Some are old, some are new. Some are borrowed, some are blue. Whatever you’re in the mood for, these book recommendations will take you on an epic, an ultimately personal journey through the best and worst of what our human story has to offer.
Prussian Blue (A Bernie Gunther Novel) by Philip Kerr
Even though Kerr has now written 13 Bernie Gunther novels, readers still can’t seem to get enough of the decent detective working for Berlin’s homicide division in Nazi-era Germany. This novel brings Gunther to Hitler’s infamous mountain estate in Obersalzberg, where he must solve a murder before the führer’s highly awaited fiftieth birthday. Another plot, meanwhile, follows an older Gunther as he dodges the advances of old enemies and the East German secret police. A sublime mixture of well-researched history and thrilling mystery, Prussian Blue does everything a good thriller should do.
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Before Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut published this deeply sad/deeply funny foray into environmental catastrophe, weird science, and the bitter pain of being an outcast. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll bemoan the future of our dying planet. And so on.
Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub
Now a Shonda Rhimes series on ABC, Still Star-Crossed started life as a book about two formerly minor Rome and Juliet characters—Benvolio Montague and Rosaline Capulet—who are forcibly betrothed in an attempt to end their families’ deadly feud. To put it simply, things do not go exactly to plan. But even in the tempest that is Verona, one finds oneself pining for a stormy and passionate kind of love—and maybe you will too.
Literally by Lucy Keating
The inventive Keating gets meta in this novel about Annabelle, a girl who discovers she’s the protagonist of an upcoming novel by…Lucy Keating. From this twist, Keating uses her clever and thoughtful voice to explore issues of fate and free will. A welcome departure from most somber mediations on the nature of destiny.
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard
A British classicist of considerable fame, Mary Beard drew raves for its enthusiastic and straight-talking take on ancient Rome. Covering nearly 1,000 years of one of the mightiest empires the world has ever seen, Beard challenges preconceived notions and widely held historical opinions while paying attention to the lives of those who did not make it into the history books–until now.
Henry David Thoreau: A Life by Laura Dassow Walls
Thoreau is one of the seminal figures in American history, yet few know much about him beyond his famous hermitage at Walden Pond. Walls seeks to correct that with this comprehensive look at the intellectual’s rich and fascinating life, from his acts of political radicalism to his long-running commitment environmental issues. Walls proves that 200 years after his birth, Thoreau still has much more wisdom to reveal.
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
After the recent exciting news that a once-hidden Sendak book will be published next year, why not celebrate with this classic dreamscape? Though it remains controversial for its inclusion of full-frontal nudity and perceived sexual imagery, it is nonetheless thoughtfully written and beautifully illustrated book from one of our most talented children’s authors.
Westaby, a veteran physician of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), is unflinchingly honest in this recollection of the tense, diligent existence of a cardiac surgeon. Though losing a patient is always devastating, the deaths that bother him the most are the ones that occured not on the table but from a lack of NHS funding. A timely look at the true cost of a healthcare system that cannot provide for those who need it the most.
Featured image courtesy of io9.