Calling all English nerds: I need suggestions for good books!

I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands, and I wanted to fill this time by reading a good book. Not knowing what I should read, I googled “books you should read.”

Bad idea.

What I got was a bunch of websites with lists like “100 books you must read,” and even a link to a book titled “1001 books you must read before you die.” There were so many books on each list that I got overwhelmed and immediately quit my browser.

So I turn to you. What are a few books that you think I should read, either because they are amazingly insightful, or because they are just fun?

I’ve already ordered these in preparation for my reading frenzy:

1. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

2. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

3. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Any suggestions?


34 thoughts on “Calling all English nerds: I need suggestions for good books!

  1. In a traditional lit vein:
    The Red and the Black by Stendahl
    Vanity Fair by Thackeray
    Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky
    The Nibelungenlied by Anon.
    Beowulf by Anon.
    Waverley by Sir Walter Scott

    Off the vein:
    Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue
    The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
    The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

  2. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. And also anything by F.Scott Fitzgerald. Oh and if you want something a bit different, Perfume by Patrick Suskind (I think that’s his name? I think I spelt his last name wrong) is really different, all based on the sense of smell, but quite clever.

    • Thank you! I have never heard of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, nor Shadow of the Wind, so I will be sure to check them out. Also, I do love The Great Gatsby, so I hope that F Scott Fitzgerald’s other works are just as good.
      Is Perfume by any chance related to the movie of the same name?

      • Ah yes, Perfume would be the same one as the movie, I imagine. I hear the movie isn’t that great (line of the century 😛 ), but the book was really interesting, I found myself sniffing constantly and noticing smells more for days afterwards.

  3. If you are going for classics (which I’m guessing based on the list of books you purchased!):
    Persuasion by Jane Austen. It’s the most mature and sombre of her books, and it’s always been the model in my head of what a great novel should be, structure-wise, and the way it builds tension. Harold Bloom also called it the “Perfect Novel”.

    Either the Woodlanders (sadder) or Far from the Madding Crowd (happier) by Thomas Hardy.
    Villette by Charlotte Bronte
    Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
    The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton

    For modern books, I recommend:
    In the Skin of a Lion – Michael Ondaatje
    Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith (the book that convinced I needed to try to become a writer even if it would be hard)

    I also really enjoyed Captain Corelli’s Mandolin!

    • I’ve been told by my mother (who is a big Jane Austen fan) that I should hold off reading Persuasion until I’m a little older, since it is a sombre book as you said. However, now that you’ve recommended it, I think I’ll have to give it a try 🙂
      Thank you for the recommendations! Particularly the modern books, because I really want to try reading modern novels that are just as deep and meaningful as some of the classics.

  4. A few more classics:
    Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos (aka “Cruel Intentions”)
    A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
    The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

    all lovely in their own ways – let me know if you’ve read them, or eventually, what you think of them! 🙂

    • a few more enjoyable, yet non-classic books:

      Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran-Foer
      The Rules of Attraction – Brett Easton Ellis
      Life of Pi – Yann Martel
      Let the Great World Spin – Colum McCann
      Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
      The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga

      just to name a few…but i go on and on!

    • I have read A Tale of Two Cities and The Count of Monte Cristo, but I have yet to read Cruel Intentions. I really enjoyed A Tale of Two Cities (it was like a soap opera that’s socially acceptable to read!), but I’m not the biggest fan of The Count of Monte Cristo.
      Also, the only book I’ve read out of your non-classic suggestions is Memoirs of a Gesha, which I found to be phenomenal! I’ll definitely take a look at the books that you recommended; thank you!

  5. Hey, who are you calling a nerd?! Oh, wait, I’m not English… 😉

    Well, you can see some of my favourite books in that side bar back home. 🙂

    Thanks for dropping by! Did you know you were my very first visitor (at least, the first that I was aware of)? 🙂

    Have a great time with your books!

    • Wow, we like a lot of the same books! I just looked at your side bar thing and about 3/4 of them were books that I had read and enjoyed.
      I didn’t know that, but I’m betting that after you get over the newbie hump you will have many more visitors 🙂
      Thank you!

  6. The Count of Monte Cristo, Pride & Prejudice, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, Sarah’s Key, Firefly Lane, The Time Traveller’s Wife, Goblin Market and other Poems (Christina Rossetti), The Lord of the Rings trilogy

  7. How about The History of English? By Melvyn Bragg. I recommend the audio book along with the text. Melvyn reads it so you hear how words have changed over time or been assimilated into our language. Very fascinating, in small doses.

  8. After so many people have suggested so many books with so much depth, perhaps you’d like to read a few that don’t require so much thought? As a senior, you may want a break from all that thinking school makes you do….

    I enjoy SciFi and Fantasy, so here’s a short list of a few of my favorite authors:
    -Anne McCaffrey (especially All the Weyrs of Pern, and the Dragonsinger Trilogy, or any of the Brainship books for a more SciFi feel)
    -Mercedes Lackey (esp. the Last Herald Mage trilogy)
    -Terry Brooks (for more in depth, go for his Shannara series. For funny, go for Magic Kingdom For Sale, Sold)
    -Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game is awesome)
    -Holly Lisle (Diplomacy of Wolves, etc.)


    • Haha yes, that sounds fabulous! It is hard to read two deep books at the same time, so I do appreciate the lighter books as well 🙂
      I’ve actually never read a proper SciFi book (I don’t suppose Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy counts), so this will be interesting to finally try reading some Science Fiction novels. Thank you for the recommendations!

  9. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s short story collection The Thing Around Your Neck is superlatively well-crafted. It’s one of the few books I can read over and over again without tire.

  10. You’ve got a lot of great recommendations here.I have a few more mainly fiction and memoir:
    – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (seconding this one)
    – Angela’s Ashes
    – The Elegance of the Hedgehog
    – The Awakening by Kate Chopin
    – The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses both by Jeanette Walls
    – Lit by Mary Karr
    – Unbroken

    • I’ve already read The Elegance of the Hedgehog and LOVED IT. It’s just so fabulously inspiring and amazing.
      I have already bought The Awakening by Kate Chopin, I just can’t seem to find it anymore. I think it may still be in the recesses of my purse, or at least I hope so 🙂
      Thanks for the recommendations!

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