Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Bestselling Book Recommendations

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Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! Today, I'm going to recommend bestselling books that are worth reading. "Bestselling book" is surprisingly difficult to define. It seems like every website and bookstore keeps its own bestseller list. Self-published authors are constantly proclaiming their book the #1 bestseller of some obscure subgenre on Amazon. If everything is a bestseller, which bestseller list should I use for my blog post?

I decided to go full narcissist and talk about the books on my own blog's bestseller list. If you've been on this blog in the last two years, you've probably noticed my Buy it on Amazon and Buy it on Book Depository links. Those are affiliate links. I earn a few pennies whenever someone uses the links to buy a book. In two years, I've sold a few hundred books and earned a few hundred pennies. (Actually, I think the real amount is $200-something. So . . . 20,000+ pennies?) The links got me wondering about this blog's bestseller list. Which books are people buying most often?

Luckily, I have access to that data! (Don't worry, I only know which books people are buying, not who is buying them. That would be too creepy, even for my spooky ass.) So, here is my blog's bestseller list. I wrote it countdown style. For unnecessary drama.

Drumroll please . . .

🏆  "Bestselling" Book Recommendations  👍


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.

Why you should read 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.


Adult History Nonfiction

In April of 1846, twenty-one-year-old Sarah Graves, intent on a better future, set out west from Illinois with her new husband, her parents, and eight siblings. Seven months later, after joining a party of emigrants led by George Donner, they reached the Sierra Nevada Mountains as the first heavy snows of the season closed the pass ahead of them. In early December, starving and desperate, Sarah and fourteen others set out for California on snowshoes and, over the next thirty-two days, endured almost unfathomable hardships and horrors.

In this gripping narrative, Daniel James Brown sheds new light on one of the most infamous events in American history. Following every painful footstep of Sarah's journey with the Donner Party, Brown produces a tale both spellbinding and richly informative.

Why you should read it: You'll be grateful that you're sitting in a warm room while you read this book. It's the type of story you can't believe is true. It's too scary. Too wild. Honestly, it gave me nightmares. Who wants to starve to death in the freezing wilderness with 80+ random strangers? Nobody! There are a lot of books about the Donners, but I recommend this one because the author doesn't just retell the familiar story that most Americans already know. He puts the story in historical and scientific context to help the reader understand how and why everything went wrong for the Donner Party.


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 you should read 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.” No sweet ending here!


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 you should read 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.

(Fun fact: The Netflix adaptation of Rebecca put this book on my bestseller list. When the movie first came out, the blog got a giant spike in traffic because people were Googling if the book is worth reading. I'm here to inform you that it is. It's a classic for a reason!)


Adult Crime / Thriller

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 you should read 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. He's an iconic character who you will never forget.


Adult 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 you should read it: 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. I don't understand how he survived his childhood. He got himself into so much trouble!


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 you should read it: The history of hermits is surprisingly fascinating. This is a 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. That lifestyle is a little too lonely. (Also, I'm way too clumsy to be a successful burglar.)


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 you should read it: Look at that cover! How can you resist 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!


Adult 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 you should read it: It's an edge-of-your-seat memoir. Bad things keep piling up and piling up until you wonder how the author can stand it. This story is harrowing, but it's also a celebration of resilience. If you want something, go for it. Don't let your past hold you back. It's never too late to learn something new.


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 you should read it: So many plot twists. 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 whenever 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. I really didn't want to put it down.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Do you have affiliate links on your blog? Do you know which books are on your bestseller list?


  1. You know, I actually didn't expect to have read any of the books on this list, but then I saw the Hitchcock book. Her style is so different from what I normally read, but I adore her stories. I hope you writes a new book soon.

  2. I try to pick up books I've not heard of by reading posts like this. I've snatched WOLF HOLLOW off of this list and I'm going to see if I can read it as audiobook!

  3. Such a good list of books! Wolf Hollow is one that I've meant to read for years so thank you for reminding me about it!

  4. I just read Where The Crawdads Sing this year and loved it, you're right that the nature writing is so beautiful. Stay With Me sounds so good!

  5. I've read 5 of these! So we are on the same wavelength. But I see a couple others from your list I'd like.

  6. I think that's fascinating. I wouldn't be surprised if you'd sold quite a few copies of Incorrigible Children and Nevermoor, too!

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed Where the Crawdads Sing and Wolf Hollow. Good list! My post: https://pagesandpaws.com/2021/11/16/10-books-to-read-if-you-love-narnia/

  8. Interesting! I've read four of these. I actually read THE INDIFFERENT STARS ABOVE a month or so ago. It was fascinating. It made me see the whole Donner Party disaster in a different light and feel so horribly for all of them. Such a sad, horrifying mess.

    Happy TTT!

  9. Where the Crawdads Sing the is the only one I've read so far and I loved it, especially, as you mentioned, the gorgeous descriptions of nature.

  10. Oh this is cool! Interesting to see what people are buying off the blog... I should do this (that would require me setting up links and stuff, which would require effort... hmmm).

  11. I loved Rebecca and think it's time for a reread!

  12. Some great books there, Where the Crawdads Sing was one of my favourite books last year, "Educated" is on my wishlist" and I also love "Rebecca".

    Thanks for visiting my TTT about China.

  13. Great list. I loved Where the Crawdads Sing. Educated is on my TBR, and I love Trevor Noah!

  14. That is really cool that you can track what books people buy through your links.

  15. Where the Crawdads Sing is one of my favorite books!

  16. Rebecca and Educated are both excellent. Great picks!

    Check out my TTT

  17. I love Rebecca and agree about opinions on the characters shifting. The last time I read it I decided I liked Rebecca. Yes she's a terrible person but at least she does stuff versus the narrator who basically just wrings her hands. And I need to read Stranger in the Woods. I'm having one of those days where becoming a hermet looks incredibly tempting!

  18. What an interesting list! I haven't heard of most of these books, but there are a couple I'm interested in!