Saturday, May 03, 2008

Book Recommendations, Please

I should have about six more weeks to go in which I'm keeping my feet up a bit more and still have my hands free.

This clearly calls for books. Unfortunately, my brain is in a state of pregnant mush--or maybe it's just the lack of physical activity. DOB says he's felt the same way after surgery. Either way, it's not time to start Thomas Aquinas. And having read non-stop through most of the first trimester, I'm running low on my own recommendations for easy reads (or re-reads).

So I'm asking for recommendations. And then I'll frustrate you by giving an impossibly long list of qualifications. And then somebody (but I'll never admit who!) will frustrate me by recommending books that obviously violate something on the list. But here goes.

1. Light, both physically and emotionally. It's hard to hold a weighty tome while lying on one's side, and reclining is out of the question. Emotionally, this is just not the time for gut-wrenching tales of woe and misery. Especially not if small children or their mothers might be harmed or threatened in any way, shape or form. Virtue had better be triumphant and not suffer too badly along the way.

2. Well-written. My brain is just as annoyed by poor writing when tired as it is when not tired. Maybe more so. Naturally people have different definitions of good writing, so let me point out that I savor well-turned phrases and insightful characterizations and am not impressed by writing propelled along merely by plot developments.

3. Reasonably clean. I'm not going to be seriously harmed by occasional strong language or references to the things married people do with their doors closed, but too much just gets irritating and I don't want to be irritated right now.

4. I don't much care for romances or westerns, or any purely genre fiction for that matter, but I'll consider something if it's really, really well done. I do rather like mysteries but have a hard time following the clues these days. I do not like a lot of suspense.

5. Some authors that would fit this list in my mind (but of whom I've already read so much that I'm looking for something new): P. G. Wodehouse, Connie Willis, Lloyd Alexander, Jasper Fforde (though he's borderline on the "reasonably clean"), Agatha Christie.

6. Easy to get a copy of. It has to be something I can reserve and get in at the library within the next couple of weeks. Anything really new or very obscure is probably out.

7. Non-fiction is OK as long as it doesn't involve any need to act (so housekeeping books are way out) nor require too complex of thought. Or otherwise violate the list above (history books, say, are usually too emotionally intense, unless they're super boring).

There it is, in all my pickiness. Any ideas?


Melissa said...

I like Christian fiction by Karen Kingsbury...
- When Joy Came to Stay
- Oceans Apart
- Waiting for Morning name a few of her works.

Marie R. said...


I've long been a "lurker" on your site, and have surfaced to give you the title of my the best fiction I've read this year. I don't know if you'll love it and I fear you've already read it, but it's worth a try.

Wish you Well, by David Baldacci

Good luck, and God bless!

Emily said...

I am a regular reader who has never commented, but am coming out of hiding to recommend:

Anything written by Jan Karon, preferably read in order since the stories build on one another.

All of Jamie Langston Turner's books, also read in order of publication.

Excellent writing. Hopeful endings. I promise you will not be disappointed.

Carrie said...

I'm a constant reader and commentor who is now scared out of her wits to suggest something you won't like.

I know in "normal life" you probably wouldn't be a big fan of Jan Karon -- however I devoured the series at the tail end of my own pregnancy. It's comfort reading, interesting plot, keeps you guessing, the characters are just likeable and it's like....Mayberry. I think maybe now is the time that you would enjoy it.

Other than that, well, I'm just to scared to name anything. =D

Queen of Carrots said...

I actually do like Jan Karon, so that was a good guess. But I've already read most of hers. (Except the one with the wedding, so now I'm reminded to look that up.) So go ahead, be brave! Suggest more! The others are new to me, so I will just nose around and see.

mary said...

Let me repeat the suggestion to read Jamie Langston Turner. You would probably get her literary references. My favorite is Some Wildflower in My Heart. What about Charles Martin? He's smart and can turn a phrase delightfully. I like When Crickets Cry the best. You don't want to read The Dead Don't Dance just yet. Wait until after childbirth. If you need a little mystery, I like Patricia Sprinkle. She has some easy-to-tote paperbacks, like Murder on Peacetree Street. Warning: you might crave sweet tea and Coca-cola as a result of reading her southern mysteries. That's a start.

the Joneses said...

Here's your YA suggestions, because everybody else likes YA, too, right?

* Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

* The Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine

* the Stravaganza series by... Mary... Davis?

* I'll email you my completed rough draft of the Ria Story. (Only kidding, unless you want to drive yourself crazy editing mistakes and plotholes)

* I'll try to think of more, but the oven beeped so the cookies are done.

SongBirdy said...

The one author that might offend #2 a bit, but whom I enjoy for a 'nothing-needed' read is Elizabeth Peters. She has a series set in the early 1900's in Egypt. The tales centre around a feisty character named Amelia Peabody.

They are 'mystery' but not the kind that you can really figure out to much by looking for clues.

They are written as a first person narrative, with Amelia often addressing the "dear reader.." which is very Victorian and in style for the time period.

If you decide to try them, they are in a chronological order and it would make sense to try and go as close to the beginning as possible. By the last books there are so many characters (she has children and they grow up and you follow them too) that it might be confusing.

Our bed is a Captain's Bed and I keep the drawer closest to my pillow full of my favourite books. My Elizabeth Peters are in this drawer. She also write under Barbara Michaels but I don't like any of those books.

For a Christian author, I love Shaunti Feldhan (or something like that... terrible of me!). They tend to being longer books and are always dealing with a theme that I've found refreshing (like a family dealing with the father's addiction, etc).

SongBirdy said...

oh, and at my local library I can download the Elizabeth Peter's books as audio files... upload them to an mp3 player (if you have) and... lay back and enjoy!

the Joneses said...

A few other suggestions:

YA light fantasy:

* Mairelon the Magician by Patricia Wrede

* The Magician's Ward by Patricia Wrede (the sequel to the above)

* Diana Wynn Jones's Griffin series (can't remember the titles, unfortunately... something about Derkhelm? Maybe DJ will remember.)

Mystery (surely you've read these?): the Brother Cadfael books by Ellis Peters

-- SJ

Anonymous said...

If you like Agatha Christie, have you tried Dorothy Sayers' Peter Wimsey mysteries? I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style and they should be available in any decent library system. They're British, written and set in the 1920's-1930's, fairly clean, and any romance is rather... sarcastic. You might start with "Strong Poison" or my personal favorite, "Murder Must Advertise". And I don't believe there were any children harmed in the books... in fact, until Peter has his own, I don't think there were really any kids in the books at all.

CappuccinoLife said...

I just finished a book by Jean Shepherd ("Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories"). A few of the stories reference teen lust and drunkenness, but most of them are OK. This is the guy who wrote the Christmas story about the kid and his bb gun.
Hilarious. :)

I don't know what it is with me and this type of author, but David Sedaris' accounts of his childhood are pretty funny too and mostly clean, in a depressing sort of way.

Just finished a whole bunch of really good ones but they break the emotionally light rule.

CappuccinoLife said...

Scratch that David Sedaris one. I just remembered one story that is most definately not clean.

Sorry about that one.

Fe said...

I'd second the Elizabeth Peters recommendation (the Amelia Peabody stuff at any rate, I haven't enjoyed her others as well).
Most of the Diana Wynne Jones body is pretty good, although, some can be a bit dark. Anything including Chrestomanci is pretty reliable, and "Dark Lord of Derkholm" and it's sequel are most entertaining.
I'd also add Lois McMaster Bujold (the Miles Vorkosigan stuff). Don't be put off by the covers (she commented at a convention that the artists had obviously not read the books!). "A Civil Campaign" is fabulous—not unlike "Pride and Prejudice", but it's quite a long way through the series... and while you don't _have_ to read them in order, you can appreciate it better if you've read some of the earlier novels. (Most of her books are Vorkosigan novels, "Shards of Honor" and "Barrayar" are the first two, and although they have moments of intensity, I think they'd probably be fine. She has a couple of Fantasy novels, which I don't enjoy so much, but most of the rest are part of the series.)

steph said...

Dumas, Verne, CS Lewis fiction (Perelandria--sp?--series if you haven't tried it), Celia Darte Thornton's The Ill Made Mute (a bit more challenging and a tad scary, but more in an old fashioned, fairy tale sort of way; very clean), O. Henry, The Thirty-Nine Steps, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, stuff by Louisa May Alcott or LM Montgomery you might not have read (if that's your taste; may be for children but still enjoyable), Mark Twain, James Herriot...those were the authors I like whose writing is light (writing style, not meaning) and adventuresome. Any children's classics would work, too. I really want to read the Mary Poppins and Oz series. This would be why my Amazon wishlist for books is 32 pages long (I dream about having my own Library of Good Literature someday, and I don't want to forget the books I come across. Blush. Sigh.)

Meredith said...

I've gotten to the point where I can't tolerate much fiction unless I am pregnant.

Right now I am reading through the vintage romances of Grace Livingston Hill. Of course, they're flowery and predictable, plot wise, but clean and full of vintage details.

Fe said...

Having read the first Mary Poppins as a bookclub choice a year ago... I'd give it a miss until you're ready to read it aloud to the ducklings. The only members of our bookclub who enjoyed it were the ones who did that!

The Diana Wynne Jones sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm is "The Year of the Griffin". I didn't enjoy it as much as the first, although it was still good. I'd say it's only worth reading if you've read the first.

The "Swallows and Amazons" series by Arthur Ransome. Kids series (absolutely delightful!) and should be readily available as it was re-released in the last couple of years.

darren said...

Patricia Wrede's "Dealing With Dragons" is a hilarious read.

I assume you've read "A Little Princess" by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but have you read her "The Lost Prince?" I like it almost as much.

Have you read any Dick Francis books? I find those quite well written, and definitely light reading (at least most of them). My recent favorite is "Ten Pound Penalty."

Agatha Christie is always fun for light reading. Her "Harley Quin" stories are my favorites.

Eric and Wendy said...

Have you done Jane Austin? Light, elegant prose, happy endings, and all incivility is justly rebuked!

Alysa said...

Also a regular reader who's never commented, but couldn't resist making my own recomendations!

Anything by Ted Dekker. Fantastic Christian author, with a little more depth and intrigue (ok, so just plain quirky at times!) than many Christian authors. Very little romance, or other uncleanliness, but always a great theme & storyline. Bordering on psychological mystery, but not as heavy. Try the Circle Trilogy, (Black, Red, White.)

If you don't find him well enough written for your liking, then I'll have to recommend Charles Dickens. Well-turned phrases and insightful characterizations are his speciality! (Although, I must confess I still like Dekker!)

Happy reading, and let us know what you find agreeable! God bless you.

Tami said...

All British fiction, D.E. Stevenson, (yes, a relation of Robert Louis) Miss Read, R. F. Delderfield. All older books. The Miss Read books are delightful English village stories with the characters very well done.
Some of the Delderfields may be a little weighty, but I took one with me to read while in labor with Abigail, Mr. Sermon was the title. Delderfield's best known book is titled "God Is An Englishman".

Anonymous said...

From my two month hospital stay....I LOVED Randy Alcorn's "Safely Home". Gives a new perspective on Christians in China from a semi-fictional manner. Excellent! Hard to put down :)
And I am a historical buff who would LOVE to read more history (in my spare time??). My latest favorite from the library that I am seriously considering buying is "Manhunt: the 10 day chase for Lincoln's killer" by James Swanson. Fascinating! Might inspire you to visit us in Virginia :)