Have You Read A Good Book Lately?

becauseweareLike many readers, I get my book recommendations from multiple sources: friends, peers, genre bestseller lists, Amazon algorithms, and deal sites.

The latter two are sources new to me since I switched to a Kindle in Christmas 2011. Prior to that, two big sources of recommendations would have been the front tables in bookstores, and review pages of newspapers. Neither really fulfill that function anymore.

I don’t know if it’s because of the source of the recommendations, or because of the ability to sample anything before purchasing, but I find I’m buying a lot less duds.

I’m reading a lot more self-published work these days, as well as titles from small publishers. I can’t say whether the average book from either is better than what comes from large publishers, but I can definitely say that I’m reading a more diverse range of voices and subject matter, and I find this enriching.

Two books, in particular, jumped out at me lately.

I stumbled across Because We Are: A Novel of Haiti by Ted Oswald when I was trolling the bestseller lists on Amazon. I think this book might have been free at the same time as one of mine, and I liked the cover. The blurb was strong enough for me to download without sampling, and I was intrigued enough to start reading it right away.

It tells the story of 10-year old Libète and her sidekick Jak, inhabitants of the infamous Haitian slum Cité Soleil who discover the bodies of a mother and child, brutally murdered. A lack of evidence leads the police to drop the investigation. The rest of the slum-dwellers have their hands full with the daily struggle of staying alive while gangs, police, and UN peacekeepers battle for control. But Libète and Jak are compelled to discover the truth.

The writing was so strong, within a couple of chapters I was hassling everyone I knew to check out the book. I was about half-way through the story when the London Book Fair started, and spent most of my time running around like a crazed loon demanding that everyone read it.

It would have been quite funny if the second half turned out to be awful, but luckily that wasn’t the case. If it were possible, I would have given this book eleventeen stars, but you can read my five star review here. I’ll have Ted Oswald on at some point over the summer to talk about this book a little more, but for now I’ll just tell you that it’s a beautiful, lyrical story, you’ve never read anything like it, and all profits go to Haitian charities.

anotherbrokenwizardI can’t quite remember where I discovered Another Broken Wizard by Colin Dodds. I think it was through one of the deal sites I’m subscribed to (maybe ENT or BookBlast) but I’m not sure. I do remember that it was the incongruence of cover and title that first caught my attention, before the sample reeled me all the way in.

Another Broken Wizard seems like the kind of novel – on reading the blurb – that advances fairly typical literary fiction tropes: an MC on the cusp of his 30s, trying to figure out his life, who returns to the town where he grew up to take care of his now-divorced father, in advance of life-threatening heart surgery.

But it’s so much more than that! Colin Dodds deliciously subverts those tropes and expectations and does what 1000 identikit “literary” novels don’t: he creates exceptionally vivid characters, a story which sneaks up on you at first, then gathers pace, and the book has tight writing which keeps you turning the pages right until the profoundly moving denouement. Simply put, Another Broken Wizard is brilliant. Read this book!

So that’s what jumped out at me from what I’ve read recently, but now I want to hear from you. What have you read lately that had you accosting randomers in the street, and sending links to everyone you know? Which stories got your blood pumping?

Both of these books just happen to be self-published literary fiction, but you can recommend anything, published by anyone. I only care that you (genuinely) think it’s a good book.

Just so everyone doesn’t think I only read “literary” books by white guys, the book before these two was a time-travel romance/mystery called Out of Time by Monique Martin (excellent, and free). And so you don’t think I exclusively read self-published books out of some kind of one-eyed parochialism, next up is Zoo City by Lauren Beukes.

Anyway, let me know your picks in the comments and give me a couple of quick lines on the book (esp. about why you liked it). This isn’t a term paper. Speak from the gut! Also, out of interest, tell me where and how you discovered the book, and what made you pick it up.

To keep things orderly, some rules:

#1 Don’t promote your own book. I’ll zap those posts without warning. Those of you with multiple pen-names, behave. I have a sixth sense for these things, and peerless Google-fu.

#2 No quid pro quo. I don’t want to see any mutual back-scratching. I’d like this to be genuine recommendations from reader-to-reader. I know this rule is just begging to be broken, but contain yourselves! I will zap anything with the slightest whiff of horse-trading.

#3 On a similar note, please don’t recommend books by your friend, your boss, your teacher, your agent, your co-author, or the anthology editor you are trying to schmooze. Please only recommend books by strangers (I have no connection with either of the above authors). Strictly no shilling. Let’s keep these recommendations pure.

#4 One recommendation per post. I want you to put a link in there so we can all check out the book you’re crazy about, but more than one link will automatically put you in the spam bucket. I may or may not be around to rescue your post. You may have multiple posts, but let others have their say first. Don’t take over the conversation (another zappable offence).

#5 I’m expecting a few responses, so let’s keep it neat. Flag the genre up top for people scanning the list, follow that with the title and author, put in a few sentences about why you love the book, then put the link at the bottom. Like this:






#6 There are no restrictions on form (short stories, novellas, poetry, etc. is all fine), or subject matter. We’re all adults, but with some of the saucier stuff out there, use your common sense in how you describe the content (i.e. perhaps there’s no need to go into granular detail about why you liked something at the bluer end of the spectrum).

#7 Finally, please leave any Amazon affiliate codes out of the links. That’s one of the things that keeps the lights on and I’ll probably slip in my own (when I get a chance).

I’m thinking this might be a fun thing to do regularly if these few guidelines are respected. So… have you read a good book lately?

UPDATE: I almost forgot to mention that I’m taking part in a debate on self-publishing as part of The Literary Conference, here in London, running from (this) Friday June 7 to Saturday June 8. There are still tickets available, both one-day and two-day passes. Check out the program/prices here and follow the hashtag #TLC13 for the juicy bits!

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

51 Replies to “Have You Read A Good Book Lately?”

  1. Genre: Not quite sure – sort of crime, sort of biography, fiction or fact, I couldn’t say

    Title: The legend and lore of the sea by Sean Halden

    I found this on a train from Edinburgh to London. Somebody had left it behind. I started reading out of curiosity and was hooked from the first page. Having said that, the book is a bit hit and miss at times and has some long-winded digressions which I could have done without on the history of exploration, but when it hits it is special. It starts off as a very down-to-earth description of life on board a smuggling ship but then soon changes key to discuss all sorts of things including the various crew members and their secret passions. It is an odd one but I’ve found myself suddenly remembering passages and I intend to read it again soon. I probably haven’t done it justice here, but it is very difficult to pin down just what the book is and is about.

  2. This one is for you, David: really, I need your help…

    I want to publish an e book that is in a special presentation, in fact they are two books in one: you can only read the page which is in the right position, becasuse the one in the left is always upside down, so that you read one book in one direction and whane you finish you turn the book around 180 degrees and the read the other part which is now in the right side… but they tell me that this type of presentation can not be read as an e book…do you think is true?

    Thank you for your attention, E

  3. Romance/Humor
    Crazy Little Thing by Tracy Brogan
    Probably the funniest book I’ve read sincee The River Why. It isn’t often that I encounter a book that has me laughing out loud.
    I found it as an Amazon rcommendation.
    i’m new to this and don’t know how to do a link – can you provide?

  4. Genre: Sort-of SF?

    THE PRESTIGE by Christopher Priest

    I *love* this book – recommended to me on Twitter, I devoured it in 2 days and felt haunted by it for many more days afterwards. Compelling story, interesting characters and clever tricks and twists. Going to go on a Christopher Priest bender now and read everything else by him.


  5. Genre: Literary Fiction
    Author: Mary Doria Russell
    Title : The Sparrow

    I’ve given several copies of this novel in the past few weeks. The Sparrow is a thoughtful, moral work of fiction and proclaims itself being just as effective as a book of theology or a run-of-the-mill sermon at your local church in showing how faith can be shaken under difficult circumstances.




    1. This was a complete breath of fresh air. Wasn’t quite so impressed with Children of God but still, a fascinating world and memorable characters.

  6. Genre: Post-apocalyptic fantasy
    Author: Susan Ee
    Title: Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, Book 1)

    When I started this book, something happened to me that hasn’t happened for a long time: I couldn’t put it down. The angels of the apocalypse have descended on Earth and are laying waste to mankind. Despite the fact that he’s an enemy, Penryn assists an injured angel in the hope that he can help her find her sister, whom the angels kidnapped.

    Excellent and unusual.


  7. Contemporary/historical romance
    The Chapel in the Wood
    Susan Louineau

    In some ways a great novel resembles a love affair. While it is going on you can think of nothing else and when it is over you feel bereft. The Chapel in the Woods is one such novel.

    It begins with a car accident. Diane Lescure crashes her car on the very first day she arrives in the village of Saint Gabriel in rural France.
    Diane’s story is the main thread of the novel. She is English but married to a Frenchman, Serge, and with a young son, Ben. Her attempts to adapt to the extremely conservative life of rural France, and to be a perfect wife to her chauvinist husband seemed doomed to failure from the start. As she struggles to achieve the impossible, we are also given glimpses of other times.
    The Canterbury monk, Edward, fleeing from retribution for his betrayal of the archbishop, arrived in the village in the late 12th century and was abandoned in the woods.
    Hélène Godard, English but a fluent French speaker is parachuted into the village during the Second World War as an organiser for the Résistance.
    These tales in the background threading in and out of the main narrative add depth and imagery to the story, each emphasising the narrow-minded attitudes of the villagers and the corruption of the local government. It seems that little has changed in the centuries between the events.
    I loved each one.

    It is rare to come across such accomplished writing. The skill with which Ms Louineau handles the three time frames is masterly. It appears effortless to the reader, as all great skill does.
    I could not fault this novel. It is perfect in plot, pacing, characterisation and language. An absolute delight to read, and one of the very best books I have read in my life (and I have read thousands).
    It is hard to believe that it is a first novel but I can find no record of her publishing any other work. I sincerely hope she intends to do so. I, for one, am hooked.

    I wanted to put the cover on, but couldn’t work out how to do it. Rats!


  8. As Hugh Howey has been mentioned more than once already, I want to nominate another science fiction novel – A.I. Apocalypse, by William Hertling.


    Apologies for the hideously long url but I couldn’t work out how to post a clickable image.

    Some readers might classify this novel as Hard Sci-fi because the author clearly knows a lot about computing and networks. However I found the author’s subtle philosophical questions about what rights such an intelligence might have to be the most compelling part of the whole book. Hertling is definitely a new favourite author.

  9. Writing Reference
    Dialogue Tips & Traps: A guide for fiction writers/Brent Spencer
    It’s short at about 50 pages. I believe this is self-published by the author, either way it’s well done. I’m always looking for titles to improve my craft, and I thought this was great.

    Fantasy Horror/ MG/YA
    UK title The Spooks Apprentice, or US title The Last Apprentice/Joseph Delaney
    I LOVE the ENTIRE series – and I can barely handle horror. Originally I got all my copies from the UK before the US published it.

  10. Genre: YA (but an excellent read for adults as well)
    Title: Return to the Snake Pit: Saving Hargrove

    I have read a lot of great books lately, all from indie authors. The one that really made me go “WOW!” was this one. This is book two of a powerful and heartwrenching story about bullying and the tragedies it can lead to. As a former victim of bullying, this story really hit a nerve with me. I read it straight through without stopping, in tears the entire time.


  11. Memoir
    The Tender Bar by JR Moehringer
    This is a coming of age story about the author and, well, a bar. Moehringer writes “Long before the bar legally served me, the bar saved me.” A young man grows up with several “father figures” at bar in his hometown. The characters in this book are so real. This story is written in a way that is hearttbreaking at times but is also witty, and riveting, and funny. A must read in my opinion.


  12. Fiction
    Me Again/ Keith Cronin
    Picked this up free and took it as a recent holiday read on my Kindle. It’s one of those effortless reads that makes me very jealous as an author – warm, light and poignant. Seems very simple but is so well written.
    It’s basically about a 34-year-old guy who wakes up from a coma six years after suffering a massive stroke – and doesn’t remember a single thing about his life.
    The journey of discovery that follows is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

  13. I’ve just started Weird Sisters. Not sure if I like it or not…but I’m continuing to read, so that’s got to mean something. I almost always finish a book I start.

    Linda Joyce

  14. YA Horror
    The Hallowed Ones/ Laura Bickle

    This is the last book I really enjoyed. Eagerly anticipating her chance at experiencing the outside world, a young Amish woman finds her plans thwarted when the outside is overrun by vampires…and the vamps are slithering into their secluded community.

    Mashing these two worlds together, vamps versus Amish, works so well in this book. Well written fun with a nicely compelling protagonist.

    Found via Goodreads.

  15. Historical Fiction:
    The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin.
    Benjamin examines the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of a famous aviator Charles Lindbergh. Well written and researched, this book paints a vivid picture of the time and its hero. It also shows that Ann was a much more substantial person than her famous husband.

  16. Literary historical

    Domingo’s Angel, by Jenny Twist.


    This was one of the first books I found on kindle, and it was really beautiful. It’s not the sort of book I would naturally have picked up in a bookshop, and it’s quite hard to categorise, at once realistic and slightly magical too, with elements of fairy story set in a real and quite traumatic historical background. I read it with a smile on my face. Here’s my review:

    This is a beautiful book. It tells the story of an English girl, Angela, who comes to live in a remote Spanish village some years after the war. But it is not just her story, it is the story of the village itself, and all the people in it. Angela comes from a cold English city where she knows almost no-one; here, in the heat of the Spanish countryside, she comes to know everyone. Each person in the village has a story: some funny, many moving, some shockingly tragic. As she learns more about the people around her, she gradually becomes part of the village herself.

    The book is written in a clear, simple, delightful style. It is wonderfully easy to read; many times, in the first half, I found myself smiling with simple pleasure. There is a lot of comic fun in the cultural misunderstandings between an English city girl and the Spanish peasants; and much pathos, later, as Angela learns about the tragic history of the village in the civil war. The book is full of moving human stories, lightened with a touch of fairy tale.

    A lovely book; magical, a pleasure to read.


  17. Ugh.. so many… but to choose 1:

    Wool (Omnibus) by Hugh Howey

    My fiance’ read it and, knowing I would enjoy, not only the character development but the messages about society as a whole, downloaded it to my Kindle, too. This post-apocalyptic story is not typical, IMO. A few seemingly small plot twists surprised me, but the authour made them make sense. He expressed well deep thinking by some of the characters; the condition of the world is thought provoking. Apparently, there are more “episodes” of the Wool saga, but I haven’t gotten to them, yet. As I was reading, I kept thinking it would be an amazing film for the right director, and looks like Ridley Scott may do it.


    1. Oops. Scrolled down too fast and didn’t see that someone already did Wool. My 2nd choice to share would be “Lamb” by Christopher Moore, recommended to me by my daughter. It starts off seemingly heretical (a former Catholic school girl, I feared for my mortal soul for reading it in the first couple of chapters!), but ends up being an interesting, hilarious, and touching take on the life of Jesus Christ, et al.

  18. Literary Fiction

    The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna

    When I first began reading this book, the two protagonists were so pathetic, I didn’t think I’d want to finish it. I’m so happy I continued further– and it didn’t take long before I was completely in love with the story and the characters themselves– all the way to the end. The story was about two lonely middle-aged people who find themselves going through a lonely-hearts column in a paper in an effort to find love. I was surprised at how relatable they’d become as their story unfolded, and the author handled her narrative with not only beauty and compassion, but humor within the tragedy. She has a real gift for telling a story in a clever manner.


    1. Fascinating, Brijit, because I found that book so terrible that I stopped reading–something I hardly ever do–about 25% through, and then leafed through getting the rest of the story because I was curious. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else, so let’s just say that I found the darker chapters so absurdly Dickensian and horrifying that I felt like crying reader abuse. Chacun son gout!

  19. I like the sound of Another Broken Wizard simply because of the title and the cover! I may check it out.

    I have recently been raving about crime fiction novel A Dark Redemption by Stav Sherez. I do know Stav through Twitter and have had the pleasure of a two minute hello at a crime writing festival last year, so that’s my extent of back scratchiness.

    It’s the book I love. He weaves a grim Nigerian storyline into a well characterised police procedural crime fiction book with brilliant prose and an acute insight into human nature, greed and love. Just brilliant. If you like crime fiction you really must read. It’s the first of a series.

  20. Crime fiction/noir

    Fierce Bitches by Jedidiah Ayres

    I like it because it’s hard to know how to classify Fierce Bitches. It’s not strictly crime fiction, although crimes obviously occur in the narrative (lots of them, in fact); I suppose you could call it noir, it’s certainly bleak enough, but even that doesn’t seem quite appropriate. It has many elements in the mix, but the best way to describe it would be as a cross between the hellish El Rey finale of Jim Thompson’s The Getaway and the biblical fury of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. One thing is for certain, it has a sense of ambition that most modern crime novels won’t (and probably can’t) come close to achieving. For a start, the use of language is certainly superior to many writers currently working in the field. Second-person narration is notoriously difficult to get right but Ayres absolutely nails it here. Also, the fractured timeline mode of storytelling is another skill that’s not easy to nail, but again Ayres manages it with aplomb. It’s an exceptional bit of writing that, despite only being novella length, feels much weightier than its page count. Excellent stuff!

    It was recommended to me via a review on the Spinetingler website.


  21. Science Fiction Fantasy-Fantasy-Historical (This is how it’s listed @ Powell’s?!)
    THE FOLLY OF THE WORLD by Jesse Bullington

    THE FOLLY OF THE WORLD is so totally wild and unexpected, I have no idea how to even describe it. It is smart, shocking, often horrifying, deeply dark and ugly…The quality of writing is such that it simultaneously inspires and excites, while also making me want to just quit writing, because I’ll never be that good. I’m barely halfway through the story but I can’t put it down, even though I am constantly horrified by the nature of the three main characters and the scandalous situations they find themselves in. The story takes place in a flooded 15th century Holland – the three undesirable MCs being a mentally deranged thug, a thoroughly creepy con and a peasant girl with a potty mouth and a mostly ruthless nature. How Bullington manages to make the reader care what happens to these three detestable characters is pure genius. The tumbling cadence and irresistible gritty draw of the story makes you feel like you’re strapped to the back of an unpredictable, half-crazed bull in a foggy, foreign, dangerous landscape. You have no idea what’s coming, you just know that whatever it is, it’s going to be totally insane and completely uncomfortable. And there will probably be lots of blood. I have managed to easily either ignore or accept the constant grotesqueness which comes in droves page after page, and delight in the masterful way the story is told. The dark humor keeps it from being, well, *too* dark. Highly recommend. Not for the faint of heart.

    THIS BOOK WAS RECOMMENDED TO ME by my son, who bought it for me for Christmas purely based on the graphic cover art, which looks somewhat piratical. He knows I like pirates. What he didn’t know was that this story is so deeply, wildly, absolutely inappropriate, that when he asks me if I like it I don’t know how to tell him with a clear conscience that yes, I do like it. I plan to give it away before he asks to borrow it! ( David, if you haven’t read it and you’d like me to send it to you when I’m finished, I’m happy to do so! Just let me know.)

    LINK: You can get this book anywhere, but I’m sharing the link to Powell’s, cause Powell’s is better than Disneyland. http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780316190350-0

  22. Mystery/Thriller
    Huntress Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff
    I haven’t read a lot of mysteries lately (I gravitate towards the less somber), but this one caught my eye when it was free on Amazon.
    It’s about an FBI agent who witnesses the murder of one of the men on his team. The prime suspect? A female serial killer, whose past is entangled with the hero’s in a subtle way. The mystery of who she is and what her real motives are kept me turning the pages.
    Again, I found it via Amazon’s free list of ebooks.


  23. Okay – well I know it’s not an original choice, and probably everyone here has heard of and read it already if they’re inclined – but I’ve been on a mission reading books by my indie friends recently, so those get qualified out by the rules. And anyway, someone here is going to recommend this for sure – it might as well be me!
    Dystopian Sci-fi
    WOOL, by Hugh Howey
    I like it because… hell, I LOVE it because it’s a concept so simple, and yet so clever, that I’m absolutely gutted I didn’t think of it myself. But then I wouldn’t have been able to read it, and revel in the suspense as twist after twist unfolds… it’s a claustrophobic, thrilling read. I only wish the author was my friend! Or, you know, me, ideally… because I know we all do this for the love of it, but it’d be quite nice to be a millionaire because of it. Just once. :0)
    Oh, and I found it quite early on – when I couldn’t overtake it on a Select free sale! I was no.2, and WOOL was no.1, and it just wouldn’t budge, damn it! Now I know why…

  24. Historical Fiction

    A Sailor of Austria: In Which, Without Really Intending to, Otto Prohaska Becomes Official War Hero No. 27 of the Habsburg Empire by John Biggins

    This is a darkly humorous book chronicling the adventures as an Austro-Hungarian submarine commander during WW1, presented as an old man’s memoir. The Habsburg empire during WW1 is depicted as an odd and byzantine place, with the main character getting into some strange situations. As he himself says: “I have lived now for over a century, yet I can still say with complete confidence that no one can claim to have plumbed the depths of human misery who has not shared the fore-ends of a submarine with a camel.

    I first discovered it in the late 1990s, when a friend loaned me a hardback copy. I looked for my own copy for years, and finally managed to buy a copy for my Kindle. I then discovered that it was the first of a series of four, and so I’m working my way through the others.


  25. Reblogged this on Musical Ruminations and commented:
    I’m sharing this fantastic entry from David Gaughran’s blog. It’s a splendid idea to share what books we’ve recently read that sparked passion and excitement in us.

  26. Non-Fiction
    Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz
    This is a mind-blowing book that challenges your assumptions about everything you think you know. She writes with authority and a delightful wit. Her examples of how and why people “got it wrong” from ancient history to Alan Greenspan are simply fascinating. I heard her do a brief presentation about her research on T.E.D. Talks and was thoroughly enchanted with her. The book is just life having her all to myself. 🙂

  27. Modern Fantasy
    Enchanted, Inc by Shanna Swendson
    I just read the sixth book in this series, but I thought I’d share the first one. A super-fun gem of a modern fantasy that crosses chick lit with fantasy, but is more traditional fantasy than most urban fantasies. Great books for reading by the pool!

  28. Historical fiction
    A Thing Done by Tinney s Heath
    It was mentioned on a Facebook group – English Historical Fiction Writers – and because it’s about 13th century Florence I had to read it. It’s one of the 2 best books I have read in 2013 and they are both indies. Wish I was allowed to mention the second one as well.

  29. Fantasy
    Dreamsongs/George R. R. Martin

    While all the world is agog over the Game of Thrones series on HBO, many of the gems that Martin wrote over his forty year career are being ignored…lying there, just waiting to be picked up. Dreamsongs, Vol 1 and 2 are a collection of Martin’s short stories, from his earliest days to pieces written while he was in the midst of writing GoT.

    But, more importantly, Martin interrupts every 3 or 4 stories with a short, interstitial autobiographical snippet–charting his life from comic-obsessed kid growing up in Bayonne, NJ to Hugo and Nebula-award winning author. It’s a wonderful peek into the life of a writer that clawed his way up from the bottom, written candidly and without any hangups.

    Oh, and the stories are pretty good, too.

    Vol. 1 – http://www.amazon.com/Dreamsongs-Volume-I-1-ebook/dp/B000W918RI/
    Vol. 2 – http://www.amazon.com/Dreamsongs-RRetrospective-Book-Two-ebook/dp/B000W913YQ/

  30. fantasy
    Melusine/Sarah Monette
    Book 1 – and the author’s debut novel – in the series is fabulous because of the flawless portrayal of the flawed characters and the intricate world-building and the excellent writing. Unfortunately, the books are hard to find and expensive in hardback, but I hunted them down (shame on Ace Books – I recommend buying them used).

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