Literary Fiction

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

On the surface Gone Girl reads like a whodunit thriller, and it makes a great summer read--but it’s also a literary novel in disguise with its imagery of a landscape of an economic wasteland, the characters’ moral bankruptcy, and its themes of identity and marriage. It’s been the book of the summer for me.

On their fifth anniversary, Nick Dunne comes home, and his wife Amy is gone. The initial crime scene: an open door, the ottoman turned over, broken glass, and the iron left on.  Instead of beginning with “boy meets girl,” the plot starts with “boy loses girl.” Detectives arrive and the media circus begins.

Told in alternating he said/she said chapters, we learn the back story of Nick and Amy.  Gilliam Flynn throws her readers red herrings with sneaky abandon. I found myself shifting loyalties back and forth from Team Amy to Team Nick and then being horrified and guiltily fascinated with both of them.

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

In Train Dreams, Denis Johnson constructs a melancholy portrait of the U.S. frontier. Instead of focusing on the raw potential and opportunity most associate with the Western expansion, Johnson elucidates the isolation and stasis involved in “taming” a wild place. Johnson artfully constructs a non-linear account of Robert Grainier’s life on the frontier. Through Grainier’s perspective, we witness the rapid transformation of America – from railroad construction to the proliferation of sleek highways; from influenza epidemics to a random encounter with Elvis Presley. Despite the changes going on around him, Grainier remains a lonely outsider, observing the world’s expedited evolution from a distance.

Fittingly, Grainier’s first memory is of an iconic symbol of movement and progress: a train. As a child, he was sent to Idaho on the Great Northern Railroad to live with his cousins. The experience of locomotion erased all memory of his origins, leaving him with a vague and malleable sense of self: “The whole adventure made him forget things as soon as they happened, and he very soon misplaced this earliest part of his life entirely.

Hinds' Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurdard

Hinds' Feet on High Places cover

One of my customers recently called to tell me that she really enjoyed Hinds’ Feet on High Places.  This is an inspirational novel that has been described as Christian fiction at its best.  It got its name because the girl in the novel wants to be like the deer in her mountains that have special feet that allow them to leap and play high up.  She, too, wants to be free of fear and strives to be a courageous person who can overcome her limitations with the help of her God.  She wants to rework herself into a better and more spiritual person.

If you like The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

This readalike is in response to a customer's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

The Woman in White: "Generally considered the first English sensation novel, The Woman in White features the remarkable heroine Marian Halcombe and her sleuthing partner, drawing master Walter Hartright, pitted against the diabolical team of Count Fosco and Sir Percival Glyde. A gripping tale of murder, intrigue, madness, and mistaken identity, Collins's psychological thriller has never been out of print in the 140 years since its publication."

If you like The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, a classic of psychological suspense generally considered to be the first English mystery novel, you may want to read: 

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 
Conan Doyle's first collection of 12 short stories, "published in the Strand magazine between 1891 and 1892, and then published as a collection in October 1892. It includes some of Conan Doyle's best tales of murder and mystery, such as "The Adventures of the Speckled Band," in which the strange last words of a dying woman "It was the band, the speckled band!" and an inexplicable whistling in the night are the only clues Sherlock Holmes has to prevent another murder; and "The Five Orange Pips," in which an untimely death and the discovery of the letter containing five orange pips lead to a cross-Atlantic conspiracy." (catalog summary) 

A Dangerous Mourning by Anne Perry 
"No breath of scandal has ever touched the aristocratic Moidore family-until Sir Basil's beautiful widowed daughter is stabbed to death in her own bed, a shocking, incomprehensible tragedy. Inspector William Monk is ordered to investigate in a manner that will give the least possible pain to the influential family. But Monk, brilliant and ambitious, is handicapped by lingering traces of amnesia and by the craven ineptitude of his supervisor, who would like nothing better than to see Monk fail. With the help of nurse Hester Latterly, a progressive young woman who served with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, Monk gropes warily through the silence and shadows that obscure the case, knowing that with each step he comes closer to the appalling truth." (catalog summary) 

If you like Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner: Popular television personality Valerie Adler turns to her long-forgotten, Illinois hometown friend Addie Downs when she runs into a bit of trouble involving betrayal and loyalty, family history and small-town secrets.

Her books feature heroines who are smart and funny, but very believable.  Some other titles that feature great contemporary women are:

As Husbands Go by Susan Isaacs
Astonished when her seemingly devoted husband is found murdered in a prostitute's apartment, Susie, a mother of four-year-old triplets, bristles at her neighbors' mixed reactions and tackles everyone from her husband's partners to the DA to restore her family's honor.  (from summary)

 


Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger
Book editor Leigh, chef Emmy and wealthy Adriana make a pact to change their disappointing lives within a year. Emmy vows to find the father of her future babies, and Latin temptress Adriana decides to settle on just one of her rich suitors.  (from summary)

 

 

If you like The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

If you like The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne: "Set in an early New England colony, the novel shows the terrible impact a single, passionate act has on the lives of three members of the community: the defiant Hester Prynne; the fiery, tortured Reverend Dimmesdale; and the obsessed, vengeful Chillingworth." (Book summary)

If you enjoyed The Scarlet Letter and are interested in similar classic novels, as well as stories with similar themes,
the following titles may be of interest to you:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and must endure the hypocrisies of society. Set against a vast and richly textured canvas of nineteenth-century Russia, the novel's seven major characters create a dynamic imbalance, playing out the contrasts of city and country life and all the variations on love and family happiness. (worldcat.org)

 

The Crucible by Arthur Miller
The Crucible is Arthur Miller's classic play about the witch-hunts and trials in seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts. Based on historical people and real events, Miller's drama is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria. The ruthlessness of the prosecutors and the eagerness of neighbor to testify against neighbor brilliantly illuminate the destructive power of socially sanctioned violence. (catalog description)

 

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

“It was June and long past time for buying the special shoes that were quiet as summer rain falling on the walks. June and the earth full of raw power and everything everywhere in motion.  The grass was still pouring in from the country, surrounding the sides, stranding the houses.  Any moment the town would capsize, go down and leave not a stir in the clover and weeds.  And here Douglas stood, trapped on dead cement and red-brick streets, hardly able to move.”

The opening piece in Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine finds Doug Spaulding at the start of his twelfth summer, yearning for a pair of running shoes that will let him be a part of the glorious season. Like the dandelion wine bottled and stored in his grandparents’ cellar, the memories of that long-ago summer are preserved to be savored by his readers.

If you like Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: A novel about the problems of a young governess, whose love affair with her master is terminated when the terrifying mystery surrounding the upper rooms of their home is exposed.

If you enjoyed this book's combination of romance and mystery themes and are interested in similar works from the time period, here are some other titles you may enjoy:

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
The Moonstone is an ancient Indian diamond which brings disaster to everyone who owns it. Rachel Verinder's uncle gives her the diamond as a birthday present, but that same night it is stolen. (worldcat.org)

 



The Mysteries of Udolpho
by Ann Radcliffe
Orphan Emily St. Aubert finds herself separated from the man she loves and confined within the medieval castle of her aunt's new husband, Montoni. Inside the castle, she must cope with an unwanted suitor, Montoni's threats, and the wild imaginings and terrors that threaten to overwhelm her. (worldcat.org)


 

If you like Virgins of Paradise by Barbara Wood

Virgins of Paradise by Barbara Wood

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

Virgins of Paradise by Barbara Wood: "A magnificent saga about two sisters from a rich, aristocratic Egyptian family who come of age in postwar Cairo. Inside a beautiful mansion on Virgins of Paradise Street in post–World War II Cairo, Jasmine and Camelia Rasheed grow to womanhood under the watchful eyes of their grandmother and the other women of the prominent Rasheed family. Despite the glamour and elegance of the city, women still wear the veil and live in harems. But as Egypt begins to change, so do Jasmine and Camelia.

Rebelling against a society in which the suppression of women is assumed, Jasmine and Camelia embark on turbulent personal and professional voyages of discovery. Cast out of the family, Jasmine travels to America to become a doctor while Camelia sets out to become one of the foremost beledi dancers in the Middle East." (Book Description)

 If you enjoyed this book's elements of discovering other cultures, as well as the family saga aspect, here are some other titles you may enjoy:

The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan
Set in contemporary San Francisco and in a Chinese village where Peking Man is unearthed, "The Bonesetter's Daughter" is an excavation of the human spirit: the past, its deepest wounds, its most profound hopes. This is the story of LuLing Young, who searches for the name of her mother, the daughter of the famous Bonesetter from the Mouth of the Mountain. The story conjures the pain of broken dreams, the power of myths, and the strength of love that enables us to recover in memory what we have lost in grief. (worldcat.org)
 

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
The narrator of the story is Bethia Mayfield, growing up in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneers and Puritans. Restless and curious, she yearns after an education that is closed to her by her sex. As often as she can, she slips away to explore the island's glistening beaches and observe its native Wampanoag inhabitants. At twelve, she encounters Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a tentative secret friendship that draws each into the alien world of the other. (worldcat.org)
 

If you like Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg is a wonderful book. It's funny, it's southern, it has quirky characters, but a wonderful sense of family and place. "This classic and folksy novel takes readers back to the thirties, where a friendship blooms between two girls who run a homey, little cafe in Alabama. A story of food, love, laughter, and even murder unfolds as an elderly woman relates her life story to a middle-aged friend." (Book summary). 

If you like Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe here are similar titles that you may enjoy:

Clover by Dori Sanders
After her father dies within hours of being married to a white woman, a ten-year-old black girl learns with her new mother to overcome grief and to adjust to a new place in their rural black South Carolina community. (catalog summary)

 

 

Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns.
July 5, 1906...was the day E. Rucker Blakeslee, proprietor of the general store and barely three weeks a
widower, eloped with Miss Love Simpson - a woman half his age and, worse yet, a Yankee. (synopsis)