Reader name: Elizabeth
Hometown: Norfolk, Massachusetts
Favorite genres: Very eclectic! I like historical fiction, mystery, international fiction or nonfiction—books that expose me to something new. I think as Americans, we are very self-absorbed so I like learning about history or international affairs that will broaden my thinking.
Favorite books: The Help, Cutting for Stone, The White Tiger, The Secret Life of Bees, The Language of Flowers, The Forgotten Garden, The Other Boleyn Girl and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. In nonfiction: Unbroken, Infidel, The Looming Towers, Team of Rivals.
Favorite authors: Geraldine Brooks and an author I read years ago, Anya Seton.
What books can you recommend for me?
We love an adventurous reader! Since it seems like you don't shy away from difficult nonfiction, let me propose Steve Coll's The Bin Ladens (Penguin Press). Though Bin Laden is perhaps the "figure of the past" Coll predicted he would become in our 2011 interview, understanding the Middle East is still of vital importance—and the Bin Laden family provides a fascinating lens for doing so. A more recent release, Katherine Boo's National Book Award winner Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Random House) opens up Mumbai slums to readers. And Andrew Solomon's latest book, Far From the Tree (Scribner) may not take you to an exotic location, but the lives of the families it features are guaranteed to broaden your mind and experience.
For fiction, fans of Geraldine Brooks might want to check out Debra Dean, whose novels about Russia are historically accurate and emotionally compelling. And author Susanna Kearsley is a modern-day Anya Seton—her epic historical stories are also achingly romantic. One more novel that is sure to take you to a world you didn't realize existed is Irma Voth by Miriam Toews (Harper)—it's set in a Mennonite community in Mexico!
As for the international fiction you crave—if you haven't read The Shadow of the Wind (Penguin Press), do so immediately! Carlos Ruiz Zafón's portrait of Spain between the wars is among the many things that make this novel a modern classic. We also loved Patrick Flanery's debut set in South Africa, Absolution. Other can't-miss authors who bring the world to readers include Dai Sijie (Communist China), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (West Africa) and Kate Grenville (colonial Australia).
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