Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books For Readers Who Like Margaret Atwood

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic is top ten books for readers who like ________. I’m filling in the blank with “Margaret Atwood.”

Margaret Atwood is possibly my favorite author ever, but a lot of people say that her writing style is an acquired taste. It is different from what many readers are used to. Her stories are dense, detail-packed, and character-driven. She likes to play with structure, so most of her books have a ton of flashbacks, flashforwards, and other structural oddities. A few of them even have stories within stories. Sometimes, weird things happen without much explanation. These are difficult books to read quickly. If you go too fast, you’ll miss something amazing.

Atwood’s work is totally worth reading, though. She can develop characters and write description better than any other author I’ve ever read. I recommend her books to everybody.

She writes novels, poetry, short stories, nonfiction, and children’s books, but this list is just going to focus on her novels. So, if you’re new to this author, here are a few of her “easier” books to get you started.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now . . .

Why I love it: Best dystopia ever. Awesome world-building.

The MaddAddam Trilogy (Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, MaddAddam)

Set in a darkly plausible future shaped by plagues, floods, and genetic engineering, these three novels take us from the end of the world to a brave new beginning. Thrilling, moving, a triumph of imagination, this trilogy confirms the ultimate endurance of humanity, community, and love.

Why I love it: Second-best dystopia ever. The humor in this trilogy is surprising. It kind of sneaks up on you when you’re not expecting it.

Cat’s Eye

Cat's Eye is the story of Elaine Risley, a controversial painter who returns to Toronto, the city of her youth, for a retrospective of her art. Engulfed by vivid images of the past, she reminisces about a trio of girls who initiated her into the fierce politics of childhood and its secret world of friendship, longing, and betrayal. Elaine must come to terms with her own identity as a daughter, a lover, an artist, and a woman—but above all she must seek release from her haunting memories. Disturbing, hilarious, and compassionate, Cat's Eye, is a breathtaking novel about a woman grappling with the tangled knots of her life.

Why I love it: Realistic child characters.

Alias Grace

Margaret Atwood takes us back in time and into the life of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the nineteenth century. Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer, the wealthy Thomas Kinnear, and of Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence after a stint in Toronto's lunatic asylum, Grace herself claims to have no memory of the murders. 
Dr. Simon Jordan, an up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness, is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story, from her family's difficult passage out of Ireland into Canada, to her time as a maid in Thomas Kinnear's household. As he brings Grace closer and closer to the day she cannot remember, he hears of the turbulent relationship between Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery, and of the alarming behavior of Grace's fellow servant, James McDermott. Jordan is drawn to Grace, but he is also baffled by her. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories? Is Grace a female fiend, a bloodthirsty femme fatale? Or is she a victim of circumstances? 
Alias Grace is a beautifully crafted work of the imagination that reclaims a profoundly mysterious and disturbing story from the past century. With compassion, and unsentimental lyricism, and her customary narrative virtuosity, Margaret Atwood mines the often convoluted relationships between men and women, and between the affluent and those without position. The result is her most captivating, disturbing, and ultimately satisfying work since The Handmaid's Tale—in short, vintage Atwood.

Why I love it: The end of this story is just weird. Very, very weird.

The Blind Assassin

The Blind Assassin opens with these simple, resonant words: "Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge." They are spoken by Iris, whose terse account of her sister's death in 1945 is followed by an inquest report proclaiming the death accidental. But just as the reader expects to settle into Laura’s story, Atwood introduces a novel-within-a-novel. Entitled The Blind Assassin, it is a science fiction story told by two unnamed lovers who meet in dingy backstreet rooms. When we return to Iris, it is through a 1947 newspaper article announcing the discovery of a sailboat carrying the dead body of her husband, a distinguished industrialist. Brilliantly weaving together such seemingly disparate elements, Atwood creates a world of astonishing vision and unforgettable impact.

Why I love it: It’s part science fiction and part historical fiction. That’s awesome.


Part detective novel, part psychological thriller, Surfacing is the story of a talented woman artist who goes in search of her missing father on a remote island in northern Quebec. Setting out with her lover and another young couple, she soon finds herself captivated by the isolated setting, where a marriage begins to fall apart, violence and death lurk just beneath the surface, and sex becomes a catalyst for conflict and dangerous choices. Surfacing is a work permeated with an aura of suspense, complex with layered meanings, and written in brilliant, diamond-sharp prose. Here is a rich mine of ideas from an extraordinary writer about contemporary life and nature, families and marriage, and about women fragmented . . . and becoming whole.

Why I love it: A beautiful setting and a main character who is slowly going insane.

Lady Oracle

Joan Foster is a secret writer of Gothic romances. When her outrageously feminist book, Lady Oracle, becomes a bestseller, everything in her life changes. 
To escape her deteriorating marriage, her affair with an artist, and the criminal urges of a fan, Joan embarks on an act that is at once her most daring and creative: she fakes her own death and begins a new life. 
With a much-needed respite from her life, Joan Foster begins to examine it . . .

Why I love it: Realistic and relatable characters.


  1. Great list, the best one I have come across so far. As a Canadian, it is kind of embarrassing to admit that I haven't read much of Atwood. I know, I know, it's totally unacceptable. I have read plenty of her short fiction and poetry though so that's gotta count for something right? Indeed, The Handmaid's Tale was awesome, such a a great dystopia novel. Don't watch the movie adaptation though, that was awful.

    I have been tweaking to read the MaddAddam Trilogy for so long but just haven't gotten around to it. Ugh, so much to read, so little time! Interesting, I had no idea "The Blind Assassin" was part science fiction. I might have to look into that one then.

    Great blog and consider me a new follower! :)

  2. Hey AJ! Great list this week. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Margaret Atwood, which stems from required reading of Cat's Eye in high school. (Honestly, I think required reading should be banned. There's nothing like forcing me to read a book to guarantee that I'll hate it.) But I keep hearing great things about her books! They seem really intimidating to me, but reading this list makes me want to give her another try.
    Lauren @ Lauren Hearts Books

  3. I have had The Handmaid's Tale checked out a couple of times -- and STILL haven't read it. I'm going to try again....

  4. I love this list! Unfortunately, I've only read The Handmaid's Tale, but I'm pretty sure this is the year I'm going to start the MaddAddam trilogy. I also have a copy Stone Mattress waiting for me signed by Margaret.

  5. Nice list of books for this week's TTT post!! I am a Margaret Atwood fan!! Here's a link to my TTT post for this week: http://captivatedreader.blogspot.com/2015/03/top-ten-tuesday-ten-books-for-readers.html

  6. Aah, I love Margaret Atwood so, so much! The Maddaddam trilogy is my everything, I recommend it to everyone. I still have yet to read Lady Oracle, The Blind Assassin (which I've owned forever but haven't managed to get to yet) and Surfacing which I need to read ASAP because it just sounds so good.

  7. Hi there! I'm new to your blog, but I've nominated you for the Versatile Blogging award! I hope you can join!


  8. I was just looking for a list that ranked her works!! I LOVED The Handmaid's Tale and I just bought Oryx and Crake, I am so glad it is second on the list :P Thanks for sharing this, its really helpful!

  9. I really should read Atwood, I believe I would love them! I just need to pick one up!
    New follower :)
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings