Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday (#58) - Ten Books Those Who Want To Expand Their Reading Habits Beyond YA

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YA is AWESOME! But if you are like me, there come times when you want to venture outside the borders of YA and read something else. BUT WHERE SHOULD YOU START FROM? Here is a list of ten non-YA titles I have enjoyed and would like to recommend to those trying to expand their reading habits.
(Note: please don't see this as me telling you that you should read something else than only YA, because I am not trying to say that... I just want to offer options for those who desire to do so.)

1. Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

From the winner of the Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize, this mesmerizing, suspenseful, and richly atmospheric tale of time travel draws us into the heart of a heroine we won't soon forget...

The first time Julia Beckett saw Greywethers she was only five, but she knew that it was her house. And now that she’s at last become its owner, she suspects that she was drawn there for a reason.

As if Greywethers were a portal between worlds, she finds herself transported into seventeenth-century England, becoming Mariana, a young woman struggling against danger and treachery, and battling a forbidden love.

Each time Julia travels back, she becomes more enthralled with the past...until she realizes Mariana’s life is threatening to eclipse her own, and she must find a way to lay the past to rest or lose the chance for happiness in her own time.

Mariana is a perfect mix of time travel, romance, intrigue, beautiful and descriptive writing and awesome twists and turns. I read this one back in 2009 and I am in a desperate need to reread this one. SOMEONE SHOULD BUDDY READ THIS WITH ME DURING THE SUMMER?!

2. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye chronicles the tragic, torn lives of a poor black family in 1940s Ohio: Pauline, Cholly, Sam and Pecola. Pecola, unlovely and unloved, prays each night for blue eyes like those of her privileged blond white schoolfellows. She becomes the focus of the mingled love and hatred engendered by her family's frailty and the world's cruelty as the novel moves toward a savage but poignant resolution.

An incredibly difficult book to read due to the subject matter, but one that I keep going back to again and again. After taking a postcolonial theory class this spring I actually want to reread this again since we also discussed race in America, and this very much comments on that through the eyes of children. I will forever be grateful for my high school English teacher for introducing me to this little gem.

3. Purge by Sofi Oksanen

An international sensation, Sofi Oksanen's award-winning novelPurge is a breathtakingly suspenseful tale of two women dogged by their own shameful pasts and the dark, unspoken history that binds them. 

When Aliide Truu, an older woman living alone in the Estonian countryside, finds a disheveled girl huddled in her front yard, she suppresses her misgivings and offers her shelter. Zara is a young sex-trafficking victim on the run from her captors, but a photo she carries with her soon makes it clear that her arrival at Aliide's home is no coincidence. Survivors both, Aliide and Zara engage in a complex arithmetic of suspicion and revelation to distill each other's motives; gradually, their stories emerge, the culmination of a tragic family drama of rivalry, lust, and loss that played out during the worst years of Estonia's Soviet occupation. 

Sofi Oksanen establishes herself as one the most important voices of her generation with this intricately woven tale, whose stakes are almost unbearably high from the first page to the last. Purge is a fiercely compelling and damning novel about the corrosive effects of shame, and of life in a time and place where to survive is to be implicated.

All of those interested in international and historical fiction should DEFINITELY check this one up! It is a story of two different women filled with suspense, surprise, heartbreak and family drama. I don't read or recommend Finnish literature often, but this is one I would like to see more people reviewing in the blogosphere.

4. The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas

A cursed book. A missing professor. Some nefarious men in gray suits. And a dreamworld called the Troposphere?

Ariel Manto has a fascination with nineteenth-century scientists--especially Thomas Lumas and The End of Mr. Y, a book no one alive has read. When she mysteriously uncovers a copy at a used bookstore, Ariel is launched into an adventure of science and faith, consciousness and death, space and time, and everything in between.

Seeking answers, Ariel follows in Mr. Y’s footsteps: She swallows a tincture, stares into a black dot, and is transported into the Troposphere--a wonderland where she can travel through time and space using the thoughts of others. There she begins to understand all the mysteries surrounding the book, herself, and the universe. Or is it all just a hallucination?

This one was such a strange book and if someone were to ask me to explain it, I don't think I could really do it (not at least before a proper reread!) It is one of those books that will want you to google the theories of different philosophers and so on. It might be confusing at points, BUT IT IS TOTALLY WORTH IT! 

5. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

The laconic, atmospheric, and intensively researched narrative of the lives of the Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas, and of the two men, Richard Eugene Hickock and Perry Edward Smith, who brutally killed them on the night of November 15, 1959, is the seminal work of the "new journalism." Perry Smith is one of the great dark characters of American literature, full of contradictory emotions. "I thought he was a very nice gentleman," he says of Herb Clutter. "Soft-spoken. I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat." Told in chapters that alternate between the Clutter household and the approach of Smith and Hickock in their black Chevrolet, then between the investigation of the case and the killers' flight, Capote's account is so detailed that the reader comes to feel almost as if he were a participant in the events. New York Times: "A remarkable, tensely exciting, moving, superbly written 'true account.'" New York Review of Books: "Harrowing... the best documentary account of an American crime ever written... The book chills the blood and exercises the intelligence."

This is one of my favorite (if not THE favorite) books ever! The detail, the research that has gone into it, the writing and the fact that it is all true makes it an incredibly interesting and haunting reading experience. If you are into stuff like SERIAL and MAKING A MURDERER, this is a MUST READ for you!

6. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

My favorite book I read in 2015. I usually, for some reason, stay away from long novels but this one just completely sucked me in. I love the way the stories are constructed, the detail that has been put into the narrative, and the way it deals with its setting. SO INCREDIBLY GOOD THROUGH AND THROUGH.

7. Columbine by Dave Cullen

What really happened April 20, 1999? The horror left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, but most of what we "know" is wrong. It wasn't about jocks, Goths, or the Trench Coat Mafia. Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on scene, and spent ten years on this book-widely recognized as the definitive account. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on mountains of evidence, insight from the world's leading forensic psychologists, and the killers' own words and drawings-several reproduced in a new appendix. Cullen paints raw portraits of two polar opposite killers. They contrast starkly with the flashes of resilience and redemption among the survivors.

Haunting, detailed (major trigger warnings here, as you can probably imagine), touching, angering, and so much more. An interesting study of a phenomenon that is unfortunately common in our contemporary society. 

8. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

In this graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father.

Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.

An incredibly interesting personal memoir about daughters and fathers, discoveries of sexual identities, queerness and family dynamics. We had this as a compulsory reading for my queer representation class and I loved discussing this novel with the class. While the queer story line is extremely interesting, as someone who has gone through a father's suicide, I loved reading about Bechdel's process of figuring out what led her father to kill himself.

9. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Mr. Kapasi, the protagonist of Jhumpa Lahiri's title story, would certainly have his work cut out for him if he were forced to interpret the maladies of all the characters in this eloquent debut collection. Take, for example, Shoba and Shukumar, the young couple in "A Temporary Matter" whose marriage is crumbling in the wake of a stillborn child. Or Miranda in "Sexy," who is involved in a hopeless affair with a married man. But Mr. Kapasi has problems enough of his own; in addition to his regular job working as an interpreter for a doctor who does not speak his patients' language, he also drives tourists to local sites of interest. His fare on this particular day is Mr. and Mrs. Das--first-generation Americans of Indian descent--and their children. During the course of the afternoon, Mr. Kapasi becomes enamored of Mrs. Das and then becomes her unwilling confidant when she reads too much into his profession. "I told you because of your talents," she informs him after divulging a startling secret.
I'm tired of feeling so terrible all the time. Eight years, Mr. Kapasi, I've been in pain eight years. I was hoping you could help me feel better; say the right thing. Suggest some kind of remedy.
Of course, Mr. Kapasi has no cure for what ails Mrs. Das--or himself. Lahiri's subtle, bittersweet ending is characteristic of the collection as a whole. Some of these nine tales are set in India, others in the United States, and most concern characters of Indian heritage. Yet the situations Lahiri's people face, from unhappy marriages to civil war, transcend ethnicity. As the narrator of the last story, "The Third and Final Continent," comments: "There are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept." In that single line Jhumpa Lahiri sums up a universal experience, one that applies to all who have grown up, left home, fallen in or out of love, and, above all, experienced what it means to be a foreigner, even within one's own family. 

A recent addition to my favorites of all time list! I have recently gotten really into short stories and this one really impressed me with the way I reacted to the stories. So many interesting discussions about postcolonial theory could be ignited by this book.

A woman goes into a bakery to buy a strawberry cream tart. The place is immaculate but there is no one serving so she waits. Another customer comes in. The woman tells the new arrival that she is buying her son a treat for his birthday. Every year she buys him his favourite cake; even though he died in an accident when he was six years old.

From this beginning Yoko Ogawa weaves a dark and beautiful narrative that pulls together a seemingly disconnected cast of characters. In the tradition of classical Japanese poetic collections, the stories in Revenge are linked through recurring images and motifs, as each story follows on from the one before while simultaneously introducing new characters and themes. Filled with breathtaking images, Ogawa provides us with a slice of life that is resplendent in its chaos, enthralling in its passion and chilling in its cruelty.

Another recent read and a collection of short stories. This one was so weird and quietly unsettling. I loved how the connections between the stories were created and the glimpses into a culture that is very different from my own.


  1. I know you've already recommend quite a few of these to me, but this just makes me want to read them even more. My copy of All the Light We Cannot See is still in a box in England waiting to be shipped, but I can't wait to read it!

    1. I am so looking forward to hearing your thoughts on All the Light We Cannot See. THAT BOOK WAS JUST SOOOOO GOOD AND SPECIAL!

  2. Had to add Revenge to my wish list, as I agree with so many others on this list! Thank you!


    1. I hope you end up reading Revenge soon - I haven't seen anyone blogging about it and would love to read what other readers think of it.

  3. This is a great list! I read In True Blood a few years ago and it was great. I have All the Light We Cannot See I want to get to that one soon!

    1. I hope you enjoy it once you pick it up - reading that one was such a special reading experience for me! :)

  4. I read The Blue Eyes for a college English class. What a powerful read!!

    Here's a link to my TTT post for this week: http://captivatedreader.blogspot.com/2016/04/top-ten-tuesday-ten-books-every-russian.html

    1. I read it back in high school and then again in college and it truly is a super powerful and touching read that makes you think about a lot of things.

  5. I loved The End of Mr Y. Have you read any others by the same author? Pop Co. by her is also fantastic, and I just finished The Seed Collectors which I really enjoyed, although it was a bit more 'normal'

    For some reason blogger isn't letting me comment with my wordpress account. My blog is Lucybird's Book Blog

    1. I haven't, but I really would like to one day!

  6. I have been wanting to read All the Light We Cannot See. I saw Columbine on another list as well and I've never heard of it till today. That sounds very emotional, but good. Nice list!!

    1. Columbine is incredibly well researched and put together book - hard to read at times, but a book that is very important, especially at a time like this.


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