Friday Question of the Day – Summer Reading Recommendations

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

As the first Friday in August I’m gonna take the opportunity to ask a question I always love asking – do you have any good summer reading recommendations? What’s the last great book you read? It doesn’t have to be literature, it can simply be a good fun read.

It’s a few years old but I just finished and highly recommend A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz.

152 Comment

  • Reading The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball, right now and love it!!!
    Also loved In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror & an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin.

    • +1 for Garden of the Beast

      The devil in the white city also by Eric Larson is equally as interesting and a great read.

      • I liked “The Devil in the White City,” but I think Larson tried to hard to link two different stories.

        • SouthwestDC

          If you think that’s bad his book about Marconi (and another serial killer) stretches even further to make a connection.

          Not that I don’t enjoy his writing, but he needs to branch out to a different format.

      • Devil in the White City is fantastic, and it’ll take you a weekend to read it. I’m reading Pale King right now, and it is NOT a summer read.

    • this one’s on the short list

      devil in the white city was fantastic

  • fierce invalids home from hot climates by tom robbins. that dude is crazy.

  • Three recent reads I’d recommend (for different reasons)- Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson and Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

    • It sounds like you listen to Diane Rehm. I have heard two of those books discussed (and the authors interviewed) on the program.

      • Diane did a great interview with Laura Hillenbrand after Unbroken and Seabiscuit were published. Both great books.

        Which reminds me – Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is another book I’d recommend.

    • +1 on Unbroken. I’m reading it right now! It is probably one of the most disturbing books I’ve read, but it has given me an even greater appreciation of what the Pacific POWs endured. I can’t recommend this book enough!

    • Let me second Unbroken. Fantastic, inspiring, simply amazing story.

      • SouthwestDC

        I hadn’t heard of Unbroken, but it does sound interesting. I always love a good survival story. Requesting a hold on it at the DCPL now; thanks for the recommendation!

  • Try as I might to enjoy female and foreign writers, I keep coming back to white American men. Off the top of my head, these are some of my favorites from the past couple of years.

    William Gaddis: A Frolic of His Own
    Philip Roth: Sabbath’s Theater
    Cormac McCarthy: Blood Meridian
    James Salter: Light Years
    William Gass: Omensetter’s Luck
    Saul Bellow: Herzog

    In Spanish, my favorite book in the past year was by a young Peruvian: Santiago Roncagliolo’s “Abril rojo.” I don’t think it is available in English. The best Spanish-language writer I have encountered in recent years is Roberto Bolano. His books are available in English (his translator is Natasha Wimmer).

  • I just finished Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell. A really engaging adventure story centered around a strong female character…I couldn’t put it down.

    Now I’m reading Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante. So far pretty good.

  • Leaving Church, by Barbara Brown Taylor. Great book.

  • It’s quite old, but I’m almost done with “The Left Hand of Darkness”, by Ursula Leguinn, and am loving it.

    For a quick, easy read that’s still interesting, I love Gail Tsukiyama and Lisa See.

  • I just finished ‘Perilous Fight’, a history of the incipient navy of the incipient US during the war of 1812…back when the Navy Yard had wooden ships instead of a mediocre baseball team. Rip roaring sea adventures and subtle politics made it a fun read.

    Before my next history (‘What Hath God Wrought’, US between 1812-1848) I’m enjoying the Merchant Princes series by Charlie Stross.

  • Cutting for stone and unbroken are my two favorites so far this year. I also love the Alan Bradley Flavia de Luce series. Very fun reads.

  • The Hunger Games people!

    • +1

      For myself I’m reading Howl’s Moving Castle because I never read it whenever you are supposed to read awesome YA Fantasy.

    • Ha, I’m glad someone else recommended this, too.

      I was so glued to this book that I literally read it walking down the street, on a treadmill at the gym, and under my desk at work.


    • +100000. If you haven’t read the hunger games trilogy, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

  • Just start reading the Aubrey-Maturin series and thank me later.

    • Yeah loved those. Best two years of my life.

    • My favorites! Really excellent as audio books too, read by Patrick Tull. We listen to them continuously, really, and just start over at the end of the 21st book!

  • jim_ed

    If you’re part of the PoP set, you’ll love Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart. Also just finished The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. It’s a trip to read the archetypal hard boiled detective mystery. For non fiction, I reccomend The Fear by Peter Godwin, about Mugabe’s Zimbabwe and the sad state of a once thriving country.

    • ‘The Fear’ is excellent and Peter Godwin is very talented non-fiction writer (the book reads seamlessly). Highly recommended and good for giving a little perspective into what a truly non-working government looks like.

      Also, anything by Vonnegut (maybe ‘Hocus Pocus’) or Tom Robbins (‘Jitterbug Perfume’ or ‘Skinny Legs and All’ are my favorites) makes for excellent summer reading!

    • me

      LOVE Shteyngart. This must be one of the newer ones, because I’ve read the other couple of ones he’s put out. I’ll have to check this one out.

      Otherwise, people sure are recommending some serious reads on here… I thought summer reads were mostly fun reads! My recommendations are anything by Ben Elton or Christopher Brookmyre. Fantastic.

    • I’ll second both Super Sad True Love Story and The Fear, plus Godwin’s earlier When a Crocodile Eats the Sun. Excellent, all of them, and I wasn’t a huge fan of Gary Shteyngart’s earlier books.

      Just finished Dinaw Mengestu’s The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears. It’s the story of an Ethiopian immigrant shop owner, set in Logan Circle around 2001. Fascinating to read a different perspective on where I was living at the same point in time.

      A few more: Island Beneath the Sea, Isabel Allende, set during the Haitian revolution. The Lotus Eaters, Tatjana Soli, story of a war photographer in Vietnam. Doc, Mary Doria Russell, another perspective on Doc Holliday, before the shootout at the OK Corral. Caleb’s Crossing, Geraldine Brooks, fictionalized story of the first Native American to attend Harvard.

      • SouthwestDC

        The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears is so relevant to anyone that lives in DC. I read it after experiencing something similar to what the female character did as the only white woman in a gentrifying neighborhood.

        The Lotus Eaters sounds really good. I read a similar book, Shutterbabe, written by a female photojournalist. Great if you love travel memoirs, adventure stories, and photography.

  • Thanks to my new Kindle and me being too cheap to actually buy books, I’ve been sticking to the free classics. I finished up reading the Jane Austen’s I’d never read before: Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and Mansfield Park.

    If you haven’t read them, you should! They’re free on pretty much any device you can reach amazon from.

    • Ooooh, I got a kindle for my birthday, and I’m annoyed to see how much they charge for ebooks that you can’t even lend (without major restrictions). Otherwise, I kind of like it (and I never thought I’d switch to a kindle)

    • Try to borrow books for your kindle for up to two weeks…and eventually once Amazon stops being butts about DRM you should be able to get kindle books from the library.

  • No time like the present to get into George R. R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” series, coming off the great success of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

  • SouthwestDC

    I always return to The Secret History this time of year. It’s dark as hell, but I find the New England university setting so comforting when it feels like summer is never going to end. It’s also one of those books you can completely lose yourself in because the characters are so interesting and the storyline so engaging.

  • A nice summer read is East of Eden by John Steinbeck. And if you’re looking for something educational about food and ethics, I’m always recommending Omnivore’s Dilemma to friends and family! (My guilty pleasure, however, consists of David Baldacci books- not gonna lie! He rocks!)

  • “The Help,” “The Blind Side,” “The Lincoln Lawyer,” “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” and “Shadow of the Wind.” All great fiction reads! 🙂

  • I finished Daniel Silva’s “Portrait of a Spy” last week and recently started Tom Clancy’s “Against All Enemies.”

    Got some Michael Connelly and Daniel Woodrell on deck and requested the upcoming George Pelecanos book from the library.

    • I also requested “The Triple Agent” by Joby Warrick from the library. The last good non-fiction book I read was “Brotherhood of Warriors” by Aaron Cohen.

    • I have never read any George Pelecanos, but I am curious after listening to a recent NPR story about his stuff. I usually don’t do much fiction, but i’m trying to expand my horizons… What book of his should i start with??

      • I’m not sure which ones to recommend. My favorite is probably “Shame The Devil.” That’s part of a trilogy. The others in that one are “King Suckerman” and “The Sweet Forever.”

        Or you may want to start with one of his standalone books, like “Shoedog,” “Drama City,” “The Night Gardener,” “The Turnaround” or “The Way Home.”

        If you want to read them in the order they were published, start with “A Firing Offense.”

      • I don’t think he has any stand-out book. I read “The Night Gardener,” and it was okay. Like most writers, his later stuff is probably better than his earlier stuff, but I’m just guessing.

      • He curated DC Noir, and it was great. While we are on DC-centric short stories, everyone who lives here should read Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones. Fantastic collection of short stories set right here.

  • song of ice and fire series:

    game of thrones
    clash of kings
    storm of swords
    feast of crows
    dance of dragons

    very entertaining, won’t make you think too much, and loooong (each book clocks in at about 1,000 pages). great summer reading for a vacation or sitting in the park. every day someone stops me talk about them on the metro

    also, hbo turned it into a series. the first book was season 1.

  • The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright – a can’t put down book! Dysfunctional doesn’t even begin to describe this woman’s relationship with her mother. Dare Wright is known for her children’s books about a doll and a teddy bear family (I had these books as a child) – she is an absolutely fascinating woman and her story is so odd and sad.

  • If you like mystery:
    “Rosa” by Jonathan Raab (first in a trilogy)

    If you like gothic fiction:
    “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt or her more recent “The Little Friend.” Both are exceptional.

  • “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell.

    I enjoyed “Super Sad True Love Story” and “A Visit from the Goon Squad,” but Mitchell’s treatment of some of the same themes (dystopian future, the perils of technology, history’s cycles) feels more original, thoughtful and engaging. Best book I’ve read in a long time.

    Zadie Smith’s novels are also great reads any time of year.

    • Amen to everything by David Mitchell! I think he is the best novelist working today.

      I also just finished Manhunt by James Preston. I am not a history buff but I loved his writing; this book is riveting.

      The Monster of Florence is a great summer read as well.

    • I really appreciated “Cloud Atlas”. It took me a bit to get into, but ended up being one of the more satisfying books I can remember reading. Great pick.

  • The Magus by John Fowles. My favorite summertime book.

  • Everything Is Wrong with Me: A Memoir of an American Childhood Gone, Well, Wrong By: Jason Mulgrew. This book is hilarious. It’s a quick and easy read, but really funny.

  • I loved the book Room by Emma Donoghue – couldn’t put it down! And now I am also wrapped up in Game of Thrones – only 100 pages to go until book 2!

    • SouthwestDC

      I recently read Room as well. Impossible to put down! And Emma Donoghue’s older book, Hood, was the best piece of lesbian literature I’ve ever read.

  • The Finkler Question

    • I thought this fizzled at the very end, but otherwise was very good. Very thoughtful, and beautifully written.

  • sTORI Telling by Tori Spelling

    The riveting tale of how Tori Spelling, television’s most famous virgin, made it in the tough world of show biz relying on nothing but her raw, god-given talent.

    Tori has already revealed her flair for brilliant, self-effacing satire on her VH1 show So NoTORIous and Oxygen’s Tori & Dean: Inn Love, but her memoir goes deeper, into the real life behind the rumors: her complicated relationship with her parents; her struggles as an actress after 90210; her accident-prone love life; and, ultimately, her stunning success replacing Dame Judi Dench as Lady MacBeth in London at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

  • The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman – quality, beautiful short vignettes but still an easy and quick read.

    If you want to relive your childhood love of young adult dystopian science fiction: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

    • Loved “The Imperfectionists.” BTW, I’ve met Tom Rachman. His sister lives here in DC and is a very good friend of mine. He’s damned funny. And damned nice.

  • jim_ed

    I’d start with the Nick Stefanos series. The first one is ‘A Firing Offense.’

  • The Sister Brothers. Good quick read. Western, but some parts are hilarious, but not too much depth.

    City of Thiefs by David Benioff is another great summer read. Its set in Russia during the winter, so it might keep you cool. You should read it.

  • Second The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears – tremendous work by a local, about DC, and – thank g-d – not about politics

    if you like Shteyngart (which I do, a lot), I’d recommend anything by Michael Chabon or the always good David Eggers

    also, if dytstopian is your thing, read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go…or, really, just read anything by him – he gives his characters soul

    • What am I missing about Eggers? I tried to read “you shall know our velocity”, but was so incredibly bored and frustrated that I only got halfway through (and I am pretty compulsive about finishing books). I mean, how do you make the premise of a big inheritance and a trip around the world BORING?! His cutesy avant-garde-wannabe-attempts at typesetting the book strangely added absolutely nothing too. So, is it just this book? Is it me? It seems whole generations have agreed he’s great so I want to know what I’m missing.

      • Read a Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. By far his best.

      • I feel the same way about Eggers. Not for everyone.

      • there are actually two versions of you shall know our velocity in print (one has a section not from the main narrator kind of stuck in the middle)- I started with A Heartbreaking and fell in love; picked up You Shall Know (without extra section) and was unimpressed – found OTHER version of You Shall Know and fell back in love

      • I read Egger’s “What is the What” and I loved it. I haven’t read anything else by him though..

  • I recently finished the Crusades Trilogy by Jan Guillou. It’s a great read about a man who is a witness and catalyst to the (fictionalized) unification of Sweden. It’s filled with action, drama, and just an all out riveting story.

    As of yesterday, my summer read is Shogun by James Clavell. I am 30 pages in and it has captured my attention.

  • Can anyone recommend good historical fiction or a biography that reads like fiction??? I have just finished a bunch of Gore Vidal and am hungry for something good. In that vein, “Art Lover”, the biography about Peggy Guggenheim, is excellent.

    • anon. gardener

      Have you read Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)? It’s good. I recently read Figures in Silk (Vanora Bennett) and it was okay. A little sappy, but all the stuff about the silk trade was interesting. how far back in history do you want to go?

    • “Year of Wonders” by Geraldine Brooks is pretty great. Based on a true incident of an isolated English village in the 17th century and how it dealt with the plague. Themes of spirituality and community accountability in there as well.

      I also recently enjoyed “Paris Wife” (fictionalized autobiography of Hemingway’s first wife) and “Loving Frank” about Mamah Borthwick, Frank Lloyd Wright’s lover who was murdered at Taliesin. Both are fictionalized accounts of the intelligent, interesting “woman behind the man.”

      • I also really liked Year of Wonders and The Paris Wife. Another very long historical fiction I enjoyed was Cloudsplitter, by Russell Banks, about the crazy abolitionist John Henry and his attack on Harper’s Ferry.

        I don’t get all the fuss about Just Kids; thought it was pretty dull and the writing was terrible. Awfully boring book given the author and her subject.

      • All of Geraldine Brook’s books are excellent, and I believe all of them are based off an non-fictional aspect (except for “March” which was inspired by “Little Women”). She’s one of my favorites and has a new(ish) book out (“Caleb’s Crossing”).

      • For both Historical Fiction and plague – you might enjoy “The Devil’s Paintbox.” Post Civil war – Indians, smallpox and some Oregon trail.

    • anon. gardener

      Here are a couple more: In the Heart of the Sea, and Mayflower, both by Nathaniel Philbrick. Both true stories. And My Antonia, by Willa Cather. Fictional memoir, absolutely beautiful story, must-read if you haven’t before.

      Oh, can’t believe I forgot this one: Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides. This is about the manhunt for MLK Jr’s killer. I didn’t know any of this history before, and it is an incredible story. another edge of your seat type book.

    • For a great autobiography — Just Kids by Patti Smith

      • SouthwestDC

        Another good one is Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton. Chef memoirs are a dime a dozen these days, but this chef has an MFA in writing and it shows. Plus, her life story is really crazy and fun to read about.

    • Thanks so much, everyone. This is phenomenal. 🙂

    • Highly recommend Frank Brady’s “End Game” about Bobby Fischer. Compelling and written for a broad audience (doesn’t alienate non-chess heads) – I couldn’t put the book down.

    • anon. gardener

      Okay, I’ve got to stop, but this is so much more interesting than work right now:
      Dorothy Dunnett wrote a series of books called The House of Niccolo, set in Renaissance Europe. There are 8 books, so it will keep you going for a while. I liked this better than her Lymond Chronicles, which is mostly in Scotland and England. Wikipedia has a pretty good summation. If you want to immerse yourself in Renaissance European commerce, banking, trade, mercenary armies and back-stabbing families, Niccolo is for you.

    • The Agony and the Ecstasy (Michaelangelo) and Lust for Life (Van Gogh) are fictionalized biography that are very entertaining. Both are by Irving Stone.

  • anon. gardener

    Another David Mitchell – the thousand autumns of jacob de zoet. Detailed look at life in early 19th century Japan, and a plot that Machiavelli would love.

    Just finished reading The Big Short, by Michael Lewis. Man is that guy a great story teller. All you need to know about the subprime mortgage fiasco. A comedy and a tragedy. Great read.

    A classic, and perfect for a sweltering summer day: Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing. The story of Ernest Shackleton’s attempt to reach the South Pole, and how he and his crew survived a year on the ice. It’s a short book, and you will not be able to put it down. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time I read it. Just google the pictures – they are incredible.

    For total escapist fatasy – anything by Sharon Shinn.

    • If you liked “Endurance” check out “Shackleton’s Stowaway,” a novelized but still authentic telling of the adventure from the 18 year old stowaway’s perspective. Also “The Worst Journey in the World,” and “The Last Place on Earth,” both non-fiction and quite long, but Antarctic exploration can get a bit addictive.

      • anon. gardener

        +1 on the addictive powers of antarctic exploration! thanks for the book recs!

        • The book that got me hooked on Shackleton was Antarctic Navigation, by Elizabeth Arthur. The main character also gets obsessed with him and stages her own recreation of the journey (totally fictional).

  • Just started the Game of Thrones series. Can’t put it down.

    Love all these:
    Trans-Sister Radio
    The Help
    The Postmistress
    The Life of Pi
    The Namesake
    The Glass Castle
    She’s Come Undone
    In the Woods, The Likeness, and Faithful Place – by Tana French
    Anything by Alex Kava – psychological suspense novels

    • I really liked The Help as well. I’m hoping that the movie doesn’t make it as frilly of a story as the trailor suggests. It’s a well written, moving, and profound piece.

      I also liked People of the Book. Although it was painfully easy to read, the research that went into the story was impressive.

      • +1 for People of the Book (& others by Geraldine Brooks)

      • Emmaleigh504

        I wouldn’t call the Help “profound”. I think of it more as light entertainment that happens to be set during trying times. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but I just don’t think it’s some great work on race relations. It’s light summer reading.

        • Quotia Zelda

          I agree. It was a nice summer read, but it is not a profound statement on American race relations or even an especially new or interesting insight into domestic service in early 1960s Mississippi.

    • Nice list. Liked many of these, also loved Bel Canto.

      • What about the ending? I loved Bel Canto until the ending was so out-of-nowhere bad that I wanted to smash Ann Patchett over the head.

  • Chick Lit: Miracle Beach by Erin Celello

  • after burning myself out on norwegian detective novels (what’s with the obsessions with genetic disorders anyhow?), i destroyed the hunger games trilogy in a couple of days. epic guilty pleasure.

    one of my all time favorite reads is lonely werewolf girl by martin millar. brilliant.

    and while we’re on the topic of london-based fantasy, neverwhere by neil gaimman is great too…

    if that’s not your thing, the brief wondrous life of oscar wao by junot diaz was amazing/hilarious/heart breaking.

    supersad true love story was a little too supersad and supertrue for the beach. it’ll make you throw your smart phone in the ocean.

    on that note, i’m beach bound for a week with game of thrones 🙂

  • The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy
    King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild

  • Uncaged – a thriller along the lines of Outbreak or The Andromeda Strain. Michael Crichton meets Tom Clancy. Not really my style of book, but I couldn’t put it down once I got into it.

    Order here:

  • “Saints and Sinners” by Edna O’Brien. Gem-perfect writing.

  • And a thriller set in DC – “The Mosquito War” by V.A. MacAlister. A CIA biological warfare plot gone bad results in a deadly malaria epidemic.

    And for those looking for historical and/or adventure fiction – read the Horatio Hornblower series by C.S. Forester. They are often mistakenly thought of as kid’s books, but they were written for the Tom Clancy market of the day.

    Hint – read them in the order they were written – start with “Beat to Quarters” then “Ship of the Line,” then Flying Colors” then you can fill in with the rest in more chronological (for the character) order.

    • If you like that, check out Richard Preston. He wrote “The Hot Zone” (nonfiction, and the movie “Outbreak” was based on it.) The book takes place in Northern VA.

      His novel about bioterrorism, “The Cobra Event,” is pretty good.

  • andy

    Read “The Magicians” by Lev Grossman. Good for Narnia, Tolkien, Potter fans, plus anyone who endured that college/post-college thing.

    Sequel, “The Magician King” comes out this week.

  • Sorry here are two others I read this summer that were good reads:
    The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa
    Ake: The Years of Childhood by Wole Soyinka

  • I have two to suggest that are not at all what I normally like to read (I don’t usually like non-fiction other than Holocaust related), but they are awesome books.

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – black woman raised in Clover, VA, moved to Baltimore – her cancer cells have been grown by the trillions and helped cure polio, create invitro, etc. Fascinating look at race, medical ethics and just a plain interesting story.

    Stiff by Mary Roach – it’s a book about cadavers. Before you think that’s gross – our entire book group of 15 women LOVED this book, as did my mother, my husband, my sister, etc. It’s funny and incredibly fascinating.

    • +1 On the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Fascinating true story for anyone who is not familiar with it.

    • Totally agree on Henrietta Lacks. Really interesting and makes you think a lot about medicine and ethics.

  • I haven’t read “Stiff” yet, but “Bonk” occasionally had me in tears with laughter.

    • “Stiff” is hysterical and fascinating and exceptionally well-written – Mary Roach is just a damn good writer.

  • The Passage by Justin Cronin.

    This book is awesome.

  • Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth and the follow-up World Without End. two of my all time favorites.

    Currently reading hsi newish book Fall of Giants, its ok but not as good. and looking forward to strting Game of Thrones next!

  • Too many to count being a librarian but these some of the books I have read this summer
    The Passage – Justin Cronin (Vampire book with brains)
    The Astral – Kate Christensen (good book for DC gentrifiers)
    Room – Emma Donoghue (intense)
    Story of a Beautiful Girl – Rachel Simon (heartbreakingly beautiful)
    Zombie Spaceship Waste Land – Patton Oswald – (This guy is out of his mind!)
    Lies that Chesea Handler Told Me (guilty pleasure)

  • Echoing others, above:

    “The Imperfectionists,” Tom Rachman.
    “A Visit From the Goon Squad,” Jennifer Egan.

    New Entries:

    Geoff Dyer’s “Otherwise Known as the Human Condition” is just a stunning collection of essays.

    Tom Shales’ book on ESPN, “Those Guys Have All The Fun,” is a fascinating glimpse behind-the-scenes at Bristol.

    And my friends know I’m a broken record when it comes to this, but the funniest novel ever written is “Lucky Jim” by Kingsley Amis (yes, Mart’s dad).

  • Justin Cronin’s “The Passage” was a great summer read last summer. Hopefully the sequal is coming soon.

  • Anyone read Robopocalypse?

  • Emmaleigh504

    I recently read Likeness by Tana French and loved it. I want to read more by her now.

    Some of my other favorite fiction books are
    the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins,
    Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins,
    A Dirty Job by Chris Moore,
    Shampoo Planet by Douglas Coupland, and
    Pest Control by Bill Fitzhugh.

    Some great nonfiction books are
    Bright Young People by DJ Taylor and
    the Great Silence by Juliet Nicolson (I’ve got a bit of an obsession).

    • I love Tana French, and actually liked ‘the likeness’ least – I strongly recommend her other books if you enjoyed that one.

      Just left borders clearance sale w/the Swan Thief (author of the historian), an Isabel Allende book, and Kate Atkinson (Scottish writer) – can’t wait to dig in!

      For those who enjoyed the Steig Larrson books, Jo Nesbo’s series were great mysteries and I just finished two (in quick succession, it was addictive) by Camilla Lackberg. They’re best to read in succession as the stories build from one another. Mysteries are not for all, but I enjoy them.

      For those who can’t find the time to read, I love audible – I just finished Philip Kerr (another mystery writer) whose main character goes back and forth in time through pre-, during, and post-WWII Germany – he’s a German detective caught up periodically in politics of the day alongside the actual mystery he’s trying to solve.

      Finally, favorite book of recent years, The History of Love by Krauss. Haunting and lovely.

  • Honestly, how do people find the time to read? I work an office job and don’t have kids, and I STILL find it impossible to find more than a few minutes a day to sit down with a book. It takes me AGES to get through a novel. Just can’t do it. When it comes to reading, I’m definitely of the Philip Roth school of thought, who once said that if you read a novel in more than two weeks you didn’t really read the novel.

    • Emmaleigh504

      I make time to read because I love it. Other people spend hours training for triathlons, I spend hours reading. Maybe you just like to do other things more, nothing wrong with that.

      • SouthwestDC

        Agreed. I’m currently in a reading frenzy, but last winter/spring when I was buying a house, taking two graduate classes, planning a wedding shower, and doing yoga every day I hardly read at all. And I think my reading pace will go back down soon because I’ve been wanting to get back into photography, knitting, sewing, swimming, and yoga. If only there were more hours in the day so I could do it all. 🙂

      • SouthwestDC

        Also, don’t feel bad about discarding half-finished books that you can’t really get into. Life is too short to trudge through a book when there are so many others out there.

    • Airplane rides. Sometimes that is the only time I have to read.

    • I’m an extremely fast reader so spacing out a novel over the course of two weeks would pretty much define torture for me. I have a 2-4 book a week habit. Not pretty.

      And as for making time: I read on the Metro/bus, in lines, while cooking, while eating (admittedly a bad habit), and before bed. I don’t own a TV and don’t spend a ton of time on the web. My job requires being very social and talkative so when I get home, I don’t want to socialize, I want to read. Like Emmaleigh, it’s my hobby/obsession.

  • Dick Francis – anything by him. He’s a somewhat forgotten writer nowadays – but a masterful storyteller – mystery/suspense/adventure genre. Most books involve horse racing, but you don’t have to be interested in that to enjoy them.

  • I just finished The Lost City of Z and enjoyed it a lot. Now reading Mary Roach’s “Packing of Mars.” only a third of the way in but it’s fascinating and hilarious. Puts the Right Stuff into perspective. She also wrote Stiff, also funny, though don’t read during dinner.

    My book club introduced me to Joe Coomer and “The Loop,” named after Forth Worth’s version of the Beltway. It was fun and a short read.

    The guilty-pleasure read about DC for me is the gothic thriller “Waking the Moon” by Elizabeth Hand. Transforms the city into an eerie, mysterious Gothic haven instead of the wonky, bureaucratic place we know and love.

  • Just FYI, a lot of the recently-published books that have been recommended on here are on the Barnes & Noble “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” table.

  • Some old favs
    Vox – Nicholson Baker
    Geek Love – Katherine Dunn
    Liver – Will Self

  • The Magicians
    The Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones etc.)
    Non-fiction – any of Michaela Wrong’s books: I Didn’t Do it for You (Eritrea), In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz (Congo) and It’s Our Turn to Eat (Kenya).

    • andy

      I think you and I have the same taste based on Magicians and Michaela Wrong. I think I should get some of the Song of Ice and Fire series! Thanks!

  • I feel compelled to throw in another voice for the Song of Ice and Fire series – I’m not particularly a high fantasy fan, but I’ve torn through the first 4 books in about 2 months. They’re dense, but you just want to keep reading to find out what happens.

    The Hunger Games series is similarly compelling, but much easier/shorter to get through. Plus, the series is finished, so no waiting for the next book. You want to be ahead of the curve for when the movie comes out…

    If you’re looking for some fun non-fiction, Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History by Penny Le Couteur, In the Devil’s Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Food by Stewart Lee Allen, and Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain are great reads. If you want something more serious but still compelling – Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer is amazing and sad all at once.

  • Am I alone in being disappointed by “Cutting for Stone”? It started out great, but it felt like the editor quit one third through the book. I still finished it, hoping it would pick up, and was even more disappointed by the ending. Sad, yes, and the real events behind the story are fascinating and need to be known, but that does not make a great book, unfortunately.

    Anyhow, to recommend: I second “Lotus Eaters” mentioned above, and also “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien. The best two I’ve read in the last couple of months. Both about Vietnam.

    All three novels by Marilynne Robinson – “Housekeeping,” “Gilead,” and “Home.” Fabulous in different ways. She is my favorite living writer. Though I’m not sure it’s summer reading.

    Just read two Salman Rushdie books for kids “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” and “Luka and the Fire of Life.” So wonderful. And “The Moor’s Last Sigh” for the adults in your life.

    Also was pleasantly surprised by “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold,” after being disappointed by other LeCarre’s books.

    After reading Aleksandar Hemon’s heart-breaking article in The New Yorker, I have to check out his fiction. Ideas/recommendations, anyone?

    A separate question: do people have favorite used book stores in DC? Especially interested in recently opened ones.

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