Gave me wife my e-reader and she asked me to recommend some books. She’s not into reading sci-fi/fantasy or warfare which eliminates my expertise (although she loves watching Star Trek, Fringe, Stargate, etc). Her favorite author is Ken Follett but she has finished all his books. She is not into romance at all, but I suspect she likes a strong female protagonist (she’s a litigator by trade).
So any good book recommendations that would appeal more towards female readers?
Given that she likes Ken Follett, she might go in for some Umberto Eco, particularly The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum. On the other hand, neither of them features a strong female protagonist and both engage in a large amount of obscurantism.
Does it have to be fiction? If not, Wild Swans by Jung Chang might be a good pick.
If she likes historical epics, there’s always Justine by Donatien Francois. It’s pretty good.
Haha. Just kidding. I doubt your wife would like Justine. But if she likes historical narratives, you might try Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, which I brought up over in another thread. It’s a (more or less) true story about two men, one who is bringing the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago to life and another, a serial killer who uses the fair to lure victims do their deaths.
Or if you’d like to try and lure her toward fantasy, there are plenty of historical novels that sneak in fantasy elements. Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates is pretty good for that.
Depending on her threshold for romance elements, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon is pretty good. I’m on the third book and have been enjoying them, even though I don’t normally like romance. It has a very strong female protagonist, but the first book does have her sexing under every other heather bush in Scotland.
But when she isn’t boinking her new husband, it’s a great look at 18th century Scotland, and the second book goes to France as well.
Robert McCammon’s historical mysteries - Sings the Nightbird and Queen of Bedlam - may be of interest.
Consider the Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. First person Dracula interpretation/archeological thriller/historical epic through the eyes of a young woman. I found it light but surprisingly gripping, and it’s unfortunate that more “traditional” mystery/horror books like this have been lumped in with the tween vampire genre in the public eye.
Out, by Natsuo Kirino, is also a good mystery/suspense, since it reverses not only the traditional gender of the main character by having a female lead but has the axis of the story around the morally ambiguous perpetrators of the crime rather than the agents of “good”.
While it doesn’t have a female lead, the Talented Mr Ripley books by Patricia Highsmith do a lot of interesting things with the whole gender perception thing along the way to telling a hell of a story.
I like LeCarre over Follett as a writer, and they are certainly very near in genre and style so that might be a few easy picks.
I’ve found Follett and Jeffrey Archer have very similar styles. If she hasn’t read his books, I would recommend As The Crow Flies, False Impression, Kane and Abel, or First Among Equals.
My wife has recently enjoyed the Steig Larsson (sp?) books, Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy, and a book called The Informationist that she tells me is similar to Larsson’s Girl… books
Good recommendations so far. I mentioned the Larsson books which she had heard about, but I guess they contain some graphic violence or something that she wasn’t thrilled about.
Yeah, they do from what I’ve heard.
Well yeah, they are, at base, a 3-volume revenge fantasy, so there’s some violence, but I bet if she started them she wouldn’t put them down.
I’d also recommend a series of novels by Alexander Smith–sort of genteel and gentle detective novels. The first is called “The #1 Ladies Detective Agency.” Good reading.
It’s a bit Oprah-book-club but I really liked The Poisonwood Bible. Also, Life of Pi is maybe the best new work of literature I’ve encountered in the past decade.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl features a very strong female protagonist(she may be a high schooler but her interactions are far more adult), an incredible amount of literary and film references(many of which are fake, for flavor) and a strong, film noir feel to it.
Ooh, just thought of another one. It’s not historical fiction, and it’s YA which may be an obstacle for some people, but Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta is pretty much my favourite strong-female-protagonist novel ever.
Have her take a look at The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. I’m reading it now and really liking it so far. By no means a romance, it’s about a prostitute’s rise through the social layers of Victorian London and all the personalities that are rungs in the ladder. Faber’s writing is very clever, sometimes speaking directly to the reader as if they are an incorporeal observer of the unfolding events.
Two really fantastic books by Margaret Attwood are The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake. Both are set in near future semi-dystopias and both are fantastic.
Try The Bone Collector, Deaver is good and there’s a strong female.
Otherwise, flip through the Reacher thread, lots of thriller recommendations there.
The sequel to Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, it full of strong female protagonists to boot.
I haven’t read it yet, (it’s next on my list) but Tea Obreht’s debut novel, The Tiger’s Wife is getting great reviews. From Amazon:
Natalia Stefanovi, a doctor living (and, in between suspensions, practicing) in an unnamed country that’s a ringer for Obreht’s native Croatia, crosses the border in search of answers about the death of her beloved grandfather, who raised her on tales from the village he grew up in, and where, following German bombardment in 1941, a tiger escaped from the zoo in a nearby city and befriended a mysterious deaf-mute woman. The evolving story of the tiger’s wife, as the deaf-mute becomes known, forms one of three strands that sustain the novel, the other two being Natalia’s efforts to care for orphans and a wayward family who, to lift a curse, are searching for the bones of a long-dead relative; and several of her grandfather’s stories about Gavran Gailé, the deathless man, whose appearances coincide with catastrophe and who may hold the key to all the stories that ensnare Natalia. Obreht is an expert at depicting history through aftermath, people through the love they inspire, and place through the stories that endure; the reflected world she creates is both immediately recognizable and a legend in its own right. Obreht is talented far beyond her years, and her unsentimental faith in language, dream, and memory is a pleasure.
Just some odds and ends:
The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal - a beautifully written family history tracing a Jewish banking family’s rise and fall in Europe from the 1860s to the present. The history is arranged around a collection of Japanese netsuke.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell - an adventure story about a Dutch trader in Edo Japan who falls in love with a Japanese midwife. One of the best books I read this year.
Historical Fiction: Try authors like Dorothy Dunnett, Mary Renault, Sharon Kay Penman
Mysteries: (Ugh, Stieg Larsson. My effing nemesis. People need to stop recommending those books. They are so bad.) I really love Minette Walters. Most of her books feature strong female protagonists, but what I really love about them is that the narrator/protagonists are unreliable and you’re left wondering until the end whether or not you can trust their account of things. She’s just a phenomenal writer.
Carol O’Connor’s Mallory series is good, with an incredibly unrealistic but nevertheless fascinating main character.
Ruth Rendell is a little uneven but also can be really excellent on the mystery front. I’d start with a book like The Water’s Lovely.
I’ve been reading Jo Walton’s alternate history novels (where Britain makes peace with Hitler in WWII). Farthing is good so far.