My Best All-Around, Go-To Book Recommendations

best all-around go-to book recommendations


When people ask me for book recommendations, I find myself recommending the same books over and over again…especially when I’m not overly familiar with the requester’s reading taste. My best all-around, go-to book recommendations are versatile, in that they’re likely to appeal to a broad range of readers, and are some of the most frequently purchased books through my Amazon affiliate links.

If you’re new to asking me for recommendations, these are probably the first books I’ll shove into your hands!

Audio

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Advice columns that are wise, non-judgmental, and completely necessary…

Beach Reads

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams (my review)
My all-time favorite beach read…

Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore (my review)
Extremely wealthy family behaving badly at a vacation compound…

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach (my review)
The twisted twins book that has everything (page-turning plot, snarky writing, a dysfunctional family, and a mystery)…

Siracusa by Delia Ephron (my review)
A trip to Italy gone bad…

Historical Fiction

11/22/63 by Stephen King (my review)
What if someone could travel back in time and stop JFK’s assassination?

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon (my review)
Fiction based on true crime about a NY State Supreme Court Justice gone missing in 1930.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler (my review)
The glamorous life of the Prohibition-era literary elite and the Fitzgerald marriage through Zelda’s eyes…

Literary Fiction

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates (my review)
The Hunger Games meets The Secret History meets The Interestings in a high-stakes game of humiliation among friends.

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh (my review)
Southern coming of age story with a bit of suspense…and one of my top books of 2015.

The Dinner by Herman Koch (my review)
A dark tale with biting social commentary…

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (my review)
Sweeping New York story about friendship…

*I think Commonwealth by Ann Patchett will eventually join this group, but I read it too recently to add it now.

Memoirs

All Over but the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg (my review)
Heart-breaking, but also hilarious memoir about growing up poor in the deep South…

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan (my review)
Medical mystery that could turn you into a hypochondriac…

*I think Hillbilly Elegy (my review) will eventually join this group, but I read it too recently to add it now.

Narrative Nonfiction

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (my review)
Story of an underdog team of Olympic rowers that will captivate you even if you have no interest in sports or rowing…

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer (my review)
Truth is stranger than fiction in this investigation into fundamentalist Mormonism…

Page Turners

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich (my review)
A Grit Lit style thriller about a redneck, mountain version of the Mafia…

The Fever by Megan Abbott (my review)
High school drama, a mysterious epidemic…

Recovery Books

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (my review)
Satirical (and fictional) take on Prince William and Kate Middleton’s courtship that isn’t afraid to poke fun at the monarchy…

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (my review)
Delicious “fictional” story about real people…author Truman Capote and his swans.

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (my review)
Hilarious dysfunctional family story, which I read while in labor with my daughter…

What are some of your best all-around, go-to book recommendations?

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37 Comments

  1. I always recommend 11/22/63 in the audio category.

    Posted 10.13.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I didn’t listen to it, but good to know! I get audiobook rec requests all the time and I’m pretty new to audio and have a small niche that works for me, so I feel like I come up short with recs.

      Posted 10.13.16 Reply
  2. I think our tastes in reading are very similar. So happy to see Black Chalk on your list. I loved that book and no one I told about it seemed to like it as much. The Boys on the Boat was also a favorite of mine. The Interestings, Bull Mountain, 11/22/63…..I could go on! Great list!

    Posted 10.13.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Yes – I actually just told another blogger that I had found a new-to-me blogger (you) with very similar tastes to mine! And that’s interesting about Black Chalk…I’ve recommended it to so many friends outside of the book world and almost all said they loved it. It hasn’t gotten much love in the blogging world, though. I feel like I’m the only one always talking about it…and now you!

      Posted 10.13.16 Reply
  3. I knew clicking through to this post would be dangerous. So many books to add to my TBR pile, ha! Great list. 🙂

    Posted 10.13.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Haha – thank you!

      Posted 10.13.16 Reply
  4. There is no maybe, Brain on Fire definitely turned me into a hypochondriac 🙂 I forgot how much I loved This is Where I Leave You and the movie too surprisingly. I’m also going to have to check out The Swans of Fifth Avenue!

    Posted 10.13.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I haven’t seen the movie..need to!

      Posted 10.13.16 Reply
  5. Akilah wrote:

    This is a fantastic idea! I might have to steal it.

    Posted 10.13.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Please do! I’m sure someone else did it before me…

      Posted 10.13.16 Reply
  6. I need to get cracking on some of these. Brain on Fire has been on my to-read list for forever, but I *still* haven’t gotten ’round to it. I have watched Cahalan’s TEDx talk though, so that counts for something, right?

    Posted 10.13.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Yes – I think so! I read her current work in the NY Post and it’s always amazing to think back on where she’s been.

      Posted 10.13.16 Reply
  7. Naomi wrote:

    It’s always good to read these lists as there are always books I’ve meant to read but have forgotten about. Like Bull Mountain and Under the Banner of Heaven. I love your category ‘Recovery books’. 🙂

    Posted 10.13.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Thanks! It seems I need them often…

      Posted 10.13.16 Reply
  8. Patti wrote:

    I flew through Siracusa due to your recommendation. Looking forward to reading these books.

    Posted 10.13.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Yay – I’m so glad to hear that! It was a great one.

      Posted 10.13.16 Reply
  9. Yay, nothing to add to my TBR pile, because all the books are already on there. 😉 (Well, except for Z, which I have already read and didn’t like all that much because I had just read The Paris Wife and were firmly on the side of Hemingway and his wife, not Zelda and F. Scott.)

    Posted 10.13.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Interesting – I’d forgotten about the Hemingway/Fitzgerald rivalry. I think I liked it because I realized there was more to Zelda than I’d thought…and it kind of took on the topic of women’s role in marriage and women’s careers.

      Posted 10.14.16 Reply
  10. Amanda wrote:

    Great list! I really need to read Z and 11/22/63 still. And a few more! I love that you have The Royal We as a recovery book -it really is perfect for that.

    Posted 10.13.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Royal We is the best recovery book ever!

      Posted 10.14.16 Reply
  11. Loved Tiny Beautiful Things and The Boys in the Boat!

    Posted 10.13.16 Reply
  12. I love this! I don’t think I have a set list of go-to recommendations, but now I feel I should make one! What a useful thing to have on hand. 😀

    Posted 10.13.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      You should definitely make one! I think it’s interesting to see what everyone would have on that list.

      Posted 10.14.16 Reply
  13. Catherine wrote:

    You’ve got some great recommendations in here! I’ve never read Hundred Summers, so will add it to my list now. And weren’t you supposed to get after Yates to write a follow-up to Blakc Chalk?! I just recommended that and 11/2263 to my brother- great minds thinking alike!

    Posted 10.13.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Haha – I tried…he shot me down, but I did hear he’s working on something else. Just not Black Chalk related.

      And I think you’d love A Hundred Summers if you’re looking for brain candy…it’s my favorite of her books, but sadly none of her later ones has lived up to that one for me.

      Posted 10.14.16 Reply
  14. Oh, Bull Mountain! Yes! That was amazing.

    I really liked Eligible, but it’s pretty tongue in cheek–some people might not get it!

    Posted 10.14.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I’ve heard some good things about Eligible! And I remember staying up so late to finish Bull Mountain.

      Posted 10.14.16 Reply
  15. Lindsey wrote:

    I love that you read This Is Where I Leave You while you were in labor! I didn’t read while in labor, but I did get some done that day after my daughter was born but before we could go home.

    This is a great post and now I’m thinking about the books I recommend most often.

    Posted 10.14.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I’d love to see other people’s lists on this topic! And glad you got some reading done during your hospital stay while having your daughter!

      Posted 10.17.16 Reply
  16. MaryBeth wrote:

    I still pick up Tiny Beautiful Things every once in awhile. She’s so raw in her writing. Really powerful read.

    Posted 10.15.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Yay – I’m glad it’s serving it’s purpose 🙂

      Posted 10.17.16 Reply
  17. Michelle wrote:

    11/22/63 is on my list of go-to audios as well. I spy some other favorites on this list as well!

    Posted 10.16.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I didn’t listen to 11/22/63, but feel like I’ve heard it’s great on audio.

      Posted 10.17.16 Reply
  18. Renie O'Callaghan wrote:

    I definitely have the a similar taste in books as you do. Your blog is such a “find” for me. And I’m now going to read Z after reading your review. When I was going thru my F. Scott Fitzgerald obsession (many years ago) I read a number of books about him, his wife and the Murphy’s so I didn’t think Z was worth reading. Zelda A Biography by Nancy Milford was one of my favorites. It will be interesting to get another perspective. During that time I also read: Living Well Is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tomkins and Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy, A Lost Generation Love Story by Amanda Vaill so I have a more positive feeling toward Zelda and Scott and a more negative view of Hemingway (not his writing but his personality).

    Posted 5.31.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Thank you so much! It’s so nice to hear! I really loved Z b/c it was from Zelda’s point of view and didn’t idolize Scott. Also – have you read Villa America by Liza Klaussmann? It’s fiction, but based on Gerald and Sara Murphy…I haven’t read it, but remember seeing it when it came out.

      Posted 6.5.17 Reply
      • Renie O'Callaghan wrote:

        I’m not sure about Villa America, it sounds familiar but I think I will get a sample and try it.

        Posted 6.5.17 Reply
  19. Linda wrote:

    I now have three top favorites: Oil and Marble by Stephanie Storey, These Is My Words by Nancy E Turner, and The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. I hope you’ll give them a try.

    Posted 12.14.18 Reply

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