Looking for a good read now.
February 7, 2011 4:51 PM   Subscribe

I have a $20 gift card to Barnes and Noble. I want to go and pick something amazing up to read. What should I be reading now?

My fiction tastes range from McEwan to Tolstoy to Bukowski. Old Philosophy and new ideas always fascinate. I like to know what is going on in the world (current events) as well as how we got here (history). I want to read things that will improve myself or the world around me (I prefer more rational and scientific self help over Dr. Dyer type books).

I know it's vague but I couldn't possibly explain my tastes fully. Just tell me what books have excited you in the recent past!
posted by ieatwords to Writing & Language (20 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee.
Baboon Metaphysics by Dorothy Cheney and Richard Seyfarth.
The Long Song by Andrea Levy.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:53 PM on February 7, 2011

You need a break. Pour yourself a giant glass of full-cream milk, make yourself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and read The Adventures of Tintin: Cigars of the Pharaoh.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:03 PM on February 7, 2011 [6 favorites]

I think these history books (or historical fiction in the latter case) are fantastic:

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
Ghengis Khan
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 5:11 PM on February 7, 2011

B&N stores have these awesome leatherbound collections of books that are $20 apiece. I'd consider those -- you can get all kinds of books, from the Narnia collection to Arabian Nights to whatever. It's like getting a whole BUNCH of books, plus the covers look neat.
posted by Heretical at 5:11 PM on February 7, 2011

Nemesis by Philip Roth. A beautifully written work that will significantly increase your understanding of mid-twentieth century America and the long arm of an epidemic.
posted by Morrigan at 5:23 PM on February 7, 2011

If want more fiction, I thought Cloud Atlas was outstanding. I picked it up chiefly because of comments here on Metafilter. For nonfiction history, I love all of Barbara Tuchman's WW1 books, The Proud Tower probably the most.
posted by jquinby at 5:35 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

If YOU want more fiction....
posted by jquinby at 5:36 PM on February 7, 2011

Too Big To Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin.
posted by jchaw at 5:43 PM on February 7, 2011

I'm reading the swan thieves by Elizabeth kostova. I can't put it down. I loved her first book, the historian, as well.
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:48 PM on February 7, 2011

The three books I read last year that really stuck with me:

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (read her Oryx and Crake first, if possible)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:59 PM on February 7, 2011

Would you be interested in an explanation of the dot com crash written in 1841?
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 6:03 PM on February 7, 2011

Mountains Beyond Mountains came to mind. I had mixed feelings about it by the end, but it's big on new ideas and was in parts inspirational and historical.
posted by bluestocking at 6:06 PM on February 7, 2011

Recently been churning through my shelf of shame.
Based on your variables, off the top of my head:
Guns, Germs and Steel - Jared Diamond
Constantine's Sword - James Carroll
A People's History of the United States - Howard Zinn
Mother Nature - Sarah Hrdy
posted by Baby_Balrog at 6:20 PM on February 7, 2011

The Paleo Solution
Good Calories, Bad Calories
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 6:38 PM on February 7, 2011

The most interesting book I've read recently is Sex at Dawn. Your expressed interest in current events and history leads me to think you might enjoy it, too... although it isn't really current events or history per se. Rather, it attempts to give some insight into what humans are and how we got to be that way, with a focus on the evolution of human sexuality.
posted by kprincehouse at 7:10 PM on February 7, 2011

Heard about this one today on NPR & I'm sold: Euphemania: Our Love Affair with Euphemisms. It's written from a sociological and historical perspective, explaining how euphemisms developed and evolved over time, why they exist in the first place, etc.

This article on NPR explains the book better than I currently can: http://www.npr.org/2010/12/14/132056878/-euphemania-our-passion-for-not-saying-it
posted by overyourhead at 7:29 PM on February 7, 2011

I'm reading linchpin by Seth Godin, excellent book!!
posted by sadieglass at 8:52 PM on February 7, 2011

I was going to recommend Guns, Germs, and Steel, but I see that has already been done... (great book, and as a bonus you can watch the miniseries documentary with Jared Diamond on Netflix Watch Instantly)

I also love just about anything from Margret Atwood although I have not read The Year of the Flood, but Oryx and Crake was great. I also recommend The Handmaid's Tale, which seems to becoming somewhat of a modern classic.

I just finished The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Now, I had never read a Stephen King novel, and really wasn't to keen on his genre, however, I picked up the first novel and could not stop until I finished the series (I have now moved on to the comics, also a first, but it's so good I just want more). It's really hard to describe how good this story is until you have experienced it. (I also felt this way when I began reading Margret Atwood, both authors are great craftsmen).

If none of these suit your fancy, Wild Swans may do the trick. I stumbled upon this book through a recommendation and found it so facinating. The author details the history of China through the stories of her, her mother, and her grandmother, going through the revolution and into imperial China. I was stunned by how engrossed I became in this story. When I finished I felt like I learned so much about such a large culture that I was only vaguely familiar with when I began.
posted by Term of Art at 9:37 PM on February 7, 2011

I would rather spend my money on something I know I would like to keep in my personal book collection: Pre-read what titles here are available at the library first, then get a copy of what you like best.
posted by Seboshin at 12:39 AM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've been regularly recommending the most recent three books from William Gibson: Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, and Zero History. Though Gibson is known as a science fiction writer, these three books are more about how the modern world has become a science fictional world. Each of the three books, which are related by shared characters, explores at least one aspect of modern western culture, such as branding, art and fashion, and are full of odd characters and odder objects -- replica bomber jackets, clockwork calculators the size of a hand grenade, remote-controlled Mylar blimps shaped like penguins -- that turn out to exist in our world.
posted by lhauser at 8:41 PM on February 8, 2011

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