What are your sure-fire hits when it comes to books?

If you’re looking in on Shelf Talk, chances are good you are a “book person,” and as such, are probably the go-to person for friends and family when it comes to what books they should read. This task requires much thought. What do they normally like to read? What mood have they been in recently? Are they hoping for a surprise, or books similar to what they usually read?
corellis-mandolin-book-cover.jpg Sometimes, however, it is just a matter of putting a title out there so they have something to read. This is the wonderful moment where I pull out my “sure-fire hits” (SFH). SFH are those books that satisfy such a wide variety of readers that they can be suggested to any friend, loved-one or library patron with a high likelihood that they will be enjoyed. These are books that somehow seem to be all things literary in one package. They are intelligent, yet approachable; thoughtful, yet exciting; and wise, yet current and novel.
My number one SFH is Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres. This novel has a war story, love story, historical tale, and comedy all rolled into one. It is the engrossing story of life on a small Greek island during WWII and the ways in which the citizens coped with life under Italian, then German occupation.
confederacy-of-dunces book cover.jpg The other title that has worked as a standby for an any-situation read is the hilarious A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Toole’s tale follows Ignatius J. Reilly, an ever-indignant and deluded man-child, as he single-handedly wreaks havoc on 1960s New Orleans. The book, like all great satire, is filled with moments of outrageous and nearly ridiculous hilarity while remaining intelligent and insightful.
Now that the secret of my SFH’s are out, what books do you rely on for the on-the-spot recommendation? ~ Erik

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8 Responses to What are your sure-fire hits when it comes to books?

  1. hayden says:

    When asked for a SFH thriller, I generally turn to Harlan Coben’s Tell No One. You can’t beat the premise: A young doctor, whose wife was killed years before, receives an email message linking to a live video feed of a street corner. His wife appears, looks up into the camera, and mouths the words “Tell no one.”

  2. jen says:

    “The Red Tent” by Anita Diamant, because it’s engaging from page 1 and it’s a woman-positive novel that everyone from my grandma to my little sister can enjoy.

  3. Hannah says:

    I would definitely have to say that Black Swan Green by David Mitchell has been a SFH for me. Men and women both love it. How can you resist a book that’s been described as “the British Catcher in the Rye”? It’s a great coming-of-age story about one year in the life of a 13-year-old boy who stammers, set in Thatcher-era England. Great for anyone who cringes at the memory of being 13.

  4. Lindsay says:

    My SFH is Lamb by Christopher Moore. It’s got it all–humor, drama, and a great scene about coffee.

  5. David says:

    Most of the literature I tend to enjoy is edgy [let’s call it NSFH !].

    One SFH I heartily recommend is
    Haruki Murakami * The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

    Ordinary situations eventually lead to mysteries + beyond.
    Haruki Murakami is a Japanese author whose prose is smoothly translated by Jay Rubin.

  6. David says:

    Another David here. When suggesting books to patrons at the Central Library’s fiction department, there are indeed a number of books that come up quite a bit, including Larry Watson’s “Montana, 1948” for folks from both mystery and literary camps; Robert Harris’s “Pompeii” and Michael Eisner’s “The Crusader” for folks who like gripping historicals; Janet Stevenson’s charming romp “London Bridges,” and such endearing lesser-known classics as Dodie Smith’s “I Capture the Castle,” Max Miller’s “I Cover the Waterfront,” or Ruth Macaulay’s “Towers of Trebizond.” Oh, and for a classic thriller they haven’t read, I’ve always loved Geoffrey Household’s unstoppable “Rogue Male.”

  7. Megan says:

    Mine is “The River Why” by David James Duncan, and his “The Brothers K” perhaps even more so. I have had (women) friends tell me that “River Why” struck them as a boring, boy’s coming-of-age novel, so perhaps the fact I first read it when I was younger helped. But his fiction leaves me speechless, and those are two books I always want to thrust at people, saying, “Here: read this. What’s it about? Well, fishing…only not really. Just trust me.”

  8. Kara says:

    My SFH is The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger its a lovely read, but a page turner as well. My devout circle of friends have already succumbed to its awe.

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