A few days back, John Warner, one of the commentators for The Tournament of Books, offered up a service. If you listed the last five books you had read, he would tell you what you should read next.
It sprang from a discussion about how we decide to choose what we read when we each know darn well that we’ll never get through every book out there. So a lot of folks stick with what they expect to like and might miss out on some great reads.
Unable to turn down something like this, I listed the last five books I had read (that weren’t work related). Warner suggested I read Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon. I groaned a bit since I had read a collection of Chaon’s short stories a few years back and was underwhelmed. I wouldn’t have picked his new novel up on my own without the recommendation, but I grabbed it that night and finished it this weekend. It’s a literary whodunit that is enervating and upsetting, beautiful and bleak. I loved it.
All of this said, the Tournament of Books commentators and readers seem to have a distinct literary fiction bias. The proportion of readers who included Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask in their past five was very telling (which is not an insult—it was in mine!). Knowing that we have readers who write across genres and for very different target audiences, I’d love to try to recreate Warner’s experiment here and see what the results are. What I’ll try to do (and I have no idea how this will work in practice) is recommend a little outside the box. Maybe an adult novel to someone whose last five reads were YA. Or a thriller to someone who skews more romantic. Or maybe there’s another book just like the ones you list that I’ll think you absolutely have to read. I will try to recommend only books that I have read but may have to turn it over to colleagues or our readers if I feel stumped. So let’s see if this works: just promise that you’ll let me know if and when you actually read the book—y’all can find my email address!
Update: A little confusion–sorry for my lack of clarity! Post the titles in the comments, and I’ll give the recommendation there. You should email me if you read the book and/or want to chat about my choice!