from cover to cover

So I was hanging out with Rachel the other night for a drink while she was in the city (my god, I am so lucky that she comes to the city every now and then, and we can meet up), and we got to talking about books.

I was in the middle of reading The Road, but I had come to the conclusion that I could not keep reading it. Too intensely heartwrenching, scary, and real. I need something fun and light, but still interesting.

She suggested a few options, including To Say Nothing of the Dog, a revisit of the Harry Potter series, and anything by Sarah Vowell or David Sedaris.

I recently read Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and I’ve read the other Sedaris collections–loved them all. (Loved making a fool of myself on the bus as I guffawed.) Other recent reads include Heyday (ugh, no) and The Red Tent (it was fine).

Though I say I’m looking for light, I must say that I have never enjoyed reading chick lit, so that kind of stuff isn’t going to interest me. (Good in Bed? Wanted to throw the book across the room, I found it so trite. And . . . that’s the only chick lit I’ve read. (wait! i liked Bridget Jones, actually.)) But things like Ruth Reichl‘s memoirs or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time were fast, light, enjoyable reads.

I’m looking for things that don’t teach me some kind of moral lesson, don’t make me wonder how I might handle the onset of an apocalypse, nothing that has characters in a world devoid of hope. (Is that too much to ask?) So I open the comments to all your book suggestions!

49 Responses to from cover to cover

  1. trillian42 says:

    If you like Ruth Reichl’s books (which I need to read one of these days), have you read “Julie and Julia”? There were times when I wanted to strangle her, but it was still a really good read.

  2. stacey says:

    I loved Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – there might be some deep meaning but the writing is so visual – I can taste the food, feel the author’s emotions – loved it! Astrid and Veronika was also a good read recently – not chick lit by any stretch:) \I also enjoy anything by Elizabeth Berg. I’m in the middle of Prodigal Summer – I’m not enjoying it too much but I keep thinking I have too much invested to give up? Maybe not. I have The Road next to my bed in my pile – now I am afraid:) I think I’ll try The Memory Keeper’s Daughter or a Jodi Picoult book next instead:0)

  3. sprite says:

    Ooh! Book recommendations…

    anything by Jasper Fforde, particularly The Eyre Affair
    anything by Peter Mayle, particularly A Year in Provence
    anything by Bill Bryson (educational and humorous)
    Mama Makes up her Mind by Bailey White (made me laugh out loud on a plane)
    Fannie Flagg’s latest, Can’t Wait to Get into Heaven, was sweet.
    The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (YA, but still the book I liked best last year)
    The History of Love by Nicole Kraus
    The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (I really liked this book when I read it back in January, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea)

  4. Leah says:

    For humor you could try Dave Barry or Steve Martin.

    I’ve been reading a lot of food writing lately and very much enjoyed Tony Bourdain’s new book “The Nasty Bits”, “Heat” by Bill Buford and “American Appetite” by Leslie Brenner.

    While not so much of a light read one of the best books I’ve read in quite some time is “Love is a Mix Tape” by Rob Sheffield.

    My other go to recommendations are “Blink” and “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell.

  5. jennie says:

    I highly, highly recommend The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Neffinegger (spelling?). It’s not exactly a light read, although I flew through it. It’s emotional but sooooo beautiful. One of the best love stories of all time. Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s technically science fiction. I hate sci-fi and this reads like a lovely novel.

    Also, Rule of Four. A thinky book which I got for Christmas and read in one sitting (I couldn’t put it down).

    I also really like to revisit books I loved as a kid (when I’m in need of a good relaxing read). For children’s books that I love, I recommend any of the “shoes” books by Noel Streatfield. Also, if you like mysteries, anything by Dorothy Sayers (so much better than Agatha Christie, if it’s not too sacreligious to say that), esp. her books ‘starring’ Lord Peter Wimsey.

    That’s all I can think of right now…

  6. gleek says:

    you know, i liked “good in bed” but not “in her shoes” and everything else that she wrote. hhmm.. anyway, if you like light reading, i like anything by marian keyes. some would say she’s chick lit but my god, it’s good and funny and witty. i especially loved “watermelon”. but for good summer reading, i love anything by haruki murakami. try “wild sheep chase” and then follow it up with “dance, dance, dance.” fantastic. have you read the “his dark materials” series by phillip pullman? oh my god, those books are amazing! or read the otori series by lian hearn. sigh. these all remind me of last summer’s reading. i wish i had more time for reading now!

  7. Lisa says:

    I was about to recommend the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, but Sprite beat me to it. As for Julie & Julia, it was a bit too high-pitched for me – all I could hear was this high-whiny voice while I was reading it, for some reason. On my bookshelf is The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, Animal Vegetable Miracle (can you tell I’m obsessed with food writing right now?), and the prequel to the Tales of the Otori series (that’s a great series that I’d completely recommend for good summer reading). Oh, and Harry Potter 7 comes out next month, so might I suggest re-reading some of the previous, to get caught up?

  8. Liz K says:

    I would recommend Life of Pi. It surely has a message, but it is totally absorbing and incredibly creative. And also if you like historical fiction, The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory is fun, interesting and just a bit smutty.

    I really loved the Ruth Reichl books and have Eat Pray Love & Animal Vegetable Mineral in my queue for the summer.

    I recently had to stop reading books that were too heavy, as well as filter out any “entertainment” that involved violence or peril to children, families, etc. It just wasn’t good for my psyche, and surely not good for my family, either.

  9. Stacey says:

    I second the Sarah Vowell suggestion…Assassination Vacation is a fun (& educational!) read. My go to book anytime I need a pick me up is Good Omes by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett. Always makes me laugh and I’ve read it several times.

    Also, even if you have seen & loved the movie, The Princess Bride by William Goldman will have you rolling.

  10. laura says:

    This is so funny! I have been thinking about asking for book recommendations too!

    I have to give an enthusiastic second to Dorothy Sayers. (And, no, Jennie, it is NOT sacreligious to say that she is better than Agatha Christie. Because she IS!) The summer that Sam was born I revisited a lot of juvenile fiction, and that was really fun.

    Also I absolutely love anything by Alexander McCall Smith. He has different series of books: one set in Botswana (excellent!) that are sort of mild mysteries; one that is sort of like Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City only in Edinburgh; another series in Edinburgh with a very appealing female protagonist who is the editor of a philosophy journal. They are all so fun, and positive, and not downers at all. Reading one of his books is like getting a hug.

    Also, anything by William Maxwell is going to be beautiful. I especially like his collection of short stories, All the Days and Nights.

  11. Jess says:

    You might like The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones. The plot is chic litish (marriage ends, woman learns her marriage wasn’t quite what she thought it was, woman finds a new love). But the author’s knowledge of Chinese-Chinese food/culture is well described, and that was actually why I enjoyed it. You may get a recipe idea out of it.

  12. Kris says:

    I loved the book Wicked – it is the story of the life of the Wicked Witch of the West. The sequel is Son of a Witch. Both were excellent!


  13. beverly says:

    Scout loaned me “Water for Elephants,” and I liked that a lot. I also just finished “Once Upon a Day” by Lisa Tucker. I read each in a day and I haven’t been reading too quickly of late, so at least you know they’re page turners!

  14. Elinor says:

    I went through a phase a few years ago in which it seemed every new book I picked up had some horrific event occur in the first 50 pages. Even books that people recommended to me when I made a plea like yours! So here are some good ones that aren’t super depressing or moralistic. :-)

    A lesser known writer but a really good one: Sue Hubbell. My favorite of hers is “A Country Year”. She’s written another one about beekeeping that is really good too – can’t remember the name off the top of my head. Her books have no plot but really great writing about life in general.

    I’ll echo the comment about Alexander McCall Smith. AND he’s so prolific that there’s always an AMS book that you haven’t read. The Detective Agency books are the best but the ones that take place in Scotland are interesting too. Little plot, lots of interesting character.

    Also, I’m a huge fan of Wendell Berry. He has some political writings (esp of late) so stick to his fiction. The best are the books about the characters of Port William, KY.

    OK, last would be a travel writer named Kira Salak. She writes about her adventures in Papua New Guinea and West Africa in her last 2 books. Her style is anything but your average travel writing. Captivating reads.

  15. Annie says:

    Have you read Ruth’s Garlic & Saphires? Hotty Hubby really enjoyed Heat by Bill Buford. I also have enjoyed Barbara Kingsolver books for entertainment. Let’s see, or you could read The Nanny Diaries. *snort* ;-)

  16. nova says:

    I am reading The Historian right now, it’s dark, but entertaining. Next up, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (I really like Kingsolver). I am not sure how light any of these are though…so I have no idea how helpful this comment is at all!

  17. Jenn says:

    Many of the ones I was going to suggest have already been suggested (julie and julia, eat, pray, love). One of my all time favorite books is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – not too heavy, but not too light. I love it.

  18. Lolly says:

    Pretty light and interesting: I liked Water for Elephants, Thirteenth Tale, Last Town on Earth, Alias Grace, and The Stolen Child. I think you would like any of these for fiction :) I have a huge NF list too that I would be happy to share; that is what I read primarily. Let me know what you get!

  19. Suze says:

    Oh, you’ve gotten lots of good suggestion if for anything by Bill Bryson–well this only works if you like “travel lit.” He doesn’t try to teach his readers the meaning of life he just humors you with his witty and somewhat silly travel experiences.

  20. earthchick says:

    First, I have to say I am so jealous that you and Rachel get to just casually hang out every now and then!

    Regarding books, I am totally with you on the Sedaris stuff. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim made me laugh out loud so many times. Good stuff.

    I second the suggestion of The Time Traveler’s Wife. And a couple I have read recently that I would recommend – The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ichiguro. [Never Let Me Go wouldn’t be considered “light” per se, but it wasn’t dark and horrific either, and I found it completely engaging, and a very quick read.]

    I’m getting ready to read Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, but I’m guessing that neither of those will qualify as “light” or non-tragic….

  21. Allegra says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s suggestions, as I am looking for some good summer reading as well. I just started Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which I look forward to getting into. I always can count on Haruki Murakami’s work, whether novels or short stories to be interesting. I also like Banana Yoshimoto, her short stories are great. If you want a laugh out loud read, Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. Hilarious and frightening that it is a true story!!

  22. Jen says:

    The Element of Lavishness. It’s a book of letters between a writer and her editor, and it’s absolutely delightful.

  23. Rachel says:

    Oh, yay! I’m so glad you posted this, because now I feel like you’ve generated a great list of summer reading for everyone! Lots of these recommendations sound very interesting to me. And lots of the suggestions are things I’ve read and I second them (though I have to assume you’ve read many of them).

    I always have such a great time hanging out with you. Now you just have to find a reason to come to Rhode Island (or even New Hampshire, if the timing is right!).

  24. Brenda says:

    To Say Nothing of the Dog is so much fun! I also read Three Men in a Boat afterward (which will make sense if you read TSNofD). Bellwether by Connie Willis is also very good.

    If you like travel mixed with natural history, Victoria Finlay’s books are very good.

  25. Ashley says:

    I totally second Kavalier and Clay, the His Dark Materials series, and the Sarah Vowell/David Sedaris recs. Jasper Fforde makes me want to gouge my own eyes out. Have you read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell? I just re-read it over my vacation–love it.

  26. rose says:

    though it sounds like you already have lots of options, just wanted to chime in to second (or third?) kavalier and clay, and also make a pitch for my life in france (by julia child) – totally engrossing in a not serious way.

    for light reading, i also really like anna maxted’s books (she’s borderline in the chick lit category, but if you liked bridget jones, you’d probably like running in heels and her other books). i also really enjoy laurie colwin’s books (both her fiction and her two cooking memoirs).

  27. MelissaJ says:

    For really light reading and some hilarious good fun try the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. I’m currently reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson…not light but really good.

  28. Marlena says:

    My goto book for light, funny, and smart is Youth in Revolt by C.D. Payne. It’s a thick book, but it goes quickly, because it’s so freaking funny.

    I also love to read The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro (I love all of her books, actually, but I’ve read this one the most). It’s not a laugh a minute or anything, but she’s such a careful, considerate writer and the stories just suck me in, every time.

    Other good, funny stuff:
    Tom Robbins
    American Gods by Neil Gaimon
    Good Omens by Gaimon and Terry Pratchett. This book is found in the sci-fi section, an area I usually am never found in, but it was recommended to me and I really liked it.
    Christopher Moore (Though I found Fluke a little drawn out and kinda boring.)

    I could go on forever, but I’ll shut up now. :)

  29. Mandy says:

    Well, I will join everybody else in recommending The Time Traveler’s Wife, Wicked, and The Other Boleyn Girl though I wouldn’t say that the first two are exactly light reading…I would also recommend the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon (though these are not quick reads) or Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins. Also, when I want something that is light and is guaranteed to make me happy then I return to some of my favorites from when I was younger like Anne of Green Gables or A Wrinkle in Time. Good luck in finding your next good read!

  30. MeBeth says:

    Cooking with Fernat Branca – I just read it and it was hilarious, truly hilarious! I also cant get enough of Tim Moore’s silly travel books (perfect if you like PG Wodehouse-y humor). Gastronaut is also a great fun nonfiction read. Also Calvin Trillin’s Tummy Trilogy. (Surprise, almost all my suggestions are food books!)

  31. Jody says:

    I’m reading “Saving Fish from Drowning” by Amy Tan right now and it’s very good. Not a quick read – it’s about 430 pages – but it’s definitley holding my interest.

  32. Shayna says:

    Along the same vein as David Sedaris is Augusten Burroughs. Read “Magical Thinking” last year. Highly recommend it. If you liked Bridget Jone’s Diary, maybe a Nick Hornby novel would suit you, such as “High Fidelity.” And I would also recomend, Alice Sebold, “The Lovely Bones.” The subject of this book is heavy, but the reading is easy.

  33. Goldie says:

    Wow. Some great reading suggestions! I second The Time Travelers Wife, Memory Keepers Daughter (but both I woudn’t consider “light” reading). I also enjoyed Water for Elephants, The Thirteenth Tale, The Stolen Child, and the Historian. I am in the middle of the Other Boleyn Girl right now – love it! I am trying to get through the Prey series (detective Lucas Davenport set in Minnesota) now, and like them a lot. I’m trying to do the Prey series all via audiobook to the ipod, and the library has been a great resource, including inter-library loan. Reading is fun!

  34. liz says:

    2 books I always recommend are Time Traveler’s Wife & Kavalier and Clay – cannot say enough good about them.
    But I’ve also loved The Dress Lodger and The Mammoth Cheese(2 separate books, both by Sheri Holman. I love her writing.
    Right now I’m reading Secret Life of Bees and I like it but don’t love it.
    I just bought A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Glass Castle – looking forward to reading them as soon as I’m done with Secret Life of Bees – I like it but I don’t love it yet.

  35. Amanda says:

    Definitely read Time Traveler’s Wife – it was just brilliant, I was setting my alarm earlier and earlier just to sneak in some reading (and I really like my sleep, so you know it must have been worth it). I hear there’s a movie version of this book in the works and I’m fairly certain that it will be impossible to do justice to the book, so read it before your opinion is handed to you by Hollywood.

    You’ve got some great suggestions here! I’m going to have to write down a few titles myself. I’ve read a few and since I’m already editorializing: The Historian, Wicked, and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel (not mentioned yet, but it may come up) – I found all three to be ultimately disappointing, but I know there are fans so email me if you want reasons/spoilers. And Julie/Julia – very fun on audiobook – check the public library!

  36. Lupinbunny says:

    Try Mark Haddon’s (Curious Incident author) new one, A Spot of Bother. Light and funny (in a terribly black way).
    Older couple’s adult daughter has just announced she’s going to be married (for the second time). Thing is, she’s not sure she wants to marry the guy. Her mother’s having an affair. Her fiance has anger management problems. Her brother has just realised he’s lost the love of his life and has to try and get him back (and her mother is also angsting over how to introduce her gay son’s partner to their conservative extended family… perhaps the breakup is perfect timing?) And in the middle of it all, the family patriarch George is sliding gently into a mental breakdown. Despite the diagnoises of eczema, he KNOWS he is dying of skin cancer.

    It’s very, very funny. Really.

  37. pamela wynne says:

    This is awesome! I’m getting a zillion great recs from your comments! YES to the His Dark Materials series, Neil Gaiman, *The Element of Lavishness* and the Harry Potter re-read.

    I hate Tom Robbins.

    I love Sarah Vowell and David Sedaris, but I get way more out of listening to the audiobooks, since their voices, styles, etc. are so distinctive and so much a part of their writing. But S.Vowell is perfect for the kind of light-but-not-fluffy reading you want. *Assassination Vacation* is my favorite (I might even have mentioned this when we had lunch?).

    If you like mysteries, Sujata Massey is pretty cool and more interesting (I think) than most mysteries. There are actually a lot of Asian American women mystery writers that do really neat stuff with the genre.

    When I want light, I also like to revisit Roald Dahl, both his children’s books and his short stories for grown-ups.

    How do you feel about graphic novels? I like Marjane Satrapi, Erika Lopez, and Neil Gaiman.

  38. Julianne says:

    I’m an avid reader of all different types of books. I do love books that make you think and wonder about the world, but it doesn’t sound like you’re in the mood for something like that so here’s some “summer reading” suggestions.

    If you liked curious incident, then you may like Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Very good, I found it to be a quick read. It’s a boy who’s father is killed and leaves behind a key. The son thinks the key is a game and he has to find out what it opens. He travels all over the city to try to find out what it opens.

    And if you enjoyed Bridget Jones, I highly suggest anything by Marian Keyes. It’s light quick chick books, but with an interesting story. She has a series about the Walsh sisters. An Irish family of 5 girls, each of which has some major life changing event happen to them. The books are anybody out there, watermelon, angels, and rachel’s last holiday.

    But if you really don’t want to think and want to read a book in a weekend, there is Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. A New Jersey bounty hunter who has no idea what she’s doing. The story lines are not complicated at all and there are lots of things to laugh at (like how during the first few books she dresses in typical 90’s Jersey wear of spandex shorts!)

    And now a blatant plug for my new favorite site! which is great for all avid readers with limited space. It’s a free book trading website. I love it and have a stack of 20 books now waiting to be read. And I don’t feel bad about sending people my books since I know they’re going to fellow avid readers.

  39. KrisSuthe says:

    Way too many suggestions for me to read, so here are mine, even if it’s a repeat:

    Terry Pratchett, the Discworld series. Everyone I know wants to read them in order, and I say to heck with that. Grab one, read the back, see if you’re interested. Read a few out of order. Then, if you’re still into it, read them in order (nowadays, the later ones are printed so that the list runs backwards. Book one is either The Colour of Magic or The Light Fantastic, I never remember which).

    Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide, etc. 5 volumes of craziness. Yeah, it’s the end of the world, and Vogons are involved, but will a little bit of bad poetry stop me from liking it? No. Just good crazy fun.

    Um… Wait, what else do I read, besides class stuff? Uh, I guess I read class stuff. I could probably recommend individual items in the way of Renaissance history / literature theory, hispanic issues (or crazy drag queen literature like Sirena Selena, available in translation), or random things.

    For picture books, if you like Russia / tsars / the Anastasia myth, Peter Kurth’s Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra is filled with pictures and history (including a short section on the infamous Faberge eggs).

    For poetry: Midaregami (Tangled Hair), or a compilation named River of Stars, both by Yosano Akiko.

    Knitting history: No Idle Hands by Anne McDonald is on my wish list (so I haven’t read it, but it looks interesting).

    Young Adult type reading: The Princess Bride, by William Goldman (if you’ve never read it).

    Into comics? Glance at Ranma 1/2 or Maison Ikkoku (the manager knits!) by Rumiko Takahashi, Love Hina or Negima by Ken Akamatsu, Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya, or for the very risque, Lupin III by Monkey Punch, if you can find it.

  40. Knitting Bandit says:

    Life of Pi is a great read. One of my all time favorites. It’s a really different story like you’ve never read before and you won’t forget. Someone else wrote the Glass Castle. I just finished it, it would qualify for “light” in my opinion. Time Travelers Wife is a really good book, but you really have to concentrate in the beginning to figure it all out. So I wouldn’t call it “easy”. Have you tried ? It’s really easy and cheap. You have to sift through a lot of trashy romance novels to find the good stuff, but it’s in there.

  41. Jennifer says:

    I can tell by the comments who has my taste and as a few people have said, I’ve just found myself a great list of books to read. If you’re doing foodie reading (never too emotionally overwrought) , Toast by Nigel Slater was amusing. Julie and Julia made me want to rip her eyes out a few times, but I enjoyed the overall experience of reading it. I also enjoyed anything Anthony Bourdain has written. Thanks again for spurring the creation of this inspired list.

  42. becky says:

    I’m agreeing with Eat, Love, Pray and Life of Pi. The first is an excellent audio book if you’re into that.

    Adding to the list for variety and shorter summer reading is David Sedaris’ collection of short stories.

  43. Madeleine says:

    Has anyone read Deafening? Although it received lukewarm reviews on amazon, I stumbled on it in my library and remember it fondly.

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