Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read Based on Their Covers

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

September 15: Cover Freebie (choose your own topic, centered on book covers or cover art)

We all know we’re not supposed to judge them that way, but every once in a while you see a book cover that’s so pretty that it’s just love at first sight. Sometimes it’s not pretty but something about it grabs your attention and you need to know more. You know you need to read this book. So here are some book covers that put their books straight on my TBR. Some of the books lived up to the cover hype, some didn’t. But something about these covers drew me in.

  1. Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss – This one has the advantage of looking like a wild celebration of nature, while at the same time looking like a skull. It’s beautiful and sinister at the same time. As it turns out, that serves the content of the book well.

2. Educated by Tara Westover– This is another book cover that’s sort of two things at once. First I saw a pencil, and I just thought it was a book about education, with a pencil on the cover. Kind of boring. But when I looked closer, I saw it was also a silhouette of a person against the backdrop of a mountain, and I became more intrigued. Is it a pencil or a mountain? And which is more of an important instrument in the author’s education? It’s up to the reader to decide. The fact that the ground (or paint on the pencil, depending how you see it) is also red. I think that you can read into that too. Red of course suggests blood. Which could mean family, or spilled blood. Again both might be appropriate.

3. Thorn Jack by Katherine Harbour- The current cover of this book looks a bit different, but I love the colors of this one. The green and black evoke the natural world at night and the gold lettering and edges suggest something artificial as well. The nettles look like they’re warning you off and yet the leaves feel like it’s drawing you in. And what about the girl? Is she sleeping? dead? comatose? I also like that the shape of this book is different from most (it’s a perfect square) which makes it stand out a bit.

4. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs– When I first saw this cover I couldn’t figure out why the little girl was so eerie. Was it because she was brighter than the black and white background? Then I realized that she was floating! But even that doesn’t really explain why I find this cover unsettling. But it did intrigue me!

5. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray– I could see how someone might look at this book cover and think they were getting a bodice ripper. But for some reason that wasn’t what I thought of when I saw it. Instead I thought “that girl looks like she’s realizing her corset is too tight” which as it turns out, is a metaphor for a theme in the book. I wasn’t into reading fantasy when I read this book, so I’m glad they didn’t go that direction with the cover. It might have put me off, but this book pulled me back into the genre after some time away.

6. Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews– The audiobook edition is the only one I could find that still has this cover. The current cover is a bit different. I think I was about 11 or 12 when I saw this cover, and knew that I had to read the book to find out who the girl was and why she was trapped in what looked like a dollhouse. To make matters even more intriguing, it was a peephole cover. When you opened it, you saw this image. So I had to read the book to find out what that was about! It probably wasn’t a remotely appropriate book for a kid that age, but the cover sure made it look intriguing!

7. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer- Whatever your opinion of sparkly vampires, I think credit goes to the designer who created a really alluring cover. The pale hands against the black background make a great contrast. The apple offered has suggestions of forbidden fruit and loss of innocence. The red against the white and the black also draws you in suggesting blood. It’s natural to see it and think “I want to know what that’s about!”

8. The Luxe series by Anna Godbersen– Sometimes I’m just a sucker for a pretty dress. This quartet features some very pretty dresses on the covers. Check them out (is it cheating to include all 4 in one space on my list?) Actually they’ve changed the covers since these came out, which is kind of a shame IMO. These books were total guilty pleasures, and the dresses on the covers sort of played into that. I’d like to think I’m above such shallow lures, but really, I’m not.

9. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson– I love that this cover sort of fools you. You don’t quite trust your eyes. You think you’re seeing a man and a women locked in a passionate embrace. But then you realize that you’re seeing hats and coats on a coat rack! Oddly I didn’t find that disappointing though, I appreciated the trick. It showed a sort of humor on the designer’s part, and I wanted to see if that humor was continued through the book.

10. The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth– This may be a cheat because I may have read the book even if it had a different cover, because I like the author. But this cover also really drew me in. I think one reason is that blue is my favorite color, and the cover has a lot of it! But also because blue roses are something you don’t see every day. The title refers to a Chinese fairy tale about a man searching for a blue rose for his beloved.

Honorable mention- Persephone ClassicsPersephone Books is a London based bookshop and publisher that reprints neglected works by mid twentieth century writers (mostly female). Most of their books have a plain grey cover. However, they have reissued twelve best sellers with colorful art. The drawback to these is that they don’t have the full color end papers that other Persephone titles have, but the cover art is pretty enough to draw my in on it’s own!

Top Ten Tuesday: The Last 10 Books With One Word Titles I Read

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

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March 3: Books With Single-Word Titles (submitted by Kitty from Kitty Marie’s Reading Corner)

For this one I decided to do the last ten books I read with one word titles. I made a few rules for myself: Subtitles don’t count. “The” counts as word. Titles that are names are acceptable. I usually add some commentary, but since this is about economy of words, that doesn’t feel right!

81wnvagspxl._ac_uy218_ml3_1. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

 

81o0w3k8oyl._ac_uy218_ml3_2. Panchinko by Min Jin Lee

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3. Spring by Ali Smith

91txkgehbnl._ac_uy218_ml3_4. Moonrise by Cassandra King

81lrqhg4fgl._ac_ul320_ml3_5. Angel by Elizabeth Taylor

81xr45udqkl._ac_uy218_ml3_6. Educated by Tara Westover

a1wovobgowl._ac_uy218_ml3_7. Melmoth by Sarah Perry

81tljs7lr7l._ac_uy218_ml3_8. Circe by Madeline Miller

81lfdckpnjl._ac_uy218_ml3_9. Winter by Ali Smith

71pwec3g0ol._ac_ul436_10. Flush by Virginia Woolf

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2019

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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December 31: Favorite Books I Read In 2019

81hkqvsgyl._ac_uy218_ml3_1.The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern– About eight years ago I read Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel The Night Circus, and loved it. It was one of those rare books that you can get lost in as you read. Since then I’ve had my eye out for her follow up and it was finally released. The Starless Sea isn’t an easy read, but its one to savor . Once again Morgenstern has created a novel that lets the reader live in it. Yes there is a (confusing at times) plot and characters, but much likeThe Night Circus,  it’s the setting that will stand out in my memory. This book is a vivid, dreamlike, haunting experience. I reviewed it a little in this post.

81xr45udqkl._ac_uy218_ml3_2. Educated by Tara Westover– Tara Westover was 17 the first time she sat in a classroom. Raised by fundamentalist parents on a mountain in Idaho, Westover was taught to distrust established schools, hospitals and government. She was ostensibly homeschooled, but in reality that stopped once she’d learned to read, write, and do basic math. She was encouraged to try to educate herself enough to get into college by her older brother, and brave enough to take the leap when another older brother became abusive enough to be a serious threat to her safety. But Bringham Young University, and later Harvard and Cambridge, were a world away from the life she’d lived under the thumb of a mentally ill father. Trying to adjust to the change, finding a way to relate to her family, and construct her reality as an adult was where Westover’s education was truly tested. This book is shocking, haunting and thought provoking.

919qe25jntl._ac_uy218_ml3_81tljs7lr7l._ac_uy218_ml3_3. Circe and  The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller– I discussed my response to these books a bit in this post. I’m not usually a fan of Greek mythology and Classics, but  Madeline Miller’s writing is vivid and compelling,  and the the characters are so human (even when technically they aren’t!) that its hard not to become invested. I loved both of these books and couldn’t decide which to put on my “best” list.

81svkiih7kl._ac_uy218_ml3_4. The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware– Harriet ‘Hal’ Westaway has been living hand to mouth since her mother’s death three years ago. She’s barely getting by when she gets a letter from a lawyer saying that her grandmother has recently died and left her money. Hal knows it’s a mistake: her grandmother died years ago. But she’s also desperate. She heads to Mrs. Westway’s Cornwall mansion to try to claim the inheritance. But when she arrives she discovers a family that may be more closely connected to her than she realizes. The estate comes with a lot of secrets, that might give Hal the family she’s always wanted, or might get her killed. This books was reminiscent of Agatha Christie and Daphne DuMaurier. It’s perfect for a cold winter night.

61azp3snool-_ac_us218_5. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar– This book is historical fiction with fantasy gorgeously brushing the edges. When shipping merchant, Jonah Hancock learns that one of his ship’s was sold in exchange for a mermaid, he finds himself thrust into a new life. He travels from London’s seedy underbelly to the finest drawing rooms of high society. His new life brings him to Angelica Neal, a courtesan, who finds that her destiny is entwined with Jonah’s and his mermaid.

51i6ln7tmul-_ac_us218_6. The Library Book by Susan Orlean– In the book, Orlean explores a 1986 fire that almost destroyed the Los Angeles Public Library, and may have been the result of arson. In the process, she also explores the city’s history, the library’s history and the importance of libraries in general. Reading this book gives an appreciation for libraries as community centers, educational institutions and one of the most uniquely democratic endeavors in the world. People often wonder if libraries still serve a purpose, or if they will one day be obsolete. Orlean’s book makes the case that they serve a vital and irreplaceable function every day.

513xypka1bl-_ac_us218_7.Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield- About ten years ago I read Diane Setterfield’s debut The Thirteenth Taleand was entranced. Once Upon A Riveris just as compelling but in it’s own way. Set in a pub by the Thames in the late 19th century, this book opens on a winter’s night when a badly injured, soaking wet man staggers into the pub, holding a little girl who appears to be dead. A local nurse saves his life and quickly realizes that the little girl is not dead (anymore?) but the girl is silent and the man can’t remember how they came to be in this situation and has no idea who the girl is. One local family thinks that she’s the daughter who was kidnapped years earlier. Another thinks she’s the long lost daughter of their prodigal son. A middle aged woman is inexplicably convinced that the 4 year old child is her sister… .

91hggynrxrl._ac_uy218_ml3_ 81b4caedtml._ac_uy218_ml3_8.The Girl in the Tower and The Winter of the Witch by Katharine Arden– Once again I couldn’t choose between two contenders from the same author. But in this case both are from the same series. It’s rare that a series will start off well and just get better as it goes, but that’s exactly what happened with Arden’s Winternight trilogy. It started well with The Bear and the Nightingale but then Arden upped her game with the sequels!

81eiilgia0l._ac_uy218_ml3_9.I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’ Farrell– In seventeen essays O’Farrell recounts her life via near death experiences. These experiences range from the dramatic (a plane that almost crashed) to the more mundane (a stressful medical test) but each one prompted O’Farrell to reflect and evaluate her life. Naturally an eight year old O’Farrell in the hospital with Encephalitis perceives things very differently from a thirty-something O’Farrell experiencing a risky childbirth. While the subject matter is rather heavy, this book never feels it. O’Farrell’s writing is occasionally witty, often perceptive, and always beautiful.

61ime-a6gql._ac_uy218_ml3_10. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie– Set in Nigeria, this book tells the story of 15 year old Kambili and her older brother Jaja. Kambili and Jaja are wealthy and privileged. Their father is an important person in their local community, known for his generosity. But with his family, he is a religious fanatic and a tyrant. As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent outside the city to stay with their aunt. Aunty Ifeoma is a progressive university professor whose home is a relaxed place of laughter and lightness. In her home, Kambili and Jaja experience life without their father’s oppressive presence for the first time. When they return to his house nothing can be the same again.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of the 2010s

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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December 10: Freebie

It’s a little late, but it’s still Tuesday!

I’ve been seeing a lot of “best of the decade” lists lately, so I figured that this week I’d share my top books of the last ten years.

91dwjhs08ml._ac_uy218_ml3_Room by Emma Donoghue (2010) I think that the first thing that really struck me about this book was the perspective: five year old Jack, a boy who has never left the small room where he and his mother are held captive, makes a unique voice. He doesn’t know anything different so he doesn’t fully understand how messed up his reality is. His mother keeps it that way for his own protection: why tell him about a world he may never see? But when he and his mother escape, his perspective changes. Donoghue’s mastery of Jack’s voice comes across as we begin to understand how Jack’s minuscule reality and limited experience has shaped the way he thinks, and how that grows as Jack’s world expands.

818ezr7u2al._ac_uy218_ml3_The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern(2011) I was actually torn between this book and Morgensern’s 2019 offering The Starless Sea, which I read recently and loved. However I went with this book because I think that it’s more accessible to casual readers than The Starless Sea, which is more dense. I also think that the vivid, descriptive, magical setting of The Night Circus lays a groundwork which The Starless Sea builds upon.  It’s a setting that dominates the plot and characterization.

51avlw-rakl-_ac_us218_Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie (2013) In some ways it feels like this book, about being an African immigrant in America was written 100 years ago. It feels like racial tensions in America in the past decade have erupted in a way that make the Obama era seem like a distant dream. But that’s how it feels to me, as a white, native born citizen. In other words, I’m in a very privileged position in my country in many ways, and therefore I don’t experience it in the same way that someone who has a different position experiences it.  I think that this book made me aware of some of the ways that make privilege impacts my perception of events that might help answer the “how did we get here?” question.

81v5wp2zeql._ac_uy218_All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014) This novel set during WWII features two endearing protagonists; a blind French girl who must flee Nazi occupied Paris and a German boy who uses his skills building and fixing radios to help the Nazis find the Resistance. Even though these characters are from different countries and on different sides of the war, their stories are intrinsically interwoven.  When their paths cross it feels almost inevitable.

51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_A Little Life by Hanya Yanaghiara (2015)- This is a story of friendship over many years and the families that we create. It’s also a story of trauma, and it asks whether recovery is even possible. When we meet Jude, he his is a young college grad with several close friends, a good job, and a traumatic past. As we come to know him and his friends, we see him grow into a successful attorney who maintains his friendships and develops new relationships. But he’s still haunted by his past. His struggle to overcome it, and doubts about whether that’s possible, are the bulk of this novel. It’s a struggle that isn’t always pretty. At time’s its downright brutal, but the struggle is still beautiful. The novel itself is long and at times difficult but I think one of the reasons it appeals to me is that it recalls a 19th century Bildungsroman.

81vn8opa4zl._ac_uy218_M Train by Patti Smith (2015)- I’ve seen Smith’s other memoir, Just Kids, on many similar lists. But I actually prefer this one. It’s less linear and more internal. We spend time not just in Smith’s life, but also in her dreams. Just Kids is a memoir of Smith’s youth in the 60’s and 70’s. M Train is a memoir of her life over the past decade or so. While Just Kids gives background that’s important to understanding the woman in M Train, I feel that this is the more mature work.

81tljs7lr7l._ac_uy218_ml3_Circe by Madeline Miller (2018)- I was actually torn between this and Miller’s other book Song of Achilles for this list, because they’re both beautiful works. But I went with this one because it feels somehow larger. Not larger as a physical book (they’re about the same size) but as a story and as a depiction of Miller’s world. But I highly recommend both books.

81xr45udqkl._ac_uy218_ml3_Educated by Tara Westover (2018)- Tara Westover was the daughter of mentally ill survivalists who was homeschooled (a process which ended once she learned to read and write) and later pushed herself to get into Brigham Young University, Harvard, and Cambridge. But her educational success doesn’t give her what she needs to understand her upbringing. Even after she earns her PHD, her understanding of her abusive childhood depended on learning to trust herself and her memory. I appreciated the fact that this book complicated the notion of “hard work = success.” Westover depicts success, and education, as a process rather than a fait accompli.

513xypka1bl-_ac_us218_Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield (2018) I was really excited to read this because I loved Setterfield’s previous novel The Thirteenth Tale. This was one of the rare highly anticipated novels that lives up to expectations. I think one of the reasons that it works for me is that it doesn’t try to give easy answers. It opens with a mystery and offers several possible conclusions but doesn’t tie itself down to any of them.