her obstacles through creative and artistic talent (rug making which there is wonderful details about in the book). I hope she writes another but it took her five years to write this one! It was on the list for the Orange Prize and Boeke prize in 2008.

One of the most fascinating authors that I have discovered that I notice no one else seems to have heard of is Par Lagerkvist. He was the winner of the Noble Prize for literature in 1951 and is a Swedish author. He is not old fashioned to read at all and his books all feel very modern still. He was very much affected by the two world wars he lived through and his basic premise in all his books is exploring good and evil and how do we live a meaningful life in face of so much tragedy. The easiest way to jump in (and I am almost done) is The Marriage Feast a collection of his short stories. The stories are collected from 30 years of his writing and are very versatile (showing his range). So far I have read The Dwarf and The Sybil and have found both very unique and fascinating. His books and stories have a big impact and resonate—you stop and think about them afterword—paused…. The books are not all dark either (although The Dwarf is very dark) there is usually something hopeful within as well.

Another book I loved is John Steinbeck’s The Moon is Down (as well as East of Eden) another Nobel Prize winner! Both I have read many times. However, not many people have heard of the first as much. The book was banned in certain countries and even had a penalty of death if you read it at one time. It looks at the war from both sides the invaders and the invaded and discusses how it affects everyone and the different ways (It is set in Norway during WWII). It is such a short book (less than 100 pages ) but powerful. Mostly because it shows everyone’s human side—even the Nazis which is part of the reason it was banned.

Also fun books (and many do not think of this author as fun) are A.S. Byatt’s short stories The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye and The Little Black Book of Stories. Fairy tales for grown-ups. As a working mom I love my short stories!

I’d like to thank Heidi for suggesting some different titles for me to read. I hope to get hold of copies soon.

Have you heard of any of these books?

Do you feel that the range of books book bloggers are reading is getting smaller by the day?

If you are a non-blogger – can you recommend any books which aren’t getting the attention they deserve in the blogging world?