I’m sure at this point we all have books we’re more than excited to tell someone about. That one book you text to your friends, that you get in a few pages when you have a second, maybe the one that lives on the nightstand? That one.
And then there are the books…that live at the far back of the shelves. You know the one, the guilty pleasure. You love it and hate it at the same time. But it’s good, okay! Yea we’re right there with you. We wanted to make a list of books we’re reading right now, but with a little twist. So here are our favorite books right now, paired with our guilty pleasure reads.
The Fave: The Ten Thousand Doors of January
This was one of the best books I read last year. It’s an adventure story, a love story, a coming-of-age story – but with a mysterious, sci-fi twist. Not only is it beautifully written, but it’s an absolute page-turner, one that almost haunts me. I still find myself sometimes looking into a room or down an alley or something and thinking…that spot over there? Could…that…be…a….door?
The Guilty Pleasure: Outlander
Speaking of books that haunt you…Oof. This one. I don’t know how I missed the memo, but I when I started reading Outlander, I (mistakenly) thought it was a stand-alone novel. I started reading it at the beginning of the pandemic, just as a distraction. Eight books later, plus another…5? 7? of a companion series, I’ve finally finished them all. Good grief. The first few books in the series read more like romance novels – might as well just slap Fabio on the cover. But there was enough of a interesting plot to keep me hooked. The rest of them, however, are freaking fascinating. The books are totally engaging historical fiction that I couldn’t put down. Throughout the pandemic – thanks to this series – I’ve been narrating my life in comparison. “Mike, did you know?” I’ll ask as I make coffee in our Nespresso, “that if this was the 1700s, we would first have to walk down to the stream, break the ice, and fetch water for our coffee? Then we’d have to boil it with acorns because actual coffee would be so scarce??” I’ve been marveling at how cheaply we can buy products made of metal (“Mike, we are now using metal to make bowls. And they didn’t need to be imported from England!”) and on and on. Read at your own risk. (But also…if you do read it…feel free to call me about overseas travel. Isn’t it amazing we can now do it in HOURS???)
The Fave: Then She Was Gone
I just love any Lisa Jewell book. They’re perfectly British, easy to read, and quickly draw you in. Recently (meaning, since I had our first kid 9+ years ago), I don’t really want to have to think while reading. Well, I can just sit and blow through these in a few days. Always enjoyable! So, this particular one is a bit of a mystery…with the disappearance of a teenage girl. Her mother has to sort through all of the wreckage following this traumatic event and eventually feels like she is getting her life together, but then…pieces start to come together here-and-there…and the novel becomes more mysterious and weird. Basically, its definitely one to consider.
The Guilty Pleasure: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
This one is purely ridiculous (probably why I like it so much). I love the classic Pride & Prejudice, along with the 5 hour long series, so…I figured I had to read this weird zombie version, too. I’ll let the description on Amazon speak for itself…”Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is an audacious retelling of English literature’s most enduring novel.” So, there you go!
The Fave: The Shadow of the Wind
First written in Spanish and translated to English, The Shadow of the Wind takes place in Barcelona during the 1950’s, shortly after the Spanish Civil War. It is such a beautifully written book–my favorite review refers to it as “a love letter to literature,” which is a perfect description. There are four total books in this “series,” and I say that in quotes because each of them can completely stand alone but they all kind of weave together via characters and places. I loved this one so much I read it again years later after finishing the other three (the last of which just came out last year).
The Guilty Pleasure: Why Men Marry Bitches
It worked. 😉
The Fave: Untamed
at Amazon | at Powell’s Independent Bookstore
I’ll be honest. This is one of the few books I’ve finished this year. Oh, I have started plenty, have read 1/2-3/4 of plenty…but this one. Gosh. I love Glennon Doyle. If you need to laugh, learn something about yourself, and have a book that just lets you get what you need out of it…this. It’s one I’ll actually re-read and that’s rare for me. Thank you, Glennon, for being so brutally honest about yourself with all of us in the most hilarious of ways. Thanks for giving us tools to love ourselves more, forgive ourselves more, and tools to share with our daughters so hopefully, they can start out with a leg up on life. Ok, I’m off to re-read a chapter or two right now. Haha.
The Guilty Pleasure: Twilight Series
What can I say. I devoured this series 15 years ago and might have been a little too excited when we moved out to the Northwest closer to Forks, WA. I haven’t been there yet, but I have been to Port Angeles and don’t think I wasn’t looking for sparkly vampires when I was there. I’m currently devouring Midnight Sun, Stephanie Meyer’s latest book, written from Edward’s perspective. Omg, it’s so good haha. What is it about vampires and romance? It has me wanting to rewatch all the movies, too.
The Fave: Being In Time With Children
This is an absolutely lovely book that a friend’s father wrote. I keep it on my bedside table and pick it up to read a vignette or two any time I need to slow down my pace and refocus on being present with my kiddos (a never-ending, but challenging, goal). I gifted a copy to my parents right before they spent time with my kids last summer, and now they’ve bought copies to gift as well. It’s really a nice warm hug-of-a-book for anyone who spends any time with children.
The Guilty Pleasure: My First Chess Book
Sorry guys…my take on a “book I’d never admit to reading” is a bit different and not quite as exciting as the others. What I’m ACTUALLY most embarrassed to admit is I’m not a HUGE reader, so if I HAD finished any fiction book recently, I would likely be announcing my accomplishment to the world (sexy beach reads included). Now for my 2nd embarrassing confession… I am currently reading “My First Chess Book” (the “regular” chess books were WAY over my head) in order to keep up with my 7-year-old in chess (any hope of competing with my 12-year-old is LONG gone). Shhhhhhh, though… I keep my reading of this book a secret from my family.
The Fave: S. (Ship of Theseus)
This book is a LOT to take in on every page and a bit hard to explain, but I’ve absolutely loved reading it so far. It’s literally a story inside a story. While reading the book itself, you also read the notes scribbled in the margins by two college students who are trying to discover the identity of the author and what happened to them. There are also loose documents passed between the pages to read and add to the overall mystery. It’s taking me a long time to work through chapters and piece everything together, but dang it’s fun.
The Guilty Pleasure: The Parasol Protectorate
Listen I love a good romance, but there has to be some substance. I started reading The Parasol Protectorate series as comic books (Soulless books 1, 2, and 3) and then read the last three books in novel format. It’s got that steampunk-y setting without too much technobabble AND some really fun supernatural stuff. Not to mention an awesome female lead who can hold her own in a fight and has a detective’s instinct. I love these books with all my heart AND I love a good mystery.
What are you folks reading in the new year? I’m hoping to get at least three books done before 2022 and I can’t really tell if that’s high or low hopes right now. I’ve found I enjoy reading two books at a time, one more of a guilty pleasure silly romp and the other a more serious read. If you’ve got suggestions, I’ve got a pretty empty “Up Next” list so drop them in the comments!
Happy New Year!
And for the pinners…
I love these book recommendation posts! I have picked up a lot of fun books from them and through the comments. Shana, I fell down the outlander series rabbit hole a long time ago. It is still such a guilty pleasure to pick up now and again. Have added the rest to my TBR, thank you everyone!!
However, I have to talk about MY obsession since the pandemic started. I started reading Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive (The Way of Kings is the first book) and I cannot get over how amazingly rich in detail this series in. Think fantasy with an epic magic system, politics, wars, romance, relationships, everything!! It’s part of a 10 book series, there are 4 books published with 2 novelettes. I needed something epic to read after the GOT series and this series has filled that need and more. The detail in the hard covers are amazing, there are companion maps, fashion folios, amazing art work (one of the characters is an artist), and several layers of cool Easter eggs from either Sanderson’s other books or things you find out as the series progresses. It’s amazing how much more information I pick up on every re-read. I also think this series has some of the most varied POV characters I have read in a long while – the principal race is supposed to be ethnically Korean, the main character is depressive, there’s a very emotionally sensitive exploration of a paraplegic character, a character who suffers from imposter syndrome, I could go on. The books are connected to the rest of Sanderson’s works but I am 4 books in and have not felt the need to read the others….yet! Must.Stop.Now.
Thanks for letting me gush all over your page 😀 I went to sleep last night in the middle of reading the last published book so this post was a pleasure to wake up to!!
I love book lists! Shana, if you liked The Ten Thousand Doors of January, have you read The Starless Sea? It has a very similar feel (so much so that I wouldn’t recommend reading them back-to-back), but I thought Starless Sea felt even more immersive.
My over-xmas read that I devoured in 2 days was The Left-handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix. Absorbing and well-written. If you haven’t read his Sabriel series, that’s excellent too but not quite as “light” reading as this one, in my memory at least. This past year had been all about embracing the escapist reads. For anyone who fancies regency romances but doesn’t want a “trashy” read, find thee some Georgette Heyer. If you’re in the mood for trashy (no judgement!) and less historically accurate, isn’t everyone reading the Bridgerton books now?
TheOok that I’ve just started is Syllabus by Linda Barry.. it’s like reading someone’s art journal.
That should have said “the artsy book that I’ve just started…”. My editing went haywire.
Any of Samantha Irby books!!!!! I ❤️ her beyond belief. I think you guys mentioned her on one of your posts about Blavk authors/artists.
Furiously (and joyously) adding titles to my library hold list! I recently joined the Fantastic Strangelings online book club (run by The Bloggess. Who knew?) and just finished The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue which. Is. Amazing. Best book I have read in a long time. I also loved Catherine House and We Ride Upon Sticks. Earlier in the pandemic when I was trying to soothe myself with fiction about ww2 era Britain (if they could get through the Blitz, I figured we could get through COVID) I read Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis, although if you are going to do that I recommend reading the entire Oxford Time Travel series starting with Fire Watch. And I have been reading all of the posted excerpts from Tell The Bees I am Gone (the next Outlander book) even though they are possibly spoiley. Just can’t help myself.
Syd, thanks for the Ship of Theseus recommendation! It’s on its way to me now. If you like it, you may also like House of Leaves. One of the most interesting, reality-bending, genre-bending novels I’ve ever read.
Anxious People by Frederick Bachman.
Ah this is on my list for this year.
I am an avid reader. I have been my entire life. I love everything about books. I love reading them. I love decorating with them. I love having them around me. I’ve even decorated my kitchen based on a description in a book I’ve read. But…I pretty much completely stopped reading in March, it’s so weird. It’s like I can’t focus long enough to get through one. Yet another thing Covid ruined. I did get Such a Fun Age for Christmas and devoured it. It was so good. Now I’m starting Trinity by Leon Uris again. I read it years ago and it has stayed with me. My daughter read it recently and now I need to again, too. As for guilty pleasures…I am currently reading the Bridgerton books, because…helloooo, Duke of Hastings! They are the guiltiest of pleasures and I love them. So light and fun and the opposite of everything else in the world right now!
Just finished Such A Fun Age. SO incredibly good! Gosh. Haha Duke of Hastings omg. I was seriously glad to see there will be 8 more season, not gonna lie!
Best book I read in 2020 – actually, make it two books, both by Susanna Clarke – “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell” and “Piranesi”. The former is a alternate-magical-history about English magic and two rival magicians – it is very long but really good; there’s also a BBC mini-series which is essentially an abridged version of the book. And ‘Piranesi’ is a completely different genre, magical realism, just came out in September – about a man living alone in an empty castle with hundreds of rooms, with sea on the lower level and cloud on the upper level – and then it turns out that nothing is at it seems.
The Shadow of the Wind is one of my favorite books
Thank you for these book recommendations! I have read a few (10,000 doors of January, Twilight…) but purchased a bunch that I haven’t (The Parasol series, for example). I *love* reading. I enjoy your blog for all the fashion sense, political musings and mostly, the mom musings.
As a mother of 3 boys ages 18 and 16 (yes….. a pair of identical autistic but high functioning twins) I chuckle so much at your candid stories aout mothering, marriage and balancing those two things with being your own women. Brava! Due to your blog, I have revamped my entire wardrobe but it’s done and there’s not much else to purchase. BUT BOOKS?!?!?! Yes. Please. !!! So thanks for this – keep these posts coming as I’ll purchase a ton of books without guilt. 🙂
Also, a shout out to Amy – I was *delighted* to see you list AHTCG on your top games list. It’s not for everyone, but as a mega-fan of the Cthulhu mythos and an avid player of all things Arkham, I truly appreciated seeing my favorite game ever listed by you. my top gaming memory of 2020 is replaying the Dreamers sequence immediately after playing it through once. My gaming partner likes variety so usually refuses to do repeats. I guess quarantine is addling his brain. LOL
For context, I read between 50-100 books a year (read 94 in 2020) and game regularly with my pal 2-6 times a week (every saturday is RPG day, every Wednesday is a group game day, and M/Tu/Th/F we do war games (he’s big in to WWII and I read books about a particular war and then we play games related to that topic. It’s been great. One year I read War & Peace and the new Napoleon bio and then we played a ton of French Revolution games the best being Napoleon’s Triumph) and adventure/story games that are usually co-op (Arkham, Marvel, This War of Mine) but sometimes competitive (Fury of Dracula, Imperial Assault). My favorite blogs are the ones that cover games and books. to coin a phrase I got from TME: Obv. 🙂
Much aloha and laughter from the Bay Area, CA (Stanford’s campus in particular),
Kaui Chun DeMarzo (If I had continued working outside the home I might have tried to brand myself like Cher or Madonna LOL)
Best book I’ve read recently, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Such A Fun Age was ok, but I read it right after Eleanor and it just wasn’t as good. Yesterday, I finished Luster by Raven Leilani and it was good, much more poetic than what I’m used to. I’m right there with Cam. I swear my kids have dumbed me down. My reading used to much more intellectual, but now I just want some brain candy.
Upon your recommendation, I read the Parasol Protectorate series and completed all 5 books within 10 days! I’m now the Prudence series. Thanks so much for the rec, and please keep ’em coming!