If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you probably have a sense of what kind of topics I gravitate to the most in books and TV shows. My reading material is particularly predictable, and I’m a little less likely to try out a new book genre than I am to watch a different kind of TV show. Essentially, I know what I like, and supernatural, fantasy, paranormal, and thriller stories rarely interest me. Even as a kid, the Harry Potter books were really my only foray into fantasy stories. and I mostly read contemporary or historical fiction.
Below, I’m sharing the top topics that are bound to convince me to read a certain book. No matter how many books I read with these features, I can never get enough! I’m always looking for recommendations, so leave a few titles in the comments if you know a book that fits one of these molds!
1. The Kennedys
I’m a fiend for non-fiction about the Kennedy family. When the summer comes around each year, I just get in the mood for long, in-depth books about these people. You know that I love stories about big, multi-generational families, and the Kennedys are the real-life equivalent of that. I can read as many as two or three Kennedy-related books in a row before I have to take a break. This year’s books were Jackie, Ethel, Joan: The Women of Camelot and Jackie After O. Yes, there’s tons of books out there about JFK and RFK’s politics, but what draws me in are the family sagas and marriage narratives. I’m secretly hoping for a new Kennedy dynasty to become 1960s-level famous just so there are more books about them someday.
If there’s any kind of new media about the Kennedys, from the Ethel documentary to The Kennedys mini-series, I probably know about it. You can find a book about nearly any family member written from so many different angles. After being annoyed that there wasn’t enough written about the long-living, publicized Kennedy sisters (there are books about Rosemary, who was severely disabled, and Kathleen, who died in a plane crash), I happily discovered that a book on Eunice Kennedy Shriver is coming out next year. I’m pretty obsessed, guys – who else would get excited over the New York Times wedding announcement of Caroline Kennedy’s daughter?
You should read: Christina Haag’s Come to the Edge, Christopher Andersen’s Sweet Caroline: Last Child of Camelot, and J. Randy Taraborelli’s Jackie, Ethel, Joan: The Women of Camelot.
2. World War II / The Holocaust
I could trace back my fascination with this era to the movies of my childhood, like Bedknobs and Broomsticks and The Sound of Music. I could credit it to my history teacher father or the American Girl books about Molly, but I think one of the ultimate defining factors was reading Number the Stars in fifth grade English class, followed by a field trip to see a local production of The Diary of Anne Frank. Some of my most profound reading memories come from finishing certain WWII-related books, like when I finished Anne Frank and Me on a middle school field trip and spent the rest of the bus ride in stunned silence.
Although I’ve attempted WWII stories from lesser known point-of-views, like Eastern European or Japanese-American characters, most of those books have caught me at bad times when I just wasn’t in a reading mood. Give me books about the American homefront (nerdy little me even did a report on it in eighth grade) or European Jews, and I will speed through them. Because of how strong and memorable my exposure to Holocaust literature was, I think I have the greatest affinity for those kind of stories. I love the themes of survival and resistance often found in them. Yes, they’re intense, and like with Kennedy books, I may read several consecutively before I have to move on to happier books. My recommendations below are from very different points of my life, but all three books left me in that stunned silence I mentioned before. They all primarily take place in France during the war, but the stories and their characters’ experiences are distinctly different.
You should read: Robin Wells’ The French War Bride, Tatiana de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key, and Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld’s Anne Frank and Me
3. Friend Groups or Families Over Time
In the past year or two, books I read about friends or families over many years have contained some of the most gorgeous writing I’ve encountered. Since I was 16, I’ve kept book quotes I love in a notebook, and these sort of books always seem to be best represented in this collection. Something about themes of reflection on longtime relationships allows for such introspective writing that really strikes a chord.
These type of books also seem to allow for a very loose chronological timeline. My recommendations below are examples of the narratives regularly going back and forth between past and present or consistently moving forward in time. I am a sucker for the “couple-meets-around-the-same-time-every-year” plot, but those books (like One Day and The Light We Lost) usually fall a little flat for me. When the focus is on friends or family, there’s often a greater urgency to the story because those are people you can’t or won’t erase from your life very easily.
You should read: Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, Alice Adams’ Invincible Summer, Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex, and Eddie Joyce’s Small Mercies
I also have an affinity for settings of contemporary London or New York and epic biographies in the style of Elizabeth the Queen. In case you didn’t catch on, I obviously love my books to be pretty grounded in reality.
What about you? What topics are bound to get you reading?
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