Finally: The Book List For Book Lovers Who Can’t Find Books To Love

The List for Book Lovers Who Can't Find Books To Love

I don’t know what she’s so happy about. Her laptop is the size of a house but will still make a crappy raft in about 5 minutes when they’re both swept out to sea

It’s well known around these parts that the commenters on this blog are very intelligent, discerning types. It would therefore be extremely remiss of me if I were to glean valuable information from them and not pass it off as my own.

Last week I asked which books from the century or so previous to 2010 I absolutely should have read.

I asked this question because back in the 1990s, I borrowed great books. All of the big readers I knew – and I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by them – were sources of the most excellent reading material. Some of it was old, some new, but all in all, I’d a legibly great time of it altogether.

And then in the 2000s, I was that person on the bus you saw reading the latest book you heard someone talking about. Drunk on the heady thrill of earning actual cash which allowed me to buy actual books, I bought and read voraciously. I looked to the bestseller lists and the ‘3 for 2’ discount tables, and chose and purchased and devoured.

Bah Humbug

But somehow, after 2010, I just wasn’t feeling it any more. The bestseller lists no longer did it for me. Everything seemed the same. Every now and then, it’s true, a book came out which blew my mind a tiny bit, enticing my brain to pack its bags and go somewhere else for a spell. But then the lists for the following 12 months – or even 24 – were filled with poor imitations of that mind-blowing book. It felt like there was nothing new, nothing different. I grew very bored very quickly.

About 2 years ago I came to the conclusion that faddish genre fiction was my problem. I didn’t like books which were easily pigeon-holed. I liked books from older bestseller lists which, having become major blockbusters, usually led to authors giving interviews containing comments like “my publisher didn’t know where to pitch it” or “they packaged it as a [insert hopelessly narrow genre here], even though I didn’t think it was, but I couldn’t do anything about it”.

The Wish List

I liked well-drawn, quirky characters, who did unexpected things. I liked sweeping epics and sagas. I liked adventure stories or character-driven tales which segued easily from a battle to a drunken dinner to – as author Anne R. Allen put it – ‘deliciously vicious’ social commentary, peppered with comedy and tragedy and love and death and ambition and jealousy and obdurate weather. But all of a sudden, I couldn’t find them any more.

So I asked the beauteous and undeniably tasteful readers of this parish. And because their suggestions were bloody marvellous, I made a list of them. And because I am a nerd who loves spreadsheets, I took this list, and put it into a spreadsheet. And then sorted them by decade. And coloured them in. And maybe salivated a little bit. But that’s my problem.

The Actual List(s)

So, without (much) further ado, here is a list of classic books which will suit people who don’t like reading the same bloody thing all the time. Who don’t buy their books by “for people who liked Y, which was in itself a poor imitation of X” or “yet another Z” or “so homogenised it probably should be kept in the fridge”.

Where authors were recommended in general, but with no specific books, I’ve added either books I enjoyed, or whatever’s first on my own To Be Read list for them.

Where authors were recommended more than once, either for the same books or in a sort of “anything by ABC” fashion, they get a star. Not a gold star, but a star nonetheless. (I may be a nerd, but I am not easy to please.)

These authors I added to my own “Anything By” list, which includes John Irving, Diana Gabaldon, Ken Follett, Phillip Pullman, Amy Tan, Douglas Coupland, Dave Eggers, Sarah Waters, Anita Shreve, Winston Graham, Sally Beauman, and Marian Keyes.

And one book from 2010 snuck in there. But only because it seemed to deserve it.

If/when I get more, I will expand the list. But enough of my waffling. Get reading, and I’ll see you later.

The Book List For Book Lovers Who Can't Find Books To Love

  46 comments for “Finally: The Book List For Book Lovers Who Can’t Find Books To Love

  1. February 25, 2018 at 10:25 am

    This can be considered as public service. A very valuable one.

    Liked by 5 people

    • February 25, 2018 at 10:34 am

      I thought as much, Robert. I’m looking forward to my medal, large bonus, or humongous pension. Whichever comes first.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. February 25, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Read a few of those and they were all great. The rest just made my ‘to read’ list!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. February 25, 2018 at 11:57 am

    Intriguing list! I can so relate to your dilemma. I’ve become disenchanted with many or the bestsellers. It’s like publishers want to feed us ‘junk reads’ but what they don’t realize is people can stomach quality, gourmet literature and actually crave it. Books written by celebrities are the worst!

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 25, 2018 at 12:58 pm

      It might be a combination of being pushed to the wall financially and being terrified of not putting out anything that has an easily definable or guaranteed market – but one way or another, it’s not working for a lot of us. I concur on the celebrity books. They’re just branded merchandise really.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. February 25, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    hi, Tara,

    Great idea and some good recommendations, here. However, the readers you asked must not read or appreciate much sci-fi or fantasy, because those authors/books are sorely lacking from this list.

    Too bad: some of the century’s best books are therefore missing! Try almost ANY from: Ursula K.Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Nancy Kress, Sheri Tepper, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Kate Wilhelm, Zenna Henderson, Anne McCaffrey, and dozens more.

    Best to you all,


    Liked by 1 person

    • February 25, 2018 at 1:36 pm

      Hi Sally, given that I only started this list a week ago and not everyone contributed during that time, it’s always going to be sorely lacking in someone’s opinion!

      I think it’s also fair to say that it’s not that they don’t appreciate it – there are several Fantasy books on the list after all – but I suppose I had given a very particular brief, of blockbusters which couldn’t be defined by today’s narrow pigeon-holes. Sci-Fi is thankfully still thriving, but it is also a clearly defined genre which publishers have no problem packaging, just like Crime and Thrillers. Thanks for the great recommendations – lots of great authors on your list!

      Liked by 1 person

    • February 25, 2018 at 7:11 pm

      I did chuck a certain Iain Banks into the mix, but veered away from his SF in case the label put people off. Get them into Complicity, then perhaps Transition & before they know it they’re immersed in the Culture 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • February 25, 2018 at 8:52 pm

        It’s a stealthy path, my babbity friend. Worthy of a thriller, when you think about it…

        Liked by 1 person

        • February 26, 2018 at 12:01 am

          I am a subversive pusher of the fantastical. “Go on, mate, try one of these, it’s good stuff, yeah? Nah, no spaceships in it, honest. Like it? How about this one, it’s about a man hiding out in a mental institution. But he’s from a different reality. I can also do you something called Feersum Endjinn, but you need to be completely mashed off your tits to understand it…”

          Liked by 1 person

          • February 26, 2018 at 3:14 pm

            You had me until Feersum Endjinn. Make up your own world – fine. Make up your own words – not fine (unless you’re Anthony Burgess). I don’t care how much you give me to drink.

            Liked by 1 person

            • February 26, 2018 at 3:52 pm

              It’s probably my favourite Iain M Banks book but seriously mind-bending in the first 20-odd pages. And the main character talks in a phonetic language, just to make things more fun (hence the phonetic title).
              And to annoy you more, I gave it 5 stars in a review.

              Liked by 1 person

              • February 26, 2018 at 3:58 pm

                I’m familiar with it, having read the first few pages around 15 years ago and promptly abandoning said ship… Let’s just call it ‘neesh licherachur’ and be done with it.

                Liked by 1 person

                • February 26, 2018 at 4:05 pm

                  Yep. So neesh it’s kept in brown paper bags. It’s a “Class A” substance. You need to start with some gateway material first, some over-the-counter Banks before you jump headlong into the brain-bending stuff.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • February 26, 2018 at 4:10 pm

                    😂 (although in the Iain M. Banks world that probably means ‘worshipping water-cheek people’

                    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tom Gould
    February 25, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    The film of Testament of Youth is my favourite of all time and definitely worth a watch. I absolutely love it and The Thorn Birds

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 25, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      Good stuff, Tom. I haven’t seen that film so you’ve put it on my list now too.


  6. Jack "Blimprider" Tyler
    February 25, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    A brilliant study, Milady, well-researched and well-presented. You have nailed the exact reason that I read exclusively indies anymore. I realize and even sympathize with the fact that in this profit-driven world we live in, anyone who takes a risk and fails is out of business, or at least out of a job, but that does not equate to a heightened interest on my part in reading the 25th retelling of Twilight, Fifty Shades or The Hunger Games. Yes, I have to wade through some dreck, but even my budget will support the 99c Kindle editions, and by doing my homework, a lot of dreck can be avoided. Want original? Look into Karen J. Carlisle’s Eye of the Beholder, William J. Jackson’s An Unsubstantiated Chamber, or David Lee Summers’ The Astronomer’s Crypt for openers, and I think you’ll see what I mean.

    Seriously, though, a brilliant post, one of your best. I know you shoot for humor, and you’re very good at it, but this makes me wonder if you haven’t missed your calling.

    Liked by 3 people

    • February 25, 2018 at 7:16 pm

      Thanks, Jack! I wish I could take credit for the list, so you know what, I think I will. After all, I’m the only one who can edit the blog, and for the record, I haven’t been sued yet either.

      I’m not sure what my calling is, but I’m glad to even have a suspicion of one. Being the publishing equivalent of a back-seat driver is the least I can do.


  7. February 25, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    I have to agree with Blimprider above, though wading through Indies can take time and effort.

    Regarding your list, if you like big, sweeping stories, plenty of adventure and intrigue, and a brilliant, charismatic, but infuriating main character then you can do no better than Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. First begun in the 60s, it has a cult following because it is so dense, poetic, immense – I just can’t come up with enough descriptors for it. The series pretty much ruined me for other works of historical fiction.

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 25, 2018 at 7:18 pm

      Oooh, thank you Xina Marie! That sounds right up my street. In every respect. Seems you know me well 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • February 25, 2018 at 9:53 pm

        Hope you enjoy it! The first book, Game of Kings, was the author’s first book and it’s not the easiest read – it took me three tries to get through it. But once I did … GAH. Francis Crawford comes up on the list of many authors’ favorite characters lists often because he’s so intriguing.

        Liked by 1 person

        • February 25, 2018 at 10:24 pm

          I’m sure I will, although I’m glad for the heads up in case there’s a bit of wading to do first. I’ll remember to persevere 😀


  8. February 25, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    Reblogged this on Jan Hawke INKorporated and commented:
    WIth 2018 well into its stride now – here’s a great ‘suggested musts reads’ list from Tara S from the 20th century – plus 1 from 2010! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 25, 2018 at 8:47 pm

      Thanks for re-blogging, Jan. I must clean up those latter year interlopers…


  9. February 25, 2018 at 6:57 pm

    Some great books in there, many of which I have read, but you stopped in 2010’s so that’s obviously why you did not include any of my books – so I’ll just go hide in a corner and cry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 25, 2018 at 8:49 pm

      Well, I suppose there were strict rules, Lucinda, regarding the eras permissible and a blanket ban on author promotions! Or did you make suggestions I missed?! Let me know and I’ll clean up the mess…

      Liked by 1 person

  10. February 25, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    No, no suggestions I can remember, mind, I can’t remember the last 5 minutes – I had prases in my reading, Dennis Wheatly, Robin Cook, Stephen King, Harold Robbins and Jackie Collins – not Nobel literature candidates exactly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 25, 2018 at 10:25 pm

      I really don’t care, Lucinda, as long as it’s a cracking story. I’m not the world’s biggest Nobel fan. I want to escape into literature, not have it escape me.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. February 25, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    Oh cool.Thanks for the public service announcement, Tara. What a great list and look at the decades! Saving this. I have some reading ahead. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 25, 2018 at 10:27 pm

      You do, Diana! Can’t wait to get stuck in myself. I may not come up for air for some time. The best (and most embarrassing) thing is that 2 or 3 of them were already gathering dust on my shelf – time now to dust them off and rectify that wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. February 26, 2018 at 6:11 am

    I’ve read about five of these. Of the rest, a few are on my to-read list. Tch. So many books, so little time…

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 26, 2018 at 3:16 pm

      Too right, Colin! I’m still reassured by this list, too. These are all books I want to read. Most of the books on my old TBR pile are ones which I’m ‘supposed’ to read for one reason or an author…

      Liked by 1 person

  13. February 26, 2018 at 11:11 am

    Great idea! *runs to print list* Anything by Steinbeck, Tolkien, CS Lewis and Robert Goddard, as well as ‘I am Pilgrim’ by Terry Hayes would be my contributions. Also, I think yer wan’s happy because you included her suggestions but I don’t think that laptop will float so her happiness will be tragically short lived.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 26, 2018 at 3:21 pm

      Ooh yes, I Am Pilgrim is the great outlier from the last 8 years – universally recommended by anyone I’ve spoken to who’s read it. Although it’s still disqualified from this list because it’s too young 😜

      I still don’t know about yer wan, Liberty. Nobody’s that happy with their laptop. Maybe her second name’s Terry Hayes?

      Liked by 1 person

  14. February 26, 2018 at 11:26 am

    Oh and Louis de Bernière, Annie Proulx (Shipping News), Sebastian Barry and Niall Wiliams (Four Letters of Love). There’s probably no end to the list

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 26, 2018 at 3:23 pm

      You know, I considered Niall Williams more than once for this list, but he didn’t make it. Perhaps because I read his stuff too long ago, which isn’t really fair on him. See? Told you I wasn’t nice. And I concur on the others, too. Are we the same person??!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. March 4, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    Now I have a new book list – that’s brilliant – a public service indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 4, 2018 at 5:26 pm

      You were a major contributor, Hilary, so anything you can get from this is a delight to me 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  16. March 5, 2018 at 11:47 am

    That’s a great list, actually! I forgive you for not including my own work as the only possible explanation can be that it wasn’t published until 2013. Just don’t let it happen again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 5, 2018 at 2:28 pm

      Yes, of course. I promise never again to omit your work from a list I produced last month. 😬

      Liked by 1 person

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