This is a very, very short version of my TBR. The books on this list are the ones hidden in the deepest depths of my bookshelves or ones that Amazon tells me I bought in 2014 or before. It's time for me to stop neglecting them!
Addendum the First: A fair number of these books have been or are going to be adapted into films or TV series and I need to start reading the books *before* I watch the adaptations.
Addendum the Second: The vast majority of these books are historical fiction. Some have a magical twist. A *lot* are set in the 1920s (because flappers!!11!!) or in Occupied Europe during WWII (because apparently I have a *thing* for books that rip out my heart). There's probably a decent number of fairytale retellings, too.
[01. Deathless by Catherynne M Valente]
Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what giants or wicked witches are to European culture: the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. Valente's take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the twentieth century.
Young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever peasant girl to Koschei's beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power.
[02. Hannahs Dream by Diane Hammond]
An elephant never forgets . . . but can she dream?
For forty-one years, Samson Brown has been caring for Hannah, the lone elephant at the down-at-the-heels Max L. Biedelman Zoo. Having vowed not to retire until an equally loving and devoted caretaker is found to replace him, Sam rejoices when smart, compassionate Neva Wilson is hired as the new elephant keeper. But Neva quickly discovers what Sam already knows: that despite their loving care, Hannah is isolated from other elephants and her feet are nearly ruined from standing on hard concrete all day. Using her contacts in the zookeeping world, Neva and Sam hatch a plan to send Hannah to an elephant sanctuary just as the zoo's angry, unhappy director launches an aggressive revitalization campaign that spotlights Hannah as the star attraction, inextricably tying Hannah's future to the fate of the Max L. Biedelman Zoo.
[03. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater]
For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.
Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.
[05. Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly]
The city of Bryre suffers under the magic of an evil wizard. Because of his curse, girls sicken and disappear without a trace, and all live in fear. No one is allowed outside after dark. Night is when Kymera comes to the city, with a cloak disguising her wings, the bolts in her neck, and her spiky tail. Her mission is to rescue the girls of Bryre. Despite Kym's caution in going secretively, a boy named Ren sees and befriends her . . . but what he knows will change her world forever.
[05. Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi]
Fairy-tale romances end with a wedding, and the fairy tales don't get complicated. In this book, the celebrated writer Mr. Fox can't stop himself from killing off the heroines of his novels, and neither can his wife, Daphne. It's not until Mary, his muse, comes to life and transforms him from author into subject that his story begins to unfold differently.
Mary challenges Mr. Fox to join her in stories of their own devising; and in different times and places, the two of them seek each other, find each other, thwart each other, and try to stay together, even when the roles they inhabit seem to forbid it. Their adventures twist the fairy tale into nine variations, exploding and teasing conventions of genre and romance, and each iteration explores the fears that come with accepting a lifelong bond. Meanwhile, Daphne becomes convinced that her husband is having an affair, and finds her way into Mary and Mr. Fox's game. And so Mr. Fox is offered a choice: Will it be a life with the girl of his dreams, or a life with an all-too-real woman who delights him more than he cares to admit?
[06. The Mercy of Thin Air by Ronyln Domingue]
New Orleans, 1920s. Raziela Nolan is in the throes of a magnificent love affair when she dies in a tragic accident. In an instant, she leaves behind her one true love and her dream of becoming a doctor -- but somehow, she still remains. Immediately after her death, Razi chooses to stay between -- a realm that exists after life and before whatever lies beyond it. From this remarkable vantage point, Razi narrates the stories of her lost love, Andrew, and the relationship of Amy and Scott, a couple whose house she haunts almost seventy-five years later.
[07. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys]
Fifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life--until Soviet officers invade her home and tear her family apart. Separated from her father and forced onto a crowded train, Lina, her mother, and her young brother make their way to a Siberian work camp, where they are forced to fight for their lives. Lina finds solace in her art, documenting these events by drawing. Risking everything, she imbeds clues in her drawings of their location and secretly passes them along, hoping her drawings will make their way to her father's prison camp. But will strength, love, and hope be enough for Lina and her family to survive?
[08. The Goddess and the Thief by Essie Fox]
Uprooted from her home in India, Alice is raised by her aunt, a spiritualist medium in Windsor. When the mysterious Mr Tilsbury enters their lives, Alice is drawn into a plot to steal the priceless Koh-i-Noor diamond, claimed by the British Empire at the end of the Anglo-Sikh wars.
Said to be both blessed and cursed, the sacred Indian stone exerts its power over all who encounter it: a handsome deposed maharajah determined to claim his rightful throne, a man hell-bent on discovering the secrets of eternity, and a widowed queen who hopes the jewel can draw her husband's spirit back. In the midst of all this madness, Alice must discover a way to regain control of her life and fate.
[09. Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue]
Born to rough cloth in Hogarth's London, but longing for silk, Mary Saunders's eye for a shiny red ribbon leads her to prostitution at a young age. A dangerous misstep sends her fleeing to Monmouth, and the position of household seamstress, the ordinary life of an ordinary girl with no expectations. But Mary has known freedom, and having never known love, it is freedom that motivates her. Mary asks herself if the prostitute who hires out her body is more or less free than the "honest woman" locked into marriage, or the servant who runs a household not her own? And is either as free as a man? Ultimately, Mary remains true only to the three rules she learned on the streets: Never give up your liberty. Clothes make the woman. Clothes are the greatest lie ever told.
[10. The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig]
When eleven-year-old Philip Noble is confronted by the ghost of his recently deceased father and asked to avenge his death, the boy finds himself in a thorny dilemma. Revenge, after all, is a tricky business-especially when Philip is already distracted by his girlfriend, school bullies, self-doubt, and all the other challenges of adolescence. (*Retelling of Hamlet.)
[11. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick]
Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo's undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo's dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.
[12. Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson]
Ruby Lennox begins narrating her life at the moment of conception, and from there takes us on a whirlwind tour of the twentieth century as seen through the eyes of an English girl determined to learn about her family and its secrets.
[13. A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel]
It is 1789, and three young provincials have come to Paris to make their way. Georges-Jacques Danton, an ambitious young lawyer, is energetic, pragmatic, debt-ridden--and hugely but erotically ugly. Maximilien Robespierre, also a lawyer, is slight, diligent, and terrified of violence. His dearest friend, Camille Desmoulins, is a conspirator and pamphleteer of genius. A charming gadfly, erratic and untrustworthy, bisexual and beautiful, Camille is obsessed by one woman and engaged to marry another, her daughter. In the swells of revolution, they each taste the addictive delights of power, and the price that must be paid for it.
[15. My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok]
Asher Lev is a Ladover Hasid who keeps kosher, prays three times a day and believes in the Ribbono Shel Olom, the Master of the Universe. Asher Lev is an artist who is compulsively driven to render the world he sees and feels even when it leads him to blasphemy.In this stirring and often visionary novel, Chaim Potok traces Asher’s passage between these two identities, the one consecrated to God, the other subject only to the imagination.
[17. The Look of Love by Sarah Jio]
Born during a Christmas blizzard, Jane Williams receives a rare gift: the ability to see true love. Jane has emerged from an ailing childhood a lonely, hopeless romantic when, on her twenty-ninth birthday, a mysterious greeting card arrives, specifying that Jane must identify the six types of love before the full moon following her thirtieth birthday, or face grave consequences. When Jane falls for a science writer who doesn’t believe in love, she fears that her fate is sealed.
[18. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding]
Thaniel, just seventeen, is a wych-hunter. Together, he and Cathaline--his friend and mentor--track down the fearful creatures that lurk in the Old Quarter of London. It is on one of these hunts that he first encounters Alaizabel Cray. Alaizabel is half-crazed, lovely, and possessed. Whatever dreadful entity has entered her soul has turned her into a strange and unearthly magnet--attracting evil and drawing horrors from every dark corner. Cathaline and Thaniel must discover its cause--and defend humanity at all costs.
[19. One Thousand Nights by EK Johnson]
Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.
And so she is taken in her sister's place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin's court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.
Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.
Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.
[21. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel]
</p>Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of 'King Lear'. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.</p>
Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.
[22. Roam: A Novel With Music by Alan Lazar]
Nelson is a bright-eyed, inquisitive half beagle, half poodle. He lives with Katey and Don, newlyweds whose marriage is straining under the pressures of domesticity, but Katey’s devotion to Nelson buoys the pup even as he worries his home may be falling apart. One day Nelson follows his nose and gets lost. Though he searches frantically for his beloved Katey—and she for him—he can’t seem to find his way home.
Roam follows Nelson on an incredible eight-year cross-country journey. He rides shotgun with a truck driver, lives in the woods with a pack of wolves, loses his hind leg in a terrible accident, and escapes death in a shelter. Though he develops a cynical eye and a world-weary demeanor, underneath it all he remains a fearless and courageous spirit, and maintains the belief that one day he’ll make it back to Katey.
[24. Sarahs Key by Tatiana de Rosnay]
Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.
[25. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker]
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.
Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.
Chava and Ahmad become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures – until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.
[27. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She Is Sorry by Fredrik Backman]
Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy—as in standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-g
When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s instructions lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and old crones but also to the truth about fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.
[28. The Little Book by Selden Edwards]
Wheeler Burden--banking heir, philosopher, student of history, legend's son, rock idol, writer, lover, recluse, half-Jew, and Harvard baseball hero--one day finds himself wandering not in his hometown of San Francisco in 1988 but in a city and time he knows mysteriously well: Vienna, 1897. Before long, Wheeler acquires a mentor in Sigmund Freud, a bitter rival, a powerful crush on a luminous young woman, and encounters everyone from an 8-year-old Adolf Hitler to Mark Twain as well as the young members of his own family. Solving the riddle of Wheeler's dislocation in time will ultimately reveal nothing short of one eccentric family's unrivaled impact upon the course of human history.(*Sequel: Lost Prince.)
[30. In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters]
In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?
[31. Sunnyside by Glen David Gold]
It’s 1916 and, after an extraordinary mass delusion where Charlie Chaplin is spotted in more than eight hundred places simultaneously, his fame is at its peak but his inspiration is at a low. As he struggles to find a film project as worthy as himself, we are introduced to a dazzling cast of characters that take us from the battlefields of France to the Russian Revolution and from the budding glamour of Hollywood to madcap Wild West shows.
[32. Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan]
Kami Glass is in love with someone she's never met—a boy she's talked to in her head since she was born. This has made her an outsider in the sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale, but she has learned ways to turn that to her advantage. Her life seems to be in order, until disturbing events begin to occur. There has been screaming in the woods and the manor overlooking the town has lit up for the first time in 10 years. . . . The Lynburn family, who ruled the town a generation ago and who all left without warning, have returned. Now Kami can see that the town she has known and loved all her life is hiding a multitude of secrets—and a murderer. The key to it all just might be the boy in her head. The boy she thought was imaginary is real, and definitely and deliciously dangerous.
[33. Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen]
The year is 1929. New York is ruled by the Bright Young Things: flappers and socialites seeking thrills and chasing dreams in the anything-goes era of the Roaring Twenties.
Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey escaped their small Midwestern town for New York's glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star. . . .
Cordelia is searching for the father she's never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined—and more dangerous. It's a life anyone would kill for . . . and someone will.
The only person Cordelia can trust is ¬Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia's brother, Charlie. But Astrid's perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.
[34. Spare Brides by Adele Parks]
The 1920s: a time of hope, promise - and parties. But not all the men came home, after The War. Meet the spare brides. Young, gorgeous - and unexpectedly alone. Ava relishes the freedom of being single. Sarah fears no one can replace her hero husband. Beatrice finds it hard to shine, next to her dazzling friends. And Lydia is married, rich, privileged: so isn`t she one of the lucky ones? Then a chance encounter changes everything. Angry, damaged and dangerously attractive, Edgar Trent is an irresistable temptation. And the old rules no longer apply...
[35. Petite Mort by Beatrice Hitchman]
A silent film, destroyed in a fire in 1914 at the Pathé studio, before it was seen even by its director.
A lowly seamstress, who makes the costumes she should be wearing, but believes her talent—and the secret she keeps too—will soon get her a dressing room of her own.
A famous—and dashing—creator of spectacular cinematic illusions, husband to a beautiful, volatile actress, the most adored icon of the Parisian studios.
All fit together, like scenes in a movie. And as you will see, this plot has a twist we beg you not to disclose . . .
[37. The Songwriter by Beatrice Colin]
New York, 1916. Monroe Simonov, a song-plugger from Brooklyn, is in love with a Ziegfeld Follies dancer who has left him for California. Inez Kennedy, a fashion model in a department store, has just one season remaining to find a wealthy husband before she must return to the Midwest. Anna Denisova, a glamorous political exile, gives lectures and writes letters while she waits for the Russian people to overthrow their Tsar. Although the world is changing faster than they could ever have imagined, Monroe, Inez and Anna discover that they are still subject to the tyranny of the heart.
[39. American Blonde by Jennifer Niven]
In 1945, Velva Jean Hart is a bona fide war heroine. After a newsreel films her triumphant return to America, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer promises to make her a star. They give her a new life story and a brand new name. As “Kit Rogers,” she navigates the movie sets, recording sessions, parties, staged romances, and occasional backstabbing that accompany her newfound fame. She also navigates real-life romance, finding herself caught between a charismatic young writer and a sexy and enigmatic musician from her past. But when one of her best friends dies mysteriously and the most powerful studio in the world launches a cover-up, Velva Jean goes in search of the truth— risking her own life, as well as her heart, in the process.
[40. City of Thieves by David Benioff]
During the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible.
[42. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly]
BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.
PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.
Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.
[43. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte]
In an effort to save her family from poverty, a young woman takes employment as a governess and discovers the great difficulties, instability, and even abuse that accompany her new position in Victorian society.
[44. Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by CS Lewis]
The myth of Cupid and Psyche, as told through the gaze of Psyche’s sister, Orual. Disfigured and embittered, Orual loves her younger sister to a fault and suffers deeply when she is sent away to Cupid. Psyche is forbidden to look upon the god’s face, but is persuaded by her sister to do so; she is banished for her betrayal. Orual is left alone to grow in power but never in love, to wonder at the silence of the gods. Only at the end of her life, in visions of her lost beloved sister, will she hear an answer.
[45. The Treachery of Beautiful Things by Ruth Long]
The trees swallowed her brother whole, and Jenny was there to see it. Now seventeen, she revisits the woods where Tom was taken, resolving to say good-bye at last. Instead, she's lured into the trees, where she finds strange and dangerous creatures who seem to consider her the threat. Among them is Jack, mercurial and magnetic, with secrets of his own. Determined to find her brother, with or without Jack's help, Jenny struggles to navigate a faerie world where stunning beauty masks some of the most treacherous evils, and she's faced with a choice between salvation or sacrifice--and not just her own.
[46. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen]
Orphaned, penniless, Jacob Jankowski jumps a freight train in the dark, and in that instant, transforms his future.
By morning, he's landed a job with the Flying Squadron of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. By nightfall, he's in love.
In an America made colourless by prohibition and the Depression, the circus is a refuge of sequins and sensuality. But behind the glamour lies a darker world, where both animals and men are dispensable. Where falling in love is the most dangerous act of all.
[47. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley]
It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.
For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”
Oh, Eliot ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥
- location:cubicle hell
- mood: bored
- tunes:One on One::Hall & Oates