Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Recommendations

This is my first time doing the Top Ten Tuesday meme, hosted this week by The Broke and the Bookish.  I was intrigued by the category because I tend to not recommend books unless specifically asked, though I do give books as gifts, which is tantamount to recommending a book. I recommend books I think someone will enjoy rather than ones I think everyone "should" read, which would be a completely different meme list.

Disclaimers aside, here's my list as best as I can remember in no particular order.

Pompeii, by Robert Harris - I have recommended this book several times (to my husband, daughter, and sister-in-law).  I love reading about Ancient Rome, Pompeii in particular, and Robert Harris is a great thriller writer.  I have yet to be disappointed in one of his books.  One of the best historical novels about Ancient Rome, in my opinion.

Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin - I have recommended this book to lots of people online, but my husband actually is reading it based on my raving about it.  So interesting, so well-written and tight in focus and theme.  An excellent book about the Civil War, Lincoln, and American politics.

Middlemarch, by George Eliot - I really think this is one of the best Victorian novels around.  It has a large cast of characters, something for everyone, an interesting set of stories that both interweave and run parallel, and beautiful writing. Plus, Eliot is such a sympathetic narrator that I find her voice to be kind and gentle despite the very human failings she documents in her story.  I don't know how many people have taken this recommendation to heart, but it's on my list when someone says they want to read a Victorian novel.

Cannery Row/Sweet Thursday, John Steinbeck - there is something so warm and quirky and utterly American about this set of novels that I love so much.  I find them to be wonderful comfort reads and among my favorite books of all time. I often recommend them to people who want to read classic American fiction and just can't face the thought of reading Moby Dick, or The Scarlett Letter, or even The Great Gatsby.

Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara - I've heard this described as the best war novel ever written.  I haven't read many war novels, but it is a fantastic book.  In it, you live in the minds of the major players of the battle of Gettysburg, and come to understand both sides of the problems between the States.  Excellent book regardless of whether you like reading about war, or history.  Compelling and well-written.

A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson - I love his travel books, but I find myself recommending this book over them because not everyone cares for his snarky writing which is mostly absent from this fascinating book about science, nature, the world, society and how things work.

This Organic Life, by Joan Gussow Dye - this book was a game-changer for me.  It inspired me to garden more purposefully, eat locally, think about where my food comes from and at what cost, and what I can do about it.  Plus, it has the recipe I use for tomato sauce, which I make every summer and which lasts (frozen in the freezer) until my next crop of tomatoes is about to ripen.  I have recommended this book countless times when people ask me about gardening, canning, freezing, etc.

Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen - one of my favorite books about Austen's works, hands down.  I've read it cover-to-cover 4-5 times, and have loaned it out, recommended it, earmarked it, and refreshed my understanding of Austen particulars with it more times than I can count. Love this book!

Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons - I vividly remember the first time I read this book.  I had spent my teenage years reading D.H. Lawrence until finally the melodrama just made me roll my eyes.  Years later I discovered this book, and had a rollicking good time laughing at my younger self and enjoying the parody that CCF is.  A wonderful book that I have given to most of my siblings to enjoy and is usually a top recommendation to blogger friends.

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett - I have recommended this many times to friends, family, internet bloggers, and anyone who's looking for a good story with interesting characters who face real moral/ethical dilemmas.  I enjoyed it immensely, and feel it tells a powerful story about courage, identity, society, family, and friendship.


  1. What an interesting list! The only one I've read is The Help, but have just requested This Organic Life from the library and added Cannery Row to my wish list. I love Steinbeck - not sure how that one escaped me!

    I bought Team of Rivals for my husband last Christmas (partly because I wanted to read it, too). He read it on vacation, then left it in the condo! I hate buying the same book twice...

  2. I do want to read Team of Rivals at some point in time.

  3. What a great list! I admire Team of Rivals enormously, but sadly, there's no point my recommending it to anyone, even those who loved the film Lincoln. I read The Killer Angels in the first class I ever took on the Civil War & fell in love with it.

    I didn't get too far with Middlemarch, but I will try agian someday - it's still on my shelves.

    1. Lisa May, don't give up on Middlemarch!! The first 100 pages were kinda dry but after that I couldn't put it down. It's really worth sticking with!

  4. Nice list! I love Cannery Row though I still haven't gotten round to Sweet Thursday. I also loved Middlemarch and CCF, though I haven't read enough DHL to get the satire.

    Now I have to go look and see if I actually own the Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen -- it's embarrassing, I have so many books ABOUT Jane Austen's works -- possibly equal only to the amount of Jane Austen books I own. Seriously, I think I have SIX different editions of Pride & Prejudice!!!

  5. This looks to be great list of books though I must sheepishly confess that I have not read any yet. Pompeii looks fascinating and Team of Rivals is really a must read for me.

  6. Oh, I definitely need to add the Cambridge Companion to my shelves!

  7. I loved The Help,and anything by Bill Bryson is enjoyable. Great List Jane.

  8. I have Pompeii and started it, but couldn't get into it. I think I've kept it, and will try again. Normally I love his work, Fatherland is an amazing alternate world mystery by him that I gave to everyone when I read it.

    I HAVE to get the Cambridge Guide to Jane Austen now! lol I've been meaning to pick up A Short History of Nearly Everything. YOu know I love Middlemarch already, and I wish more of my friends read Victorian novels so I could give it to them!

    Great list, Jane, I really enjoyed it. Now off to see if Cambridge Guide is still available....

  9. I love your list! I am going to bookmark so I can spend more time with it. I have to trust any list that includes Cold Comfort Farm -- one of my Top 10 favorites.

    Rose City Reader