Top Ten Recommended Reads

Reading preferences are an extremely personal thing. And while a lot of us are pretty sure we know what we like, sometimes a book recommendation can take you utterly by surprise. This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about books that you never would have read if someone (or even something) hadn’t recommended them to you. I’m going to count not just personal recommendations from family and friends here, but also recommendations from other authors, TV, and of course the good old internet (because I spend way too much of my time browsing through Goodreads these days). 

Top Ten Recommended Reads

1. Looking for Alibrandi, by Melina Marchetta – This has got to be one of the best recommendations I’ve ever received in my life, even though I didn’t realise it at the time. My mother bought me a copy of Alibrandi when I was a teenager and encouraged me to read it, and although it took me a while to warm up to Marchetta’s novel, once I did I never looked back.

2. The Bastard of Istanbul, by Elif Shafak – I heard about Shafak’s novels more than a year ago on the radio, during a segment with a well-known arts and culture journalist. I’ve been a big fan of Orhan Pamuk’s work for a few years now, but apart from that I’ve never read any other Turkish novelists. When this journalist began discussing Shafak’s work, particularly her interest in feminist issues, I knew I had to track down her books.

3. Witches Abroad, by Terry Pratchett – It’s weird to think that although these days I’m a massive fan of Terry Pratchett’s work, I might never have thought to pick up his hilarious and brilliant books if it hadn’t been for a good friend of mine insisting, years ago, that I read Witches Abroad. Needless to say, I’m forever in her debt for that.

4. Behind the Scenes at the Museum, by Kate Atkinson – This book was recommended to be my someone in my university reading group. Not only did it provide me with some handy fodder for one of my essays, but it was an interesting read that I might never have picked up if not for the recommendation.

5. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, by Stephanie Oakes – I got this book as a present one year, and ended up staying up late just to finish it. It was dark and disturbing, not normally the kind of thing I tend to read, but it was absolutely impossible to put down.

6. Bossypants, by Tina Fey – Another birthday present from a friend that turned into the best few hours of reading I’ve ever spent. I must admit, I’m not overly fond of memoirs, especially those ‘by’ celebrities, not least because I don’t like the feeling of not knowing if it’s been written by a ghostwriter. I don’t think there’s much need to fear here, though – Bossypants is Tina Fey all over, and it’s easy to see the overlap between the characters she writes and plays on film, and her writing in this book.

7. South Riding, by Winifred Holtby and Lolly Willowes, by Sylvia Townsend Warner – These are just two of the most memorable novels I read as a direct result of Samatha Ellis’ book How to be a Heroine (which, incidentally, I decided to read thanks to the book blogging community, so in a way they’re second-generation recommendations).

8. The Table of Less Valued Knights, by Marie Phillips – I don’t usually read books just because they were nominated for awards, but I was browsing through the longlist for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2015, and this title caught my eye. Comical look at Arthurian Legends? It sounded promising, so even though I didn’t really know much about the author or the book, I decided to give it a go.

9. Cloudstreet, by Tim Winton – Tim Winton is Western Australia’s pride and joy, and I’ve been bombarded with recommendations from teachers, parents, booksellers, and friends for years now. I finally decided to try reading one of his books a few years ago, and Cloudstreet, surprisingly, turned out to be worth the hype.

10. Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine – I became obsessed with this book in primary school after a friend recommended it to me. It broke my little heart that I didn’t own a copy myself, and the school library didn’t have one either. So I kept bugging my friend to lend me her copy which, thankfully, she regularly did with good humour.

What are the best book recommendations you’ve ever received?

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30 thoughts on “Top Ten Recommended Reads

  1. Nobody gives me books as presents any more. Probably because they are afraid I will have read them already! I can understand that, but it would be nice to have some surprises that work out in the same way yours did.

    I’ve read half of these, now I want to read the other half. :) Great recommendations.

    • Yeah, books as presents can be tricky, but I still love them. I’ve been lucky, though, I don’t remember getting too many books that I’ve already read. My friends and family seem to be really good at reading my mind. :D

      • My new strategy is to give people only new books. Hopefully they will not already own them. And hopefully I will not have given them this book in the past. I’m losing track of what I’ve gifted people!

    • The Book Thief was definitely a great read! I think I first heard about it during a talk my class attended by the author, but I don’t remember why I ended up actually reading it a few years later. I think my sister read it and insisted I read it too – definitely another great recommendation! :)

  2. How lovely to see two Aussies on your list. The movie of Looking For Alibrandi is as good as the book (despite or because of the differences!)

    South Riding is my TBR pile – next time this TTT topic pops up I will be able to credit you for the recommendation :-)

  3. You’ve read some amazing books. I wish I could find a way into more adult literature. I am really wrapped up in chidren’s and young adult tales right now. Any suggestions where to start?

    • I also have a tendency to gravitate towards YA/children’s lit, particularly when I’m looking for things to read for fun, rather than for university. :) So I’m still trying to figure out what I like when it comes to adult fiction too, especially when it comes to contemporary authors.

      It really depends what you like – a few weeks ago I read The Martian, which I was surprised to find I really enjoyed, even though I was a little sceptical about all the hype. If you like sci-fi or sciency novels, it’s definitely a fascinating read. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel is also a really amazing novel on that front.

      Some of my favourite contemporary authors are Orhan Pamuk (particularly his novel The Museum of Innocence and his non-fictional Istanbul) and Dubravka Ugresic, a Croatian writer whose novels are tough but amazing. They’re a little more experimental and tougher to read, but definitely worth it. :)

  4. OMG, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly! I read it and then spent weeks randoming bringing it up in conversation with EVERYONE. Needless to say my students loved it.

  5. Melina Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road is one of my all time favorite books, but I have yet to read Looking for Alibrandi. I need to read it ASAP!
    Great list! :)

  6. Oh I definitely share your fear of celebrity memoirs but agree that Bossypants had Tina Fey’s voice all over it. I think the reason I love her memoir (and Amy Poehler’s and more recently Jessi Klein’s) is because they were all writers/comedians first so a book isn’t completely out of their wheelhouse.

  7. I’m definitely prone to getting stuck in comfortable reading ruts, and one of the things I like so much about being part of the blogging community is discovering so many great books that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise given a second though. Sometimes you need a gentle nudge to break out of a rut!

    • I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read many Winton novels apart from Cloudstreet. My mother absolutely loves his books so she keeps trying to get me to read more, I really should listen to her. :) Especially since Cloudstreet was excellent.

  8. This is a VERY hard question to answer! Definitely my mum’s recommendation of Harry Potter was a strong one, and luckily my best friend at the time seconded the recommendation and lent me her copy. So many years of happiness from that one recommendation.

  9. Bossypants is amazing, I do love Tina Fey.

    I think Kate Morton or, J.K. Rowling, Marion Keyes may be my best book recommendations. The former got me reading the way I still to today (obsessively) and the latter two kept me reading in my teens when reading just wasn’t cool and I had zero interest in it.

    • Books that keep teens reading are so important! Harry Potter was great for that, for our generation at least – I’m not sure what it’s like for kids who begin reading the series at about 11 or 12, the way we did. Do they move on to the tougher, and darker, later books straight away?

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