I love books! I suspect there was a library in my mother's womb since I was born knowing how to read. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on my grandmother's lap reading to her. By the time I was in kindergarten, my mother would plop onto the mattress beside me so that I could read her every biography from our elementary school library. In middle school, I walked through the halls with my face buried in a book, often falling on my face and garnering laughs from my classmates. By college, there were many nights I blew off my sorority mixers to curl up with a book.
In my early twenties, I decided to read every book on Harvard University's l00 Greatist Books Ever Written. I tackled my goal with gusto, reading seventy of the fiction books on the list. I ignored most of the non-fiction (yawn) and have not yet made it through Slaughterhouse-Five. As poetic as I find Moby Dick, it remains half-read. I suspect I will return to this Bucket List item when the mood hits me.
After my Classics obsession, I discovered Anne Rice and went through a Paranormal phase. Then came Fantasy with Brandon Sanderson and George R.R. Martin. Eventually, I drifted to silly, romantic Mysteries. During the height of the pandemic, I devoured Historical Romances. Currently, I am fascinated by the lore of Dark Romance and morally gray heroes. The point of my babbling? I read every genre, and I love to talk about books.
Recently, I joined BookTok, TikTok's active book-loving community, where I review and talk about the books I love. Last week, I posted videos about my Five contemporary must-reads. Since I believe they will appeal to readers no matter what genre they enjoy, I thought I'd post these Literary gems on my blog for my non-TikTok friends.
So here goes...
No matter what genre you read, add these books to your TBR pile.
Stephanie Bond's Body Movers (Series)
Genre: Humor and Satire/ Sexy Mystery/ ChickLit
This mystery series has it all--rounded imperfect characters, romance, suspense, and hunky Detective Jack Terry. I devoured the 12-book series in a couple of weeks. Why would I recommend ChickLit to all readers? Notice I mentioned rounded imperfect characters. Bond has mastered creating them--idiosyncrasies resplendent--that everyone can cheer for.
So Carlotta Wren's life hasn't turned out as she'd planned. She didn't plan for her parents to skip bail for a white-collar crime, leaving her to raise her brother. She didn't plan on having the silver spoon ripped from her mouth and forgoing college to work retail. She didn't plan on her blue-blood fiancé dumping her. And she didn't plan on still being single 10 years later, working at Neiman Marcus, with no idea where her fugitive parents are. But she's coping. Until -
- her lovable brother is arrested, and the hunky cop decides to reopen her parents' case.
- her brother becomes a body mover for the morgue, and his sexy boss gets Carlotta involved.
- her former fiancé's wife (a good customer) is murdered, fingering Carlotta.
With three men in her life, Carlotta has added motivation to help bag a murderer to keep her own well-dressed body from being next on the list!
Fannie Flagg's Daisy Fay and The Miracle Man
Genre: Humor/Coming of Age/Literary Fiction
I associate this book with summer and happiness, perhaps because I read it relaxing by a pond twenty-five summers ago. Interestingly, it is also my twenty-year-old daughter's favorite book. Someone once compared the writing style of my debut novel, Stumpstrong, to Flagg's. What an honor! Since I love this book so much, it is apt to influence my storytelling.
Amazon Description: In Fannie Flagg’s high-spirited first novel, we meet Daisy Fay Harper in the spring of 1952, where she’s “not doing much except sitting around waiting for the sixth grade.” When she leaves Shell Beach, Mississippi, in September 1959, she is packed up and ready for the Miss America Pageant, vowing, “I won’t come back until I’m somebody.” But in our hearts, she already is.
Sassy and irreverent from the get-go, Daisy Fay takes us on a rollicking journey through her formative years on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. There, at The End of the Road of the South, the family malt shop freezer holds unspeakable things, society maven Mrs. Dot hosts Junior Debutante meetings and shares inspired thoughts for the week (such as “sincerity is as valuable as radium”), and Daisy Fay’s Daddy hatches a quick-cash scheme that involves resurrecting his daughter from the dead in a carefully orchestrated miracle. Along the way, Daisy Fay does a lot of growing up, emerging as one of the most hilarious, appealing, and prized characters in modern fiction.
Janet Evanovich's One For the Money (Series)
Genre: Crime Novel/ Mystery/Humor/Female Sleuth
This is one of the few books I have read more than once. Get this...I've read it three times! Vice Cop Joe Morelli is the ultimate book boyfriend, and I want to sit around the Plum's dinner table with Grandma, Lulu, Stephanie, and the rest of the gang. Any time I am feeling blue, I turn to Janet. Evanovich has greatly influenced my writing style. My Miranda Albright Ph.D. Mystery Series was born from my love of Janet and Stephanie.
You’ve lost your job as a department store lingerie buyer, your car’s been repossessed, and most of your furniture and small appliances have been sold off to pay last month’s rent. Now the rent is due again. And you live in New Jersey. What do you do?
If you’re Stephanie Plum, you become a bounty hunter. But not just a nickel-and-dime bounty hunter; you go after the big money. That means a cop gone bad. And not just any cop. She goes after Joe Morelli, a disgraced former vice cop who is also the man who took Stephanie’s virginity at age 16 and then wrote details on a bathroom wall. With pride and rent money on the line, Plum plunges headlong into her first case, one that pits her against ruthless adversaries - people who’d rather kill than lose.
Stephen King's Misery
Misery is not just a book; it is an experience that messes with your mental health and haunts you forever. It is oh-so freaking amazing, solidifying King as one of the greatest storytellers of all time. I tried to channel King in my thriller Double Obsession. Warning: Don't read this book if you'll be home alone.
Best-selling novelist Paul Sheldon thinks he’s finally free of Misery Chastain. In a controversial career move, he’s just killed off the popular protagonist of his beloved romance series in favor of expanding his creative horizons. But such a change doesn’t come without consequences. After a near-fatal car accident in rural Colorado leaves his body broken, Paul finds himself at the mercy of the terrifying rescuer who’s nursing him back to health - his self-proclaimed number one fan, Annie Wilkes.
Annie is very upset over what Paul did to Misery and demands that he find a way to bring her back by writing a new novel - his best yet, and one that’s all for her. After all, Paul has all the time in the world to do so as a prisoner in her isolated house...and Annie has some very persuasive and violent methods to get exactly what she wants...
John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany
Genre: Literary Fiction/ Coming of Age
This book is an absolute masterpiece. Beautiful, haunting, poetic, quirky, religious, not religious, profound, brilliant...I struggle to capture its power in words. So, let me simply say, Read it!
In the summer of 1953, two eleven-year-old boys—best friends—are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy's mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn't believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God's instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul ball is extraordinary.
And since I mentioned them above, add Interview with The Vampire, Game of Thrones (the book kicks the mini-series's arse), and Mistborn: The Final Empire to that growing pile.
Have you read any of these books? If so, let me know your thoughts.
What five books do you recommend everyone add to their To Be Read pile?
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