Book recommendations for the housebound
February 13, 2013 3:57 AM   Subscribe

I need to get some birthday gifts for someone who is off work and stuck at home for weeks due to surgery. This person has no hobbies and doesn't really do much other than shop and watch TV and tends to get depressed easily, so I'd like to get him some things to keep him busy and engaged. He used to really enjoy reading so I think if I got some books he'd get into them while he's stuck at home. Previously enjoyed authors are Edgar Rice Burroughs, Louis L'Amour, Stephen King, Anne Rice and Conan books. So old Sci-Fi, Westerns or Horror. He doesn't like Zane Grey. He also enjoys history, particularly WW2 and Civil War eras. Could I please have your recommendations for riveting books that might be enjoyed by someone with these tastes? Am also happy to hear non-book recs that might fit in.
posted by Polychrome to Grab Bag (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Jeffrey Archer. Maybe "Kane and Abel" or "First Among Equals" to start.

Robert Jordan wrote some of the Conan books, if memory serves. His Wheel of Time series is huge, but enjoyable once you get going.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:15 AM on February 13, 2013

I'm not really familiar with all of the authors you mentioned, but if you're looking for enjoyable reads about history and war in general (Revolutionary, Civil, WW1, WW2, etc), I highly suggest each of the war series by Jeff Shaara (and the one book interspersed by his father, Michael).

Michael wrote "The Killer Angels", which eventually was turned into the movie "Gettysburg", and Jeff inturn, write a prequal and sequal - "Gods and Generals" and "The Last Full Measure." (Gods & Generals was also turned into a movie.)

After the Civil war trilogy was complete, he continued with books or small series of books (2-3) about most of the wars the US has been involved with. They're pretty easy reads, and thankfully he includes maps with troop locations and movements as he is describing the events of the battles.

All of his books are historically accurate when it comes to the events of the battles, but the dialog is fictious. He usually has about two or three pages of thanks in his books to museums where he did research, or families who allowed him access to letters and journals.
posted by GuppieXX at 4:20 AM on February 13, 2013

Horror? H. P. Lovecraft.
posted by pont at 4:42 AM on February 13, 2013

Previously enjoyed authors are Edgar Rice Burroughs, Louis L'Amour, Stephen King, Anne Rice and Conan books. So old Sci-Fi, Westerns or Horror.


Get him one of the collections of Lovecraft stories then supplement it with a Mythos anthology featuring a host of other writers.

on preview: curse you, pont
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:44 AM on February 13, 2013

For old SF, Larry Niven's Ringworld series, if he hasn't already read them. They're easy to read and not huge pieces, so if he's stuck at home just reading, he'd probably get through them all in a couple of days.
posted by Diag at 4:55 AM on February 13, 2013

How about -

11/22/63 - Stephen King

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President - Candice Millard

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin - Eric Larson

All three are very good and unique books in their own way. The Stephen King is Fiction but written around the Kennedy assassination - the other two are Non-Fiction but riveting.
posted by MrsMGH at 5:27 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

stuck at home for weeks due to surgery.

As prisoners say: Do the time, don't let the time do you.

"Stuck" at home for a few weeks is a grand opportunity to read something epic like Shelby Foote's Three Volume Series on the American Civil War. Or Robert Caro's four volume biography on Lyndon Johnson or Churchill's four volume History of the English Speaking people - or his even more lengthy volumes on WW2.

Short books and novels he can read anytime. When in your life as an adult do you have weeks at home to read in one stretch? It's a gift. Don't just pass the time, put it to use.
posted by three blind mice at 5:28 AM on February 13, 2013

Maybe try some books with a Steampunk twist. That might tickle his historical bone as well as his sci-fi niche. Your profile says you're in London, which is just about perfect for that genre, so google around or search on amazon for "steampunk" and "London" and I'm sure you'll find some goodies
posted by zombieApoc at 5:33 AM on February 13, 2013

I really enjoyed Unbroken
posted by InkaLomax at 5:38 AM on February 13, 2013

You know, Pynchon's Against the Day hits pretty much all that (western, sci-fi, history, horror) all in one book. It's also the most fun I've ever had reading a Pynchon novel.
posted by .kobayashi. at 5:53 AM on February 13, 2013

If he is interested in WWII then The Longest Day is a classic account of D-Day, if he hasn't already read it. Ken Follett made the switch from thrillers to historical novels very effectively; his novels Pillars of the Earth and World Without End are set in the middle ages and thus might not be of interest to your friend (although I really liked them), but he has published 2/3rds of his Century Trilogy. Fall Of Giants covers the turn of the century through the eve of WWII and Winter of the World covers WWII. If they are anything like his other historical books your friend should like them. The third part of the trilogy covering the Cold War is not due to be published until 2014. The Longest Day and Pillars of the Earth are also available as a movie and miniseries, respectively, if he wants to take a break and watch them on TV.
posted by TedW at 5:55 AM on February 13, 2013

I wonder if his history/old sci-fi interests would make him a good candidate for Alternate History? Philip K. Dick's Man in the High Castle or Harry Turtledove. Or Philip Roth's Plot Against America if he is feeling especially literary.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:00 AM on February 13, 2013

I was also going to suggest Unbroken, and Ken Follett, especially the Century Trilogy. Long, detailed, engaging stories with lots of history.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:08 AM on February 13, 2013

Fatherland by Robert Harris is an entertaining alternate history WWII novel that he might enjoy.

When I'm sick I like to binge on meaty tv shows and documentaries. If he hasn't seen Band of Brothers or The Pacific, I'd highly recommend them.
posted by xyzzy at 6:17 AM on February 13, 2013

Depending on the surgery, exhaustion may be a major factor, and long books/series are possibly a bad idea. My recuperation from my last surgery was helped along by YA novels. I have enjoyed Airborn and The Amulet of Samarkand. Robert E. Howard wrote a bunch of other adventure series -- he might like Solomon Kane or a horror collection. Since here are some very cheap kindle collections, if he has an ereader, there is a good chace of finding no-frills versions free online.

Audio books can also be helpful, if he can avoid falling asleep during them.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:18 AM on February 13, 2013

Has he read Larry McMurtry? The Lonesome Dove books are fantastic.
posted by rtha at 6:25 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

When I came out of general anesthesia, I felt stupid for days and had trouble concentrating. So here's another vote for considering audio books, especially light ones or ones with dramatic interpretations. You could also consider getting him an appealing book in two formats: a movie version to whet his appetite, and the actual book for when he can concentrate.
posted by ceiba at 6:33 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

How about Patrick O'Brian, particularly the Aubrey-Maturin series?
posted by ablazingsaddle at 6:52 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tim Powers has some great books that touch on history, historical fiction, sci-fi, war stories, etc. They're all a bit different, but The Anubis Gates is the classic reccomendation and I really liked The Bible Repairman and Other Stories which is a short-medium sized book of short stories that are all great.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 6:57 AM on February 13, 2013

Seconding Lonesome Dove. It's a great book for when you're stuck somewhere. Engaging and thoughtful and just GOOD, but not overly taxing.
posted by mskyle at 7:54 AM on February 13, 2013

My mind immediately went to alternate history, too, but this book is a challenging one, so YMMV--maybe towards the end of the recovery? Christopher Priest's The Separation is a mind-bendy WWII alternate history.
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:02 AM on February 13, 2013

If he's into World War II stuff, the book for Band of Brothers is absolutely wonderful. It pulls no punches but manages to avoid being depressing--and is actually inspiring, largely by virtue of being a genuine true story. It's also good history without getting super academic in its language.

I also recommend Empire of Blue Water by Stephan Talty for anyone who's into history, 'cause it's just plain engrossing.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:54 AM on February 13, 2013

I'm going to echo what others have said about exhaustion and inability to concentrate. For the first couple days, he might enjoy something like old episodes of Car Talk or something similar. They're available on the website, I believe. You can fall asleep in the middle of that and not miss anything vital.
posted by backwards compatible at 10:49 AM on February 13, 2013

Look at the books of MiFi's own John Scalzi. All a good read.
posted by sammyo at 12:10 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

If, as mentioned above, he might have periods when he's having trouble concentrating or not quite feeling up to actual reading, may I suggest Calvin and Hobbes collections? Whenever I'm sick or needing to recover from something, Calvin and Hobbes strips always make me feel better, and I can read just a few strips or half a book, depending on how I'm feeling.
posted by kristi at 6:16 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would recommend Devil's Tower by Mark Sumner and Rivers of London (renamed for some reason as Midnight Riot when published in the U.S.) by Ben Aaronovitch.
posted by gudrun at 11:27 PM on February 13, 2013

You might ask if he's tried Iain M. Banks' Culture series. If he hasn't, Player of Games is probably the friendliest introduction. If he likes it... well, there's a lot more where that came from.

If alternate history sounds good, maybe The Two Georges? Less tedious that most alt-history war novels, which I can only attribute to Richard Dreyfuss' moderating influence.

For his supernatural tooth: Elizabeth Bear's New Amsterdam? L.E. Modesitt's Ghosts of Columbia?
posted by mumkin at 2:03 AM on February 14, 2013

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