No doubt my blog has, well let’s say matured, over the past few years. But one thing I decided when I started and what I aim to continue is that my reviews are actual reviews.
I give only brief summaries and try to focus instead on characterizations, themes, and writing style. When someone reads one of my reviews, I want the reader to know whether they would like the book.
As time has passed, I have learned how to become more discerning in my choices of books. I know they say don’t judge a book by its cover, but sometimes it’s necessary. With just SO many books out there, one can’t read them all. I’ve figured out what buzzwords and genres I tend to enjoy — or am at least interested in exploring. With book reviews, for me, the object is not to trash or find fault with books. After all, it wouldn’t be fair to give a bad review if the book just wasn’t what I enjoy. Instead I really try to find diamonds in the rough and give them some exposure — and hopefully introduce someone to their new favorite book.
As for genres… Again, it’s a good way to help narrow down the immense number of books, but don’t forget to look for those that defy genre as well.
Other than classics (see previous post), I enjoy:
◊ Mysteries — Everything from Agatha Christie to Rex Stout to Earl Derr Biggers. Some favorites are They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie. It’s a departure from her usual detective procedurals with Poirot or Marples. This one stands alone as a spy and intrigue mystery.
I also recommend The Mysterious Mr. Quin. It is a series of linked short stories featuring one Mr. Quin who arrives at the most opportune times. I also can’t get enough of Nero Wolfe books. The plots don’t always make the most sense, but the character of Archie Goodwin is so fantastic that it doesn’t matter. Try Some Buried Caesar if you are new to the books. And if you like them, there are dozens. What there are sadly only six of are the very cool Charlie Chan books by Earl Derr Biggers. They are much more in depth and intelligent than the Chan movies that were churned out by old Hollywood. Give one a try. I really liked The House Without A Key.
◊ Historical — Fiction is fun, especially when they weave true characters and events into the narrative. I’m an even bigger fan of historical nonfiction when a writer finds a story that has been lost to time. A favorite example of this is The Devil In White City by Erik Larson. Less well-known recommendations would be Midnight In Peking by Paul French, The Entertainer by Margaret Talbot, and Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace by Kate Summerscale.
◊ Biographies — Like with historical nonfiction, I am drawn to biographies about people who have been forgotten about or some little-known personage. Some fun examples are Lady at the OK Corral by Ann Kirschner and The Real Jane Austen by Paula Byrne.
◊ Creative Fiction — I’m not sure how else to categorize these books other than to say they take the traditional structure of narrative and alter it. The result is a twist on storytelling that is very effective. Check out The Extraordinary Theory of Objects by Stephanie Lacava, The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones, Revenge by Yoko Ogawa, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Christopher Jansma and The Honey Thief by Nasaf Mazari & Robert Hillman.
I hope this has given you some more books for your TBR pile!