Friday, November 23, 2012

Jenn's Book Recommendations

Happy post-Turkey day food coma, relaxation or standing on a crazy line Black Friday!

It's hard to narrow down a few books that you enjoy and think others will also, but dagnabbit I accept the challenge.

At year's end I discuss books I enjoyed on my blog and steadily keep a tally on Goodreads. So the ones chosen are plucked from my pile over the years.

Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor, illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo.

Anyone who knows me knows I sing Laini Taylor's praises every chance I get. Her National Book Award (NBA) nominated book was my introduction to her work. I had the pleasure of meeting Laini and Jim at the NBA reading and they are as pleasant as they are talented.

Laini's prose is lyrical, vivid, illustrative and takes you on a ride. Add in Jim's gorgeous detail for people and emotions of the scenes she wrote and you have a powerhouse in Lips Touch. Lips Touch contains three stories where kisses play a part, good or bad, and they are original and fantastical as well as emotional. I LOVED this book.

If you haven't read Laini's stuff or seen Jim's illos do so now! Laini's latest series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, does not skimp on the darkness but has a wonderful lightness and beauty to it as well.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley.

John is another kind and talented author. His book got heaps of praise and deservedly so. Where Things Come Back is a contemporary novel that digs into the heart of a family breaking. There are two separate perspectives in this piece that end up tying together as the novel progresses. But the core story is with Cullen during the summer before senior year of high school when his brother disappears. You're with a family on the brink as they deal with hope and loss and a whole slew of emotions. Cullen deals with it by trying to block it out and imagine alternate scenarios. John delves into such emotion that you are chomping at the bit on every page. I purposely waited on the subway before my stop because I wanted to finish this.

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer. 

I'm a fan of anthologies and collections and multiple points of view in literature (if you couldn't already tell). So I wanted to add a collection I thoroughly enjoyed and ranges in terms of perspectives from young (Brownie troupe getting in all sorts of trouble) to older (a college student at odds with his dad as they try to get to the Million Man March).

Packer's debut was lauded all over the literary landscape and with good reason. It taps into so many things such as race and insecurity and family and passion that it's relatable on many levels no matter your age. There's a particularly poignant story about a young girl who goes out on her own and realizes she knows nothing about the world as she takes up with characters, who on the outside may be horrific, but end up helping her get back to a life she thought was bad.

Other recommendations I'll make are:

  • Room by Emma Donoghue: A heartbreaking tale of five-year-old Jack as he and his mother escape from being imprisoned. It's all told from the childlike POV of Jack so while you don't see the bad parts you know what is happening. It's a masterful novel to convey so much with so little.
  • Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx: I LOVE Annie Proulx and this is my favorite story collection that I have read, hands-down. Proulx says that short fiction is hard for her to write but she hits it out of the ball park in terms of visuals and people and situations. Brokeback Mountain is in this anthology and the succinct prose is captured in the film painting a painful love story crossing over a few decades.
  • The Hunger Games (series) by Suzanne Collins: By now everyone and their mom (including mine) has read The Hunger Games. And deservedly so. This is the YA book that got me back into the genre. Collins manages to make an, at first, unlikable and hard-edged character someone we root for consistently. Katniss has heart and wants a life of simplicity but that all goes to pot after the Quarter Quell. The writing is well paced and dynamic putting you into every moment and Collins has a way with chapter endings, each one leaving you wanting more. 
Those are just some books I'd recommend reading in general because they rock and especially to explore alternate writing styles. 


  1. I love this list--very well thought out. I am picking up several of them and adding them to my own!