Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ten Book Recommendations For....

Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is "Ten book recommendations for...." and I'm doing mine for people who want uplifting books that are "smart" or "not fluff." We've had some patrons in the library with this request and it's very difficult! Literary fiction tends to be pretty heavy duty. The thing about books is that there has to be some elements of conflict or risk or something to keep one's interest and be worked out, and the ones that tend to be more light-hearted are things like romance, which is absolutely not what these patrons want. Do you know how hard it is to find smart books without tragedy? It's hard! But I've put together a list with some contenders. You'll notice that most (or all?) of them are pretty reliant on humor, which is the only way I know to address this problem.

1. Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

This is my go-to recommendation for this type of request. Or lots of requests, come to think of it. It's the one that I think fits the bill the best. Bernadette is pushed over the edge by an impending family trip to Antarctica and disappears just days before they're scheduled to leave. The whole thing is told through emails, letters, documents, and some narration from her daughter, Bee. Fast-paced, satirical, wacky, and clever.

2. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

This story about a widowed curmudgeon who likes books more than people is filled with humor and literary references. In re-reading my post about it now, I said that it gets a bit dark and sad, but honestly I don't remember that. I remember the uplifting aspects of the story and the humor. Maybe I need to re-read it. But I'm leaving it here for now anyhow because it's really a fantastic book.

3. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld 

A modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice! This is totally chick lit, but since Sittenfeld is considered somewhat literary, people eat this up and still think it's literary (whatever that actually means) and I'm willing to let them keep believing that.

4. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

A retired Major living in a small English village begins a romance with a Pakistani shopkeeper, and must contend with the disapproval of the locals who have never quite accepted her. A major theme is the tension between tradition and change. I really loved this book.

5. The Tower, The Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart

This one is a bit divisive, but I really enjoyed its quirkiness. The main story centers around a couple who haven't dealt with the death of their child, which totally makes it sound like the opposite of what I'm looking for here, but believe me when I say it's not a sad book. The husband is put in charge of the Queen's menagerie at the Tower of London and there's a lot of comedy and little romances and whatnot.

6. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

I read this one so long ago that I don't have a blog post about it. It takes place on the fictional island where the sentence "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" was coined, and a statue upon which it has been memorialized (along with its creator) has been losing its letters. As they fall, the town council bans residents from using that letter AND the author drops that letter from the book as well. A very clever, unique book.

7. Bossypants by Tina Fey

Now we're getting into nonfiction, which I think is the easier way to handle this particular request except that I don't read nearly enough of it. Tina Fey is definitely smart and has some things to say about being a woman working in comedy, tells lots of stories from her own life, and of course it's quite funny.

8. At Home by Bill Bryson

Or probably anything by Bill Bryson? I've only read this and A Walk in the Woods (so far), and this is the one that strikes me as more brainy. But it's still easy to read and funny. Basically, he takes a tour through his historical house, exploring the history of each room and the objects within in, as well as the aspects of life most associated with that room. A thoroughly readable history of domestic life.

9. Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

Another book where you learn a lot, but have fun while doing it. I've read a few of her others, but I think this one is still my favorite. Roach investigates lots of practicalities about life in space, and there's science but not too much for a regular person to understand.

10. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

I mean, life in South Africa under apartheid when you are racially mixed is not a walk in the park, but this is not a depressing book. Noah talks a lot about his everyday life, tells lots of funny stories, and it's filled with admiration for his mom.

Can you think of any books that you think belong on this list? Let me know in the comments. Really, please, please tell me - I need help with this!


J. Hooligan said...

Oh, this is a topic I never realized I needed before this moment of my life.

Lindsay said...

Ooh, good picks! You're right, that is a hard topic to pin down. I like that you included Mary Roach for some non-fiction. What about "A Man Called Ove"? I haven't read that yet (it's on the read-soon list!) but from what I've heard it might fit the bill.

3goodrats said...

I haven't read A Man Called Ove either, but if you do, let me know if it fits the bill!