As we prepare for the new year, a friend actually asked me for a list of book suggestions. After putting it together, I thought, “Huh, I should share it on my blog, too.” So if you’re looking for 10 books to buy for your 20-something, here are a few of my suggestions. The genres cover everything from thriller to romance. For your ease, I’ve included an Amazon affiliate link (this will not add any cost to your purchase, but I’ll get a small kickback).
I hope you enjoy this season and make time to read a good book or two!
10 Books To Buy For Your 20-Something
On a scale of cotton candy to Brussels sprouts, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind is a bonfire-burned marshmallow. Sticky sweet sugar embedded with the overpowering flavor and scent of smoke finds it way to your clothing, face, hair. Despite the charcoal, you just want another bite of that burnt marshmallow.
Grenouille is born during the stinkiest days of Paris, France. Born with the olfactory gift of perfect smell, Grenouille understands the world by scent. Ugly to the eye and unwanted, he grovels through the lowliest types of work until he becomes the apprentice of a perfumer. His life is forever changed. Grenouille decides that his mission is to make the most beautiful scent in the world, and he doesn’t care who his methods hurt.
Although written 1980s, Perfume has staying power. I missed my stop on my way to work because I was reading this book, and I was transported into the odd world of Grenouille. And I also have a clear memory of putting the book aside one night when reading before bed because I realized that Grenouille was a serial killer. Of course, I knew this already. One thing that I did like about this book was that its style of writing made it possible for me to read it although it was gruesome in some ways.
If you like dark stories, this is for you. If you’re intrigued by human psychology (even fictional), then this book is for you as well. If you like descriptive writing, this book is for you (I could smell the smells almost).
On a scale of cotton candy to Brussels sprouts, Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is a creme puff. The light and puffy exterior hides a creamy center. The gentle sweetness brings you back for more and you keeping popping them into your mouth.
When Bernadette finds herself in another feud with the neighbor and her husband thinks she’s gone off the deep end, Bernadette disappears. Their 15-year-old daughter, Bee, takes it upon herself to piece together what happened and to find her mother. While everyone believes that Bernadette might be gone for good, Bee refuses to believe them.
I absolutely judge a book on its cover and title. So from very first glance, I suspected that I’d enjoy this story (not to mention that it’s received good reviews from fellow readers). But, I absolutely delighted in the telling. Maria Semple had me laughing out loud at the narration of the situations. Before long, I wanted to be like Bernadette because of her quirkiness. I laughed my way through this book, and I enjoyed the character growth and self-realizations that they each experienced.
On a scale of cotton candy to Brussels sprouts, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is an imaginary hamburger and fries. Layered with the best toppings, this hamburger is everything. The fries of perfect crispiness and nothing ever gets cold or wilty because imagination. That hamburger lives forever in perfection.
Cadence Sinclair, the first grand child of the wealthy Sinclair family, can’t remember what happened Summer ’15 at the family gathering at their private island. Kept from returning to the island and her cousins and first love (the liars) for two years, Cadence keeps asking her mother what happened. When she returns to the private island, Cadence is on a mission to remember.
What I loved about this book was how E. Lockhart wrote about emotions. This book draws emotions as living and dying things, transporting me into the midst of the pain and pleasure of teenage discovery. What I didn’t love about the book was how after finishing it, I struggled to regain my sense of self. Scarred. And horrified. Is second hand PTSD possible?
But then again, maybe I’m lying, too.
On a scale of cotton candy to Brussels sprouts, Every Deadly Kiss by Steven James is sweet and spicy barbecued chicken. At first taste, the set up is sweet and prepared, but the slow burn that makes you reach for water and only further ignites the fire keeps the intensity building. This flavor and meat will stick.
Patrick Bowers faces a complicated case when an ex-girlfriend asks him to consult on a series of killings, which becomes more involved by the appearance of a known terrorist and Patrick’s current girlfriend. And then, intel reveals the upcoming attack of an all-new bioweapon. Will Patrick be able to unravel the case before everyone dies?
I knew this book was going to keep me on the edge of my seat, and it did. From a story perspective, complexity ruled. And boy, were there a lot of interesting surprises! And despite a large host of characters, I never had to stop to check who’s point of view I was in. I always knew, which made it creepier when Steven James wrote from the perspective of the villain/killer.
For the record, one scene made me experience a touch of nausea. I consider myself to have a rather strong stomach, but the scene was intense. This book does require a certain level of tolerance for evil, pain, and gruesome detail, but on the flip side, so much truth was laced throughout, coming from the most surprising characters.Here’s one quote that I loved.
“Love is not a mutually beneficial exchange. It is much more than that, or it is nothing at all.” – Every Deadly Kiss by Steven James
On a scale of cotton candy to Brussels sprouts, A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White is Rhubarb Strawberry Crunch. This sweet dish combines an earthy root with a sun-kissed berry. Although coming from seemingly different worlds, rhubarb and strawberries compliment each other. Charged with sweetness, this dish isn’t just softness but offers a bit of crunch, too.
Rosemary Gresham, posing as a librarian but actually a skilled thief, plans to steal Peter Holstein’s house and reveal him as a traitor to England as tensions heighten between Germany and England. She’ll be in and out, leaving with exactly what she wants. But then, in the search for the right paperwork, Rosemary discovers something else. With this new information, will she be able to finish the job?
The characterization of Rosemary and Peter was stunning. I felt as though I had never met anyone quite like either of them, and yet, I also felt as though I had known them forever. Rosemary exuded brash confidence, wordiness, and hardiness while Peter exhibited those same qualities in quieter ways. I absolutely loved these characters, and they stand out as the best part of this story.
On a scale of cotton candy to Brussels sprouts, My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella is a mystery cake pop. Sweet, condensed goodness trapped with a chocolate shell. No matter what flavor it’ll be delicious.
Kat to her coworkers and Katie to her family, Katie lives a double life. Social media knows her “perfect” life, but Katie knows the not-so-perfect reality. Her boss acts like a jerk and Katie keeps all her stuff in a hammock above her bed while leaping over the boxes in the hallway from her flat mate’s newest money making scheme. Clearly, things could be better.
Okay, okay. So I really enjoy Sophie Kinsella. She’s predictable in all the best ways. I know when I pick up her books that I’ll discover a laugh-out-loud quirky protagonist and giggle my way through a romance. But the best part is that the story is ALWAYS about the protagonist’s transformation.
My Not So Perfect Life hit the ball out of the park. Even though I caught onto what was going to happen before it occurred, it didn’t feel dumb. I felt like Kinsella lead me to the realization but didn’t drone on and on about it. I also really enjoyed the character of Katie. She was audacious and bold. I mean, she totally gets revenge on her old boss in the best way possible. I think I almost cried laughing at one point.
I listened to this as an audiobook, and I definitely recommend it. I was able to get right back into the story easily each time I had to drive.
On a scale of cotton candy to Brussels sprouts, Hitler’s Forgotten Children by Ingrid Von Oelhafen is roasted Brussels sprouts dusted in salt and sugar. The high temperatures of roasting soften the bitter flavor of this vegetable. And the sugar and salt beckons further helpings.
Hitler’s Forgotten Children details the account of Ingrid Von Oelhafen/Erika Matko as she searches for her true identity after discovering she had been a part of the secret Lebensborn program. Heinrich Himmler planned to repopulate Germany with a super human, Aryan race with Lebensborn. At the end of WWII and the fall of the Nazis, untangling the influence of this program proved difficult and convoluted. No one wanted to talk about it.
Reading a book like Hitler’s Forgotten Children forces the reader (me) to consider the discomfort of the horrible things that have occurred in history. Questions plague me: How does this type of thing happen? Would I bend so easily to such a cynical rule? But mostly, I’m shocked at the culture of silence and shame that rules Germany. Of course, my American perspective deeply colors my perspective because I want everyone to just sit down and talk it out.
And yet, wouldn’t it be easier to forget that this happened? I think many people chose to do that. I can’t fault them. But, I’m glad for this book, and I admire the bravery of Ingrid Von Oelhafen to ask questions when it pushed against the very core of her upbringing.
On a scale of cotton candy to Brussels sprouts, The Legend of Sheba by Tosca Lee is a toasted English muffin drizzled in honey. Although a an English muffin is a simple food, the honey enriches every bite. Honey heals and sweetens.
Bilquis never expected to be queen. In fact, she preferred her life of exile and peace. But when her kinsman call upon her to take the throne from her step-mother and step-brother, Bilquis rises to the occasion but refuses to play a pawn. Bilquis becomes Queen of Sheba and truly rules, but she is dogged by her advisors to bring an heir. But more than that, she is haunted by questions and loneliness.
Tosca Lee takes you into the very skin of the Queen of Sheba. While I journeyed in these pages, I became Bilquis. And I delighted in her strength of character, her wisdom, her smarts. I wonder if every reader has felt the same kinship as I have with Tosca Lee’s Bilquis.
Moreover, I like that Tosca Lee didn’t shy away from sharing about the religion/worship of the god of the moon. She didn’t ignore the sexual promiscuity, and she created a story that makes sense.
Although I tend to not choose to read Biblical fiction, I would definitely recommend Tosca Lee and The Legend of Sheba.
On a scale of cotton candy to Brussels sprouts, A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken is the expectation of your favorite meal and the grief when it’s over and can no longer be had. Yes, not a food so much as those feelings.
When a friend highly recommended a book called “A Severe Mercy,” my gut response was, “Ugh, why would I want to read a book with such an awful, cherry-medicine-type name?” But, my friend reassured me that, “this book is good, so good.” Maybe it was the light in said friend’s eyes or the tone of voice, but I immediately ordered A Severe Mercy from the library.
Sheldon Vanauken shares the story of his greatest love in this book. We live through the sparkles, spring times, and into married adventure and the discovery of God. But, under all of the lovely moments are birthing and growing pains. And death.
As I consider this book, we (me and the author and his wife) traveled a physical existence but the light yet permanent tracing of spiritual existence blazes through this entire book.
How is it that a memoir could challenge my very perspective of my spiritual existence and make me long/yearn/hope for more?
Moreover, I sobbed through a chapter of this book. Sheldon’s openness and intimate understanding of words curls deep inside until you sit beside him through loss.
I highly recommend this book. I think it has become one of my golden, will-always-remember-and-recommend books.
On a scale of cotton candy to Brussels sprouts, Charming the Troublemaker by Pepper D. Basham is a Dirt Cake Brownie Trifle. Layered chocolate pudding, whipped cream, brownies, crumpled cookies make a mess of deliciousness. The gummy worms wiggling across the top seal the deal of fun.
Rainey, single mother of Sarah, has no time for men, especially smarmy-charm-y men like Dr. Alex Murdock. From all appearances, he’s just like Rainey’s cheating, secret-keeping ex-husband. Just when Rainey’s certain that she’s figured out Alex Murdock, he shows that all her assumptions about him were wrong. But, he’s keeping a secret, too. Will this secret push them apart?
Pepper Basham delights again with book #2 of Mitchell’s Crossroads. My impressions of Alex Murdock from book #1 were not good, but Pepper Basham flipped those thoughts right over. And that hashtag #adorkablealex floating around? Yeah, it’s true. I didn’t think Alex would be such an adorable dork, but he really was. Also, I want to say that both Rainey and Alex did their fair share of saving each other. Rainey fought for herself, too. I loved watching this couple navigate mudslides, scary fathers, and little daughters.
If you’re looking for an darling romance with strong characters and hilarious moments, Charming the Troublemaker needs a place on your bookshelf.