As any voracious reader knows, there are so many books out there, it can be hard to choose just what to read next. So what could be better than a hand-picked recommendation from someone in the know? Every Wednesday the XOXOAD team likes to find out what some of its favorite authors are reading; today we’ve asked Sophie Littlefield, author of numerous novels including the cozy mystery A Bad Day for Romance (part of the Edgar-nominated Stella Hardesty series), the thrillers Blood Bond and Shattered Bond (the Joe Bashir series), and dark women’s fiction titles Garden of Stones and the upcoming The Missing Place (October 2014). Read on to find out what’s in her TBR pile!
In honor of Thrillerfest, taking place this week in New York City, I thought I’d consult my reading list and share the last couple of thrillers I read. “Thriller” is such a broad category: it is usually a protagonist-in-danger story, often with high octane action and edge-of-your-seat suspense. However, thrillers can also be cerebral and atmospheric and even lyrical, and the genre itself oozes out promiscuously into its neighbors’ yards, including science fiction and horror and romance and probably lots of others. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that my picks are very different from each other.
The first is SUMMER HOUSE WITH SWIMMING POOL by Herman Koch. I enjoyed reading THE DINNER last summer; I enjoyed this book even more. Koch is someone I’d like to meet—though he’s Dutch, he speaks English, German, and Spanish, so there shouldn’t be a language barrier—because he pulled off a trick I don’t think I could manage myself (yet). That doesn’t happen very often, and when it does, it makes me giddy with admiration and determination to try it myself.
A master of the unreliable narrator, Koch wrote a sympathetic protagonist who, over time, becomes increasingly insidious (THE DINNER) and in his next book (SUMMER HOUSE) he created a thoroughly unlikeable protagonist who only reveals his humanity reluctantly and through circuitous and even duplicitous self-reflective narration. I’ve made it sound hopelessly more confusing than it needs to be; let’s just say his first person narrators are as satisfying as they are complex.
Really, lots of master strokes from Koch.
My other read is also from a non-American author, and was recommended to me by a good friend who has a high tolerance for the creepy. The book is THE WASP FACTORY by Iain Banks. I will confess that I did not make it all the way through the book because the pure sinister strangeness of it was beginning to take over my idle thoughts. This book, by coincidence, also features an unreliable narrator; it’s beautifully written, so if you’re a sucker for lush prose as I am, you’ll probably be hooked. I made my friend tell me the twist at the end, and now I’m kicking myself for not bucking up and finishing the book on my own. Truly a one-of-a-kind story, and if you’re impressed by that sort of thing, it made a top-100-books-of-the-century list in a poll of 25,000 British readers.
Incidentally, I’m now reading WORST PERSON EVER (Douglas Coupland) as a sort of palate cleanser. I don’t even know where to begin to categorize this one, but it’s certainly entertaining.
Finally, because I routinely take colleagues to task for issuing “what I’m reading” lists that don’t include women authors, I’d like to mention a few books I’ve recently read—and loved–by the sisters out there: LANDLINE (Rainbow Rowell), HOVER (Anne Wilson) and WAITING ON YOU (Kristan Higgins).
The Missing PlaceSophie Littlefield
Set against the backdrop of North Dakota's oil boom, two very different mothers form an uneasy alliance to find their missing sons in this heartrending and suspenseful novel sure to please fans of Sandra Brown and Gillian Flynn.
Summer House with Swimming PoolHerman Koch
The blistering, compulsively readable new novel from Herman Koch, author of the instant New York Times bestseller The Dinner.
The Wasp FactoryIain Banks
Meet 16-year-old Frank Cauldhame: "Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different and more fundamental reasons than I'd disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda, more or less on a whim. That's my score to date. Three. I haven't killed anybody for years, and don't intend to ever again. It was just a stage I was going through."
Worst Person EverDouglas Coupland
"Easily offended readers might want to take a pass on this ironic novel, as it playfully seeks to transgress most boundaries," says Library Journal about this latest book from the author of the iconic GENERATION X.
From New York Times bestselling author of ELEANOR & PARK, this is a hilarious, heart-wrenching take on love, marriage, and magic phones. What's not to like?
Waiting on YouKristan Higgins
Kristan Higgins writes great romances that are sweet but salty, small-town but modern...perfect summer reading!
Bad Day for RomanceSophie Littlefield
Stella Hardesty is the best seamstress-turned-vigilante heroine a mystery fan could ever want! When victims of domestic violence find that legal channels have failed them, they come to Stella, whose powers of persuasion are occasionally assisted by a baseball bat. Loopy Southern fun, with frontier justice thrown in.
Blood BondSophie Littlefield
Sexy Pakistani-American detective Joe Bashir is called to a crime scene in the wealthy foothills of California, where a shocking death may be the result of a decades-old grudge.
Shattered BondSophie Littlefield
Joe Bashir is a San Francisco detective whose investigations often lead him into the most rarefied circles of Bay Area society. Navigating these murky waters, while balancing the demands of his traditional Muslim family that he settle down with a wife and kids, keeps him on his toes--and makes a great read! From the author of the Stella Hardesty "Bad Day" series.