Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, devoted to lists of all things books. This week’s theme is fun, yet tests the memory a bit — Ten Books I Picked Up on a Whim. So, in approximate chronological order:
1. The Westing Game – Ellen Rankin
Way back when, in my experiences with the Scholastic Book Fair, I would pore over that catalog, pen in hand, circling and circling and circling. The Westing Game had an appealing description, and so went on my list.
It turned into my first foray into murder mysteries, and I loveloveloved it. I was probably in fourth or fifth grade when this one came around; it was fun, it was twisty, it had characters that made me laugh — still make me laugh. I reread it (for like the 15th time) only a couple of weeks ago, and I remembered exactly why I loved it so much the first time around.
2. A Murder Is Announced – Agatha Christie
The Westing Game was my first murder mystery, but Agatha Christie has been my long-time love.
The first of her novels I ever read was A Murder Is Announced when I was no older than twelve (and perhaps younger). I don’t know why, but my mother had originally bought this and The ABC Murders for my older sister, even though she was never much of a reader. The books sat on our shared shelf for a while (I can’t even be sure my big sis ever read them at all), until I got curious, and then — I couldn’t put it down. I was hooked.
Since that day I have read at least 60 of Christie’s 80 novels, and have every intention of reading them all.
3. I, Mona Lisa – Jeanne Kalogridis
After college, I wallowed in my parents’ house for a little while, before convincing myself to get the hell out of there and find my own life. With my English degree, I was fully qualified to land jobs as a server and as a bookstore employee.
Working at Borders (store #001, if you’re interested) had fantastic perks, not least of which were the basement shelves filled to bursting with ARCs. I, Mona Lisa was likely the first one that I picked up, and was definitely the first one that I loved. Not the best piece of literature I’ve ever read, but it wove fascinating bits of Italian history — the Medicis, Savonarola, da Vinci — through a fun story with a spunky Mona Lisa.
4. Dark Angels – Karleen Koen
This was another ARC picked from Borders’ basement shelves. Actually, this was an ARC I snagged right under the nose of another Borders employee, who had waxed pretentiously over Karleen Koen and her attention to detail regarding the Restoration and other periods of English history. When I came across it, I couldn’t help it, I had to grab it before my obnoxious co-worker knew it was there.
Luckily it turned out, not only was she right about Koen’s historical prowess, Koen was also an excellent storyteller with a tale that hooked me for all 500+ pages.
5. The Eight – Katherine Neville
I love flipping through the bookshelves at thrift stores. You never know what gems you might find, and for only a buck or two.
The Eight was a random Salvation Army find. It’s not the greatest writing, but it’s a fun adventure story with two parallel storylines, one in the early seventies and the other around the French Revolution, both revolving around an infamous chess set.
Now I might revisit it just because I remember liking it, but I don’t remember a lot of plot detail. To be reread!
6. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice – Laurie R. King
I am not a fan of Sherlock Holmes.
Wait, let me restate, because I love Sherlock, the BBC series, and rewatch every couple months or so. However, I am not a fan of classic Sherlock Holmes. I picked up The Beekeeper’s Apprentice while browsing the mystery shelves at a bookstore; I don’t remember why I decided it was a good idea since I don’t like Mr. Holmes and I don’t like bees, but bought it I did.
And I’m glad; Mary Russell is a delight of a heroine, a match to Holmes in every way (but age… the only part of the series that makes me hesitate). It’s a series that I come back to from time to time.
7. The Distant Hours – Kate Morton
I love the library, so much so that I went to library school. One day I was just wandering through the “New Fiction” shelves, and the description of The Distant Hours intrigued me. The opening tale of “the Mud Man” drew me in quickly, kicking off a tale of Gothic romance, tragedy, and mystery that was nice and twisty at the end. I read this right after I read The Thirteenth Tale, and the two, to me, went hand-in-hand.
I’ve read other novels from Morton, and none of them ever came close to the can’t-put-it-down feeling that this one gave me (though, from what I’ve read, if you don’t read this Morton novel first, you might not like it very much at all).
8. The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova
My favorite place in a bookstore, especially a big one like Borders (sadface) or Barnes & Noble, are the bargain shelves. You might not be able to find brand new titles there, but you can find hardcover bestsellers right after the paperbacks have been released, and for dirt cheap.
The Historian enthralled me. I’m not much of a horror girl, and not so much into vampires even a little bit. But Kostova ground the story in European history and geography, and turned what is usually a campy topic into a beautiful, must-read story.
9. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
This book, as soon as I started it, jumped to near the top of my favorite list. I came across Ready Player One when I was just browsing around the paperback tables at the bookstore, and I love it.
I think it’s the combination of dystopian society, pop culture trivia, gaming, and twisty storylines that drew me in and kept me there. This is a book that absolutely needs to be read at least once a year, just for great good fun.
10. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan
Another book found while browsing the new releases. I think the only thing that drew me to the book was the mention of a mysterious bookstore — and boy, I got so much more.
As a librarian in the digital age, this book hit all the bases, from your old-fashioned book printing to ebooks. And with a secret society and hidden messages, Mr. Penumbra offers much more than just a quirky store owner and an over-flowing bookstore. So much love.