Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Unforgettable Books




This week, we’re talking about memorable books. Here are 10 books that I didn’t want to put down and then couldn’t stop thinking about when they were over.

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Books I’ll Remember Forever







1. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (Ripley #1)


Adult Crime / Thriller


In this first novel, we are introduced to suave, handsome Tom Ripley: a young striver, newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan in the 1950s. A product of a broken home, branded a "sissy" by his dismissive Aunt Dottie, Ripley becomes enamored of the moneyed world of his new friend, Dickie Greenleaf. This fondness turns obsessive when Ripley is sent to Italy to bring back his libertine pal but grows enraged by Dickie's ambivalent feelings for Marge, a charming American dilettante.


Why I Remember It: Tom Ripley is a devious dude. This novel is full of near misses. I wanted Ripley to be caught because he’s a dangerous criminal, but I didn’t want the story to end. I was gripped by how far Ripley would push his crimes.















2. Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens


Adult Historical Fiction


For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She's barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.

But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world--until the unthinkable happens.
For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She's barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.

But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world—until the unthinkable happens.


Why I Remember It: The nature writing. Seriously, some of the best nature writing I’ve ever read. The North Carolina marshes are so vividly described that I can picture every detail, even though I’ve never seen them in real life.














3. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover


Nonfiction / Memoir


Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag." In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home.


Why I Remember It: I had to keep reminding myself that this story is true. The author’s childhood is intense and bizarre. I don’t know how she survived it. This is an edge-of-your-seat memoir.














4. Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood by Trevor Noah


Nonfiction Memoir / Essays


One of the comedy world's brightest new voices, Trevor Noah is a light-footed but sharp-minded observer of the absurdities of politics, race and identity, sharing jokes and insights drawn from the wealth of experience acquired in his relatively young life. As host of the US hit show The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, he provides viewers around the globe with their nightly dose of biting satire, but here Noah turns his focus inward, giving readers a deeply personal, heartfelt and humorous look at the world that shaped him.

Noah was born a crime, son of a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother, at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents' indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the first years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, take him away.

A collection of eighteen personal stories, Born a Crime tells the story of a mischievous young boy growing into a restless young man as he struggles to find his place in a world where he was never supposed to exist. Born a Crime is equally the story of that young man's fearless, rebellious and fervently religious mother—a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence and abuse that ultimately threatens her own life.


Why I Remember It: Another memoir where I don’t know how the author survived his childhood. This book is both accessible and hilarious. You’ll learn a ton about South Africa’s history, culture, and government, but you’ll never feel like you’re learning because Trevor Noah is an entertaining storyteller.














5. Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo


Adult Literary Fiction


Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage—after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures—Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time—until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin's second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does—but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine.


Why I Remember It: Every time I thought I knew where the plot was going, it completely changed directions. The characters are complicated. I was so invested in their story that I downloaded the audiobook so I could listen to it at work. I’d get mildly irritated when I had to pause the book to help a customer. I didn’t want to be rudely jerked out of Yejide’s world. I could have read this novel in one sitting if work hadn’t gotten in the way.













6. Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk



Middlegrade Historical Fiction


Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.


Why I Remember It: That ending. Middlegrade books usually have sweet endings. This one goes for ultra-realistic. I would have loved it as a preteen. I preferred intense books that dealt with real-life topics. This one is very “real.”














7. The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock


Young Adult Historical Fiction


Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.


Why I Remember It: It’s a story about small gestures and the impact that people can have on each other’s lives. There’s a quote on the back cover from Eowyn Ivey that says “This book is Alaska.” I fully believe that. The setting is vivid, and the characters are products of their environment. This story couldn’t exist anywhere else. I love that. The setting is important!














8. This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee


Young Adult Historical Fantasy


In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits.

His brother, Oliver—dead.

His sweetheart, Mary—gone.

His chance to break free of Geneva—lost.

Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead.

But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship.

Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay.


Why I Remember It: All of Mackenzi Lee’s books stay with me, but this one needs more hype. It’s compulsively readable with a fast-paced plot. The characters are morally gray anti-heroes. If you love Vicious by VE Schwab, you should give This Monstrous Thing a shot.















9. The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel


Adult Nonfiction / Biography


In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life—why did he leave? What did he learn? As well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.


Why I Remember It: The history of hermits is surprisingly fascinating. This is another nonfiction book that you’ll have to keep reminding yourself is true. Christopher Knight is an unusual person. I’m not a people-lover, but I don’t think I could live like he did.














10. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier



Adult Mystery


“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

So the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter remembered the chilling events that led her down the turning drive, past the beeches, to the isolated gray stone manse on the windswept Cornish coast. With a husband she barely knew, the young bride arrived at this immense estate, only to be inexorably drawn into the life of the first Mrs. de Winter, the beautiful Rebecca, dead but never forgotten, her suite of rooms never touched, her clothes ready to be worn, her servant—the sinister Mrs. Danvers—still loyal. And as an eerie presentiment of evil tightened around her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter began her search for the real fate of Rebecca.


Why I Remember It: The mystery. What happened to Rebecca? Why is Mrs. Danvers so creepily loyal to her dead mistress? Is the narrator’s new husband a murderer? My feelings about the characters were constantly shifting. I never knew what to believe or who to trust.





















What book will you remember forever?









23 comments:

  1. Ripley is such a great character. I read the first three books and enjoyed them. I found myself rooting for him as the characters he was harming were all horrible!

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  2. I've heard so many good things about Where the Crawdads Sing.

    My TTT .

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  3. Great list! I love Rebecca - it really is du Maurier's masterpiece - and I really enjoyed Stay With Me too. I think about that one quite a lot, actually!

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  4. I do want to read This Monstrous Thing, and I'm curious about Rebecca too!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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  5. My mom has been trying to get me to read Rebecca for probably 30 years. LOL I saw the movie many years ago but I know that’s not the same. Maybe one days of these days I’ll make her happy and read the book.

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  6. I just got Where the Crawdad Sings from the library. I am even more excited to start it now after seeing it made your list!

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  7. Glad you enjoyed these books and they stayed with you. https://pmprescott.blogspot.com/2020/02/ttt-021820.html

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  8. Oooh, fantastic list as always. My responses:
    1. Only know this story from the movie.
    2. Liked, but didn't love this one, but I see what you're saying. Ramona Blue was like that for me--such a vivid sense of place.
    3. Yes! I still bring up details from this book in conversation.
    4. My all time favorite audiobook AND my all time favorite celebrity biography. Because even if Trevor Noah had grown up to be a car mechanic in Boise, this memoir would be well worth reading.
    5. All right, you've convinced me. Adding to my TBR immediately.
    6. Meh.
    7. YES. Though I don't remember it was well as some on this list. I should re-read it, right?
    8. See #5.
    9. I think we've established that we both really liked this one.
    10. Oh the DRAMA. I read this in my early teens, which is PERFECT.

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  9. Other People's Houses would have made my list had I gone back further. It was a phenomenal book. Once I saw the way all these people's lives were connected, I was awed. I love when author's do that, and it was fantastic story too.

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  10. I loved Rebecca - creepier than I expected, and all those revelations!

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  11. It's funny, for the longest time I never knew Mr. Ripley was a book! I knew about the movie of course but not the book. The Smell of Other People's Houses sounds pretty good, and Rebecca is a book I've heard so much about over the years, but I've never read her either.

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  12. I did not know these books but I've added some of them to my TBR! One of the books I'll never forget is a book about Christiane F, written by her mother. And also the book Salt to the Sea made a deep impact.

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  13. Personally I'll always remember Allegiant by Veronica Roth because it's the first book that made me cry for like 3 days straight lol

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  14. Where The Crawdads Sing sounds so good and I've heard so many raves, I'll need to try it for myself ASAP!

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  15. I totally agree with Where the Crawdads Sing AJ! Yesterday I visited Waterstone in Brussels with a friend and I pushed her to buy it at half price. Then I talked the cashier so ...buy it too!

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  16. I love it when books stick in my mind and I keep thinking about them long after I've put the book down. I definitely agree with you about Educated and Trevor Noah. And you've made me want to read Wolf Hollow and The Stranger in the Woods now.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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  17. Ahh this is a lovely list! I've heard a whole lot of good things about The Smell of Other People's houses, I really should give it a try someday :)

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  18. Educated, and The Smell of Other People's Houses would be on my list, too! 📚✨

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  19. This is a great list! I loved Educated and Born a Crime. I think I will be looking for the hermit book soon!

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  20. Okay, you've officially convinced me to read This Monstrous Thing! I've loved several of her other books and I love morally gray characters!

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  21. First of all, I LOVE the new design! Second, I went down a Wikipedia rabbit hole involving Christopher Knight, so I must read this book! Third, I LOVE Smelly Houses and I am so excited to see it on your list! I also really need to read Trevor Noah, and Educated has been on my radar since I saw it on another one of your posts, so I clearly need to get to it.

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  22. I don't think I will be forgetting Born a Crime or Rebecca any time soon either. I so need to read Educated. I have Stay with Me and really need to read it too. And This Monstrous Thing has been on my kindle forever as well! I need to read more... Oh, and I recently got the Talented Mr Ripley.

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  23. I've been meaning to read This Monstrous Thing! I loved This Savage Song so I wonder if it compares to that Schwab's book as well :)

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