Bout of Books Challenge: Top Ten Recommendations

Bout of Books Challenge: Top Ten Recommendations

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Hey, gang. Day two is going pretty slowly, but I'm not too concerned about it. Hope everyone else is getting a lot of reading done! I almost forgot to check the challenge today, but here I am. This one is hosted by Trees of Reverie here!

The Challenge: You’ve just started to work at a bookstore (or library) - what are your top ten go-to book recommendations?
  • You may select any TEN BOOKS of your choice. These books can be from a specific genre, or you may like to choose a few books from various genres.
Extra Prompts:
  • Why did you choose these books?
  • What would you say about each of these books when recommending them to a customer or library patron?
  • What would be close favourites for book recommendations that didn’t make it onto your list?
  • Is there anything else that you’d like to mention about the books you’ve chosen to include on this list?
So I'm going to do all of the prompts and extra prompts! I pretty much act like a small library to my friends, so I knew exactly what books I wanted to recommend. Each blurb next to the book is what I would say about it to a customer, including why I'm choosing them! Check them out!

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski - This is more like an experience than a book. The bulk of the book is a manuscript that the narrator found. It was written by a man who's now dead. The narrator communicates mostly through footnotes. The manuscript is about a documentary that isn't real. It doesn't exist in our world or in the narrator's. The documentary is about a house that's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, and the horrors the family who lives there face. As the book goes on, with the narrator trying to figure out why this manuscript exists and what happened to the author of it, the format starts to get crazy. You have to spin the book around to read all of it. You have to flip back and forth through footnotes and appendices. You don't know if the author, the narrator, or you are going crazy. It's a crazy horror ride, very subtle and creepy, and one of my all time favorite books.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - This trilogy is a given. And, yes, I'm recommending it as one book because you can totally buy it as a single volume. I have! I'm obsessed with Lord of the Rings. It's a beautifully written classic fantasy trilogy that's just as exciting to read every time I decide it's time to revisit it. It covers the classic issues of good vs. evil, and man can this guy describe some nature. Excellent characters and story.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer - I can't stop praising this one. Annihilation completely filled the hole LOST left in my heart. It's weird, it's got nature stuff, and it's pretty creepy. You don't realize how much the story's getting to you until you're alone in your apartment at night. That's when it hits you. A wildly original science fiction piece beginning the Southern Reach Trilogy that can stand alone, but ends beautifully in the last novel, Acceptance. A solid pick for people who just like pretty covers too.

The Martian by Andy Weir - This book is just so much fun. Reading it was an absolute blast. It's basically the movie "Gravity" but on Mars, with less melodrama, more science, and more humor. It's not my favorite book of all time, but I can't think of many people that wouldn't get a kick out of this book. Very well paced. An excellent novel for science fiction fans and people not into science fiction alike.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison - Now this is a stunning novel. If you haven't read Tonni Morrison before, you have to, and this is an excellent one to start with. The Bluest Eye is about an African-American family (I don't really want to spoil what they go through) and the struggle with feeling beautiful as a black girl. Actually the most beautiful writing I've ever seen. I'd recommend it for that alone (I read it for a fiction writing class), but the story is so much more important than that. Read it and be blown away.

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn - This book follows a family of circus performers that made a point of doing drugs while pregnant to create babies with stranger and stranger developmental problems. There are conjoined twins, an albino hunchback dwarf, a boy who is referred to as "Aquaboy" due to his flipper-like limbs, and a young boy whose talent isn't revealed for quite some time. The plot was twisted, and the writing was beautiful and moving. I cried multiple times because of the very human tragedies this family faces. This is a really good pick for people interested in family dramas who also have a bit of a weird streak like me.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes - This is a short, poignant book that could appeal to anybody. Beautifully written, Barnes explores memory as he recounts narrator Tony's past. He's a divorced man who is trying to connect his past to his present and the realizations he makes are incredible. This one the Booker Prize for good reason.

When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams - Right before Williams' mother died, she told her to take her many journals (a Mormon tradition) and only read them once she had passed. A while after her mother died, she finally looked through them. They were all empty. When Women Were Birds is part memoir, part exploration on voice -- having one and choosing whether or not to use it. She explores being a woman, being a mother, being a daughter, and what her mother could have been trying to say. Poetic and beautiful. I read it in one day and it made me tear up a little. Excellent pick for your boyfriend's mom (or at least she told me it was excellent).


Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee by Megan Boyle - This is a really good pick for anybody looking for something a little different. Maybe a 20-something who doesn't read much, but not because they don't like to read. Selected Unpublished is written in a stream of consciousness, almost blog/twitter like entries. It covers what it's like to be a 20-something with in this day and age. Often hilarious and on point (akin to Lena Dunham), sometimes sad, but always hopeful. This was my first foray into alt-lit and I was very impressed.

Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander - This book is just hilarious. For fans of Woody Allen. The premise: Main character, Kugel, finds Anne Frank (an old woman now) hiding in his attic. Yeah. There's a lot of amazing, very Jewish neurotic humor when it comes to how his mother raised him and how the family lives now. His mother acts like she went through the holocaust, though she is too young for that to have been the case. One thing I remember specifically: she read one day that holocaust survivors hide bread, so she suddenly starts hiding bread. I died. It's all absurd, dark, and very well written. Not for everyone, but I think everyone who likes that kind of black humor should give it a try.

Honorable mentions that were slightly too niche for me to recommend to just anybody:
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  • A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
  • Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

What books would you recommend most highly? Happy Bout of Books, everyone!


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