Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: TOP TEN RECOMMENDED BOOKS (Books That Have Been Recommended to Me)

This is a difficult topic since most of the books I read are 'recommended' by something or someone. My favorite place to find titles used to be the BOOK SENSE flyer my old bookstore used to have. Since they closed, I've tried to follow BOOK SENSE online, but it's not the same. I don't even think it's called Book Sense anymore. I still go back to my old collection of BOOK SENSE flyers to look for titles I might have missed. I also LOVE to look through my old A COMMON READER catalogues for book recommendations as well. What a sad day when they went out of business. And last but not least I continue to look to other blogs for recommendations and also Nancy Pearl's books, BOOK LUST and MORE BOOK LUST. She has rarely set me wrong.) I mean book titles don't come out of the ether. At least, they don't for me.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the gals over at THE BROKE AND THE BOOKISH. Today it's Jamie's turn. Use this link to check out what other bloggers are listing and talking about under this week's topic.

Top Ten Recommended Books: (In no particular order except as they pop into my mind.)

1) CAPTAIN BLOOD by Rafael Sabatini. For this fabulous recommend, I thank the COMMON READER catalogue which first brought to my attention the books of a writer I was not familiar with. I've read THE SEA HAWK and plan on reading, SCARAMOUCHE soon as I can get a copy. Just absolutely wonderful swashbucklers filled with adventure and daring do. I absolutely love them. And if you haven't seen the film version of CAPTAIN BLOOD with Errol Flynn, I recommend that as well. (Also THE SEA HAWK with Flynn and SCARAMOUCHE with Stewart Granger.) "He was born with the gift of laughter and the sense that the world was mad." The unforgettable opening sentence of SCARAMOUCHE.

2) LEVIATHAN by Scott Westerfield. A book I would normally not have read (I don't read a lot of YA) except that a friend in Colorado sent me a copy and boy, am I glad she did. I loved this little steampunk adventure - my first, and not my last. Love the whole idea of alternate history anyway and the creatively inventive use of steam engine machinery. Victoriana with air travel and curious weapons of mass destruction - sort of.

3) HIS MONKEY WIFE by John Collier (who also wrote the screenplay for the classic, THE AFRICAN QUEEN.) Recommended by Nancy Pearl in her second volume of book recommendations, MORE BOOK LUST. A book that I might never have known about otherwise since my library doesn't have it and I'd never heard of it before. Set in 1920's colonial Africa, HIS MONKEY WIFE tells the tale of a chimp named Emily who falls in love with her owner, a young British twit of a school teacher named Alfred Fatigay. When Alfred goes home to get married - he is affianced to a totally unsuitable woman (who will make his life a living hell), Emily (whom he has brought along as a kind of maid for his fiance) does all she can to derail the marriage. Did I mention that Emily is a great proponent of Emily Bronte? As Nancy Pearl says in her recommendation: "From the first line of the introduction all the way to its oh-so-satisfying (and romantic) last sentence, this not-nearly-well-known-enough novel will warm the heart of even the most cynical reader. I totally agree.

4) ACQUA ALTA by Donna Leon. Another gift from another friend, another great series discovered. I've yet to read the rest, but I'm gearing up to scoop them all out of the library this summer. I'll be spending time visiting Venice, solving mysteries with the intrepid Commissario Guido Brunetti - at least in my imagination. I wish I were really going to Venice, but this is the second best thing.

5) The books of G.M. Ford, including the Leo Waterman series and especially the Frank Corso series. Corso is a disgraced journalist, an anti-hero in a series of very dark, offbeat, noir-ish books set in an around Seattle. The Waterman books are more humorous and remind me of my recent read of Brian DeSilva's book ROGUE ISLAND. (If you like DeSilva, you'll also like the Waterman books by G.M. Ford.) First book in the Corso series: FURY. First book in the Leo Waterman series: WHO IN HELL IS WANDA FUCA? Both series recommended by a good friend in Seattle.

6) LOOK HOMEWARD, ANGEL by Thomas Wolfe. Recommended to me eons ago, by my high school English teacher, Miss Eisenberg. An eye-opening, life-enhancing book that taught me many things about writing and about the appreciation of writing.

7) CRYPTONOMICON by Neal Stephenson. Recommended by Nancy Pearl - she said it's one of her all time favorite books. She was right. It is also one of my all time favorites. A book I would probably not have read except that that she was so enthusiastic about it. This is a gargantuan book full of ideas, eccentric and otherwise. Stephenson is known as the 'king of cyberpunk'. I read the book anyway. LOVED IT!!! You can teach an old dog new tricks. HA!

8) THE WINTER QUEEN, MURDER ON THE LEVIATHAN and THE DEATH OF ACHILLES by the Russian writer, Boris Akunin. Highly recommended to me by my friend in Seattle (who also recommend G.M. Ford). These books are slow in coming since they're written in Russian and it seems to take forever to translate them into English. The policeman Erast Fandorin (one of the great character names in literature, I think) appears to be a kind of government operative who goes about solving crimes in turn of the century Russia. Wonderful books, very different from anything else out there. My favorite: MURDER ON THE LEVIATHAN.

9) BY A SLOW RIVER by Philippe Claudel. Recommended by the same friend in Seattle mentioned above. An enormously moving book with a heartbreaking surprise of an ending which you will never forget. A tale told from memory, a book that takes place in a small French village within hearing distance of the guns of WWI. A brilliant book that crosses the line (if that line exists at all) between literary writing and mystery.

10) DADDY LONG-LEGS by Jean Webster. An epistolary novel (I love them!) recommended by Nancy Pearl in MORE BOOK LUST. You've probably heard or seen the charming MGM musical film with Leslie Caron and Fred Astaire, now read the book. It is as charming and engaging in its own way. Written in 1912, it remains a lovely, gentle, romantic read.


  1. What a lovely meme, and what a great selection (as I haven't read any!). I am particularly taken with the last one. I have not seen the film either though An American in Paris also with LC has one of my favourite book in a film scenes: where Caron reads whilst doing the splits in three direcions and without taking her eyes from the page! I must get hold of the both the film and the book you mention.

    You do read and watch such lovely things!

  2. Thanks! What a nice thing to say. :)

    I hope you enjoy DADDY LONG LEGS as much as I did! I remember the scene from AMERICAN IN PARIS. Fun! My favorite part is Gene Kelly wiggling his butt in the sequence based on the Toulouse Lautrec painting. HA!

  3. That friend in Seattle would also recommend you read another book by Philippe Claudel ~ Brodeck...different translator but the writing is exquisite! It's an Yvette book for sure!


  4. Oh thank you 'anonymous friend from Seattle." HA! Will add it to my library pickings. :)

  5. Daddy Long Legs was one of the best books of my tween years. I want to read it again, but I'm a little nervous because my memories of it are so very rosy :)
    Good list and absolutely ADORABLE granddaughter

  6. Birdie: Thanks, so much. Yes, she's a beauty. And a sweetie pie as well. :) (I'm such a mushy grandma')

    I loved DADDY LONG LEGS and I only read it a couple of years ago. It's still good. :)

  7. Your Seattle friend sounds like they have a lot of successful book recommendations for you!I haven't read any of the books on your list but Cryptonomicon sounds especially intriguing

  8. Red: Yes, she is a good source for books. :) I have a feeling you'd like CRYPTONOMICON. It's kind of an odd book for old ladies to like, but we do. HAHA!!! You're young, you'll probably get more out of it, in certain ways, than I did. But you won't love it more than I do. A truly terrific book.

  9. Have not read any of these, but 6, 7, and 9 sound very interesting! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Oh, they are, Dani. Thanks for dropping by.

  11. What a great list!

    I cannot think of a better way to spend summer afternoons -- other than actually being in Venice -- than to catch up on Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti series.

    I personally am as fond of them as chocolate; when a new one is available here, I read it and all else falls by the wayside.

    With iced tea and snacks, to just sit and read them is just sheer bliss.

    On Thomas Wolfe, he was one of my Dad's favorite authors, so I must read this.

    And on Philippe Claudel, there has been much praise of his writing on the blogosphere. Many readers like his writing. He's won prizes and acclaim.

  12. I'm checking out Book Lust and G.M.Ford. Holy Cow! I forgot how much I like your blog. Blogger seems to have taken all of the blogs that I follow away. I'm a little worried I'm not going to find you back again - so stop by often to mine so I can have a link.

  13. Don't Donna Leon's books make you hungry?! I'm a vegan, so the meals aren't always things I'd eat. But I salivate over Paola's 3-course lunches and all the lovely little sandwiches Brunetti and his partners eat in bars. My husband and I spent a week in Venice many years ago and I remember the fresh, delicious little sandwiches. Why are good sandwiches so hard to find here? And how does Paola manage to teach college, shop, cook, and lounge around reading English literature? What am I doing wrong? I love that Brunetti reads classic Roman histories for relaxation? This is a great series, even if the mysteries aren't always firmly resolved, as many of us mystery fans like (good guys win/ bad guys get punished).

  14. I have got to read Leon soon. She's turning up too frequently on blogs for me to delay the experience. I also like the Fandorin series. Excellent books, very "Russian" in spirit. I believe I've read that the author has a second series featuring a woman. A nun? I'll have to go in search of those just to make sure I haven't made all that up. And Thomas Wolfe. A great classic of American literature and a terrific book. I read it in my twenties and it made a big impression on me then. Wonder how I'd feel now?

  15. Kathy: Do, please read BY A SLOW RIVER, I think you will love it. Not a happy book by any means, but a powerful one. Brilliant writing. I've already reserved his second book at the library on instruction from my anonymous friend in Seattle. :)

    I am looking forward to spending a great chunk of the summer with Donna Leon and Commissario Brunetti. For sure.

  16. Book Belle: Thanks! I'll be sure and drop by. Glad you like my blog I'll be sure and check out your blog as well. Wouldn't want to lose track. That's the hardest part of blogging, at least for me, - keeping track of everyone and their wonderful blogs. :)

  17. Joan: I can't wait to spend the summer in Venice with the Commissario and his wife and their delicious foods. I'm taking as many Donna Leon books out of the library as I'm allowed. Plan to sit around and read even if I can't REALLY go to Venice, at least I will have gone there in my imagination. Close enough. :)

  18. Carol: Precisely why I haven't gone back and reread LOOK HOMEWARD, ANGEL. I'm so afraid it will not measure up to my memories and my first impression. But I still revere the book.

    Yes, you're right, Boris Akunin, the author of the Fandorin books has a second series with a nun as the chief protagonist. I've never read any though - been meaning to. I believe they're already available here in the USA.

  19. Yes, Paola Brunetti's three-course meals make me hungry and pull my hair out that there isn't a trattoria right next door to my house or even a place to get a coffee and sfloglatella. And Brunetti's constant stops for snacks does, too.

    I can smell the food when I'm reading about Paola's dinners, I swear.

    Leon put out a cookbook with photos and recipes; it looks quite nice.

    I may end up rereading this series or some of it over the summer, too. It really pulls you in.

    And in the endings, there deliberately is not a nice wrap-up with criminals tried and jailed. Leon's whole point is that often the suspects are highly connected, wealthy, part of the government, corporations, military, Mafia, etc., and don't get justice. She's reflecting what she sees as the truth in Italy.

  20. Kathy: Oh, great! All I need: my appetite encouraged. HAHA!!! I love reading about the food people are eating, especially in mysteries. Dont' know why. I'm trying to figure out when I should line up the books at the library...

  21. Line them up soon. You don't want to miss out when people do their summer reserves and take out books to take on vacation for weeks. This is a series you don't have to read in order, I don't think. I hope you blog about them, would like to see what you think and cull out.

    I have Leon's latest book, "Drawing Conclusions" on library reserve. I won't buy it, although I almost bought Michael Connelly's new book yesterday, but my budget flashed before my eyes and sanity returned. Now Fred Vargas' new book is tormenting me and I'm trying to wait for the library to get it, but may cave in. A friend is reading it in French and says it's worth buying.

  22. Kathy: Usually the summer months are good for re-reading for me, since most of the 'blockbuster' books that everyone else seems to be reading don't appeal to me. I want to read the new Michael Connelly Harry Bosch book, but I can wait. So many books, so little time. Yup.

  23. The new Michael Connelly is a legal thriller featuring Mickey Haller, the lawyer who works out of his car, though I think he gets an office in this book. It's "The Fifth Witness."

    Well, good, if the summer blockbusters aren't your thing, you should be able to get others books.

    My library branch only has one bookcase with mysteries and it's cleaned out during the summer, but the reserve system works.

  24. Kathy: Oh, then I'm waiting for the Harry Bosch book by Connelly - I prefer those. I never have any problem finding something to read at the library - mostly reserves from the Main branch - but it works fine.

  25. Ah, Nancy Pearl. I have both "editions" of her Book Lust books, although I confess I haven't delved too deeply into them. I already get so many great recommendations from the book blogs I read, that I'm almost afraid to add more to my dangerously long TBR list. :)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Happy reading (and listing)!

  26. I am a major Nancy Pearl fan. I must say that a great deal of my favorite books have been recommended by Nancy. But the blogs haven't been doing to shabby a job either. :)


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