Book suggestions for a 19 year old
December 2, 2009 5:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for something new to read. I'm 19, any suggestions?

For the first time in many years, I'm without a book to read. I'm a college student and need a reprieve from school work. I've looked on a lot of book websites but I'd like suggestions based on my actual preferences and I've seen a lot of successful book suggestion questions on here.

I'm in the phase where I still like some YA books but I'm not a big fan of obnoxiously angsty teenagers or messages of purity and abstinence. Some of my favorites:
Harry Potter
The Golden Compass

I like fantasy novels but not really science fiction, and I like action, mystery, and really need a romance aspect to keep my interest as well (sexual tension, steamy bedroom scenes, etc), unless the story is a good mystery or makes you think.

Some of these types of books I enjoyed:
The Historian
The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, The Lost Symbol
Jane Austin's books
Jane Eyre
Heart of Darkness
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
Stranger in A Strange Land

Some Book I didn't like:
Chronicles of Narnia (thought I only read The Magician's Nephew)
All The Pretty Horses
Little Women

Although I sound picky, I'm pretty open-minded and try most books before discounting them.
posted by blaynerb to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (74 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Looks like you'll be at home in the Sci-Fi / Fantasy section of the bookstore. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books is a logical next step. Then you should sample Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut, Neal Stephenson, Neil Gaiman, etc.
posted by jeffamaphone at 5:49 PM on December 2, 2009

If you like action and mystery Sherlock Holmes is pretty great, and occasionally unintentionally hilarious. There's a variance in quality from story to story but they're all basically mindlessly entertaining page-turners.
posted by Nomiconic at 5:50 PM on December 2, 2009

Try Stranger in a Strange Land.
posted by jeffamaphone at 5:50 PM on December 2, 2009

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Extra creepy, always relevant, somewhat futuristic, and beautifully written.
posted by hermitosis at 5:55 PM on December 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

Vonnegut is great. Breakfast of Champions, or Slaughterhouse Five if you want a darker story.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:56 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've heard MARVELOUS things about The Hunger Games.

I also like Nora Roberts stuff as well as her writing as JD Robb - some really good mystery books there, I think!
posted by Sassyfras at 6:01 PM on December 2, 2009

You might like Georgette Heyer's regency romances and Anne McCaffrey's Dragons of Pern series. Anne McCaffrey also does a series where the main female character has hot sex with a large catlike alien. Also try Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear series. I suspect you will not enjoy hard science fiction like Asimov, and that Heinlien's subtle mysogyny may turn you off. Sue Grafton's alphabet books "A is for alibi" etc have a cool main character who's practical, tough and sexy and though the books recommended in this question often have older female characters, the Gabaldon characters are fantastic.
posted by b33j at 6:02 PM on December 2, 2009

I think Dennis Lehane is the best mystery writer alive, try "A Drink Before the War"
posted by mattsweaters at 6:02 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse Five.
posted by milarepa at 6:03 PM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

You should read Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder. It's a self-proclaimed "novel about the history of philosophy", so as you might imagine, it is "fantasy"...not really science fiction, either. It's a little long (300 pg., long for me) but I am hard to please and can never finish what I start, and if I can read that thing anyone can.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 6:03 PM on December 2, 2009

I just have to add that I reread your criteria and it totally fits all of the above.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 6:04 PM on December 2, 2009

The Dark Tower by Stephen King (it's a series of seven). Fantastic
posted by firei at 6:05 PM on December 2, 2009

Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse Five.

posted by lex mercatoria at 6:08 PM on December 2, 2009

Kind of scifi-y, but still f'ing amazing: Hyperion Chronicles (4 books) by Dan Simmons.

2nding The Dark Tower by King - absolutely fantastic. As well as The Stand.
posted by ish__ at 6:11 PM on December 2, 2009

People recommended Vonnegut already. I'll agree by recommending Cat's Cradle.
posted by alligatorman at 6:11 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Read everything Dashiell Hammett ever wrote. Then start up with Raymond Chandler.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 6:13 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding The Hunger Games. You'll love it.
posted by something something at 6:14 PM on December 2, 2009

On recommendation, of somewhere on askme, I read Holy Fools, Chocolat and, I think, some short stories by Joanne Harris. They're romantic a but are generally light (I read them while doing my MA work.) It is a bit lower on the action.

My other, more genre-fantasy suggestion, would be, if you can stand the genre-heaviness and are OK with non-hetero sex, Lynn Flewelling's works.

More angsty/magic oriented but not lacking in battle scenes: Moorcock's Elric series is one of my long-standing vices, if you haven't read them yet. Some of Moorcock's trippier stuff from the 60s-70s, which isn't fantasy, has more sex, although there's some sprinkled throughout the former series.

On preview, I'll third 'The Hunger Game', although I haven't read the second one yet.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:17 PM on December 2, 2009

I actually read Sophie's world at 13 and enjoyed it, though I think I would enjoy it more now that I'm older.

Also I read a little Robert Heinlein (Stranger in A Strange Land) and enjoyed it, mostly because it's a little out there in the ideals its promoting but couldn't get interested in any other Robert Heinlein.

I'm hesitant to look into science fiction because I find it a little uninteresting, although I have enjoyed a few science fiction novels.

Thanks for the suggestions they're great and right on target for what I'm looking for.
posted by blaynerb at 6:22 PM on December 2, 2009

Life of Pi. My daughter loved it at about age 17.

The Lovely Bones is an amazing read. It is not exactly one of the books that you've described though.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:25 PM on December 2, 2009

Try Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series.
Mary Stewart's Merlin series (omg, I didn't know there was a 5th book, sweet)
Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series.
Seconding Georgette Heyer's historicals
posted by BoscosMom at 6:28 PM on December 2, 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan.
posted by headspace at 6:30 PM on December 2, 2009

Have you tried The Timetraveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger? It's 100% romance, but beautifully written, and while there is a decent amount of angst it's not of the obnoxious teenage variety (I promise!).

The other one I really want to recommend is the Thursday Next series, by Jasper Fforde. Start with The Eyre Affair. He riffs endlessly on literary allusions and such, and it's fantastic to recognize familiar characters from other books as you're reading along. Thursday Next herself is a pretty kickass heroine who in later books rescues her paramour, and not the other way around. His Nursey Crimes series is also well worth checking out.
posted by Phire at 6:30 PM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis: a fun time travel/ mystery set in the future and Victorian England. A really charming book.

And look! A used paperback is only a penny (plus shipping.)
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:32 PM on December 2, 2009

Please read 'The Time Traveler's Wife'. Yes, there was a movie made from it that wasn't amazing. The book, however, made me cry like an Italian grandmother at a wedding. Romance + a touch of sci fi + beautiful writing + a depth so great it made me want to write the author (though I didn't). I think you'd like it.
posted by Pecinpah at 6:32 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

We have the same favorites, but mine also includes Garth Nix's Abhorsen trilogy. It's an awesome series. I also very much enjoy L.A. Meyer's Bloody Jack series. Just got my hands on the 7th installment. Another suggestion would be the Artemis Fowl series, by Eoin Colfer (although it's more juvenile fiction than young adult, but it's still very good). I'll keep an eye on this thread since there are a lot of books suggested I haven't yet read.
posted by asras at 6:32 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. It's sci-fi but it is not at all boring. It's pretty easy to read and it's super-badass.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 6:47 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

You might like Terry Pratchett- Perhaps "Guards, Guards" or "Wyrd Sisters".
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:49 PM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

I just finished Merlin's Bones by Fred Saberhagen. It was good, and has most of what you want. You also might like The Hero and the Crown. I read it when I was about 14 and loved it, so it might be a little young for you. I've been meaning to look that one up again.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:50 PM on December 2, 2009

I heartily recommend reading Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. I started reading it at your age, and unfortunately am still waiting for it to end! Here's a link to the first book.
posted by Draccy at 6:50 PM on December 2, 2009

Excellent suggestions I've already got a lot of them on hold at the library and keep them coming, I've got a break coming up after finals this month!
posted by blaynerb at 6:51 PM on December 2, 2009

Little, Big by John Crowley. It might be a little bit of an older person's book but it shows how far fantasy can go (and I feel like in the general direction of the classics you cite) and if it's your sort of thing chances are you'll be reading it over more than once later in life. The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K LeGuin (if you like the trilogy there are two other novels and a book of short stories), if you like her stuff, you might dip a toe into the science fiction side, as far as I'm concerned The Lathe of Heaven is simply one of the best things period, way beyond genres. Terry Pratchett's early Discworld, Anne Rice's early Vampire Chronicles, Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum. The Shining by Stephen King.
posted by nanojath at 6:52 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think you'd dig Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco.
posted by nowoutside at 6:53 PM on December 2, 2009

Oh shit! Yeah I second Terry Pratchett. Even if you don't usually like sci-fi/fantasy, he's great. Guards! Guards! is a great place to start, and then do the whole Sam Vimes series if you like it.

Also you might like some Hunter S. Thompson. I'd say start with Fear and Loathing on the Campaign trail if you're politically inclined, or Hell's Angels if you're less so.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 7:11 PM on December 2, 2009

When you reach me by Rebecca Stead. YA, but not angsty characters--the protagonist is growing up in the 70s and loves A Wrinkle in Time and there is lots of cool discussion of time travel/tessering, plus game shows, plus friendship, plus other stuff. Not much romance but it will make you think. I read a ton, ton, ton of books and this is the best thing I've read so far this year.
posted by leesh at 7:27 PM on December 2, 2009

Since most of what I would have recommended is already listed here, I'll throw something in from left field: anything at all by Christopher Moore. Comic fantasy, laugh out loud funny at times.
posted by JaredSeth at 7:27 PM on December 2, 2009

The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud is a YA series that's very funny and clever and involves wizards and djinni but is not really "sci fi"
posted by alygator at 7:29 PM on December 2, 2009

Please please please take asras's suggestion of the Abhorsen trilogy. PLEASE! I love this series so much.

Terry Pratchett is awesome fluff for when you're looking not to think too much. His young adult series is also pretty good.

For a "Now for something Completely Different" aspect, I might suggest Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander series. Just the right mix of humor and adventure, and later on even some romance angst.
posted by that girl at 7:33 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

You may enjoy Donna Tart's novel The Secret History. I would second anything by Atwood as well. I just read Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood and enjoyed both quite a bit.
posted by jeffamaphone at 7:38 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Anne McCaffrey (as above - Pern definitely, and the Tower and the Hive series)
Mercedes Lackey (Valdemar)
Tamora Pierce (Tortall and related worlds)

seconding Garth Nix and his Abhorsen stories, and I think Terry Goodkind is a better version of Robert Jordan but you could read both. George R R Martin (Song of Fire and Ice) is also good but the series is unfinished.
posted by jacalata at 7:41 PM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

Fantastic Fiction is a website I use to explore for new aurthors to read. Among my favorites that have not been mentioned are:

Sherrilyn Kenyon

Christine Feehan

Lori Handeland
posted by bjgeiger at 7:45 PM on December 2, 2009

I came in here to second To Say Nothing Of The Dog. Doomsday Book, also by Connie Willis, is another winner.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:49 PM on December 2, 2009

You might like the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, or his new book, Leviathan.
posted by nicwolff at 8:05 PM on December 2, 2009

Oh, and M. T. Anderson's Feed and his The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing and its sequel.
posted by nicwolff at 8:10 PM on December 2, 2009

The Magus by John Fowles. It's mysterious, and a bit fantastic. Also, it has plenty of sex.
The End of the Road by John Barth is my default book recommendation.
Lucky Jim is a good time.
posted by willpie at 8:15 PM on December 2, 2009

terry brooks- sword of shannara, fantastic book and series alot like the lord of the rings.
posted by TheBones at 8:37 PM on December 2, 2009

I'll recommend Gravity's Rainbow and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, two great reads.
posted by Funky Claude at 8:49 PM on December 2, 2009

Spider Robinson's Lady Slings the Booze is 90% romance and mystery with 10% scifi thrown in and an excellent book. Spider Robinson is amazing in general.
posted by eleanna at 8:56 PM on December 2, 2009

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series is great fun, I read them around your age.
posted by gnutron at 9:04 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I cannot recommend Hunger Games enough. The second book is called "Catching Fire" but you might want to spread it out because it ends in a cliffhanger and the third book isn't due till Nov of 2010.

Leviathan was good, I can't wait for the rest of the trilogy.

Paper Towns by John Green (not SciFi)
posted by sarahnade at 9:04 PM on December 2, 2009

Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon a retelling of the Camelot myth by the women involved.
posted by hortense at 9:42 PM on December 2, 2009

The Dice Man comes to mind - watch out, it's sexy!
posted by pick_the_flowers at 9:52 PM on December 2, 2009

I suggest Edmund Wilson's overlooked collection of stories 'Memoirs of Hectate County.' It was suppressed for a long time due to its sexual frankness. Wilson rolled in the F Scott Fitzgerald posse I believe.
posted by kelechv at 9:58 PM on December 2, 2009

Ishmael may be different than quite what you're looking for. But you must read it.
posted by ZaneJ. at 10:11 PM on December 2, 2009

Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books
Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse Five

Here are things I loved around that age. It's worth checking out the "classics" --- not all of them are as dull as Dickens*

Cat's Cradle (Vonnegut)
Crime and Punishment (Tolstoy)
Dead Souls (Gogol)
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
Lolita (Nabokov)
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
Anything by Haruki Murakami

Or, if you want to venture into psychedelic territory, the Illuminatus! trilogy (R A Wilson)

okay, actually I really liked David Copperfield. But I still resent 10th grade English for forcing me to slog through A Tale of Two Cities
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:16 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding Umberto Eco, specifically The Name of the Rose or Foucault's Pendulum. You might also enjoy A.S. Byatt's Possession which incorporates a nice literary mystery and a (fairly intellectual) romance.
posted by pombe at 10:16 PM on December 2, 2009

Laws of Magic series by Michael Pryor

Also, nthing Georgette Heyer. Would you enjoy Agatha Christie murder mysteries? I read them a lot as a teen.
posted by latch24 at 10:26 PM on December 2, 2009

Hit post before I could add that Laws of Magic is sort of like a darker version of Harry Potter, set in the 30's and I found them quite engaging. And! I've just discovered the fourth book has come out and I don't have it! *Off to shops*
posted by latch24 at 10:31 PM on December 2, 2009

You might like Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Good writing, mysterious mystery, hip kids with at least a bit of sexual tension.
posted by gubenuj at 11:06 PM on December 2, 2009

The Godwulf Manuscript
She Walks These Hills
Red Mars
The Secret History

posted by coffeefilter at 12:57 AM on December 3, 2009

Red Shift by Alan Garner is awesome. As are most of his other books, like Elidor and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. His books are steeped in British legend and history so if you're at all interested in this stuff then you should enjoy these.

Un Lun Dun by China Miéville is also pretty good. Bizarre, but good.
posted by jonesor at 4:17 AM on December 3, 2009

Oooh, jacalata's suggestions are great--McCaffrey and Lackey were the authors I was most into in high school, and I often return to them. I'd also suggest LJ Smith (whose books were sorta like Twilight, but predate them--fun, dark fantasy romances. Dark Visions was just rereleased and it's terrific).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:04 AM on December 3, 2009

And I think, generally, you'd like Stephen King.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:05 AM on December 3, 2009

I second The Hunger Games, and Kristin Cashore's Graceling and Fire are both really good, too.
posted by cider at 7:14 AM on December 3, 2009

Seconding Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. My brother gave me the first one when I was 19, and I really liked it when I got to reading it.
posted by freddymungo at 7:38 AM on December 3, 2009

Anything by Isabel Allende (she writes like how I wish Gabriel Garcia Marquez would write).

YA Lit that I'm surprised no one has mentioned:
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

Seconding Un Lun Dun, Haruki Murakami (specifically The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) and Margaret Atwood (specifically The Blind Assassin and Cat's Eye).

There are a few here that I wouldn't actually recommend for 19 yr. old - specifically Gravity's Rainbow. It took me two tries to get through that, and I'm still not sure if I'm ready for it at 28!

Books that really grabbed me at 19:
On the Road - Jack Kerouac
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Robert Pirsig
Delta of Venus - Anais Nin (erotica, yes, but also extremely well-written)
World's End & The Road to Wellville - T. Coraghessan Boyle
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chobsky
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:56 AM on December 3, 2009

I'm 20 and into the same kind of books, so I think I can probably help. Also, I've seen at least one LoTR suggestion...I love all the LoTR books, but if you didn't like Chronicles of Narnia (although I highly suggest starting with the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) I don't think you'll find the Hobbit even remotely interesting. IMO, J.R.R. Tolkien gets bogged down in a lot of the same place/description details that make Narnia occasionally unbearable. FWIW, I'm not a big Twilight fan. That said, on the YA literature vein:

The Abarat series by Clive Barker (these are fantastic, as are the illustrations)
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
I agree with the earlier Isabel Allende- I've only ever read The Stories of Eva Luna, but it's still one of my favorite books. If you can grasp the mystical realism factor (I know some people just can't, but since you're into fantasy...) they're great.
Anything by Cornelia Funke- The Thief Lord, Inkspell/Inkheart, Dragon Rider.
Stravaganza: City of Masks by Mary Hoffman
Anything by Amelia Atwater Rhodes. Her books are super short (I'm a quick reader, but I can get through any of the Kiesha'ra books in an hour or two) and have come under a lot of criticism but I really love them, especially the Kiesha'ra series. Also, the Den of Shadows books are about vampires, from what I can recall.
I'm sure I'll come back and suggest some more when I get home tonight and can actually look at my bookshelves.

I've also really enjoyed going back and reading some of the fairy tale type stories- Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, the Water Babies, the Secret Garden- because they're so different from when I read them as I was young, but I also love children's lit so YMMV.
posted by kro at 8:49 AM on December 3, 2009

Jorge Luis Borge's Ficciones will blow your mind.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 8:55 AM on December 3, 2009

I have similar book tastes, and I enjoyed The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls, from Lois McMaster Bujold. Next in my list is the Vorkosigan Saga, which has already been recommended.

One of my favorite YA writers is Diana Wynne Jones. My favorites are Howl's Moving Castle (a must read if you liked the movie), the Chrestomanci series and Fire and Hemlock, which is for adults and has the romance/sexual tension elements you mention.
posted by clearlydemon at 9:14 AM on December 3, 2009

Books already mentioned that i would Nth:
Time Traveler's Wife
Special Topics in Calamity Physics
McCaffrey (Pern)
Willis (Doomsday book)

While i love Gravity's Rainbow, Foucalt's Pendulum and Little, Big, they each require a bit more commitment than the "I need a break from things that require concentration give me something to escape with" mentality.

Not yet mentioned that i would add:
Ender's Game
Time and Again
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:25 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Gravity's Rainbow didn't do it for me, but Pynchon's latest— Inherent Vice—was quite engaging.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:29 AM on December 3, 2009

The Eight
posted by rmd1023 at 10:14 AM on December 3, 2009

We seem to have similar tastes! I too love Harry Potter but wasn't nuts about Narnia.

I greatly enjoyed the Stephen Donaldson duo (which I guess are called the Mordant's Need books) The Mirror of Her Dreams and A Man Rides Through. It is a fantasy story with magic and some political intrigue. Great characters, too.

A lot of people like the Thomas Convenant books by Donaldson, but I never really got into them.
posted by frecklefaerie at 10:58 AM on December 3, 2009

I'm (with a tiny stretch of the imagination) roughly of the same age, and nth-ing Time Traveller's Wife. Another I picked up because of askmefi, and loved: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark.

I happen to be surrounded by SF and fantasy enthusiasts, and upon their recommendation (/ coercion) I've dipped my toes into: Dune by Frank Herbert, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind. Though I have no inclination to pick up the next books in their respective series, I did rather enjoy reading those books on their own. And at the very least I get a faint glimmer of recognition when I come across a geek reference to any of the above (which WILL happen, just you wait). Will tackle Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein next. George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series has also been vehemently, repeatedly recommended.

Also on my TBR list at the moment (thank you English major friends):
- Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- Blindness by Jose Saramago
- Life of Pi by Yann Martel
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
- Margaret Atwood
- Cat's Cradle or Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

BUT if you're reading for reprieve:
- Terry Pratchett is hilarious. Try Hogfather, since it's that time of the year. :)
- a few of the Jeeves books by P.D. Wodehouse
- Neil Gaiman is a *fantastic* narrator. I listened to his entire reading of The Graveyard Book online, which I alternated with Garth Nix's Abhorsen series (on audiobook). And a shoutout to Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat stuff.
posted by pimli at 4:00 AM on December 14, 2009

« Older clingy women rule?   |   What's it like to work as a foreign hostess in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.