wartime reads, Jane Austen, and dark memoir

literary matchmaking

The details on this ongoing project, and the factors I’m taking to heart.

Readers told me 3 books they loved, 1 book they hated, and what they’re reading right now. In turn, I’m choosing 1 mainstream pick, 1 eccentric pick, and 1 YA/memoir/nonfiction pick for each reader. (Or more, if I can’t help myself.)

This week we’re choosing books for Nancy, Ginger, and Becca.


Love: The Glass Castle, The Red Tent, Five Quarters of the Orange
Hate: The Interestings
Last read: Eleanor & Park

My picks: 

Mainstream: The Girl You Left Behind
Eccentric: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
Nonfiction: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
YA: The Fault in Our Stars

The Girl You Left Behind shares plot similarities with Five Quarters of the Orange, and features strong female protagonists like The Red Tent. The memoir Brain on Fire will appeal to many readers of The Glass Castle, though it’s not as dark.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is difficult to characterize: it packs memoir, history, science, and story between its covers, elements that appear in Nancy’s love list. 

I feel a little silly recommending The Fault in Our Stars–hasn’t everyone heard of this book by now?–but it really is a must-read for fans of Eleanor & Park


Love: To Kill a Mockingbird, Me Before You, anything Jane Austen, Bread and Wine
Book that I wanted to love but was meh: The Eyre Affair
Last read: Blue Like Jazz

My picks: 

Mainstream: Atonement
Eccentric: Snow Falling on Cedars
Classic: North and South 
Memoir: A Jane Austen Education
Cookbook/Memoir mashups: Garlic and Sapphires

Several of Ginger’s picks carry strong themes of justice, which is why I chose Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement. I feel more comfortable recommending it since Ginger is currently reading Blue Like Jazz. (I can’t explain any further without verging into spoiler territory.)  Snow Falling on Cedars has much in common with To Kill a Mockingbird and the relationships remind me of Me Before You.  

Elizabeth Gaskell is wonderful reading for Jane Austen fans: I’ve chosen North and South, which is frequently compared to Pride and Prejudice. I’d also recommend the memoir A Jane Austen Education to all Austen devotees.

It was hard to choose just one cookbook/memoir mashup (like Bread and Wine) but I chose Reichl’s because it’s not a title on everyone’s tongue right now, and while it has a completely different tone than Bread and Wine, Garlic and Sapphires is simultaneously about food and more than food.  


Love: Unbroken, Seven, A Million Little Ways
Abandoned: Wild
Last Read: The Language of Flowers

My picks: 

Mainstream: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Adventure: Born to Run
Nonfiction: The Boys in the Boat, Steal Like An Artist
Essay: A Sudden Illness, by Laura Hillenbrand in the July 7, 2003  issue of The New Yorker.

I was tempted to recommend The Girl You Left Behind, but chose Guernsey because this wartime story seemed to fit better with Becca’s other picks. The Boys in the Boat is an excellent follow-up read to Unbroken. For a less epic adventure story (that might hold more appeal for Becca than Wild, which I also abandoned) I’m choosing Born to Run. It goes off on a few strange tangents here and there, but is all in all a fascinating read with solid writing. 

I’m choosing Steal Like an Artist because Becca loved Emily Freeman’s latest, and the writing style is offbeat and funny, like Seven.

Hillenbrand’s only written two books so far, so while you’re waiting for the next one (I hope there will be a next one) read her 2003 New Yorker essay, which explains why it takes her nearly a decade to finish a book. 

How did I do? What books would YOU recommend to Nancy, Ginger, and Becca? 

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