Vox book critic Constance Grady, provides book recommendations for many moods.
Ellen Raskin$9.99 $9.19
I want Knives Out, but in a book. CG: The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin. It’s a classic mystery about a group of strangers who are invited to move into a new luxury apartment building, only to learn that they have been made the beneficiaries of a local millionaire’s will. All of them stand to become very wealthy, if they can solve his riddle. Young Adult
Helen MacDonald$16.00 $14.72
I want something that makes me okay with being anxious. CG: A book about grief and anxiety and how we are going to all get through this. Heart-wrenching and humorous, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement and a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast, with a parallel examination of a legendary writer's eccentric falconry. Obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history combine to achieve a distinctive blend of nature writing and memoir from an outstanding literary innovator. Winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2014.
Leigh Bardugo$27.99 $25.19
CG: How about some secret society stuff? Ninth House written by Leigh Bardugo. It’s a book where Yale’s secret societies are magic, and they’re also built around exploiting the poor. Our heroine has to police them, but she might be seduced into them herself. It’s a very rich, very absorbing read. Young Adult
Sarah Gailey$25.99 $23.39
CG: How about a mystery series featuring a clever female sleuth without all the usual tropes? Try Sarah Galley’s Magic for Liars. It stars a very hardboiled lady detective who’s investigating a crime at the magic boarding school where her sister teaches. Our girl herself doesn’t have magic, however: She’s relying on her wits alone. This one has a really carefully developed magical system that works with the mystery in fascinating ways. Mystery/Fantasy
Elizabeth Gilbert$28.00 $25.20
CG: A young girl moves to New York in 1940 to work as a costume designer at a seedy vaudeville theater. Worth a read for the clothes alone. Mood: Velvety and wistful.
Donna Tartt$17.00 $15.64
CG: A group of classics majors at a liberal arts college become very, very close. Murder and mayhem ensues. Mood: Velvety and wistful.
Evelyn Waugh$16.99 $15.63
A melancholy love letter to prewar England. Mood: Velvety and wistful.
A retelling of Beauty and the Beast where every sentence is so carefully constructed that reading it, you feel like you’re watching each line be pulled out one by one from a velvet-lined jewel box. Mood: Velvety and wistful.
Tana French$17.00 $15.64
Mood: utterly spent but still wanting to feel at least a little bit smart. I’m looking for genre fiction that goes down easy without making me feel dumb. CG: A mood I know well! Your email says you like mysteries, so give the author Tana French a try if you haven’t already — her last book, The Witch Elm, stands totally alone and is super accessible and very absorbing: it’s about a guy who lives a charmed life until (a) he’s mugged and (b) he finds a dead body in the tree in his uncle’s backyard.
Lyndsay Faye$16.00 $14.72
CG: Maybe also throw in a little Lyndsay Faye — I’m a fan of Jane Steele, which reimagines Jane Eyre as a serial killer. Mood: utterly spent but still wanting to feel at least a little bit smart. I’m looking for genre fiction that goes down easy without making me feel dumb.
Robin McKinley$9.99 $9.19
CG: For fantasy, try Sunshine by Robin McKinley (vampires, baking, romance; the food in that one!) Mood: utterly spent but still wanting to feel at least a little bit smart. I’m looking for genre fiction that goes down easy without making me feel dumb.
Tamsyn Muir$25.99 $23.39
CG: Or Gideon the Ninth, which is about lesbian necromancers in space. Mood: utterly spent but still wanting to feel at least a little bit smart. I’m looking for genre fiction that goes down easy without making me feel dumb.
Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman$15.95 $14.67
I’m a writing student, and I’m interested in learning more about second person. Recommend me something that best capitalizes on its second person POV? CG: The two books I’ve seen do a nice job with second person recently are both memoirs: Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman’s Sounds Like Titanic...
Carmen Maria Machado$26.00 $23.40
CG:...and Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House.
Tamsyn Muir$26.99 $24.29
CG: Outside of memoir, the forthcoming Harrow the Ninth has a truly stunning use of second person that allows it to hide quite a number of nifty ideas in plain sight, so look for that one when it comes out in August.
Ann Leckie$16.99 $15.63
CG: Also, Ann Leckie’s The Raven Tower got lots of good buzz from people who know.
Nell Zink$15.99 $14.71
I love Umberto Eco and Jorge Luis Borges. I’m looking for something new in that vein: philosophical and/or historical, learned, big ideas, weird plots. CG: Give Nell Zink a try! She’s a beautiful weirdo who writes very erudite, very satirical, very twisty books. Private Novelist is her verbatim translation notes for a pastiche of an obscure Hebrew novel.
Jean Craighead George$7.99 $7.35
I’m looking for a book about a secret space. Not really second-life husband hiding from wife, but like a private escape place. CG: Oh, I love this question. YA lit tends to do secret spaces better than adult fiction, probably because kids are always running off to set up private forts and such, so I’d say maybe try My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.
Tara Isabella Burton$16.00 $14.72
Current mood: You’ve spent 20 years working on your baroque overly complex literary detective novel and you had a falling out with your stepdad and you only like books that are really good or are fair or bad but are fascinating because they keep you turning the pages. CG: I think you could do with something that’s just super fun to read, because you are working hard and need a break, and you need something to remind you that books can be just purely pleasurable. You could try the glitzy con-artist noir Social Creature by my friend Tara Burton.
CG: And if you’re open to other genres, Jane, Unlimited, a YA novel about a young girl in a gothic house that becomes a multiverse, and Ninth House, about magical secret societies and ghosts at Yale, are very absorbing books that you can read like you’re a kid again.
More to come...