Ah, The Book Thief. I bought it with Christmas money, and it was the first book I read in 2008. I just knew, upon finishing it, that I was about to embark on the greatest reading year of my life. (I turned out to be right.) This is the book I’ve recommended most often to friends, who have recommended it to their friends, those friends to theirs, and so on. I love when this happens, and I was delighted to see that this amazing book made the list of Book Riot Readers’ Top 50 Favorite Novels.
These recommendations share a crushing, beautiful sadness with Zusak’s novel, but they do not share a setting. I didn’t pick up the book because it was about the Holocaust, but rather because it was about books and love and surviving. As I flipped through it, reading a paragraph here and there, while deciding whether to buy it, I found it odd and compelling.
I suppose that makes two common threads: crushing sadness and compelling oddness.
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
A sucker for retellings of fairy tales, I was destined to love this book. David, a young boy mourning his mother, lives in an attic bedroom surrounded by books that have begun to whisper to him. Soon, he begins to inhabit a world in which fantasy and reality blur beyond separation, a bizarre version of his own world made up of characters from the books whose voices he hears.
Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull
A tale of sisterhood, of motherhood, of rebirth; a journey, a magical quest, a coming-of-age; rising from the ashes and learning to be who you really are. Summer and Bird are sisters. Summer follows her head, Bird her heart. One of them is destined to be a queen and the other must learn how to cope with the disappointment of learning that it’s not her. Mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, older siblings, younger siblings, and only children will all have different experiences reading this book.
Madapple by Christina Meldrum
I hesitated for a moment before recommending this book because it’s just so damn strange, which I know for some readers is off-putting. And, confession time: I didn’t like it all that much at first. So there you go, fair warning. Aslaug is a girl who’s been raised by her mother, almost entirely cut off from the rest of the world. Her mother has taught her about plants and their uses but not much about existing in the outside world. When her mother dies, Aslaug is a suspect. Science, faith, even immaculate conception come into play in this novel, which unnerved me as I became thoroughly absorbed, reading it during a power outage in one breathless night beside an oil lamp.
Sign up for our newsletter to have the best of Book Riot delivered straight to your inbox every two weeks. No spam. We promise.