What do you do when your favorite English professor asks you to recommend books for him to read?
You sit down and put together a list tout de suite.
It happened to me last week when I visited Monsignor Leon Mosko, now an octogenarian shut-in, whom I consider my mentor, the teacher who pointed me toward my chosen profession and encouraged my first steps as a writer.
My list suggests novels that are not necessarily page-turners, but head-turners. Well-written books—no Danielle Steel or Dan Brown. These are random novels I’ve enjoyed in the past few years, novels I think you will enjoy, which will enrich you in return.
It does not include novels heralded by The Sunday New York Times that are artsy to the point that they are unreadable (Pynchon comes to mind and, more lately, Franzen). My picks are books that, if not officially classics, have earned wide audiences.
One more reason to read these: you will be adhering to humorist P. J. O'Rourke’s admonition to “always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.”
Daphne du Maurier
In an isolated estate on the windswept Cornish coast, the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter begins her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knows, determined to uncover the darkest secrets about her new husband's first wife—the hauntingly beautiful, but dead, Rebecca.
My Cousin Rachel
Daphne du Maurier
A tightly plotted, suspenseful, almost feral story of power in the hands of two diametrically different women
In This House of Brede
Macmillan (October 1969)
A highly successful professional woman leaves her life among the London elite to join a cloistered Benedictine convent
Random House (1975)
A portrait of a marriage, the cracks that are spreading through it, the lost lives, and the elusiveness of happiness
Henry Holt & Company (2009)
The 2009 winner of the UK’s most prestigious literary award, the Booker Prize, this is the story of Thomas Cromwell and King Henry VIII’s corrupt court—told with nonstop verve.
Bring Up the Bodies
Henry Holt & Company (2012)
Takes up where “Wolf Hall” leaves off, with the focus on Anne Boleyn
William Kent Krueger
Simon & Schuster (2013)
The winner of the 2014 Edgar Award for best mystery novel, a story of redemptive grace and mercy—as well as unidentified corpses and unexplainable tragedy
Little, Brown (2013)
The 2014 Pulitzer-Prize-winning, coming-of-age novel, which follows a grieving boy's entanglement with a famous painting that eludes destruction
A grim and gritty novel about an eleven-year-old boy eager to kill his first deer, and the ensuing tragedy that shatters lives
All the Light We Cannot See
Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize, an account of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II
And I would be grateful, of course, if you would share with me novels you think I will love.
After you’ve read all these and are still looking for something of comfort to fall asleep with, there is always my own Saints and Poets, Maybe, available as are the all the other books above, at amazon.