Sure Bets by Rebecca Howard

I recently participated in an online conversation with Readers’ Advisory librarians across the country.  One of the things we discussed was sure bet books.  Sure bets are those tried and true titles that we find ourselves suggesting to readers over and over.  A librarian from Seattle Public challenged us to come up with ten titles that are—generally speaking—crowd pleasers.  There were quite a few overlaps and some titles that were brand new to me, but it was a great exercise.

These are my 10 sure bets along with some brief descriptions: 
1) Any title by Elinor Lipman—Smart, witty, and urbane romantic comedies; a modern Jane Austen.
2) What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman—psychological mystery that perfectly captures the interior lives of teenage girls. 
3) This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper—funny, moving, and cinematic.  Completely relatable family fiction.
4) The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion—another novel with a cinematic feel—quirky characters, funny and hopeful tone.
5) Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry—this one’s got it all—romance, action, strong sense of place, beautiful language.  Really, does anyone NOT like Lonesome Dove (no, don’t tell me; I can’t bear it!)? 
6) The Hours by Michael Cunningham—only for those who don’t mind darkness/difficult subject matter.  This is one I regularly re-read for the characters.  The amazing Virginia Woolf, Laura Brown, and Clarrissa Vaughan break my heart.  Deep thematic issues about loneliness, grief, and mental illness. 
7) Lit by Mary Karr—I suggest Mary Karr quite a bit for people looking for memoirs a la A Child Called It, The Glass Castle, Running with Scissors, et al.  I loved all three of her memoirs, but found Lit to be particularly poignant. 
8) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood—literary, but completely accessible and absorbing, dystopian fiction.
9) The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer—suggested for those looking for family/issues-driven fiction that’s witty and compassionate. 
10) The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty—historical fiction with a strong and kind protagonist, regional appeal, affirming and positive tone.   

After doing this exercise, I realized that I could create several subcategories of sure bet lists—for audiobook listeners, nonfiction readers, book groups, etc…  What would you put on your sure bets list? 

If you want to see the entire compilation from this online conversation, you can access the lists here:

Librarian Sure Bets Part 1
Librarian Sure Bets Part 2
Librarian Sure Bets Part 3
Librarian Sure Bets Part 4
Librarian Sure Bets Part 5

 

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