Adam wears birkenstocks and regularly uses a fountain pen. He also at one time was heard saying that he was “what hipsters wish they were.” So this list may or may not be full of books that he knew were good about before you did. But honestly, he has pretty good taste, so give his list a try!
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
I read this book in a post-modern literature class in college. I went into the class not really liking post-modern lit. I found it overwrought and vacuous and largely completely uninteresting. There were several books over the course of the class that changed my mind and this was one of the first and best. If you like stories of freak shows and weird cults, and family bonding, this book is definitely for you.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
I had never heard of Donna Tartt before my good friend Jody handed me this book, told me that it was one of her favorite things she’d ever read, and told me to read it. This book interested me from the outset because the main character goes to college and majors in Classics and if a book about a Classics major in college sounds boring to you, just trust me that the tip of this iceberg does not begin to do justice to the remainder. Intense friendships, bacchanalia, and creepy secrets make this piece by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Goldfinch is absolutely a must read.
The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling
The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book were originally published separately, but are frequently printed and sold as one volume now. This is one of those books that no film adaptation has ever even come close to touching, so if you saw Disney’s newest adaptation earlier this year and either liked it or didn’t like it, just forget about it and pick up the book. It’s fun, a great story to share with kids, and one of the most surprisingly emotional stories I’ve ever read. As an added bonus, the book is actually a collection of short stories, which makes it perfect as a bedtime story option or commute book!
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
It is (hopefully) glaringly obvious to anyone who’s read this blog even a bit (or talked to me in person) that I absolutely love Tolkien. He is basically a deity to me. The Hobbit is a great Summer Reading option because it’s light and fun and about a trip, which makes it the perfect vacation book! Plus when the vacationing is done and you’re ready for something with a little more gravitas you can graduate to The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, or even Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle Earth!
Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
First of all, everyone should have at least one Dahl book under their belt. He’s a classic children’s/young adult author for a reason, folks. Fantastic Mr. Fox is my favorite Roald Dahl book because stories about crafty animals outsmarting humans are pretty much my life blood. Plus, one of the characters subsists on nothing but hard cider, which is how I aspire to live my life.
The Widow Clicquot by Tilar Mazzeo
I’m not a huge oenophile (though I like wine a lot) nor am I an especially eager reader of non-fiction, but this book hooked me. In fact, this book is one of the reasons I’ve been more into biographies lately. The story of how Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin not only handled her husband’s company like a boss after he died but also completely revolutionized the champagne business, ran blockades to sell her luxury wine, and basically was an all-around hero for, like 60 years until Death finally showed up and was like, “Come on, lady, you’re making me look bad here,” is one that I can read over and over again. She was OG, man.
Little, Big by John Crowley
The novel picked for the inaugural meeting of the KU Book Club (and also the second meeting when we showed up and discovered that none of us had finished it) has stuck with me in a huge way since then. This book got me into reading tarot cards. It also uses the ubiquitous idea of Faerie in a supremely fascinating way and basically is everything you could possibly want in a book. I’ve never really been able to verbalize this until right now, but you know what Little, Big is? It’s a Neil Gaiman novel from before Neil Gaiman was writing novels. I don’t know if Gaiman was directly influenced by Crowley’s book, but I have to say, I’d kinda bet on it.
I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle
I’ll be honest with you, I read this book because I saw the movie and really liked it. I saw the movie because Hayden Panettiere was in it and I really like her. My motivations notwithstanding, though, this book is excellent. Anyone who has ever gone to high school will find something to relate to here. It’s funny, heartfelt, and makes you glad you graduated years and years ago.
Mother, Can You Not? by Kate E. Siegel
I started following the Instagram account @crazyjewishmom months and months ago. At that time, it was just an account where this young woman posted screenshots of text conversations with her overbearing, hilarious, and completely filter-less mother. It has since grown into a huge viral phenomenon and Kate has rolled with the punches, coming out with this book earlier this spring. It’s just as hilarious as the IG account, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s ever had a conversation with their mom that turned into something resembling an Abbot and Costello skit from a crazy parallel universe.
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
I found this book in my elementary school library when I was in 5th grade or so. It enchanted me in a way that no book had done before and few have done since. It’s rare to find fantasy, high or low, that so perfectly captures the world it creates. Magic and sword fights and pet big cats are things that all of us have wanted (and/or currently want) in our lives, and this book will give you those feels in abundance.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Before I read this book, I noticed that one of the blurbs on the back said, “Shelve The Name of the Wind with The Lord of the Rings and look forward to the day when it is mentioned in the same breath and perhaps as first among equals.” This, to me, constituted extremely — almost impossibly — high praise. Having read it, I can say unequivocally that Rothfuss’s book lives up to that praise. If you enjoy fantasy at all, you should give this book your undivided attention at your earliest possible convenience.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
This is a book many of us knew from our childhoods. If you’re around my age or a little older, you probably have fond memories of the animated film of 1973, which is an excellent adaptation of what is probably White’s most famous work. If you have or know a young child who loves animals, or if you just want to nourish that small child within yourself, pick up Charlotte’s Web and share it with someone. It’s a book best read with a friend.
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
The first book of Martin’s epic Song of Ice and Fire is a fantastic book to read over the summer. While fans of the series may enjoy the later books more (book 3, A Storm of Swords is most fans’ favorite), A Game of Thrones is the perfect first book of a series, making grand introductions, setting the stage for the incredible events to follow, and drawing the reader into the universe so completely that you’ll be hard-pressed to put any of these books down (until, of course, you throw one of them across the room in a Martin-inspired rage.)
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
This is literally one of the most perfect books of all time. Even if you don’t like period pieces; even if you don’t like romantic comedies; even if you don’t like British literature; even if you don’t like the Classics, give this book a chance. Austen’s incredible command of comedy and emotional depth make P&P one of my favorite books. You’ll be laughing and ugly-crying in equal portions due to the snark and mooshy-ness in this book. If you don’t love it, I will literally eat my hat.