Recommend some recentish good reads?
December 15, 2018 12:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for well-written books with engrossing plots that are somewhere on the spectrum between garbage-mass-market-airport book and important-but-arduous literary book. They're for my mother, who really has no genre preference, just wants books that are entertaining but not Danielle Steel-level writing quality. I would like to avoid anything too grim this year.

Going through my emails, these are some books she's enjoyed recently: In the Kingdom of Ice, Little Fires Everywhere, Into the Water, Glass Castle, Life After Life, The Rook and The Stilleto.
posted by Mavri to Writing & Language (22 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

Best answer: My Name Is Lucy Barton

Anything is Possible

Books by Liane Moriarty

Our Souls at Night

Louise Penny Inspector Gamache series
posted by loveandhappiness at 12:51 PM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Less, which won the Pulitzer this year, is a hysterical delight.
posted by veery at 1:09 PM on December 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Elena Ferrante (intense female friendship and terrible dudes)
The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker. (the Trojan War from the point of view of the women)
Recent non-fiction: Educated, Tara Westover.

On preview, seconding Inspector Gamache. The writing remains solid, but the series goes entertainingly off the rails at a certain point, possibly to keep readers from wondering why a small Canadian village has such a high murder rate.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:11 PM on December 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I found these page turners to be just the thing when I needed a light but smart and entertaining read:

Sourdough by Robin Sloan
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

And seconding Less and Eleanor Oliphant!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:51 PM on December 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, Pulitzer Prize winner, but very easy and gentle to read
The Evening Star, by Larry McMurtry, if she hasn't already read it
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:07 PM on December 15, 2018

Best answer: I unexpectedly loved A Gentleman in Moscow. It starts slow but is actually a beautiful reflection on the idea that life is what you make of it. If you have a Books-a-Million nearby, it was on sale last week for $7.

My other favorite from this year is The Dinner List, which has a charming premise but goes deep rather unexpectedly. Definitely needs a "TEARJERKER" warning, though.
posted by timestep at 2:09 PM on December 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Anything from Maggie O'Farrell.
posted by Dashy at 2:34 PM on December 15, 2018

Best answer: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee is an engrossing straightforwardly written family saga set among a Korean family in occupied Korea and in Japan around WWII. There’s a lot of hardship but it’s not a pain train. I recommend it partly because it doesn’t feel like a fashionable contemporary novel even though it’s from 2017.
posted by vunder at 2:41 PM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's getting older, but I still love Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch as a page-turning joy.
posted by crazy with stars at 3:06 PM on December 15, 2018 [6 favorites]

Best answer: If she liked Life After Life, then what about Transcription?
posted by frumiousb at 3:10 PM on December 15, 2018

Best answer: Was going to come in with Gentleman in Moscow; it fits in that intermediate zone perfectly. The Goldfinch would indeed also fit this niche.

The Elena Ferrante novels are super-arduous!!!! I mean, maybe not in a superficial technical way, but in every other possible one. I love them, but I wouldn't recommend them for this purpose.

There was a "sequel" to Life After Life, A God in Ruins. Haven't read it, but if she liked the first one...
posted by praemunire at 3:22 PM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Library Book.
posted by The Deej at 4:12 PM on December 15, 2018

Best answer: the Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Heck, if your mom hasn't read it yet, the same author's Eat, Pray, Love was a colossal bestseller for a reason. It got backlash because of its success, but it's a highly enjoyable read.

Circe by Madeline Miller.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:30 PM on December 15, 2018

Best answer: Queen of the Night, by Alexander Chee.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:14 PM on December 15, 2018

Best answer: The Reader on the 6.27

The Summer Book

A Man of Some Repute
posted by gudrun at 5:37 AM on December 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt) - statistics say this one is a good bet!
Disgrace (J.M. Coetzee)
Orfeo (Richard Powers)

Also, definitely David Mitchell. He has lots of different sorts of books...I found Slade House to be particularly satisfying and easy, while still being well-written and at least a bit challenging. (I'm sure others would disagree.)
posted by nosila at 10:58 AM on December 16, 2018

Best answer: I joined Book of the Month club this year and find that the books they offer are never particularly strenuous. There are gift options -- you evidently can purchase 3 books (1 per month for 3 months) for $45, and the recipient can select from the five monthly offerings each month.

Occasionally they have books that are not yet released, they do seem to have an abundance of romance and thriller (a la Gone Girl).

A number of the books mentioned here were selections this year. It's kind of a cross between a curated gift and a gift card. But BOTM is pretty much always a safe read.
posted by janey47 at 5:41 PM on December 16, 2018

Best answer: 2nding any book by Liane Moriarty, and the Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz.

My go-to recommendation for decently written good reads is Patrick Gale, especially the later novels (from Notes from an Exhibition onward). He's a good writer with a lot of heart.

Since she liked The Rook, maybe the Rivers of London series of books - about a London policeman fighting magical crime.

If she'd be into other detective-based novels, I've really enjoyed the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (aka J. K. Rowling). Decently written and absorbing. (Though I didn't like the 3rd in the series so much (Career of Evil), was a bit too grim for my tastes because of regular passages from the perspective of an unhinged stalker... the others are not like this).
posted by yesbut at 2:39 AM on December 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I recently read Chocolat and was surprised to greatly enjoy it! It’s a little silly but decently written and fun.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake has a weird literary premise that it utilizes quite well. It’s not exactly a happy read, but pulls off being enjoyable quite neatly.
posted by zinful at 4:03 AM on December 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding the Rivers of London books! Those are great.

I got into Maddie Dawson this year. Her books are a little romantic, a little bit family drama, with really well done characters. I liked Matchmaking for Beginners a lot.
posted by apricot at 7:06 AM on December 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all your wonderful suggestions!
posted by Mavri at 6:31 AM on December 20, 2018

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