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).