Last week, when I announced that I was going to be Top 10 Book Lists on Fridays again, my friend Jenel wrote immediately with a suggestion: could I recommend books for readers who wanted to disappear into a story AND also not be caught up in complete fluffy nonsense.  I loved that idea, so I put some energy into pulling together my list.  Here are a few criteria I followed:

  • I only included novels simply because those are the books where I disappear into the story most easily.
  • I didn’t include YA novels here, although there are many that fit this criteria, but I already did a list of YA series I like. I
  • I also didn’t include many “classics,” but maybe I’ll do that list – classics that envelope you – soon.
  • Instead, I went with books that I have just loved, that pulled me in completely, and that left me with things to think about after they were done.

Here, then, in no particular order, are great books for you to plunge into without feeling dumber as a result. 😉

1. Glittering Images by Susan Howatch – My mom loved this series, and I expect she and I both had an affinity because the books combine traditional religion as well as supernatural possibilities. Great characters who you will cheer for and a plot that will keep you hooked.

2. Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones – A contemporary novel set in Atlanta, this book is beautifully written and powerfully compelling. The narrators are young women – friends but also competitors for the crucial place in one man’s life. Definitely a powerful but straight-forward read.

3. Outlander  by Diana Gabaldon – I JUST finished listened to all 28 CDs of the unabridged version of this book, and I can honestly say I’m captivated by the writing. It’s both a taste of scifi and historical fiction, but it’s the characterizations that caught me. I adore Jamie, and Claire – well, she makes me crazy, but I love her, too, because Jamie does. Well, you should just read. (And it’s only $4.99 for the ebook on Amazon right now.)

4. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen – I’ve read (almost) everything Sarah Addison Allen has written. (I just saw I missed one, so I’ll be off to the library as soon as we get our new cards at the new farm.) I love her ability to weave contemporary stories with just the most lovely pieces of magic. In this book, the garden holds the supernatural delight, and of course, I love gardens. If you love small towns and strong women, check this one out.

5. Kindred by Octavia Butler – I recommend this book all the time because the history is powerful, the plotting superb, and the message important. Butler’s work is believable despite being magical, and the perspective she gives on slavery is so important. (Plus, right now, the Kindle ebook is $2.09 on Amazon.)

6. In the Woods by Tana French – My friend Heather recommended this book, and I both love and resent her for it because now I’m hooked on the series and can’t find the third one on audio, where I want to continue hearing these great accents. The book is mystery and character study, all impeccably plotted and totally gripping. Ireland. Murder. Detectives you love and loathe. Yep, good stuff.

7. Belong to Me by Maria de los Santos – This book is fun and simple but honest. I really appreciated the way the true nature of people is revealed and how the most dislikeable people become those you root for in time. Just light but thoughtful, too.

8. Beloved by Toni Morrison – It’s October, the time for ghosts – both the ones that walk the earth and the ones that haunt our hearts. One of Morrison’s most powerful stories – absolutely compelling and terrifying – but powerful in showing us how enslaved women sometimes survived the horror of their lives.

9. Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters – My mom loved this and the other Amelia Peabody mysteries as well. Peabody is witty, strong, flawed, stubborn, and ultimately totally likable. Plus, these books are set in Egypt and involve solving Egyptian mysteries, so they are quite fun.

10. <The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – While I still hold reservations about European American women writing about the experiences of African American women, I did find Kidd’s work thoughtful, honest, and gripping. I truly appreciated how she showed the complex nature of slavery and how it held hostage – in very different ways – all the people who were part of the system, especially women.

What other books would you recommend that are easy-to-read, gripping, and thoughtful stories? 


For next week, what Top 10 books would you like to see me explore? A theme, a type of book, a group of authors, a genre?  Please do comment with your suggestions.  Thanks.