Storytellers, Awe Inducers, and Caffeinated Chihuahuas

Now that the award season is over, and the hoopla has died down, I wanted to post on a topic I’m sure most writers adore: books.

In my mind, I tend to lump fiction into one of four categories:

  1. Yuck, won’t spend another minute on it.
  2. Ehh, good enough to finish, but I won’t be organizing a parade in its honor.
  3. Great read by a wonderful storyteller—cannot wait to dive in!
  4. Amazing book with brilliant writing, leaving me awestruck by the author’s talent and reluctant to turn the last page.

Allow me to share some of my favorites from the last two categories.

As for great reads whose anticipated debut makes me hop around like a caffeinated Chihuahua, one of my favorites is Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series. Her well-written books create such a lovable protagonist, you feel as though you are sleuthing right along with her.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith is another pleasure producer. Though I am not one to use the word delightful, I can think of no better adjective to describe this series. The style is breezy, light, and heartfelt. Believe it or not, I’m actually a little glass half-full by the time I reach that back cover!

And of course, to return to my dark side, anything by Stephen King. Though I am no longer a huge fan of horror, I cannot bypass this man’s books. Barely two lines fly by before I am sucked into a world with characters so rich and real, I expect them to knock on my door (though I hope they don’t—that would be creepy.) He is a brilliant storyteller.

Now what about my last category? Although I am drawn to mystery and intrigue, every so often, I poke my nose into something more literary. I need to maintain a modicum of respect, after all. Among this group, I have discovered books that made me…well…speechless. Not to mention humbled by great talent. Talent that reduced me to a kindergartener weaving a tale of a farting monkey by comparison.

There are too many gems to mention, but let me highlight a few:

  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. If I could write even one pinch as well as this author, I would brighten the world with my happiness.
  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  • I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb
  • Beach Music by Pat Conroy
  • Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. Not only was it beautifully written, I felt a chill when I finished. I won’t say more. You just have to read it.

Now, you may look at my list, shrug, and say, “Well, that’s not so special.” Fortunately, for writers and readers alike, taste in books is not one-size-fits-all. But as I am always looking for stories that tickle my pickle, I would love to know what reads are on your list. What books were too entertaining to close or so well-written you turned a shade of envious green?

Please share your favorites with me. I’d love to experience them!

Cartoon images: Microsoft Clip Art

22 Responses to “Storytellers, Awe Inducers, and Caffeinated Chihuahuas”

  1. Berducci

    For science fiction/zombie aficionados I recommend World War Z (An oral history of the Zombie War) by Max Brooks. I enjoyed it and gave it to my teenage son who loved the book.

    For nuclear post apocalyptic novels I recommend Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank and one of my top five books, The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

    • crubin

      Thanks for commenting on your favorites! Yes, I heard The Road was wonderful. I should read it, but I think it will make me too sad. Couldn’t even see the movie

  2. springfieldfem

    My current favorites:
    The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood – it’s science fiction-y but without overdoing it

    An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender – I ADORE her characters. I feel like I could hang out with them. Everyday.

    Also, anything by Lorrie Moore!

    • crubin

      Excellent! Thanks for sharing your favorites. “I’ve added An Invisible Sign of My Own” and Lorrie Moore’s “Who Will Run the Frog Hospital” to my list. I hadn’t heard of her, and the novel looks intriguing. My reading list was getting a bit weak, so this blog entry helped me plump it up a bit!

  3. Barbara Kyle

    Hi Carrie – One of the most compelling novels I read in 2011 was David Mitchell’s superb The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. A stunner. And in non-fiction: Adam Hochschild’s brilliant and heartbreaking To End All Wars about the insanity of W.W. I and the brave Brits who refused to fight and were jailed for it. Happy New Year!

    • crubin

      Thanks so much for visiting and for the recs. I just added The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet to my Goodreads list. I always enjoy historical fiction centering on Japanese, Chinese, or Indian culture. Happy New Year to you too!

  4. RFL

    Love this topic, and hearing other book recommendations. A few that I have read recently that I enjoyed were: The Kitchen House, Kathleen Grissom, Don’t Breathe A Word, Jennifer McMahon, A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan, and The Middle Place, Kelly Corrigan.

    • crubin

      Thank you so much for the wonderful suggestions, some of which I’ve just added to my Goodreads “to be read” list, a social network I need to better tend! I’m going to start with Don’t Breathe a Word. Looks very intriguing.

  5. Kourtney Heintz

    I just finished Harlan Coben’s Caught and I love love loved it. Sue Monk Kidd’s Mermaid Chair amazed me. Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why stays with me to this day. Those are just a few of the amazing books I’ve come across. Books that taught me to be a better writer. :)

    • crubin

      I just pulled up Caught on Amazon–looks so good I downloaded it to my IPad Kindle. Thanks for the recs!

  6. janetkoops

    One of my favourite novels is Origin of Species by Nino Ricci and I love most work by Alice Munro. I really liked City of Theives by David Benioff. I’m currently reading The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood and A Week of This by Nathan Whitlock.

    • crubin

      Thanks so much for the recs! I just put the Origin of Species and The Blind Assassin on hold at my library. Both should make my reading list a little more respectable

  7. G M Barlean

    Great post.
    My biggest disappointment this past year was The Garden Of Good and Evil. Couldn’t finish it.
    BEST book I read this year, Under The Dome by King. Crazy good. Still thinking that one over.
    Anything King.
    3 Favs.
    1. To Kill a Mockingbird
    2. The Pearl
    3. A Prayer For Owen Meany

    I’ll never write that beautifully or tell such poignant tales…but I’ll die trying.

    • crubin

      Agreed. “Under the Dome” was great. It doesn’t matter how thick King’s books are, I’ll read them! I also loved “To Kill a Mockingbird”; in fact, just had my teenager read it. I haven’t read the other two you mentioned, so I can add them to my list (I have read Irving before). Thanks for bringing them to my attention. Happy reading!

  8. lostingoodstory

    Thank you for the “like” and, much to my joy, I find another blogger addicted to my fave, Mr. King. He is the King. Nuff said. Except for, read the Dark Tower series if you have not already.

    • crubin

      Actually, I haven’t read the Dark Tower series, since I don’t read much along the fantasy lines. But if it’s King, I’m sure it is wonderful. I just found “Insomnia” in a used book store. Can’t believe one of his novels slipped past me, so I am excited to dig into it (though it is very thick!) Thanks for stopping by my blog. I could definitely relate to your last entry :)

  9. jmmcdowell

    Alas, what little reading I’ve had time for recently has fallen into categories 1 and 2. I’ve been reading recent sci-fi about time travel to see how one of my novels compares. I’ve either put the book down after a few chapters or struggled to finish it. Flat characters, dull plot – I’m left wondering how they get published.

    Okay, most of them wouldn’t be advertised as “great” reads, anyway. But you might think I would have finished “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” at least. However, as you noted, no book is going to appeal to everyone. And that best-seller didn’t catch my interest because I couldn’t get into the characters.

    Oh, for more time to find and enjoy more good reads!

    • crubin

      I did read “The Time Traveler’s Wife”. Fell somewhere between categories 2 and 3 for me. Yes, I long for the days when I was a child and had time to bury myself in bed and read for hours…

    • crubin

      That is too funny! I was about to respond to this comment by saying, “Great recommendation–my mother loves him.” But low and behold, your email address tells me you are my mother! No matter how old we are, we love the support of our mothers. Thanks for visiting :)


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