“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” -George RR Martin (does anyone else simultaneously love and hate this man?)
I’ve read (and love) plenty of the usual suspects, so I’ve tried here to put together a less popular list of must-reads.
1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith) If you didn’t read this in your high school English class, it’s fantastic. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a story of an Irish-American family living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn pre-World-War-I. It’s about family, love, and the loss of innocence (among at least 10 other themes)—and it paints a vivid picture of life in poverty in early 20th century America. Historical fiction is my favorite genre and this book is right near the top of my list.
2. People of the Book (Geraldine Brooks) This book is absolute genius. I’t s one of those “I can’t put it down but also need to stop reading or else I’ll finish it too quickly” novels. I love it. The reader follows the journey of a lost religious text throughout history as a modern-day preservationist discovers its mysteries while she works to conserve it. There’s love, there’s murder, there’s really a little bit of everything. The story is captivating, and is inspired by true events! People of the Book is another piece of historical fiction and is my favorite book (tied with Even Cowgirls Get the Blues)!
3. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (Tom Robbins) Tom Robbins’ prose is one-of-a-kind and not for the faint of heart. The writing is almost lyrical at times, while at others Robbins will point-blank discuss philosophical concepts with the reader. Protagonist Sissy Hankshaw, born with gigantic thumbs, hitchhikes across the country to create a new life for herself. She ponders life’s big questions, explores her sexuality (seriously, it gets descriptive), and teaches the reader to love herself and fully embrace her individuality. To sum the novel up in one word, it’s liberating.
4. State of Wonder (Ann Patchett) State of Wonder is about a pharmaceutical researcher who travels to the Amazon to recover the remains of a colleague who mysteriously passed away doing research in the rainforest. The story that ensues is intriguing and emotional, and tells a tale of true perseverance. It inspired me to put some of Patchett’s other books on my reading list (her popular Bel Canto is now on there).