Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish.
I think that you find books at the right times to read them…or you don’t and you miss out on that book. Sometimes the book is the right one for you, and you can read it over and over again without it ever feeling stale. Sometimes you try to read it again, and the magic is gone. The books you find at the right time just by chance stick with you. Did someone in the know recommend it? Did you find it on a bookshelf while looking for something else? Where do you find books that you aren’t looking for?
These are some of my favorite books, even if they aren’t that great, even though they don’t do anything to help my TBR list. Sometimes it’s the right time to find a book that you weren’t looking for.
In addition, this list of books also only includes those that have fewer than 15,000 ratings on Goodreads.
In the “New Books” Section of the Library
Even when I tell myself that there should be a limit to the number of books I should be checking out, I always look over at the “new” section–just to see what’s there.
Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
About: A sort of Arabian Nights meets the digital world. Alif is the equivalent of a code name, one he uses online where he protects anyone’s presence on the internet from the eyes of the Hand for a price. When weird things start to happen, Alif is shown an entirely new world that he never could have believed to exist, one that is far from virtual.
Verdict: This was a really fun read that I probably never would have come across if I had stuck to my reading schedule. It had really interesting things to say about technology, magic, and censorship–not to mention religion and government.
The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin
About: This book is about Truman Capote through the eyes of the society women he captivated and later betrayed. The story is told through the women’s perspective and paints an interesting portrait of both society in question and of the writer.
Verdict: I read this book before In Cold Blood, and it actually gave me the determination I needed to start what I thought would be a pretty daunting venture (it really wasn’t, but I’m glad I was able to get into the book and see that). If you don’t like to read about wealthy women, you probably won’t enjoy this, but the characters, for all their privilege, are extremely vulnerable and interesting.
Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
About: An eccentric young boy with a reclusive authoress as his mother and a nanny who’s been sent by the publisher to give his mother time to write. The book follows the nanny’s perspective (who in her regular job isn’t a nanny at all), her frustrations and trials as she deals with a child who dresses like he’s 30 years old in the 1930’s, knows everything there is to know about his favorite old movies, and doesn’t like his things being touched.
Verdict: This book is all about personalities, the most captivating one being Frank’s. This woman loves this family that doesn’t really accept her into it, at least not right away. I found this book to be charming. The plot moves slowly, but plot isn’t really the point here.
The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
About: The last living descendant of the Bronte sisters enters a venerable old British institution. She’s told everyone that there’s no mystery fortune that’s been passed down from the Brontes, though the press refuses to believe it. But when she starts to receive copies of the Bronte’s books–books that should have been burnt in her father’s library years ago when it caught fire–she thinks maybe someone is trying to tell her something different.
Verdict: A modern, and only slightly gothic, romance/mystery that fits into the Bronte tradition. For anyone who likes Austen or the Bronte sisters.
A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan
About: A classic trying-to-have-it-all story about a mother who thinks she can make everything balance until life starts getting crazy.
Verdict: This is a great beach/vacation/cozy time read. It’s not all that serious or difficult, and you could be finished with it in a couple sittings.
Found Wandering the Library
There are times when I’ll just wander through the shelves and see what strikes me. Some of these were found in specific sections (graphic novels are great for browsing, since there’s usually a limited number of them).
The Rocks by Peter Nichols
About: The book moves backward in time and follows the lives of two ex-pat families living in the Mediterranean. It’s sort of a Romeo and Juliet story with an olive grove twist.
Verdict: I’d seen this book many times at one of the bookstores I frequented in college. It always caught my eye, but I never bought it (mainly because I don’t usually buy books randomly). When I saw it on the shelf, I knew it was time. It wasn’t one of my favorites. I liked the time flow and loved the setting, but on the whole I found the characters difficult to either root for or summon much dislike for (with some exceptions). I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads, but it was really a 3.5 I rounded up.
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua
About: The story/alternative history of the first computer.
Verdict: As I’ve mentioned before, this was one of my favorite books of the year, and I only found it by browsing the shelves.
My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead
About: One woman’s journey with her favorite book throughout her life. It’s part memoir and part literary criticism.
Verdict: Since I read Middlemarch the year before, it was definitely the right time to read this book, which turned out to be interesting and well-written and researched. Reading books like this is a holdover from my college days, and I always enjoy bringing new perspectives to a text.
Staff Picks at the Library
I gave this it’s own section because it’s more like getting a book recommendation rather than just strolling along a shelf.
James Joyce: Portrait of a Dubliner by Alfonso Zapico
About: The life of James Joyce in graphic novel form.
Verdict: A really great biography of a complicated man. Translated from Spanish.
There actually would be more books in this section if I had been more dedicated to reading at the end of the year. My mom and I share books back and forth a lot, and she is really good at picking things out for me and vice versa.
Lost in Translation by Nicole Mones
About: An archaeologist hires a translator in China to help him in his quest for dig approval. (There’s no connection to the Bill Murray film just in case you were wondering)
Verdict: This book was so good! If you like archaeology and romance and a little history thrown in I think you should give this book a try. The characters are really interesting and the writing is atmospheric and sensual.
Reading is all about discovery. What have you “discovered” lately?