If you were to say, “Jenna, I’m going on a trip and I need something to read” or “Jenna, I can’t stand the thought of rereading Fifty Shades of Gray one more time” or “Jenna, you know how to read, right? What do you suggest?” These are the novels I would most likely tell you about. They left me with my mouth hanging open. Really. And some of them (Like Yellow Raft in Blue Water) I reread every few years so they can blow my mind all over again. So listen up, friends. I’m about to make your reading life a whole lot awesome-er. (Really-er.)
1. Everything I Never Told You: A Novel, by Celeste Ng. This is the story of a blended Chinese-American family living in a small town in the 1970s. It’s told from a bunch of different perspectives and put me into one of my I’m Never Going to Be That Good of a Writer depressive episodes. I promise you’ll love it. Also, could someone help me out with how to pronounce the author’s last name?
2. The Rosie Project: A Novel, by Graeme Simsion. Hands down the funniest narrator I have ever encountered. I was literally LOL’ing from my seat in 18B. Professor Don Tillman (brilliant, but not exactly what you’d call “street smart”) embarks on a scientific quest to find the perfect mate. Read this book then give it to your saddest friend. It will cheer them right up!
3. The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty. This is actually the one I recommend most often, because it’s fun and engaging and everyone I know who’s read it really loved it. Cecelia is living a happy life when she finds a letter written by her husband that is intended for her to read after his death. Except he’s alive. And her whole life is about to get thrown off course.
4. The Kitchen House: A Novel, by Kathleen Grissom. Wow. Wow. Okay, I don’t really know where to start with this one, except this was in my top 10 best reading experiences of my entire life. Set on a plantation in pre-civil war Virginia, Lavinia is a white indentured servant who is embraced as family by the plantation’s slaves. Where her life takes her and the way the story unfolds totally rocked me. Also, make sure you read at the end where she got the idea for the story–it gives me goosebumps!
5. The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel, by Diane Setterfield. A young biographer is called upon to write the story of a legendary writer, and the story that unfolds is gothic, and mysterious and so utterly engrossing I wish I could read it again and not see what was coming.
6. Where’d You Go, Bernadette: A Novel, by Maria Semple. There’s a restaurant near my house that serves a gigantic slice of bliss that goes by the name of Tollhouse Pie. It’s warm and buttery with big chunks of chocolate and walnuts and every time I eat it I wonder why I ever bother eating anything else. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is Tollhouse Pie in book form. Bernadette Fox is notorious for her bad behavior, and when she goes missing her daughter starts compiling all her correspondence to piece together where she’s gone. I loved this book. Like more than a friend.
7. A Yellow Raft in Blue Water: A Novel, by Michael Dorris. This is my favorite book. (I mean that.) Of the thousands I have read and loved, this is the one. One day I’ll write a separate post on it, but for now let me just tell you it’s the story of a grandmother, a mother, and a daughter and tells the story of their life from each of their perspectives. Mysterious Ida, train-wreck Christine, and lost Rayona. I think about them all the time.
8. The Patron Saint of Liars, by Ann Patchett. I have a writer crush on Ann Patchett. Like really. All of her books are unbelievable, but this is my most loved. And it also happens to be the one that launched her career. Pregnant Rose shows up at a home for unwed mothers and then stays. And stays. Even when her past refuses to remain in the past.
I hope you absolutely love these books. And if I ever develop amnesia like Drew Barrymore on 50 First Dates, would you please instruct my husband to leave these books in a pile on my bedside? And will you please, please tell me what books you recommend? I need a new book.